While the dust settles from a busy first two weeks of free agency and with very little else to discuss surrounding the NHL, I figured it would be a good time to begin to assess the NHL on a per-division basis, beginning with arguably the toughest (I said arguably since the Northwest, Southeast and Pacific will all be down-to-the-wire in April) division in the league: the Atlantic.
Of all 30 NHL teams, I think most would agree the Atlantic has seen more faces come and go than Cher (ha), and in a much shorter period of time.
Leading the way in such a category is the New York Rangers (no surprises there). And while plenty of our summer remains before training camp in September, it's safe to say, the majority of the moves and signings have taken place.
Borrowing a blockbuster deal or signing (Sundin), the makeup of the Atlantic Division looks seemingly complete.
Each day, I will analyze one team based upon their offseason and outlook into the 2008-09 season. Here are my predictions for the Atlantic Division teams beginning with who I feel will finish as the Atlantic Division Champions: the Philadelphia Flyers.
1. Philadelphia Flyers
> A 39-point turnaround from the 2006-2007 season to the 2007-2008 season was sparked by a plethora of off-season moves, beginning with Briere, to revamp a rebuilding club.
Despite losing Simon Gagne for all but 25 games and having a question mark in goal with Martin Biron, the Flyers surpassed many expectations and reached the Conference Finals only to fall to the Penguins in five games.
This team is still on the rise with up-and-coming players like Scotty Upshall and Jeff Carter. Braydon Coburn. Lasse Kukkonen and Randy Jones are a year more mature and their dependability should increase with the seeming dwindling of Derian Hatcher's career.
If all else fails, Kimmo Timmonen should be solid for another 40+ point campaign and serves as a good, mobile defenseman. Their toughness is un-matched with agitator Riley Cote tough-guy Derian Hatcher.
The losses and additions so far this off-season do not, at least on the surface, appear to be significant. Look for Danny Briere to have another 70-75 point season and edge out the Devils for the first seed in the Atlantic.
In: Asham, Vaananen, Metropolit
Out: Thoresen, Ruzika, Smith, Modry
2. New Jersey Devils (5/16)
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (5/17)
4. New York Rangers (5/18)
5. New York Islanders (5/19)