Many would agree that there is no stronger division in the NHL than the Atlantic right now. The teams that have found themselves atop it in recent years continue to be as strong as ever, while some of the bottom feeders have done a great job improving their roster and are ready to take significant strides in 2022-23. Let’s take a look at what we can expect to see from each of these eight teams, as well as how I personally expect things to look standings-wise once the season has come to an end.
While the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup winning window is becoming very minuscule, they were able to not only bring back Patrice Bergeron but also David Krejci for the 2022-23 season, giving them perhaps their final kick at the can with this core group. Though it has not been confirmed, it feels like this could be the last we see from either in the NHL.
On paper, the Bruins have a solid team. They have a very solid goaltending duo in Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark, while also having one of the best defensemen in the game in Charlie McAvoy. Up front, talents such as Bergeron, Krejci, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall make for a very impressive group. Unfortunately, injuries to begin the 2022-23 campaign could prove difficult for them.
Marchand, McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk are all expected to miss the beginning of the season due to injuries. In fact, both Marchand and McAvoy aren’t expected to be available until December at the earliest. If the Bruins hope to make the playoffs this coming season, they will need everyone else in the lineup to be at their best for the opening few months to keep themselves afloat.
While they still have plenty of ways to go, the Buffalo Sabres appear to finally be turning things around. The Jack Eichel trade last year was something that simply had to happen, as it was very clear the relationship had turned toxic and was irreparable. Bringing in Krebs, who has star-studded potential was great, but the even better player received in that trade was Alex Tuch, who may very well be this team’s next captain.
Aside from the two mentioned, they have a number of other talented players up front. Tage Thompson really came into his own last year with 38 goals, while Jeff Skinner was able to bounce back with 33 of his own. The hope is that other young players such as Jack Quinn, Dylan Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt are able to take big steps forward this season. If they are, the Sabres could be quite lethal from an offensive standpoint.
The main issue right now for the Sabres is on the back end, as well as in net. Rasmus Dahlin quietly put together a 53-point season last year and is only continuing to get better, while Owen Power gave fans plenty to be excited about in his brief eight-game showing last season. After that, however, there are a number of questions, and it certainly doesn’t help that the goaltending duo they will rely on to at times bail this young defensive group out features Craig Anderson and Eric Comrie.
Detroit Red Wings
Though the Yzerplan is taking longer than some Detroit Red Wings fans would have liked, general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman was able to speed things up in terms of their progress this summer with a number of key free agent signings. Up front, he brought in David Perron, Andrew Copp and Dominik Kubalik on multi-year deals while also shoring up the back end by signing both Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta.
On paper, the Red Wings have a roster that appears ready to compete for a playoff spot for the first time in years. That said, they will need to rely on players like Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider to avoid regression after stellar rookie seasons. If Filip Zadina is able to show the world what made him the sixth overall selection in 2018 and Simon Edvinsson shows he can be an everyday player on the back end, this team has a chance to be in the fight right until the end of the 2022-23 season.
The one area of concern for this Red Wings team right now is in between the pipes. They thought they had the answer in Alex Nedeljkovic, but he struggled immensely in 2021-22. They have since brought in Ville Husso to team up with him, but he is extremely inexperienced as well. There is a chance that this duo can prove to work out great, but until they are able to prove that, they will continue to have doubts surrounding them.
The Florida Panthers went through one of the biggest overhauls of any team this offseason. Whether it will prove to be a good move or not, GM Bill Zito clearly felt he needed to shake things up despite taking home the Presidents’ Trophy. He did just that by trading Jonathan Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt and a conditional 2025 first-round pick to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Matthew Tkachuk.
As of late, there seems to be a discussion from many as to whether or not the Panthers will even be a playoff team in 2022-23, and that notion may not be as crazy as it sounds. Not only did they lose players like Chiarot, Claude Giroux and Mason Marchment in free agency, but they did almost nothing to help improve their blue line. It also remains to be seen whether newly hired head coach Paul Maurice will be able to get as much out of this group offensively as Andrew Brunette was a season ago.
The good news for this Panthers team is that their goaltending is solid and may be enough to overcome what is a weak back end. While Sergei Bobrovsky’s $10 million cap hit indeed plays a massive part in the team’s roster flaws, he had himself a nice bounce-back season in 2021-22 and should be able to continue on the same path this year. Behind him is Spencer Knight, who has the potential to be one of the game’s best goaltenders in years to come.
There’s no way to beat around it, so let’s just get it out of the way; the Montreal Canadiens are going to struggle once again in 2022-23. Their lineup is simply outgunned by the majority of rosters throughout the league, meaning it will likely be another long season for Habs fans. That said, GM Kent Hughes seems to have the right idea on how to turn things around and was able to make some moves this summer that have benefitted his team.
Hughes was able to bring in Evgenii Dadonov from the Vegas Golden Knights, a skilled winger, who when put in the right situation can produce very good numbers. Assuming the Habs are well outside a playoff spot, he should be able to fetch them a nice return come the trade deadline. While the Dadonov trade was a solid pick-up, however, the real exciting move was the acquisition of Kirby Dach. The 2019 third-overall pick has yet to find his game at the NHL level but has sky-high potential and is still just 21 years old. Standing at six-foot-four and playing the center position, he has a chance to become the player this fanbase has been craving.
While the Habs do have some serious talent up front, their blue line, much like several of the teams above, is very thin. Players like Jordan Harris and Justin Barron will both likely make the team, and thankfully are in a position where they will be given plenty of patience. That said, there could be some long nights in store for this back end in 2022-23, and from the sounds of things they won’t be able to rely on Carey Price to bail them out.
Was there a team that improved more than the Ottawa Senators this off-season? They were able to somehow acquire Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks, while also signing Claude Giroux in free agency. As if that weren’t enough on its own, they were also able to improve their goaltending by shipping Matt Murray to the Toronto Maple Leafs and replacing him with Cam Talbot.
With the acquisitions up front, they have a top-six forward group that can compete with almost anyone in the league. The issue, as it appears to be for a number of teams in this division, is their blue line. Thomas Chabot has proven himself as a top-end NHL defenseman, while Artem Zub has proven to be extremely effective in his own right. After that, however, there are plenty of unknowns. Erik Brannstrom, for all his potential, has yet to do much of anything at the NHL level, while Jake Sanderson hasn’t played a game of professional hockey in his career. These two will need to make big strides in 2022-23 if the Sens are to have a shot at a playoff spot. That said, it is possible they look for help in free agency, as a number of capable defensemen remain available.
While Talbot is by no means an elite goalie, he is a capable number one and has proven so when given the opportunity. He is a clear upgrade over Murray at this time and will give the Senators an instilled feeling of confidence. He isn’t a long-term solution at the age of 35 but should work out just fine for the 2022-23 season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning will continue to be a great team in 2022-23 and will more than likely be viewed as a serious Stanley Cup contender by the time the season comes to an end. That said, they are a worse team on paper than they were to finish the 2021-22 campaign, as they lost Ondrej Palat to the New Jersey Devils via free agency.
Given that they are right up against the cap limit, they were unable to replace Palat, though they did sign several players in Anthony Cirelli, Nick Paul, Mikhail Serachev and Erik Cernak to long-term extensions. They were also able to add some depth in players like Vladislav Namestnikov, Ian Cole and Haydn Fleury.
While the loss of Palat stings, this team is still loaded top to bottom. In net, they have the best in the world in Andrei Vasilevskiy, and on the blue line, they have one of, if not the best defenseman in the world in Victor Hedman. Up front they have several premier talents in players like Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, just to name a few. As long as they don’t run into injury troubles, they will be more than fine this coming season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Last up, we have one of the most polarizing teams throughout the entire league in the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is a team who boasts a ton of skill but have not been able to turn that into playoff success, a trend that continued this past year when they were eliminated by the Lightning in a first-round series that went the distance.
Due to their very limited cap space, they weren’t able to make a ton of changes upfront or on their blue line, though they have seen a complete overhaul in goaltending. Both Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek are out the door, and in replacement are Murray and Ilya Samsonov. Murray is a major risk, as he has been far from the goalie that led the Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. That said, he is still just 28 years old, meaning a bounce back certainly isn’t out of the question. Samsonov also offers some intrigue, as he has yet to live up to being the 22nd pick in the 2015 draft but is just 25 years old.
Up front, you know what you are going to get from top players such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander. They did lose Ilya Mikheyev to free agency but were able to bring in Calle Jarnkrok on a four-year deal to help soften the blow. Their blue line is better than given credit for at this point, though could still be improved, whether that be before the season or perhaps at the trade deadline. Nevertheless, they are a talented enough group that they should be more than able to hold their own throughout the course of the regular season.
End of Season Predictions
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Florida Panthers
- Ottawa Senators
- Boston Bruins
- Detroit Red Wings
- Buffalo Sabres
- Montreal Canadiens
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.