Finally, after months and months of everyone involved being morons, causing 113 days, 625 games, and the biggest outdoor hockey game in history to be cancelled, hockey fans can finally say “Game On!” The NHL has a new 10-year labor agreement, and is set to start the shortened, 48 game 2013 season on Saturday, January 19. Find out what you need to know about every team in the NHL for the upcoming season, this time featuring the Eastern Conference. Continue after the jump to find out where your team will finish in the race for a playoff spot out east.
1. Boston Bruins
Same roster, stable goalie, soft division lets Bruins rack up points, and possibly the Presidents Trophy. They’ve been there, done that before. The key is can they survive the short season healthy, and be ready for a playoff run.
2. New York Rangers
New addition Rick Nash will finally get the chance to be a true superstar. Should hold everyone else off in the deepest division in hockey. This team has depth at every position and should go deep into the playoffs, possibly all the way to the promised land.
3. Carolina Hurricanes
Offseason acquisitions boost the talent level of the roster, which is backstopped by a Conn Smythe winner. Canes usually tend to bounce back strong after down years. Look for them to bounce back into the playoffs, and be a difficult match up for just about everyone.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
With a healthy Sidney Crosby, and an all world Evgeni Malkin, this team will do well in the regular season, but must recover from last year’s sieve performance by The Flower in the playoffs. If they can plug up their own goal, they should be better than just about everyone they play.
5. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres are under pressure to win with all the money being spent on the roster. Ryan Miller should be enough to get them into the playoffs, and the supporting cast should do enough to rack up points in the Northeast.
6. Philadelphia Flyers
Another offseason, another round of roster shake ups for the Flyers. Per usual, Philadelphia will live and die by their goaltending. If Ilya Bryzgalov’s head isn’t still in space, they should be okay. Otherwise, it could be more roster moves next offseason.
7. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning have the best pure goal scorer in hockey in Steven Stamkos. While he probably won’t get 50 goals this year, a better goaltending situation should be enough to get the Bolts back into the playoffs.
8. Washington Capitals
The Capitals are possibly in a state of flux. Nicklas Backstrom must stay healthy to give Washington a true second scorer after losing Alex Semin. Ovechkin should be strong, but the rest of the roster needs to step up this year.
9. Ottawa Senators
The Senators surprise playoff run last year was on the back of the huge offensive season by Erik Karlsson. Unfortunately, those numbers will be hard to match, and Ottawa will have a hard time getting easy points in the conference only schedule.
10. New York Islanders
The Islanders are a few years from moving to Brooklyn, but could finally begin to make the move out of the cellar starting this season. The talent is there, the youth should be helpful in a short, quick season, but the depth of the Atlantic will make it hard to move up this year.
11. New Jersey Devils
The Devils made it all the way to Cup Final last year, but lost their captain, had their elderly, though athletic, goalie age another year, and have a player under contract for another decade who may or may not want to be in town anymore. Don’t expect New Jersey to get another short seasons Stanley Cup.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs have been sold, and on their way to becoming a true business machine. After firing Brian Burke, Toronto might be making some moves this season, possibly for Roberto Luongo. With the Blue Jays ready to be a big draw, the Maple Leafs must now match the talent level in town.
13. Florida Panthers
While the Panthers won the Southeast last year, it was mostly on the back of free points in extra sessions. While a lot of those points will be awarded again this year, it’s hard to believe Florida will be as lucky this time around. Fortunately, the future is very bright for this team.
14. Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens have a new coach, but are currently still down a defenseman in PK Subban. Without the talent, and stats, loss, Montreal is already in trouble. A short season could turn ugly in Quebec, making the skyscrapers being marketed by the franchise the second ugliest thing involved with the team.
15. Winnipeg Jets
Good thing the team is still on its honeymoon, because this season could be a long one. The conference only schedule means the Jets will be flying around the continent, a lot. Lots of travel, and a roster that is still mostly just the Atlanta Thrashers, will make for a tough season. However, a high draft pick, possibly #1, and a move to the Western Conference next year could make for a very interesting team in the future.
When all is said and done, the Bruins, Rangers, and Penguins are likely the head of the class. The Southeast Division will be very competitive, but not on the level of the Atlantic, or the upper level of the Northeast. The Islanders, Lightning, Hurricanes, and Sabres should all be better this year, while the Devils, Panthers, Senators, and Capitals are likely to take a step back this season. With such explosive rivalries, and so many games in so few days, things will get heated very quick, especially if a lot of teams remain close to the playoff race. In the end, playoff position could be affected by injuries that keep a superstar out for even a couple weeks. If a team goes on a cold streak, it could be the end of their 2013 season.
Bryan Vickroy has an addiction to hockey, and is willing to partake in all its forms. He is skating extra shifts for The Sports Bank, covering the Minnesota Wild, the NHL, and NCAA hockey all year long. Look for new articles throughout the week. He can be followed on Twitter at @bryanvickroy. If you’d prefer to speak in more than 140 characters at a time to him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.