Hockey is back for the Florida Panthers, and their division, the Atlantic, initially resembles something like a FIFA World Cup ‘Group of Death’.
Between a mix of teams that have controlled the top of the division standings for the past couple of years, and those looking to rejoin the playoff field after multi-year rebuilds, the Atlantic Division should be the most competitive in the league.
So, where will the Florida Panthers stand at the end of their 82-game season? To help us answer that we have split the division into three tiers based on how big of a challenge they will pose to the Panthers this season.
Should not pose a challenge to the Florida Panthers
The following teams will not factor into the playoff picture this season as they will simply do not have the talent to compete with the remaining six.
Last rank: 8th
The Montreal Canadiens are still a team in rebuild. They were last in the Atlantic last season, and nothing suggests that they will be competitive with the rest of the division this year.
They have some pieces to the rebuild puzzle already in place, especially with their top line forwards of Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, but behind them they do not have the players to compete with the rest of the division.
Even in a best-case scenario, they will only be competitive with the team that ends up finishing seventh.
Detroit Red Wings
Last rank: 7th
Similarly, to Montreal, the Detroit Red Wings have top line forwards to lean on with Dylan Larkin and Alex DeBrincat, but they still lack the necessary depth behind them.
The Red Wings will be clear of Montreal thanks to a solid veteran defensive core that will support Moritz Seider as he attempts to break into the top echelon of NHL defensemen in his third season in the league.
They could keep pace with the division in the first month or two, but realistically they are still only the seventh best team in the Atlantic at the end of the season.