The tilt of the Earth’s axis slowly moving away from the sun can only mean one thing; fall will soon be here and we can all rejoice at the impending return of the NHL. Here at 4th Line Towers we can’t wait to watch some proper hockey again. This year we’re approaching our previews in a different way; the word count for each team’s preview has been dictated by the number of points that team scored last season. To further mix things up, we’ve divvied up the teams between our writers. Let the Metropolitan division preview begin!
Our other previews are:
Washington Capitals – Carl Landra
2017/18: 105 points
105 words? So I can just write “Stanley Cup Champions” 35 times? Easy!
The Washington Capitals are quite happy to keep their core intact this offseason. With Philip Grubauer, being the only main piece moving on from the Stanley Cup champion squad, the Capitals hope to repeat. This is also essentially the same team that everyone wrote off entering last season. John Carlson and Tom Wilson both got significant pay raises, as the winning window continues to close. The Capitals are still the favorites to win the division this year and will compete for the Stanley Cup, but the Stanley Cup hangover will exist.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Joe Martini
2017/18: 100 points
Second in their Metropolitan divsion, out in the second round, if there is something the Penguins learned last year is the only seconds they want is when Phil Kessel is asking for more hotdogs (kidding Phil!). The Penguins have aged another year but there are no signs of decline in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. This allows for another year of maturity for Matt Murrary to continue his meteoric rise in the goaltending standings.
The biggest signing that has everyone up in arms for the Penguins is defensemen Jack Johnson, while his time in the league has been checkered time so far. The former number three overall draft pick and will likely end up on the third pair playing spot duty in any other pairing. While the cap number is high for that slot the other contracts for the Penguins are team friendly.
Philadelphia Flyers – Rachel Donner
2017/18: 98 points
Not content to be the “most consistently mediocre” franchise, Ron Hextall is ready for the Flyers to step up. He’s built a strong prospect pool, but it’s time to be competitive in the playoffs and incorporate the kids. Adding JVR and a healthy Nolan Patrick solidifies a strong top six. Defense should progress this season as Ghost & Provy lead the way, with Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers coming up. Question marks are consistent goaltending, Elliot/Neuvy the presumptive starting tandem, and coaching. Dave Hakstol must adapt, improve the PK, and deploy the right guys for key scoring opportunities.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Mike Laybourne
2017/18: 97 points
Thanks to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ complete lack of activity in the off-season, there’s only one question facing the team: will Artemi Panarin be a Blue Jacket in 2018/19? The 26 year-old has only played one season with the team, but scored 82 points in his 81 games and is without doubt the reason Columbus made the playoffs.
Unfortunately Panarin doesn’t want to stay in Columbus and with just a year left on his contract, the team either trades him soon and gets a reasonable return, or he walks next season and the Blue Jackets get nothing.
New Jersey Devils – Joe Martini
2017/18: 97 points
Stop me if you have heard this one before, the New Jersey Devils season will ride on the back of Cory Schneider. While Taylor Hall was the big story last year carrying the rest of the team kicking and screaming into the playoffs, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games, Schneider’s injury concerns are serious. The thirty-one year old will need a strong season if the Devils hope to return to the playoffs.
While the Devils added Eric Gryba on defense and journeyman Eddie Lack as a backup it will be the pieces they have in place that will need to rise to Hall’s MVP level of last season. Rookie Nico Hischier was the team’s second leading scorer at 52 points, a massive 41 points less than Hall. Balanced scoring is a must this season.
Carolina Hurricanes – Allan Erickson
2017/18: 83 points
Acquiring Dougie Hamilton was a huge splash; perhaps, giving Carolina the best blue line in the NHL. Landing Andrei Svechnikov with the second pick adds a scorer they needed. I expect Warren Foegel, Martin Necas, and Valentin Zykov to make the NHL Roster to add to the forward lines. The Hurricanes also placed the captaincy into the hands of Justin Williams. Petr Mrazek and Scott Darling are a solid tandem, helping the Canes finish 3rd in the Metropolitan division, and make the playoffs.
New York Islanders – Matt G
2017/18: 80 points
‘A tough team to play against’ – that is the expectation for an Islanders club in the midst of yet another rebuild. They lack quality depth, especially at center and in net. However, the systematic changes, new accountability and a wealth of young talent give Isles fans a reason to believe in the future. Bringing in a driven general manager (Lamoriello) and a quality coaching staff (Trotz et al) to go with an electric superstar-in-the-making is enough to keep hope alive.
New York Rangers – Mike Laybourne
2017/18: 77 points
2018/19 will pretty much be an 82-game prospect tourney for the Rangers, who are deep in a rebuild. Vigneault was removed, replaced by David Quinn and aside from Brady Skjei’s new six-year deal, the rest of the deals were mostly just one or two years.
The positive for Rangers fans, is that there are a lot of players who’ll up their games and be looking to impress if they want some job security over the coming seasons.