2014-15 Record: 50-22-10 (110 Pts.)
THN’s Prediction: 3rd, Atlantic Division
What To Expect: Atop Carey Price’s shoulders, the defensively sound Canadiens finished with the league’s second-best record last year. Goal production and power play proficiency were bottom-10, but Price’s Hart Trophy-winning heroics negated offensive shortcomings. Montreal’s lack of scoring punch was glaring, and fans clamored for GM Marc Bergevin to add a scorer this off-season.
He didn’t make a big splash but signed right winger Alexander Semin after Carolina bought him out from a lucrative deal. Semin has seven seasons of 20 or more goals but scored six last year. He is low-risk, high-reward but can’t be counted on. Read more
2014-15 Record: 47-25-10 (104 Pts.)
THN’s Prediction: 5th, Central Division
What To Expect: Defying widespread expectations of a basement finish in 2014-15, Nashville exploded for 104 points. GM David Poile liked what he saw and used the off-season to add depth, putting faith in his core group to build on its excellent first season under coach Peter Laviolette.
Poile sprinkled his roster with minor UFA additions: Forward Cody Hodgson, recently bought out by the Sabres; Steve Moses, a pint-sized KHL scoring winger; and Barret Jackman, a longtime Blues stay-at-home D-man. Read more
2014-15 Record: 32-36-14 (78 Pts.)
THN’s Prediction: 7th, Metropolitan Division
What To Expect: A new era begins in New Jersey, as the organization starts a season without Lou Lamoriello as GM for the first time in 28 years. Ownership nudged ‘Lou’ to step aside and hire Ray Shero as the new GM, but Lamoriello lasted less than a summer on the sidelines as the Maple Leafs picked him up to be their GM.
In Shero’s first draft, he selected Pavel Zacha, who projects as a No. 1 center. That’s a fine start to the rebuild, but the Devils are due for a nightmarish 2015-16. A quick glance at the depth chart makes it clear they will be among the first teams at the draft podium next year. Read more
2014-15 Record: 47-28-7 (101 Pts.)
THN’s Prediction: 2nd, Metropolitan Division
What To Expect: The 2014-15 Islanders were fittingly reminiscent of their ancestors in breaking 100 points for the first time since the franchise’s glory years of the early 1980s. Led by John Tavares and a blossoming cast of potent young forwards, the Islanders were suddenly too skilled to fail. Even with a middle-tier power play, they scored the fourth-most goals in the league.
Understanding that his core players have yet to fully ripen, GM Garth Snow will ice essentially the same roster. Burgeoning Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson are poised to step forward behind captain Tavares, 25, who lost out on the scoring title on the final day of the season. Read more
2014-15 Record: 53-22-7 (113 Pts.)
THN’s Prediction: 3rd, Metropolitan Division
What To Expect: A year after falling to the Kings in the Stanley Cup final, the Rangers surged to a franchise-record 113 points and a Presidents’ Trophy. Despite an improved regular season, the Blueshirts couldn’t get back to the main event. They fell short to the Lightning, blanked twice at home.
Martin St-Louis retired, and New York will miss his 52 points and work ethic, but the team remains exceptional on paper. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the Metro Division looks a lot more dangerous, as the top rivals added artillery.
Jeff Gorton takes over as GM while Glen Sather narrows his role to club president. Gorton used his first off-season to shuffle the bottom six forwards. He traded Carl Hagelin for Emerson Etem and signed Viktor Stalberg and Jarret Stoll after they flamed out with their previous teams. Stalberg can replace Hagelin’s speed but is a downgrade skill-wise. Stoll, who pled guilty to two misdemeanors after being charged with felony cocaine possession this off-season, can step in as the No. 4 center and play a heavy game with a defensive slant. Read more
2014-15 Record: 43-26-13 (99 Pts.)
THN’s Prediction: 4th, Atlantic Division
What To Expect: Certainly, the Sens’ upcoming season won’t be as wild as 2014-15. With terminally ill GM Bryan Murray looking down from the press box, his team orchestrated a 23-4-4 finish, snagging the seventh seed on the final day of the season, on the back of a no-name goaltender. Andrew Hammond’s moniker, ‘The Hamburglar,’ is now ubiquitous in Ottawa after the Senators’ miraculous run.
Ottawa went 32-15-8 under coach Dave Cameron after he took over for Paul MacLean in December. The Senators enter 2015-16 with the roster mostly unchanged, albeit with expectations heightened significantly. They’ll once again be right on the cusp of a playoff spot until the final week of the season. Whether they’re in or out will be decided by a handful of points. Read more
2014-15 Record: 33-31-18 (84 Pts.)
THN’s Prediction: 6th, Metropolitan Division
What To Expect: Beyond his top offensive duo and starting goalie, GM Ron Hextall didn’t get many stellar performances from his club last year. Still, he mostly left the roster alone, replacing coach Craig Berube with NCAA stalwart Dave Hakstol. Hextall believes his young players have more to give, and Hakstol has molded college talents for the past decade.
Hextall traded for center Sam Gagner and gave a one-year, $3-million pact to longtime KHL D-man Evgeni Medvedev, 33.
A salary cap cruch precluded bigger changes, so largely the same characters are tasked with bettering last year’s 12th-place Eastern Conference finish. Hakstol could mesh with the group, but the Metro Division looks fierce in 2015-16. Read more
2014-15 Record: 43-27-12 (98 pts.)
THN’s Prediction: 5th, Metropolitan Division
What To Expect: A mix of uproar and apathy from Penguins fans after another early playoff departure transformed into renewed optimism when GM Jim Rutherford made the biggest splash of the NHL off-season. The common refrain of “get a winger for Sidney Crosby” was silenced with the acquisition of five-time 30-goal scorer Phil Kessel. And, to the delight of Pens faithful, Pittsburgh didn’t surrender either of its top two prospects – Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta – to seal the transaction. It also gets Kessel at a discount after Toronto agreed to retain $1.2 million for each of the seven years left on his pact.
Rutherford also upgraded the bottom six forwards, swapping Nick Bonino in for Brandon Sutter and adding Eric Fehr, Matt Cullen and Sergei Plotnikov in free agency. Rutherford’s off-season shuffling will get the Penguins into the post-season, but they’ll struggle to keep pace in the Metro Division. Read more