The new Metropolitan division combines all five of the teams from the old Atlantic Division, two teams from the thoroughly shattered Southeast division, and one former central division team. After last season this will hands down be the hardest division to predict.

Carolina:We know that with a healthy backup the team is already better than it was last year. We know that adding Mike Komisarek (assuming he can stick to the NHL) will add a touch of belligerence. We know that the defense as a whole is suspect. We know it will be a lot of fun to watch a full season of Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jiri Tlusty, Jeff Skinner, and Alex Semin as the teams nucleus.

Columbus: We know that they decided to take their move into the eastern conference seriously. With the addition of Nathan Horton and Marion Gaborik in the last several months, the team added to a solid defensive foundation. We know teams that underestimate them are in for a rough night. We know that even with the two year contract he signed that there is no certainty Bobrovsky will finish the deal in Columbus. We know if Ryan Murray makes the squad he’ll be in the perfect position to garner Calder consideration.

New Jersey:We know The Devils had the sort of negative off season attention that can sink the sales of a team. We know that the additions of Clowe, Jagr, and Ryder will give the team a different look than it had last season. We know that since Kovalchuk and Clarkson couldn’t drag the team into the playoffs this might not be a bad thing. We know someone has their head up their backside because Adam Henrique is still unsigned.

New York Islanders: We know this team made the playoffs last year, kept all its major components and added the physicality of one Cal Clutterbuck. We know that with defensive prospects like Griffin Reinhart, Calvin De Hann, and Scott Mayfield waiting in the wings the guys currently on the roster should keep one eye on the puck and the other looking over their shoulder. We know the team really needs to figure out a long term solution in net.

New York Rangers: We know the Rangers will have new coach this year. We know the new coach has an entirely different persona than the last coach. We Brad Richards needs to have a banner year while there is still time. We know sooner or later someone will figure out you don’t go deep in the playoffs playing your starting goalie 65+ games a season.

Philadelphia: We know that with the injection of Lecavalier and possibly Laughton into the lineup fans might be excused an excess of hope. We know the defense is still without an impact player. We know Ray Emery will battle his heart out between the pipes. We know no one knows what to expect out of Steve Mason. We know the Flyers will likely miss the playoffs.

Pittsburgh: We know the team didn’t do anything to correct its playoff attitude issues; same coach, same captain, same mix of ‘leaders’. We know that having the goalie see a sports psychologist is a step, but we also know complete rebuilds of a persons psyche can take years if they occur at all.

Washington: We know the Capitals have a limited window to win with the current core of Ovechkin,  Backstrom, Laich, Greene, Alzner, and Carlson, We know some of them might not be in D.C. if/when the Cup is hoisted by the local boys. We know Adam Oates is still on a short leash because in any sane universe George McFee is on an even shorter one. We know that the Capitals (probably don’t operate in a sane universe.

With the NHL draft this weekend we know three things a: There will be trades 2: there will be “off the board” picks and d: all bets are off on sane prices being paid to get starting goalies and top four defenseman. Some of the names being talked about are Scott Clemmenson of the Panthers, Cory Schnieder of the Canucks, and Rich Peverley of the Bruins as trade bait. Your guess is as good as any on which move where.

What We Know (by the new divisions)

Division A:

Anaheim: There are more rumors surrounding the Ducks and Bobby Ryan going to at least 41 other NHL teams than in at least a year. Capwise they can probably afford to keep him, in reality they need a 2nd line center, to resign Palmeri and of course the Ducks aren’t a cap ceiling team.

Calgary: While we’re all sympathetic to the flood devastation in the Flames home arena, it might just be considered a metaphor for what ownership and management have been doing to the team for a decade. Free agency will likely bring one or two more contracts like Wideman’s. They do have a good deal of cap space, and if the move Cammalleri, they’ll gain six million more. What they’d get in return is a mystery but based on recent trades…

Edmonton: They desperately need a viable defense, which is why they’ve been linked to every goaltender on the planet. With the 7th pick of the first round a player like Darnell Nurse would be a great find, if history holds true expect a forward to be drafted. Unfortunately the UFA market doesn’t hold much hope of pulling in a blueliner or two that would help, and the best name linked to Edmonton in rumors is Braydon Coburn.

Los Angeles: They need to get faster, and their cap hit needs to get slimmer. They have 10 forwards and 5 defenseman signed, and only six million in cap space. It’s likely several of he free agents like Dustin Penner, Rob Scuderi, Brad Richardson and one or two of the RFA’s have played out there string. With Martinez, Muzzin, and Lewis as yet unsigned and the Kings having no first round pick, a trade or two might be a solid solution for cap and talent reasons.

Phoenix: The more I watch this saga, the less convinced I am the Glendale city council wants a sports team in town. Four picks in the first three seventy five gives a solid chance for moving the roster forward, no matter what happens to the franchise.

San Jose: As the only one of the California teams not to have won a Stanley Cup the pressure on the franchise has to be mounting. With their aging core, leadership should be mighty nervous. They really need to find a way to move a big contract or two, and get back some younger, cheaper talent in return. Talent that doesn’t wilt in the playoffs would be a bonus. It is not unfair to say that if the Sharks don’t extend Couture in the immediate future that they are playing with fire and someone is likely to end up yajibuka.

Vancouver: Never a dead or a dull quiet moment in Canuckville. In addition to the ever present rumors of Luongo being traded or bought out, Cory Schneider’s coffle has been dragged to the auction block as well. With the Sedin’s aging poorly, Kesler unable to stay healthy, only 17 players signed for next year and $47,222* in cap space, this team is ready to be fleeced.

Division B

Chicago: While the celebration continues in the streets, the corner office has to make some tough choices. They have seven million in cap space and no backup goalie, no Bickell, no Kruger, no Stalberg and neither Leddy or Rozsival signed there’s likely to be turnover. It doesn’t project to be as deep at four summers ago when less than half the championship roster returned to the ice in October, but some big names and fan favorites might be pulling on another jersey this fall.

Colorado: Despite deep and pressing needs at defense, the team has said they would not take Seth Jones at number one. This could mean they intend to trade down and take him at 2-4, or it could just be another case of not having a clue. Cap wise the team is one of the few in an enviable state with 22 players signed and over $11 million in space.

Dallas: With three picks in the first forty, it is possible the Stars will find a center to go with high end wingers Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, and maybe just maybe a solid young defenseman to play with Alex Goligoski. They too have a lot of cap space if they are able to spend higher and could end up doing quite well in trades against some of the teams feeling the cap crunch.

Minnesota: The Wild have been rumored up and down the Twittersphere to be moving iconic hit maker Cal Clutterbuck this weekend. Having finally reached the playoffs after a long layoff, the team is loaded with talent, and also high end contracts. They have less than 3.5millon in cap space. Clutterbuck’s qualifying offer would be less than two million, but he’s unlikely to sign for less than 2.5 in my book.

Smashville Nashville: To call last season a disappointment is a bit of an understatement. After making themselves a playoff fixture, the team took two steps back and ended up in the lottery. If the fates are kind, or the general managers ahead of them smart, they will get a much needed dynamic forward in the draft. Respectable centers are needed for the top two lines, and some goal scoring. A trade that saw them land a center for an immediate push back towards contention would be a savvy move for the general manager of team USA and the Nashville Predators, might such a trade involve a Team USA veteran and a cap strapped western rival?

St. Louis: The Blues are in need of more offensive minded and able forwards. They presently have arguable the best defense in the conference, certainly top 3, but just can’t score enough. Vladimir Tarasenko should help the offense, but priority one for this team this off season isn’t the draft or any forwards, it is locking up Alex Pietrangelo for as long as they can. Simply put he’s one of the two or three best defensemen under 25 with  complete game, and his best years ahead of him.

Winnipeg: The Jets need depth. Depth at center, depth at wing, depth at goal, depth in warm winter coats. The honeymoon phase of the midnight train from Georgia is pretty much over and the fans are going to expect production. With both roster spaces and almost thirty million in cap space, the Jets are in good position to exploit the trade and free agent markets for what they possess. The Dustin Byfugelien trade rumors continue which makes zero sense at this point even if he’s stated he will never sign another contract there.

This summer look for my series on increasing NHL scoring without sacrificing fundamentals of the game.

 *According to Capgeek

The Bruins have a six game road trip on which they can hope to correct the course. They’ve been playing .500 hockey for weeks. In the locker room they have two new faces. The first being small defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk who the Bruins drafted in 2006. The same draft gave them Milan Lucic and Bodnarchuk’s roommate and friend Brad Marchand. The other is another member of the 2003 draft class, drafted by the Senators, Josh Hennessy. Hennessyis a Brockton, Massachusetts native who has been toiling in the AHL for most of the years since he was drafted. He was picked two slots above Patrice Bergeron, he played 20 NHL games with the Senators and 39 games in the Swiss A league Luguno. Realistically the Bruins need to win four of the six games, but all of them are winnable games if they play well.

Game 1: Montreal Canadiens

On paper the Bruins should win this game handily. Unfortunately for the Bruins the team has piled up most of its losses this season to teams under .500. On top of that between the Candiens and Bruins the standings and records are almost always meaningless anyway. Big body and possible trade piece Travis Moen is questionable for the game.

Game 2: Winnipeg Jets

Evander Kane has emerged as a force this season. Blake Wheeler broke out of his early season slump. Dustin Byfugelin is back and healthy. Add in Ondrej Pavelec you have a goalie that can steal games single handedly. A team that’s fast and capable of the rough stuff. They are seven points out of the Southeast division lead, and the coach has publicly asked for help. They are also four points out of fifth.

Game 3: Minnesota Wild

The Wild have played less games than a lot of the teams ahead of them but are likely to be sellers at the deadline. Marek Zidlicky was heavily rumored to be on the market and having waived his NTC to go to New Jersey, but his friend Patrick Elias denied this around mid day. Expect to see a watered down version of this team on the 19th. It’s highly doubtful there defense or goaltending will be weak, and Clutterbuck and Koivu are almost certain to be on the ice and that means this is not going to be a gimmie.

Game 4: St Louis Blues

This will almost certainly be a goaltenders duel. The Bruins and Blues both have aggressive forechecks and solid defense. David Perron and Andy McDonald are each at different stages of recovery in their return from concussions, both can be potent offensive forces when they can keep an upbeat tempo. Today finds them five points out of the first in the Central division, with two games in hand.

Game 5: Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres are playing well (finally) and this is the second revenge game of the season. The first one was after the Lucic-Miller collision. This one follows the debacle that ended in a six nothing beat down by the Sabres. Patrice Bergeron was one ticked off Bruin, I doubt anyone will have forgotten this one. The Sabres are one point off the basement of the conference, but several have jobs to play for and some pride.

Game 6: Ottawa Senators

Today the Senators are in seventh, with four points on eighth and five on ninth. Unfortunately for the faithful in the Canadian Capital the Senators played more games than anyone in the east. Anderson is playing more consistently and the team is pretty healthy. What the Senators will look like on the 25th when they meet in Ottawa is a good question, if they will look the same three days later when the two meet in Boston is another good question.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

Players:

  • the leading scorer in the NHL would be a guy with six or seven games less than the three men closest to him, and not named Sedin, Ovechkin, or Croby but Claude Giroux
  • the only Edmonton Oiler on a better than point per game pace would be Jordan Eberle
  • on January 6th Rick Dipietro and Sidney Crosby would have played the exact same number of games (8)
  • that Cal Clutterbuck (6) would have more special teams goals than Zach Parise (4)
  • that David Clarkson who’s career high is 17 would lead the New Jersey Devils in scoring, and the team would still be tied for a playoff spot
  • Alexandere Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks would  have more game winning goals than Phil Kessel, James Neal, Dany Heatley or Pavel Datsyuk
  • James Neal would be the first player to 10 powerplay goals
  • Zdeno Chara would have more powerplay goals than Chris Kunitz, Ilya Kovalchuk, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, or Jonathan Toews
  • Dan Girardi would lead the NHL in average time on ice at 27:17
  • Nik Lidstrom would be on pace for roughly 30% more penalties and 30% less points than last season

Teams:

  • the 26th place Edmonton Oilers would have the 2nd best powerplay
  • the New Jersey Devils would have a penalty kill clicking at 90.9% and still be the 19th placed team in the NHL
  • the Northeast division leading Boston Bruins would have a goal differential of +69 and the other five divisional leaders would have a combined +98
  • the Los Angeles Kings could have a negative goals differential, be dead last in goals per game, and still be in playoff position
  • two teams Vancouver, and Minnesota would have a winning percentage over fifty percent when trailing after one period.
  • the Anahiem Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens would share the distinction of having a losing record when scoring first
  • just two teams, the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers would have a winning record when trailing first
  • the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils would each have as many wins in the overtime and the shootout as the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks would total (10)
  • despite being in 30th place all season, the Columbus Blue Jackets would make it through the seasons first 31 games without being shutout
  • only two teams the Ottawa Senators and the Columbus Blue Jackets would be the only two teams to be neither shutout or have a shutout