NHL Metropolitan division preview

Sean Murphy | Sep 23, 2013 | ARCHIVE

The Metropolitan Division has the potential to be the most top-heavy in the league this year, provided the Penguins and Rangers live up to expectations.

The Blue Jackets move to the Eastern Conference, rounding out the eight-team division. Here’s a quick look at each.

New York Islanders (2012: 24-17-7)

Odds to win division: 12-1

Season point total: 91.5

Why to bet the Islanders: The Isles made major strides last season, culminating with a near-upset of the Penguins in the opening round of the playoffs. John Tavares is coming into his own as the leader of this team both on and off the ice.

Why not to bet the Islanders: Losing power play specialist and blue line anchor Mark Streit hurts the Isles on the back-end. Goaltending remains a weak spot, with an aging Evgeni Nabokov once again being called on to shoulder the load.

Season point total pick: Over 91.5 points

Carolina Hurricanes (2012: 19-25-4)

Odds to win division: 25-1

Season point total: 79.5

Why to bet the Hurricanes: The Canes won’t be burdened with the same high expectations they dealt with leading into last season. They’ll also have a healthy Cam Ward back between the pipes. This should be the breakout year for the reunited Staal brothers in Carolina.

Why not to bet the Hurricanes: There’s not a lot of scoring depth, nor are there many ‘sure things’ on the blue line. Carolina is going to need a total team effort to keep pace with the big boys in the division, and that might be asking a little too much.

Season point total pick: Over 79.5

New York Rangers (2012: 26-18-4)

Odds to win division: 5-2

Season point total: 103.5

Why to bet the Rangers: The Broadway Blueshirts didn’t make the same splash in the free agent market we’ve become accustomed to seeing, and that might not be a bad thing. The pieces are in place for the Rangers to take a run at the Cup, especially with a healthy Marc Staal returning to anchor the defense.

Why not to bet the Rangers: These are still the under-achieving Rangers. Will they be able to keep their star players healthy? Is Henrik Lundqvist still one of the world’s best goaltenders? And then there’s the pressure. How will the Rangers handle it this year?

Season point total pick: Under 103.5

New Jersey Devils (2012: 19-19-10)

Odds to win division: 20-1

Season point total: 81.5

Why to bet the Devils: There’s nowhere to go but up for the Devils following a disastrous 2012 campaign. Martin Brodeur is back for one more year, and New Jersey went out and got a nice insurance policy in the form of Cory Schneider.

Why not to bet the Devils: They’re going to be relying on two aging stars, Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias to provide scoring pop on the top line. Beyond newly-signed center Adam Henrique, there’s not a lot of young talent on the roster to get excited about.

Season point total pick: Under 81.5

Columbus Blue Jackets (2012: 24-17-7)

Odds to win division: 12-1

Season point total: 88.5

Why to bet the Blue Jackets: After a major turnaround last season, the Blue Jackets have plenty of momentum on their side entering the 2013-14 campaign. Nathan Horton joins an already impressive cast up front. Marian Gaborik should perform well in a contract year.

Why not to bet the Blue Jackets: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will be hard pressed to match the numbers he posted last season. Horton will be called upon to lead the offense after being more of a role player in Boston. How will the Jackets deal with sudden high expectations?

Season point total pick: Under 88.5

Washington Capitals (2012: 27-18-3)

Odds to win division: 12-1

Season point total: 91.5

Why to bet the Capitals: First-year head coach Adam Oates did a nice job of bringing together this team last season and with the core remaining intact, there’s reason to believe the Caps can take another step forward in 2013-14. Ovi finally looked like Ovi again and he’s poised to lead the team on another run at the East.

Why not to bet the Capitals: There were significant offseason losses, with Mike Ribeiro, Matt Hendricks and Jeff Schultz jumping ship, among others. The addition of Mikhail Grabovski certainly won’t instill much confidence in Caps fans.

Season point total pick: Over 91.5

Pittsburgh Penguins (2012: 36-12-0)

Odds to win division: 5-7

Season point total: 110.5

Why to bet the Penguins: Sidney Crosby is back at full strength after missing a quarter of last season due to a broken jaw. The first two lines are still absolutely loaded with talent. The Pens finally rid themselves of a big distraction in the form of Matt Cooke.

Why not to bet the Penguins: There are question marks between the pipes, with Tomas Vokoun already injured and Marc-Andre Fleury not exactly a pillar of confidence. Who will step up to provide third-line scoring and take some of the pressure off of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?

Season point total pick: Under 110.5

Philadelphia Flyers (2012: 23-22-3)

Odds to win division: 12-1

Season point total: 93.5

Why to bet the Flyers: It’s hard not to like the offseason moves the Flyers made, bringing in some veteran talent in the form of Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit. The addition of Ray Emery should help shore things up in goal as well.

Why not to bet the Flyers: Can Emery stay healthy, and if not, is Yann Danis a legitimate starting goaltender in this league? There is also concern that the Flyers defense will be unable to handle strong offensive teams like the Penguins and Rangers with a number of offensive-minded blue-liners.

Season point total pick: Under 93.5