The Metropolitan division has been the pinnacle of hockey play since its inception in 2013.
Since the division’s inception, the Metro has accounted for three Stanley Cup Finals, more than any other division in hockey.
But with training camp a month away, and much of the division has gone through an extensive makeover, it’s time to see who stands out in one of the most crowded groupings in hockey.
8. Philadelphia Flyers
Without a doubt the worst team in the Metro, the Flyers had a bad off-season.
Resigning defenders to a team that gave repeatedly looked slow and out of position, missing out on Gaudreau, all but solidified Philadelphia’s slot as the worst group.
Chuck Fletcher could very well be out of a job by season’s end and that is no accident. Philadelphia is in a heap of trouble.
7. New Jersey Devils
The Devils made pretty solid strides in the off-season with the addition of Ondrej Palat and trading for John Marino. The Devils have a nice young core that could be incredibly enticing that could be seen as a threat in a loaded division.
Goaltending will ultimately decide just how far Jersey will go. But this will be a fun team in the Metro division.
6. Washington Capitals
Let me give you the first of many hot takes of the season. One of the Capitals or Penguins will miss the playoffs this season.
Washington may have added Darcy Kuemper in free agency but will be without Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom to start the season. As one of the oldest rosters in hockey, and totaling 100 points last season, it’s clear that one of those teams could very well be on the chopping block of the postseason for the first time in many years.
The golden age of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby being the face of the league is gone, and it’s only a matter of time before the results start to show.
This could be the beginning of the end of Washington’s run in the Metro.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus got the big prize in the off-season with Johnny Gaudreau surprising everyone by going to Ohio.
The Blue Jackets pair him with a solid player in Patrik Laine to form a formidable duo and cause headaches for much of the Metro’s top teams. I don’t think the move makes Columbus a playoff team, but they are better than before the offseason began.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
Do the Penguins have more offensive talent than the Islanders right now? Sure. But that could change if reported rumors of Nazem Kadri coming to the Island are true.
The Penguins doubled down on one of the oldest cores in hockey but Ron Hextall was also aggressive in revamping the blue line, adding Jeff Petry and Ty Smith. Pittsburgh’s physicality will be questioned due to the age and nature of their stars but this is still a team that should be expected to make a playoff appearance.
3. New York Islanders
If the Nazem Kadri rumors are true, the Islanders have gotten some much-needed punch to an offense that was way too stagnant last season.
That being said, the team firing Barry Trotz was a head-scratching move. Lane Lambert is a disciple to Trotz that is expected to get more out of the young talent on the roster, and the team is reportedly also in the works of adding a winger.
In the end, I trust Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock as a defensive pair to give the Islanders the edge over a team like Pittsburgh. They could be a sleeper team to get a top two seed in the Metro, but that will all be determined by health.
It also helps they won’t start the season on the road for a month.
2. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes lost Vincent Trocheck but then got Max Pacioretty and Brent Burns to bolster an already deep club. In reality, you can throw the Rangers and Hurricanes as a 1a, 1b type of top two, but it comes down to goaltending.
Much like in the eastern conference semi-finals, Igor Shesterkin is with the Blueshirts and that is a major reason the edge goes to the Rangers.
I fully expect Carolina to be back in the fold as a top two team though in the Metro.
1. New York Rangers
They have the best goaltender in all of hockey, a balanced offense with the signing of Vincent Trocheck, and a deep defensive unit.
Not much more can be said about what this team brings to the table, but they have the speed the Islanders lack, the physicality that can bury a team like Pittsburgh, and the goaltending that can keep a team like Carolina down.
The team will need big seasons from their “Kid Line” whether they play together or not, but my judgment says if they get 2/3 of that group to perform well, this team will win the Metro.
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