Part 1: Pens Over/Unders
Part 2: Pacific Division Best Case / Worst Case
Part 3: Central Division Best Case / Worst Case
Part 4: Atlantic Division Best Case / Worst Case
We can offer no defense of the NHL's determination to name a division the Metropolitan Division. We cannot forgive the NHL's steadfast refusal to name anything (or everything) after Mario Lemieux. Would the league be a better league if the four divisions were named Mario, Lemieux, Mario Lemieux, and 66? Yes, yes it would be.
Without further ado, here's our quick take preview of the Metro division, which we will undoubtedly refer to as the Atlantic Division. Old habits die hard. Just ask Mike Green's defense on Marian Hossa's empty netter last night.
Best Case: Inspired by the Canadian Olympic team tryout snub, Cam Ward elevates back to the top of the field among Eastern Conference goalies. Jeff Skinner puts his concussion woes behind him and gives the Canes a truly dynamic group of top 6 forwards.
Worst Case: The defense is terrible.
Prediction: They sucked abnormally hard at the end of last season, so the expectations are probably a little lower than they should be. Most likely not a playoff team, but if completely healthy, they could be feisty.
|Underrated douche on the ice.|
Columbus Blue Jackets
Best Case: Mark Letestu tortures Pittsburgh with 12 points in 5 regular season games, laying claim to a place among all-time great Penguin killers. The Jackets sneak up on the rest of the Metro Division and snag the final playoff spot.
Worst Case: They're like, hang on, we're in the Metro Division and our top center is Mark Letestu.
|"I am here today to reveal that no, I am not better than Mark Letestu."|
New Jersey Devils
Best Case: New additions Jaromir Jagr, Damien Brunner, and Ryan Clowe invigorate a roster that recently endured defections by its two best players. Marty Brodeur and Cory Schneider form the best goaltending duo in hockey.
Worst Case: The UFA signings all reek of desperation. Put simply, Jagr is not wearing a Devils jersey at his Hall-of-Fame induction ceremony.
Prediction: A surprisingly not-terrible roster given what they've lost recently. Could compete for a playoff spot by playing regimented, system-oriented hockey that is not pleasing to anyone. But probably won't.
New York Islanders
Best Case: Garth Snow surrounds the young, talented, tenacious core of Tavares, Moulson, Grabner, Neilsen, Okposo, MacDonald and Hamonic with the right pieces at the deadline. Everyone adopts Jack Capuano's hairstyle.
Worst Case: This team won't spend close to the cap. A failure to find a decent replacement for Evgeni Nabokov sinks them again in the playoffs.
Prediction: Unlike most of the division, all of the Islanders' best players can still get better. They only have three skaters on their roster over the age of 30. Sky is the limit in the regular season; Nabokov is the limit in the post-season.
|Letang deserved this.|
Best Case: Alain Vigneault brings down everyone's walls and teaches them how to love themselves again. It's basically like a season-long Fantasy Suite episode of the Bachelor. Brad Richards finds his game, Marc Staal stays healthy, and the Rangers win the division. Derek Stepan is better than Claude Giroux.
Worst Case: Glen Sather trades Derek Stepan for John Scott, reasoning that Scott is the perfect policeman for Mats Zuccarello. Without Tortarella yanking the leash, their forwards don't know what to do and they run directly into oncoming traffic.
Prediction: Ryan Callahan is such a revered leader for Team USA that he stays in Russia after the Olympics and doesn't return until he has Edward Snowden's head on a stake. Team to beat in the Metro.
|The future of American missile defense.|
Best Case: Paul Holmgren brings in Johan Hedberg and Rick DiPietro to form a rarely seen but surprisingly effective quadruple goaltending platoon with Ray Emery and Steve Mason. Third in the division.
Worst Case: Claude Giroux impales himself on the shaft of a putter in April 2014. RIP.
|Former "Best Player in the World" now holds the title as "6th or 7th Best Forward in Metro Division."|
Best Case: New goalie coach Mike Bales proves to be the Fleury Whisperer. Kris Letang's great play-to-horrible play ratio increases to 4:1. By the time spring comes, the youngest Penguins are some of the best Penguins. First place.
Worst Case: We're talking ourselves into Jeff Zatkoff. The third and fourth lines are the least threatening third and fourth lines in the division. Ray Shero swings and misses at the trade deadline.
Prediction: Finesse commits a violent crime against the first announcer who says that Brandon Sutter was good last season. An uneven regular season wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, as it would lessen the burden of overwhelming expectations. As likely as anyone else to come out of the East.
|Possibly updating his LinkedIn.|
Best Case: Adam Oates continues to push all the right buttons, turning Alex Ovechkin into a Norris Trophy winning defenseman. Nick Backstrom, after 3 years of commercials, finally convinces his first person to buy a GEICO policy. Mike Green plays 80 games and the power-play flirts with 30%.
Worst Case: The Jarl Carlzner tandem doesn't get any better. Ovechkin's steroids are stopped at customs. They mishandle their goalies.
Prediction: Good coach means they are a legit contender heading into the playoffs. They'll score a lot. Then they'll find a way to screw up.
4. Islanders (wild card)