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Steven Stamkos and the Lightning may have a tough time this year.
Sadly, the Sabres are entering Year 1 of the rebuilding phase.
Not only did they ship out Jason Pominville, Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold, they also may soon cut ties with Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek. The youth movement will soon be in full swing.
Though the Sabres could be a competitive team this year, especially with increased production from Cody Hodgson and Mikhail Grigorenko, I don't think that will be enough. While some important pieces are in place, this team doesn't have the necessary experience to beat out the elite teams. It would have to do that just to make the playoffs in this deep division.
After making the playoffs in 2012 by virtue of 18 loser points, the Panthers finished with the worst record in the league in 2013. They were 29th in goals scored and 30th in goals allowed.
Where do we start?
Well, the good news for the Panthers is that they have an immense amount of young talent. Between Jonathan Huberdeau (20), Aleksander Barkov (17), Nick Bjugstad (21), Erik Gudbranson (21), Jacob Markstrom (23) and more, they have a bright future. But for now, this team may continue to stink.
The Panthers might have been in better shape if they remained in the weak Southeast Division, so realignment did them no favors. Behind Boston, Detroit and the three Canadian teams, this team doesn't appear to have a shot in 2013-14.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning are the one team out of these three that could surprise everyone. Last year, they finished third in the league in goals per game and 26th in goals against. To make the playoffs, they have to improve big time on the latter.
GM Steve Yzerman hopes that Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback can both take a step forward in the upcoming season. Both young goalies are big, athletic and loaded with potential. If Tampa Bay can strike gold with just one of these two, it may find itself in contention.
Though the Lightning bought out Vincent Lecavalier, they signed Valtteri Filppula away from the Red Wings and drafted the dynamic Jonathan Drouin. These moves should more than make up for Lecavalier's production and ultimately will make the Lightning a more balanced team.
Still, the uncertain production from their defensemen and goaltending keep them from challenging the real contenders of the Atlantic Division.