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article imageOp-Ed: NHL's Metropolitan division is well-balanced, hard to predict

By Fedor Fedin     Oct 7, 2014 in Sports
With 2014-15 NHL regular season about to get going, it's time revisit what teams of the Metropolitan division have done over the course of the summer.
Carolina Hurricanes
The injury bug hit the Canes before the season even began as Jordan Staal suffered a broken foot and will miss months while Jeff Skinner is out indefinitely after his third concussion. Carolina probably had the most anti-climactic off-season of all NHL teams even though it began with a change at the helm as club’s legend Ron Francis was appointed as general manager and Bill Peters was named head coach. The Hurricanes have a good shot at a high draft pick next season, especially playing in a well-balanced Metropolitan division.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets’ biggest goal of the season — re-signing restricted free agent center Ryan Johansen -- was achieved days before the season started when young star forward agreed to terms of a three-year, $12-million deal. Due to a contract dispute, Johansen missed all of preseason and might be a step slow once the season is underway. Another Jackets concern is health of their top-line winger Nathan Horton, who was diagnosed with degenerative back condition that has put him on the injured list with no timeline for return. The Blue Jackets have kept all of their leaders on the team for this year and traded RJ Umberger for Scott Hartnell in a trade that was labelled successful for Columbus by most media members. Expect them to be in a tight race for the playoff spot.
New Jersey Devils
With their trademark defensive style of hockey, the Devils are a team that’s extremely hard to judge because their whole may be a lot more than the sum of pieces. They had a subpar roster last year, but fell just short of making the playoffs. This summer they lost defenseman Mark Fayne, opening a spot for one of New Jersey’s defensive prospects. On offense, they added goalscorer Mike Cammalleri. With Cammalleri’s versatility, the Devils will have a lot more variability on the front end. While their roster looks underwhelming compared to most teams in the Metropolitan division, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them battling for the playoff spot.
New York Islanders
The Islanders, who will be moving from Long Island to Brooklyn next year, are among the most improved clubs this summer. They finally provided answers to their longstanding questions in goal, acquiring Jaroslav Halak. They also got better at forward position with a double swoop of Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski. Finally, with just a few days before the beginning of the regular season, they brought in defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk. The Isles, led by young stars John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, look like they’re going to challenge for a playoff berth now after a nightmare season last year that included a disappointing trade for Thomas Vanek and Tavares’ injury suffered at the Olympics.
New York Rangers
The Rangers appear to have regressed during the offseason after losing defenseman Anton Stralman and forward Benoit Pouliot as free agents and buying out Brad Richards. While they have signed some players to replace them, there are question marks surrounding those solutions. Can veteran Dan Boyle still be valuable for a contending team? How will Lee Stempniak perform in a role smaller than the one he had in Calgary? How much time will it take for top prospect Kevin Hayes to adjust to the NHL game after dominating in college hockey? Answers to these questions are vital for the Rangers success, especially after a long-term injury suffered by Derek Stepan during the training camp left them extremely shallow at center.
Most Recent Metropolitan Division Stanley Cup Winners | FindTheBest
Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers made just one significant move after Ron Hextall replaced Paul Holmgren as a general manager, and that was a trade that sent Hartnell to Columbus. The Flyers were off to a horrible start this year, but bounced back after a coaching change, for a large part due to fantastic play by captain Claude Giroux, who was arguably the league’s best player in the second half of the season. Inconsistency and dependency on Giroux’ performance raise some questions in regards to whether the success the Flyers had late in the year is sustainable. With the level of competition significantly higher in the Metropolitan division compared to last year, Flyers might find themselves on the outside looking in, especially with veteran defenseman Kimmo Timmonen’s possible retirement due to health problems.
Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby-led Pens made significant moves both on and off the ice this summer, firing general manager Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma and bringing in Jim Rutherford and Mike Johnston. They also let go of veteran defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen and forward Jussi Jokinen. In a biggest move of the offseason, they pulled a trigger on a big trade that sent James Neal to Nashville for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. On the blue line, the Pens signed Christian Ehrhoff and will be expecting a breakout year from youngster Simon Despres.
Washington Capitals
Just like the Penguins, the Capitals “cleaned house” during the offseason, replacing general manager George McPhee and head coach Adam Oates with Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz, respecitvely, after the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Caps traded Halak and lost Mikhail Grabovski, who left as a free agent, choosing to use limited space under the salary cap to improve defense by signing two former Penguins, Orpik and Niskanen, to long-term contracts. Whether the Caps make the playoffs or not depends for the large part on their ability to find a replacement for Grabovski either from within the organization or by trading for a center.
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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