We are back to the old divisional alignment in the Metropolitan Division. Gone are the Bruins and Sabres and returning are the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes.
There are plenty of questions that will be answered this season. Do the Penguins and Capitals have enough gas for another attempt at a Stanley Cup? Can the Islanders make another deep playoff run, one that would see them advance out of the third round? Will the changes in Carolina affect their upward progression? Did the Devils improve enough to challenge for a playoff spot? What should we expect out of both the Flyers and Rangers? Are we in store for another surprise season out of the Blue Jackets?
How will things shake out as we get back to a normal 82-game schedule? Here’s how the PHT staff see the Metropolitan Division finishing up.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: The old guard — Pittsburgh, Washington — are getting older, and the Hurricanes and Islanders have proven they’re here to stay and ready to take control of the division. This season certainly feels like a “last dance” for the Capitals and Penguins, with big changes possibly coming next summer. In the meantime, Rod Brind’Amour and Barry Trotz will keeping doing what they do best: win.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: The Penguins and Capitals defy Father Time (and with Pittsburgh, often injuries) year after year, but my bet is that the Houdini act fails for at least one of those proud teams. The Flyers likely would’ve been a playoff team last year if Carter Hart was merely passable, and while I didn’t love every move, they made enough improvements to get back in the mix. Frankly, the Metro could go any number of ways — I could even see the Blue Jackets surprising a bit without Torts barking everyone into oblivion.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Carolina is the class of this division and the Islanders will find a way to get into the playoffs where they will cause chaos again. The Capitals and Penguins find a way to get in the playoffs again despite aging cores and some questions on the roster. The Rangers barely miss out, while the Flyers disappoint. The Devils need another year and the Blue Jackets start rebuilding.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: The Hurricanes wheeled and dealed once again this offseason, and I think this year’s version of the team is good enough to win the division. The toughest call here was leaving the Rangers on the outside of the playoff picture, but whose spot are they taking?
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: I’m expecting a big season from the Rangers and that will knock the Flyers out of a spot. The Islanders have gone to the Conference Final in each of the last two seasons and I think they are the best in the division. Carolina will be strong if their goaltending doesn’t fall apart and Washington will make the playoffs yet again with Ovechkin having a comeback season.