The new NHL format is set to start this 2013-2014 season. With the new format comes new rivalries, new solutions, and new problems. We’ve already experienced the Draft, the start of free agency, and the beginnings of development camp. There is still plenty of time for teams’ rosters to take shape, but we can get a general idea of what each team is bound to look like next season. The yet to be named Panthers division, in my opinion, is bound to be a powerhouse division in the next couple of years. Here is this season’s pre training camp power rankings for the Panthers’ new division.
8. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres made no notable free agent signings, and based on the outcome of recent signings from the Sabres that might be a good thing. Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino have been busts so far with Buffalo. Their signings taught Buffalo management that a championship caliber team can’t be built exclusively through free agency.
At the Draft the Sabres picked up much needed defensive depth with Rasmus Ristolainen. Ristolainen is a great two- way defenseman with a booming shot.
Still not much to build off of in Buffalo, and they are at the bottom of a very deep division.
7. Florida Panthers
The Panthers, so far, have been losers during the free agency period. General Manager Dale Tallon said the Panthers were not going to be active until August as far as picking up free agents. Cliff Viner, the Panthers owner, is not giving Tallon any room to improve this team. At the moment Viner is the biggest thing holding this team back. The Panthers were forced to let Weiss and Mueller go because Viner does not want to spend any money. The Panthers were also supposedly shopping Tomas Fleischmann. Fleischmann has been healthy and consistent for the Panthers and there should be no reason to trade him, except his cap hit is something Viner is trying to get rid of. Luckily Matthias’ price tag wasn’t too expensive for Viner, and he was resigned to a two-year deal.
Two moves that were made more for a strategic standpoint rather than a financial standpoint was the buyout of Filip Kuba and letting Jack Skille walk. I was never a Kuba fan, and he was a huge disappointment as a replacement for Jason Garrison.
At the Draft the Panthers picked up big center Sasha Barkov. Unfortunately for Barkov he will be feeling a lot of pressure this season to score. Barkov has a good chance at bringing the Calder Trophy to South Florida for consecutive years.
The Panthers have a lot of talented youth. They have a strong core to bu
ild around, but it will take a while before this team is a serious contender, especially when the owner has no desire to surround the young guns with talented veteran players.
Tampa Bay bought out Vincent Lecavalier. The result although disheartening for Lightning fans, was a move beneficial to the Lightning and Lecavalier. The extra cap space will help the Lightning and a change of scenery for the talented veteran will aid both sides. The Lightning did sign Valtteri Filppula. Filppula is a solid top six forward, but he is far too inconsistent to be earning $5 million per year.
The Lightning were lucky enough to be in the top three of this year’s draft, which enabled them to pick up bonafide superstar Jonathan Drouin. Drouin reminds me of the Lightning’s own Martin St. Louis, and will be a big time player in the NHL for years to come. Drouin and Stamkos are going to be lighting up a lot of goaltenders for the next decade.
One thing the Lightning did not address that they desperately need to is help on the back end. Until the Lightning solidify their defense they will continue to be at the bottom of the standings no matter how talented their offense is.
The face of the Senators and long time captain Daniel Afredsson has found a new home. That new home happens to still be within the division with the Detroit Red Wings. The departure of Alfredsson will help the Wings more than it will hurt the Senators. The Senators also lost one of their more talented prospects in Jakob Silfverberg, but in return landed Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan. Ryan instantly upgrades the the Sens’ offense. The Sens also added some offensive depth with the signing of Clarke MacArthur, and defensive depth by signing Joe Corvo.
The Sens selected center Curtis Lazar at the draft. He has a chance to crack the lineup this year, but he will definitely help the Senators in the future.
The Senators will compete for a playoff spot next year, but ultimately I think they will miss the postseason.
The Maple Leafs are a young team on the rise, and they proved that last season when they ended their nine-year playoff absence. The Maple Leafs have had a solid offseason after acquiring former Kings’ backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier to compete with James Reimer for the starting role. The Leafs also signed David Clarkson. I, however, am not as sold as others on Clarkson’s recently found goal scoring ability. I still expect him to score a solid 15 goals this regular 82 game season.
At the Draft the Leafs selected Frederick Gauthier. Gauthier is not going to be an elite goal scorer, but his 6’5″ frame is something the Leafs definitely need for the future.
I fully expect the Leafs to build off of their success from last season and return to the playoffs.
The Canadiens are loaded with young talent and are complemented with established veterans. The Canadiens went out and signed Danny Briere to add a top six forward and a playmaker to their lineup. I don’t expect Briere’s stats to reflect his influence on the team. He is still a talented forward, but he is on the decline. That is not to say he won’t contribute with timely goals and overall playmaking on the power-play. The Canadiens did lose Michael Ryder, a player capable of netting 30 goals.
The Canadiens drafted 6’5″ winger Michael McCarron at the draft. The winger’s size is something the Canadiens definitely lack, but he is not NHL ready yet. The Canadiens added some size and toughness by acquiring George Parros from Florida.
The Bruins lost the Stanley Cup in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks this year, and wasted no time remodeling their lineup following the loss. The Bruins lost Nathan Horton and Jaromir Jagr to free agency, but they also traded the young Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars. In return the Bruins most notably received Loui Erikkson. The Bruins also signed Jarome Iginla. No really, Iginla is actually going to Boston this time.
If Detroit was not in the same division then the Bruins would have easily won these power rankings. The Bruins, unsurprisingly, will go far into the post season next season.
1. Detroit Red Wings
Detroit is starting out the new NHL realignment with a bang. The Red Wings picked up two leaders this offseason from division rivals. Now donning Red Wings jerseys are Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson. These two additions added with an already elite core makes the Wings a danger in the postseason.
Anthony Mantha was selected by the Red Wings at the draft. He needs time to develop so he won’t make an impact this year.
Detroit, I believe, will not only take the division this year, but will also go deep into the playoffs.