Welcome back to the THREAT INDEX, where today we determine the threat poised by NBC's favorite division: The Metropolitan.
There's good reason to not sleep on the Metro. The Stanley Cup champs are here, some of the most famous franchises (whether for actual success or for punching some dudes 40 years ago) in the league happen to exist, and a glut of talent spread out...very inefficiently, but it still makes up a good portion of Boston's schedule to visit.
Let's not waste any time, and bring out the THREAT METER once again to discuss the teams.
Last Year's Performance: 6th in division
Key New Players: Teuvo Teravainen, Lee Stempniak, Brian Bickell
Key Leaves: ...Nobody, really
Assessment: I often sarcastically state a top name UFA or a rising young player in the league that their team can't pay will go to Carolina. I do this because Carolina might want to have a player they can sell that isn't just Justin Faulk and Cam Ward, and because they always seem to have gobs of cap space.
I really wasn't expecting Teuvo Teravainen to end up being that player. Nor Lee Stempniak. Teravainen provides a quality winger that can rack up assists and goals at a pretty even pace, keep his end of the ice clear of shots and attempts to get it past one of the two goaltenders, and in general is totally worth the price of Brian Bickell...who is also there as part of getting Teravainen. Oh well, CAP SPACE GALORE!
They will be joining a squad that, while it isn't as vaunted as the prospects in Toronto or Edmonton, is starting to really come together. Staal still remains a great example of a player, Nestrasil looks more and more like the real deal for them, Victor Rask seems like he's coming along nicely with almost 50 points last season, and a promising group of defensemen that are young and developing.
Unfortunately, they still have a few things to iron out and it may take awhile to fully apply. Mainly forward defense. Most of the team's players, while very good offensively, tend to let the puck get past them and onto Cam Ward more often than not. Lee Stempniak might be very helpful here, and the fancy numbers seem to indicate that, at least in a depth role.
And then there's that whole "goaltending" thing. Cam Ward was a champion in 2006, and Carolina should be eternally grateful for the season he had back then. but that was a decade ago. He is not that player anymore. I know it's wonderful to look back and feel some great nostalgia over it, but it may be time to look elsewhere. Eddie Lack also had a pretty ugly previous season, but given that they've improved in some way or another...they really aughta just let him give it a shot for more than 40 games. The worst you can do is end up in the same place you are, right? Can't do much worse than Columbus.
Carolina is a Cool team. We know they can play Boston fairly well, and the team does look talented, but the flaws on the team seem to outweigh most of their strengths for the time being. Boston definitely should play them better this year, but keep an eye out on that Nestrasil kid...
Last Year's performance: Last in Division
Key New Players: Unless you count a full year of Oliver Bjorkstrand, then none
Key Leaves: Kerby Rychel
I don't get Columbus.
You have a team that finally looks like it has it's head screwed on the right way, has plenty of talent that's coming up and is looking like a real, genuine example of good things happening at a leisurely pace, and even managing to nab Brandon Saad! How could you fail?
Well, you could fire your head coach after a bunch of bizarre losses to start your season (not unlike Anaheim). And then hire actual crazy person John Tortorella. Whose glory days are way behind him, to replace him. You could also move one of your premiere forwards in exchange for an, admittedly, pretty good young player in Seth Jones.
In general, you could just piss away a lot of good will all at once because your GM seems pretty squirrelly about the security of his job.
Well, the good news is that CBJ still has a boatload of talented players who should make the roster. Oliver Bjorkstrand looks to be a force that will end up being very scary alongside Saad and Wennberg/Dubinsky, Seth Jones is still very much a Seth Jones player, Nick Foligno is still quite a good player, William Karlsson might end up being a revelation of a player in the Columbus depth, and Dalton Prout seems enough. And hey! Joonas Korpisalo ended up being a pretty good backup, so if (and when) Bobrovsky goes down, there's not really that much to worry about, right?
Well...No. The Jackets are still boned.
In a tough, competitive division like the Metropolitan, especially with three teams ruling the roost, you cannot have over half your defense be performed by the equivalent of a bucket of sewer water. Jack Johnson is STILL PAID MONEY by Columbus to play. Ryan Murray is not the guy you're looking for to play meaningful defense. Goloubef might be an out, but not enough of one. And to top it all off, The jackets dealt the better defensive forward that might've actually been HELPFUL towards keeping your team out the defensive zone all night.
Oh right...and you're still stuck with a complete loon like John Tortorella. Tortorella, who regularly gets pointlessly physical with his players, drives the youth off, punishes the good players for no-goddamn-reason (NICK FOLIGNO ON THE FOURTH LINE!? FOR REAL!?), makes his players do pointless exercises to instill some kind of "work ethic" (as if being an NHL player wasn't hard enough on a body), and runs a system designed to fail.
Sorry CBJ, you're Cold, and unless you can get someone who will actively construct your roster in a better, more meaningful way...it's not looking up for you. Who knows? Maybe Jack Edwards will go on another silly rant at your team's expense.
Previous Years Performance: 7th in Division
Key New Players: Taylor Hall, Vernon Fiddler, Ben Lovejoy
Key Leaves: Adam Larsson
After a solid year of being one of the most genuinely uninteresting teams to watch and experience, the Devils shocked the world by acquiring one of the better point-getters in the NHL who had been languishing away in the western conference. Now, Hall gets to languish away in New Jersey, unless Pavel Zacha has already made the team, in which case he gets to do mostly the same thing he did in Edmonton. Be a name player on a team that is otherwise constructed from solid boring.
It isn't the fault of any of their players (although have a deeply forgettable forward group doesn't help your case), it was more or less a team that, once it's golden boy prospect left, it had nowhere to go.
The most annoying thing about New Jersey is that they are the hell Cory Schneider has entered after being in a different, slightly better to look at hell. Schneider remains one of the better goaltenders in the league in spite of the best efforts of his teammates to make him into a human pin cushion.
While Damon Severson tried his damnedest, his defense partners ultimately did little to help New Jersey's case in being a decidedly mediocre team. Not having a player who is pretty good defensively like Larsson leave means Schneider's going to have to put more of himself into games. Ben Lovejoy, while a nice depth choice, will have to punch high above his pay grade to ensure a lasting defensive impact. Vernon Fiddler may have been carried hard by Dallas' offense first strategy. The only real assurance here is that NJ will definitely shoot a lot more than they did with Hall around.
New Jersey, in spite of their moves, have cooled off all the way into cold, man. They've got too much work to do and too much of it involves wholesale dealing of players.
Last Year's performance: 4th in Division, 2nd round out
Key New Players: PA Parenteau (Returning), Shane Prince (returning), Jason Chimera, Andrew Ladd
Key Leaves: Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo
Assessment: One of the functions of NYI's recent turnaround in success has been keeping it's most important players, like Tavares, Kulemin and almost all of their defensemen together. This is a good thing. NYI still features a roster with a lot of talent to it. All mentioned so far are fantastic players. Momma Boychuk's baby boy remains a stalwart top 4 player, mentoring a young Calvin De Haan who might end up the head defenseman of the Islanders one day, and returning PA Parenteau will likely give teams headaches for years to come.
On the other hand, a lot of their problems largely come with who left.
The leaving of Nielsen and Okposo left giant holes in their center depth, ones that have yet to be filled by the NYI youth.
On top of all that, Travis Hamonic wants out. For personal reasons sure, but he still wants out. Kyle Okposo had a lot of issues with the way the move to Brooklyn has panned out, as well as rumors that other, more Tavares-y players are annoyed with the accommodations. While the team did load up on some extra talent, there's a lot of trial and error to be had from the lineup as it stands, as well as an undercurrent of "how long is this going to last as it is?"
EDIT: Hamonic no longer wants out. I also can't spell. Thank you to Lighthouse Hockey for reminding me of both
With the team as it is and as talented as it should be, there shouldn't be any cause for serious concern so long as Mikhail Grabovski and Jaroslav Halak return from injury to make the mix-matching less egregious, but there are enough cracks in this team to suggest a Medium effort. Not a bad team at all, and should be great TV against the Bruins.
Last Season Performance: 3rd in Division
Key New Players: Adam Clendening, Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe
Key Leaves: They're gonna wish it was Dan Girardi
Here is a rough list of all the players on the New York Rangers roster that can be called inarguably good:
Derrick Brassard LOL ENJOY OTTAWA
...And that's about it.
The defense of the Rangers is a burning trailer fire that has largely been under wraps due to a certain aggressively handsome swede and by a forward corps that on the whole could be described as a solid C+/B- in terms of overall composition. Adam Clendening? Isn't gonna do jack to fix that.
By the sole reason of King Henrik alone will they remain a medium team teetering on being a cool one. By Dan Girardi's hand they will continue to allow themselves an easy exit out of the playoffs, and until something is done, they're destined to remain there as long as Lundqvist wants to be a Ranger.
Last year's performance: 5th in division, 1st round exit
Key New Players: None other than draft picks
Key Leaves: N/A
While not exactly in the best of situations going into the playoffs last year, (the caps on their best run ever will do that to you) the Flyers have a lot to look forward to. They'll have a full season of Sean Gostisbehere, they get Sean Couturier back to shore up forward defense in the depth, their forward roster is as good as it's ever been, and Steve Mason remains a fairly competent goaltender.
Their defense is still a trainwreck, however.
With some exception, most of the Flyers' D is...to put it lightly...bad.
Not that this is new, anyway. It's just now heavily bolstered by Shane Gostisbehere.
On top of that, while I do praise the first three lines of the Flyers for being pretty good, the last one looks pretty...Merlot-y. In that it sounds good on paper! Isn't good on NHL ice. The addition of Dale Weise does not change that. If anything, it makes it worse.
Flyers are Medium-Cool. Still have to worry about them when it comes to a potential wildcard spot, but otherwise one can expect the Bruins to take advantage of their defensive miscues.
Last Year's Performance: Stanley Cup Champions
Key New Players: N/A
Key Leaves: Ben Lovejoy
Almost everyone stays. They get a full year of Pittsburgh Phil. Matt Murray's young. They're planning on dealing MAF at some point for cap space and will be in no better or worse space for it.
It's gonna suck next year when they have to resign a LOT of talented players or risk losing them all to Las Vegas, but hey, Stanley Cup achieved and team is mostly together.
The worst they can do is add two defensemen who are terrible. And Trevor Daley can be carried if he needs to be.
The Pens are primed to remain hot for awhile. Be prepared for some nailbiters.
Last Year's Performance: 1st in division, second round out
Key New players: Brett Connolly, Lars Eller
Key Leaves: N/A
A team this stupidly good and with Ovechkin has to be headed to the cup now, right? There's nothing that could stop them at this point, right? They got all the depth they needed to keep things rolling, they still have Holtby, and Backstrom, and Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov, right?
What else do they need?
Well, a working defense other than Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov would help. Brooks Orpik found himself red and nude for all to see in the second round last year, Karl Alzner seems to be dragging Niskanen down to his level, and in general Taylor Chorney has a long way to go if he's to help bolster the Caps' chances. On top of that, goaltenders usually have their extra best season before returning to average, so it's up in the air as to whether or not Holtby will return to earth or not and be the Holtbeast he was.
That said, they still have a load of good talent top to bottom at forward, so a Warm team that the Bruins tend to struggle with might have some major ramifications going into the second half of the season.
That does it for the eastern conference. Join us next time as we go into the trash compactor that is the Central Division...
And always remember, stay vigilant!