Which Metro Division Teams Will Give New Jersey Devils Most Problems in 2013-14?
The Metro Division is made up of the old Atlantic (New Jersey, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins) with the addition of the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Because the Atlantic Division remained unscathed, all of the Devils' old rivalries will remain intact. The new teams create the exciting potential for newer rivalries to form or evolve.
The new Metropolitan Division is stacked from top to bottom with premier-level talent, so let's examine which teams might give the New Jersey Devils the most trouble in 2013-14.
New York Rangers
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
2013 Record Against NYR: 1-3
The New York Rangers, one of New Jersey's biggest perennial headaches, will look to stay on that same course this season.
After a disappointing lockout-shortened 2013, the Rangers fired head coach John Tortorella and replaced him with the more offensive-minded Alain Vigneault. Other than that, they did not change much, and for good reason.
The Rangers are stacked.
Derek Stepan's offensive skills should continue to blossom with new coaching, while Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan are already proven forwards.
Callahan recently told Craig Custance of ESPN Insider (membership required) that despite the new offense, opponents should not expect to see a change in the defensive grit that made the Rangers so tough to play against under Tortorella.
"We have pretty much the same lineup we've had here. I'm not worried about our identity. We've established that, that's something we're going to have to live by."
Besides the tough physical play of the Rangers' forwards, they also have a couple of elite defensemen in Mark Staal and Ryan McDonagh.
As if that wasn't enough, Henrik Lundqvist will be in net once again for the Rangers this season.
The Devils may catch the Rangers shorthanded in their first meeting because Ryan Callahan, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery, may not be ready to play in the first month of the season.
Beyond that, however, the New York Rangers should continue to mean trouble for the New Jersey Devils in 2013-14.
2013 Record Against CAR: 1-2
The addition of the Carolina Hurricanes to the Metropolitan Division means that their rivalry with the Devils will now have a chance to evolve.
Make no mistake about it, these two teams have formed an undeniable rivalry over the past decade.
They have met in the playoffs four times since 2001. Incredibly, despite New Jersey's established postseason successes, the Hurricanes have taken the series the past three times they've met.
I think Devils fans will appreciate if I don't go in to any more detail on how those series ended.
Last year, the Hurricanes finished 11 points out of the playoffs, but they were derailed when goalie Cam Ward missed extended time with an injury.
They will not be great this year, but they should be better.
One of Carolina's biggest mysteries of 2013 was the disappearance of rookie sensation Jeff Skinner.
After two 20-goal seasons, Skinner only put up 24 points last year. Bob Wage, who covers the Hurricanes for SB Nation, recently told Greg Boysen of the same site that Skinner should bounce back in 2013-14.
"If he can stay healthy and concussion free, he should be able to rebound this season and at least approach his rookie numbers."
On the surface, the Hurricanes do not look like Stanley Cup contenders, but with a healthy Cam Ward and a revamped defense, they will present the Devils with loads of trouble next season.
The Devils should not lose all four games to Carolina, but expect each one to be a hard-fought contest and for this budding rivalry to continue to grow.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
2013 Record Against PIT: 3-1
Last season, the Devils were able to hold the Penguins in check through four games, but that success will likely dissipate in 2013-14.
New Jersey's home-and-home sweep of Pittsburgh in early February was one of the highlights of the disappointing 2013 campaign.
The 2013-14 Penguins, however, are reloaded and ready to once again make a push for the Cup.
Pittsburgh spent its offseason re-signing four of its top players in Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis.
They also made a bit of a splash when they brought Rob Scuderi back from Los Angeles.
Oh, and did I mention that they still have Sidney Crosby, the NHL's best player?
The only question mark on this championship contender is between the pipes.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made headlines for the wrong reasons this summer when it was announced that he will see a sports psychologist. Backup Tomas Vokoun will attempt to steal the starting job away from Fleury after an impressive playoff showing.
Unfortunately for the Devils, however, it will take more than goaltending uncertainty to tilt the scales in their favor.
With Crosby locked up until 2025 and Malkin now locked up until 2022, it is safe to say that the Pittsburgh Penguins will be an issue for New Jersey beyond just this season.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
2013 Record Against WAS: 2-1
The Washington Capitals and the New Jersey Devils had mirrored 2013 seasons.
While the Devils got off to a hot start only to trail off at the end, the Capitals finished the first two months of the season with a 7-11 record before kicking into gear and winning the Southeast Division for the last time.
Former Devils assistant coach Adam Oates will lead the Capitals for a full season for the first time.
In last year's lockout-shortened season, Oates followed Devils head coach Pete DeBoer's lead as he vastly improved the team's special teams play and revitalized his Russian star's career.
I'm talking, of course, about Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin was the the Hart Memorial Trophy winner in 2013 with 32 goals and 24 assists.
Although the Capitals may live and die with Ovechkin, their team doesn't stop with him. They lost Mike Ribeiro to the Phoenix Coyotes, but think they've found a replacement with in Mikhail Grabovski.
They feature an up-and-coming star goalie in Braden Holtby, but as has been the case in recent years, defense may be an issue for the 2013-14 Capitals.
The lack of solid defense may help the Devils' cause against Washington, but Adam Oates knows the Devils inside and out. With a full training camp to further implement his system in Washington, they should play New Jersey very tough.