NHL Metropolitan Division: Overview and Predictions
Every week, you will find a portrait of the NHL teams. Each day a part of an NHL division. These portraits will make it possible to establish an assessment of the last season, to see the positive and the negative of the franchise before drawing up a prediction concerning the expectations of the formations of the National Hockey League.
The Washington Capitals: the surprise winners
A very good regular season but above all, a title at the end of the day. Here is the season of teammates the Russian superstar Alexander Ovechkin. Accustomed to excelling in the regular season and improving the roster just before the trade deadline, the Capitals decided to go for a different strategy: not to splurge and improve depth. Winning recipe for players of Barry Trotz since only two elements were added by the Director-General brian MacLellan : Jakub Jerabek (2 matches in the playoffs) and Michel Kempny (5 points in 24 games in the playoffs). Captain « Ovi » is crowned for the first time and will not suffer the criticism attached to him for several years.
A group of leaders still in place
Freshly champions, the Capitals created quite a surprise where we expected Tampa Bay to the east as well as Nashville, Winnipeg and Vegas West. It is however good alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Braden Holtby and Evgeny Kuznestov who added their name to the Stanley Cup. A group of leaders who must stay at least two years in the American capital. This is excellent news. The window is therefore still open for two more years since the contracts of Bäckström and Holtby expire in 2020. Let us add to this the contract of Andrew Burakovsky coming to an end in one year. The contracts are not pharaonic and allow to have a good alignment.
In addition, the team can count on the renewal of depth players who have allowed the Washington team to go all the way: Lars Eller still has 5 years left on his contract, Devante Smith-Pelly continues the adventure one season, Michel Kempny 4 years and Tom Wilson 6 years.
A payroll that could pose a problem
There is a paradox: that of contracts after winning the Stanley Cup. A player can smile with big teeth: Tom Wilson. 2.38 points per 60 minutes at 5 on 5 during the playoffs. It’s huge. But Tom Wilson is « only » 1.78 points under the same conditions in the regular season. But Tom Wilson is also an incredible aggressiveness that is more difficult to assess statistically. On the other hand, nothing justifies a contract of 5.16 million per year for 6 years. If he knows the slightest misstep, the world will fall on MacLellan.
While the salary cap is almost reached by the Capitals, a major concern is coming next year: the contract extensions to be granted to two promising elements. Indeed, Burakovsky and Vrána are free agents with restrictions as of July 1, 2019. MacLellan will have to compromise an element or avoid extending certain elements if he wishes to keep his two colts.
A great year ahead
With an unchanged body, the team remains the champion. Although the head coach Barry Trotz opted for the New York Islandersthe Capitals can count on a certain continuity with Todd Reirden. There’s no evidence that the team won’t be one of the best in the regular season. Still it is necessary to remember that the Capitals were a surprise during the last playoffs. The team will have to surprise again if they want to try the « back to back ».
The Pittsburgh Penguins: A third in a row failed
Two years in a row with the ring won. The teammates of Sidney Crosby hoped to make history again but ran into the eventual winners: The Washington Capitals. A regular season at 100 points but above all a tenth place across the league. Too ordinary playoffs to achieve the incredible.
An incredible strike force…
The Penguins are famous: they have two of the best hockey players on the planet. Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin. Two diamonds in the rough who rack up points in spades and make their teammates shine. Add to this a Kris Letang incredible but often hurt, a Phil Kessel which marks but which seems on the market and a Matt Murray important in goals.
… which greatly disappointed
Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Murray, Kessel… Here is an interesting but insufficient cocktail today. Matt Murray didn’t have the expected season. 0.907 in the regular season, 0.908 in the playoffs… far from the 0.937 in the previous playoffs. Kessel seems to be on the market. A difficult relationship with his head-coach? We do not really know. Letang is injured regularly: only 41 matches in 2016-2017 and a less good season in 2017-2018. At 31, the Montrealer is still an important part of the team. Let’s hope for the « Pens » that the right-handed defender will dictate the tone next season.
A team rarely in difficulty
Everything leads me to believe that the team will continue to compete with the biggest. But without major changes, the team is forced to perform beyond the previous season. It will go through a big Matt Murray.
The New Jersey Devils: a lot of hope for the future
Used to being considered the retirement home of the NHL, the New Jersey Devils had a major turning point in 2015. The famous Lou Lamorielloinvolved in the red and black franchise since 1987, opts for the Toronto Maple Leafs and leaves the position of CEO vacant. Ray Shero is then appointed CEO and decides to upset the team’s strategy. He carries out several large transactions, the most important of which remains the one where he sends Adam Larson to Edmonton in exchange for the regular season MVP Taylor Hall. Masterstroke. The franchise is having a taste of the playoffs again this year after a 5-season scarcity without a spring course. The Swiss rookie’s teammates Nico Hischier face a big caliber: the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite the elimination of the Devils in 5 matches, the season is successful. The sequel will definitely be better.
A pool of more than interesting young people
The strength of this team lies in a fairly young roster and in the mold of the current NHL: speed, speed and speed. Taylor Hall, a recent Hart Trophy winner, perfectly represents this point. In defense, Will Butcher and Damon Severson do more than well. They are only 23 years old. Ray Shero added a Sami Vatanen ready to play as the club’s attacking defender. The offensive leaders taylor Lobby, Marcus Johansson and Kyle palm tree count among their ranks a slew of young talents: Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zasha, Miles Wood and Steven Santini (the last two still have to extend). The team can therefore build with this core. He will continue to progress. The coming years will allow Ray Shero to see the shortcomings of a team that is playing today for the playoffs.
A busy summer 2019
The summer of 2019 will certainly be busy. Johansson, Boyle, Zasha, Butcher, mueller and Kinkaid (among others) will need a contract extension. While thinking of the next summer where Taylor Hall will win the jackpot, Vatanen and Histories will in turn need an extension. All this suggests that the player agreements are good but too short.
Another downside can be Cory Schneider. Excellent keeper. But at 32, the decline is near. For two seasons, his statistics have been less rosy. If he doesn’t raise his level of play, he could become a deficiency. However, his last playoffs were very interesting since he kept a save percentage of 95%.
Certainly, the franchise is moving in the right direction. Ray Shero not afraid to compromise. He built a young and fast roster: perfect for today’s NHL. Taylor Hall has established himself as the leader of the team and is ready to guide his people towards a more interesting spring course. Hockey moves fast, everything can change. But I’m confident in the Newark franchise.
The Carolina Hurricanes: it’s beyond understanding
The Hurricanes, guided by Rod Brind’Amour, won the Stanley Cup. A decade later, we do not know where the franchise is. The team has been under reconstruction for several years. Several dark years where the North Carolina team traded many of its players for prospects and draft picks. However, a glimmer of hope seems to appear.
An interesting bank of hope
Second at the last auction, the Hurricanes drafted the best forward of the vintage: Andrei Svechnikov. MVP of the CHL (OHL + LHJMQ + WHL), the 18-year-old Russian scored 40 goals in 44 games. A real machine. A born goalscorer. A future NHL star. Why ? Because in addition to being an elite scorer, he defends with intelligence. A boon for trainers. And guess who is Carolina’s head coach? Rod Brind’Amour. Assistant coach for 7 years, he was appointed at the helm by the new executive tandem: Don Wadell and Rick Dudley.
Hopes don’t stop at Svechnikov. There is today, in the roster (which is therefore no longer really a hope) Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teräväinen and Haydn Fleury. The franchise seems to be banking on these three players. Younger, there is Valentin Zykov, Martin Necas and adam fox that could emerge sooner rather than later.
Today, the defensive corps remains interesting: Dougie Hamilton (25 years), Jacob Slavin (24 years), Justin Faulk (26 years), Brett Pesce (27 years old) and finally Calvin DeHaan (27) recently signed as a free agent. Add to this the young Haydn Fleury (22 years old). A defensive body that will make several NHL teams jealous.
Management is difficult to understand. Jeff Skinnerone of the top scorers in 5v5 has just been traded for a 2nd, 3rd and 6th round pick (as well as an average prospect) from the Buffalo Sabers. Can’t say it’s a brilliant exchange from the executive. Justin Faulk seems to be the next target to trade.
However, the franchise compromised to improve quickly: Dougie Hamilton was added to the defensive corps. So ? Reconstruction or competition?
Wadell and Dudley are the franchise’s new executives. But that hides something. Indeed, these two men are under the yoke of Tom Dundon just owned the franchise. He decided to shake things up and that’s why the executive’s strategy is aggressive. Who is in charge of the team?
Between patience and imminence
The team therefore has an excellent defensive base. Scott Darling seems to be a shortcoming as he struggles to establish himself as the dominant number 1 goalkeeper. The attack is not yet brilliant but counts on several talents in the making. If no contract errors are awarded, the team is clearly heading in the right direction.
Find the second part of the presentation of the metropolitan division next Sunday.
Freelance graphic designer and volunteer editor. Blind ice hockey fanatic.