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article imageOp-Ed: Multiple teams of NHL's Atlantic division are on the upswing

By Fedor Fedin     Oct 7, 2014 in Sports
Over the last few years, numerous Atlantic division teams have populated the bottom of the NHL's standings. Let's take a look at the summer moves they made to change that.
Boston Bruins
Division winners in three of the last four seasons, the Bruins enter this year yet again as one of the most feared teams in the Eastern conference. Their core has been playing together for awhile as the management found their way to keep all key players and stay compliant to the salary cap, though it was tricky at times. A few days ago, the Bruins traded Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders for draft picks, giving them some room under the cap as the season gets started. Their defense looks a bit shallow after the trade compared to what it used to be in the last few years, but the cap space and draft picks received would allow the Bruins to fill their needs. The speculation in the media has been that the Bs look for a top-six forward to replace Jarome Iginla who left for Colorado.
Buffalo Sabres
Struggling upstate New York club finished dead last in the league, but didn’t get the first overall pick in the Draft as the lottery favoured Florida Panthers. The Sabres still ended up with the second overall pick, taking center Sam Reinhart. This summer, the Sabres added a few veterans to their roster, including defensemen Josh Gorges and Andrej Meszaros, who will try to fill the void left with the departure of Christian Ehrhoff, as well as forwards Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta. Three-time 30-goal scorer Moulson is the Sabres’ biggest signing as he returns to the organization where he spent a few months last season. The Sabres probably won’t be as bad as they were last year, but they’re still in a prime position to land Canadian superstar-in-the-making Connor McDavid, who will likely go first overall at the next Draft.
Detroit Red Wings
The Wings are attempting to make a seamless, smooth transition from aging core of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Kronwall to a younger leadership group. So far, so good: Detroit hasn’t missed the playoffs since 1990 and youngsters Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Danny DeKeyser and Riley Sheahan all stepped into their roles nicely, helping the Wings to get to postseason while Datsyuk and Zetterberg missed 37 games each with injuries. This year, Detroit, who made no significant changes in the offseason, will be looking for another influx of young talent joining the team, most notably defenseman Xavier Ouelette and skilled forward Tomas Jurco.
Florida Panthers
Another team occupying the basement of the standings, Florida picked Aaron Ekblad first overall in the NHL Draft. Panthers’ biggest move of the off-season was signing Dave Bolland to a huge contract worth $27.5 million over five years. They have also added veteran forward Jussi Jokinen, who posted big offensive numbers playing next on a dominant offense of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While many expect the Panthers to join Buffalo in a race for McDavid, it wouldn’t surprise me if they improved significantly since last season.
Montreal Canadiens
Top free agent forward Thomas Vanek left Montreal this offseason, leaving a huge gap in the Habs’ line-up. The Canadiens, who went to the conference finals last year, were unable to sign a forward of the same level as Vanek. Their top acquisition on the front end was Jiri Sekac, young undrafted winger who played for Lev Prague in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Another big signing for Montreal is Tom Gilbert, arguably the most underrated defenseman on the free agent market as he quietly put together a solid season with the disastrous Panthers last year. Montreal also lost their captain Gionta, who left for Buffalo. A step back for the Habs wouldn’t be a surprise, but they should still make the playoffs, especially considering that they play on a weak Atlantic division.
Ottawa Senators
It appears that the Senators have hit the reboot button after a poor season last year, trading long-time leader Jason Spezza to Dallas as well as letting go their trade deadline acquisition Ales Hemsky. On the other hand, they were able to retain service of star forward Bobby Ryan, whose contract was set to expire next summer. They also signed veteran center David Legwand to solidify their top-six. The Sens are expected to rely heavily on their young players, including Mika Zibanejad, Curtis Lazar and Cody Ceci. If the youngsters can keep up over the course of the season, the Sens, led by one of the league’s best defensemen Erik Karlsson, could be back in the playoff picture this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bolts performed admirably despite missing their superstar forward Steven Stamkos, not only making the playoffs, but finishing second in the division even even with all the drama that surrounded their team after captain Martin St. Louis demanded a trade. This year, healthy Bolts are expected to be near the top of the division standings as well as they undeniably became a better team over the course of the offseason. Their moves included signing top free agent defenseman Anton Stralman, trading for another blueliner Jason Garrison and, most importantly, bringing in their top prospect, second overall pick of the 2013 Draft Jonathan Drouin. Bad news is that Drouin suffered an injury during the preseason and missed an important part of the preparation. However, he’s expected to be back in the line-up in a couple weeks.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Head of the NHL Department of player safety and a member of the Hall of Fame Brendan Shanahan was named Toronto’s club president in April which started an eventful summer for the Leafs. They soon hired Kyle Dubas, who served as the general manager of Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League, to be their assistant GM and then made the headlines again creating the analytics department, hiring three famous internet personalities: Darryl Metcalf, creator of, a popular statistical site that was shut down this summer, as well as bloggers Cam Charron and Rob Pettapiece. The shake-up in the front office, however, hasn’t led to many changes in player personnel and the moves the Leafs made were mostly designed to improve their bottom forward lines and defensive pairings, such as the additions of Stephane Robidas, Leo Komarov and Daniel Winnik.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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