16-17 Metropolitan Division Preview

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was written for The Broad Street Bully, a blog and podcast my friend Drew and I started based off of our mutual interest in the Philadelphia Flyers. See it on http://broadstreetbully.net.  This was also posted on http://wildfireradiosports.com in the current way it’s posted here.]

With camps starting and the opening of the NHL season now less than a month away, let’s take a look at the Flyers’ competition for this upcoming season in the Metropolitan Division.

After the jump, there’ll be a run down of all 8 teams, what they’ve done good and bad, and what it means for everyone else.

2015-2016 Metropolitan Division Ranking: 1st Washington Capitals

56-18-8 – 120 Points

What did the Flyers Metropolitan rival did in the offseason:
  • Traded 2017 and 2018 2nd round picks for Lars Eller
  • Important Signings/Resignings: Tom Wilson, Brad Malone, and Marcus Johansson
  • Important Losses: Mike Richards, Mike Weber, and Jason Chimera
What do these moves mean for the Metropolitan division?

The Capitals didn’t get much worse. But they also didn’t get much better. I don’t think they needed to get much better. The 120 points speaks for itself. With Holtby backstopping them in goal, the Capitals will be another team that will run at the top of the pack. The problem always arises once the playoffs hit. While the Capitals looked a lot better in this year’s playoffs, they still can’t seem to put all the pieces together to make it to a Stanley Cup Final. They did manage to beat the Flyers, though.

2015-2016 Metropolitan Division Ranking: 2nd Pittsburgh Penguins

48-26-8 – 104 points

What the Flyers Metropolitan rival did in the offseason:
  • Traded Beau Bennett for a 2016 3rd round pick
  • Important Signings/Resignings: Justin Schultz and Matt Cullen
  • Important Losses: Ben Lovejoy
What do these moves mean for the Metropolitan division?

Jeff Zatkoff was expendable because of the emergence of Matt Murray. What should be interesting is to see what kind of role that Ben Lovejoy played in the defense. Clearly, the Penguins feel pretty comfortable as they let him go in free agency without even tendering an offer. It looks like they’re going to push some more responsibility to Maatta, as well as expecting the same level of play from Letang. Trading Beau Bennett was probably a smart move too. Why not? The Penguins showed last year that they have the talent in the AHL to be called up and roll NHL lines. The emergence of guys like Rust made losing Bennett much more palatable. The Penguins should be another force in the division unless they quit playing for Mike Sullivan halfway through the season. Look for them to seesaw with the Capitals for Metropolitan Division superiority.

2015-2016 Metropolitan Division Ranking: 3rd New York Rangers

46-27-9 – 101 points

What the Flyers Metropolitan rival did in the offseason:
  • Traded Brassard and draft pick for Mika Zibanejad
  • Important Signings/Resignings: Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Vesey, Chris Kreider, Dylan McIlrath, J.T. Miller, Adam Clendening, Nathan Gerbe, and Michael Grabner
  • Important Losses: Dominic Moore
What do these moves mean for the Metropolitan division?

The Rangers had a pretty hectic offseason after doing nothing at the NHL draft. For face value of what the Rangers let go, they’ll probably miss Dominic Moore the most. I feel like Moore was a solid fourth line guy who could win faceoffs and provide veteran leadership. Dan Boyle was at the end of his lifespan. Eric Staal was always a rental. All the others are incidentals. They made sure to keep Chris Kreider in the fold. He was one of the Rangers most important players so it’s good that they locked him in place for four more years. Dylan McIlrath is a big, young, and cheap defenseman so that’s good for the Rangers too. Guys like Gerbe, Grabner, and Clendening may have role on the team but the big two players that will make noticeable differences will probably be Pirri and Vesey. Vesey was everyone’s prize this offeseason so it’ll be interesting to see what role he plays and if he can produce at the NHL level after winning the Hobey Baker Award.

2015-2016 Metropolitan Division Ranking: 4th New York Islanders

45-27-10 – 100 points

What the Flyers Metropolitan rival did in the offseason:
  • Invited Steven Gionta to a professional try out
  • Important Signings/Resignings: Jason Chimera, Andrew Ladd, and P.A. Parenteau
  • Important Losses: Matt Martin, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and Marek Zidlicky
What do these moves mean for the Metropolitan division?

This offseason will test just how good Tavares is. The Islanders lost major parts of their offensive punch in Okposo and Nielsen. They all left town for the big paydays. Matt Martin didn’t score like the latter but he did a solid job of keeping players honest and was a great team guy. I was surprised that the Islanders let all three go but such is life in the salary cap era. The signings of Chimera and Ladd are nice in theory but aren’t going to replace the gigantic gaps left from the major players who departed. Hopefully, the Islanders drop off this season so the Flyers have a little easier time cracking the playoff picture in the Metropolitan Division.

2015-2016 Metropolitan Division Ranking: 5th Philadelphia Flyers

41-27-14 – 96 points

  • Important Signings/Resignings: Dale Weise, Brayden Schenn, Radko Gudas
  • Important Losses: RJ Umberger

RJ Umberger was clearly a joke. The Flyers had a pretty great offseason by NHL standards. Hextall and company didn’t go out and make drastic moves but they did a pretty good job suring up what they already had. Evgeny Medvedev wasn’t resigned and he is already back and playing in the KHL. That makes sense since the Medvedev experiment never worked out. Sam Gagner falls in the same boat. He was projected to put up some numbers but the lack of playing time, a specific spot, and useable linemates hurt his overall production. Ryan White is the biggest non-resigning and he was just a great fourth line guy. To try to help the offense, Hextall went out and brought in Dale Weise, while resigning Weal, Cousins, and Schenn. The Flyers are still stuck in a bit of a cap situation for now but hopefully, once Streit, Schultz, and MacDonald are off the books, their salary can go towards paying some of these young defenseman and forwards to lead the Flyers to a Stanley Cup.

2015-2016 Metropolitan Division Ranking: 6th Carolina Hurricanes

35-31-16 – 86 points

What the Flyers Metropolitan rival did in the offseason
  • Important Signings/Resignings: Viktor Stalberg, Lee Stempniak, and Julien Gauthier
  • Important Losses: Brad Malone and Nathan Gerbe
What do these moves mean for the Metropolitan division?

If you’re not blown away by the Hurricanes offseason (GET IT?) then you’re not alone. Stalberg and Stempniak aren’t going to turn the franchise around anytime soon. The Hurricanes have to hope their goaltending holds up and there are some rookies that emerge from the pack or else the Hurricanes are going to be more of the same this year. They did sign Michael Leighton. Maybe he’s the one that’s going to lead them to the promise land.

2015-2016 Metropolitan Division Ranking: 7th New Jersey Devils

38-36-8 – 84 Points

What the Flyers Metropolitan rival did in the offseason:
  • Traded Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall
  • Important Signings/Resignings: Devante Smith-Pelly, Beau Bennett, Ben Lovejoy, and Kyle Palmieri
  • Important Losses: Patrik Elias
What do these moves mean for the Metropolitan division?

I don’t think Elias has technically resigned yet so I’m counting him as a loss. Will he be back? Probably. Like he can play hockey anywhere else but New Jersey. Hall should be the biggest question mark for the Devils this season. If he breaks out offensively, then the Devils should enjoy a couple extra Ws in the win column. Other noticable players can, and probably will be, Bennett, Lovejoy, and Palmieri. Lovejoy appears to be a nice replacement for Larsson so the Devils don’t lose a step there. If the Devils’ defense shows up to play, Corey Schneider will help them will more games. How much higher are they going to climb though? I don’t have any guesses. Will the Flyers stay ahead of them in the Metropolitan division? Hopefully. Hall and Palmieri can’t carry the whole offense themselves so hopefully the Flyers find out early on if the Devils are going to be a problem.

2015-2016 Metropolitan Division Ranking: 8th Columbus Blue Jackets

34-40-8 – 76 points

  • Invited Jarret Stoll to a professional tryout
  • Important Signings/Resignings: Sam Gagner
  • Important Losses: N/A
What do these moves mean for the Metropolitan division?

Well, Sam Gagner is a nice addition to their offense, I guess. That means Brandon Saad will have to make a lot of the magic happen himself. I can’t even name any other Blue Jackets players besides Hartnell and Bobrovsky so I’m assuming that this upcoming season isn’t going to be any more palatable than last season if you like hockey in Columbus. Is Stoll coming in to try out as part of his rehab assignment? The world may never know.

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