2010/2011 Divisional Previews, Part Five – Atlantic Division
We’re down to the last two divisional previews, and they look to be the hardest to figure out. Next up is the giant fustercluck that is the Atlantic Division. Pittsburgh Penguins
Key Additions: Zbynek Michalek, Paul Martin, Arron Asham, Mike Comrie
Key Subtractions: Sergei Gonchar, Ruslan Fedotenko, Jay McKee
Top Prospects: Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Eric Tangradi
Obersvations & Storylines: The Penguins have ridiculous center depth in Crosby, Malkin, Staal, and Comrie, but lack talent at the wings. Given the “Crosby Effect” on linemates in Pittsburgh, this kind of deficiency isn’t something to really worry about. Arron Asham’s acquisition will be a welcome one, as the grinder has above-average talent for his role. The signings of Martin and Michalek are very significant, upgrading the Pens’ defense handily from last season. As long as Staal can return from injury in a timely manner, the Penguins ought to win their division.
Top Prospects: Jacob Josefsen, Mattias Tedenby, Eric Gelinas
Observations & Storylines: The Devils have been playing with the idea of a line consisting of Parise, Elias, and Kovalchuk. I wouldn’t want to be a defenseman if that line were out on the ice. Bringing in Volchenkov and Tallinder was a smart, if over-priced, move on Lou Lamoriello’s part. With the ever-steady Martin Brodeur in net and the skaters in front of him committed to the system, the Devils will challenge for first in the division in a three-way battle against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and come out in the middle.
Top Prospects: Sergei Bobrovsky, Andreas Nodl
Observations & Storylines: Like their Stanley Cup Finals opponent Blackhawks, the Flyers captured lightning in a bottle last playoffs by bailing out their shaky goaltending will stellar skating and scoring. Can they do it again? The forward corps lost Simon Gagne but added Nikolai Zherdev, which is a lateral move unless Zherdev can finally find that next gear. Michael Leighton was slated to be their number one goaltender until he went down with injury, which raises huge questions about their goaltending. It’s going to take a Herculean effort from youngster Bobrovsky and veteran Boucher to keep the Flyers in games they ought to win but probably won’t due to the goalie situation. It’s a huge mess in the Atlantic Division, and the three-way deathmatch between the Flyers, Pens, and Devils will leave the Flyers in third unless they find the magic they had in the spring again.
Top Prospects: Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, Derek Stepan
Observations & Storylines: New York Rangers fans have to be happy Wade Redden is finally gone. With Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, and Matt Gilroy playing admirably, Redden and his bloated contract was finally removed from the salary cap due to his demotion to Hartford. Bringing in Frolov and Kennedy ably replaces Jokinen and Voros, while Biron ought to be a slight improvement over Auld. The Boogaard contract is a head-scratcher for sure, but not entirely unexpected – Glen Sather gives out one of these ridiculous contracts every offseason. The Rangers are good, but not good enough and will finish fourth in the Atlantic Division. Sather needs to find some scoring talent for his team of Lundqvist’s best years will be wasted.
Top Prospects: Calvin de Haan, Mikko Koskinen, Travis Hamonic
Observations & Storylines: The Streit and Okposo injuries are lethal to the Islanders’ chances this year and the season hasn’t even already begun yet. Garth Snow absolutely needs to surround his young guns (Tavares, Moulson, Okposo) with support talent or they’ll be taking their talents elsewhere at the conclusion of their ELCs. Roloson will be counted on heavily to tend goal as Rick DiPietro still hasn’t proven he can even play yet, much less at the NHL level he used to. A barren roster will again see the Islanders finish bottom in their division.