Checking Up On Predictions: NHL Atlantic Division

We’re getting closer and closer to the unofficial midway point of the NHL season with the All Star Weekend in Columbus. That means it is as good a time as any to go back in time and check back in on my pre-season predictions.

I said I was going to be 100% right at the time and as time has told, I sure wasn’t. However, I wasn’t totally out to lunch either. Goes to show that I’m just about as good at this kind of thing as all the fancy people making big money in the mainstream media.

Actually, I’m a bit better because I’m willing to admit I’m wrong instead of throwing a temper tantrum and blocking 100 people on Twitter every time I’m wrong.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

So first lets take a look at how I had the Atlantic shaking out, where the team actually is, what I thought about them in the pre-season, and what I think of that team now.

Buffalo Sabres

Pre-season ranking: 8
Current ranking: 8 (31 points)

What I said then:

This team sucks. They have some marginal improvements, but they’re really counting on a whole bunch of recent draft picks to complete the roster. That isn’t a recipe for success – at least not this season.

What I say now:

This team is somehow worse than I anticipated, yet still not the last place team in the NHL. Go figure.

Cody Hodgson has been an unmitigated disaster this season. He never had #1 center potential, but he looked like he could become a solid, if unspectacular, second liner. You know, like a 60-ish point center who can anchor the secondary attack. This should have been his season to prove he belongs as an offensive producer in the NHL. Instead, he’s been awful. I understand the team is bad, but they have enough pieces to masquerade as a top line.

This team really can give the Oilers a run for their money on hopelessness.

Ottawa Senators
Ottawa Sens

Pre-season ranking: 7
Current ranking: 6 (42 points)

What I said then:

They have little high-end talent, and a lot of complimentary talent. That can keep them in the conversation, but I see them ultimately falling short. The team is lacking quality depth players.

What I say now:

I was pretty on point. The top talent has been top. Erik Karlsson is still one of the best defenceman in the NHL and continues to impress as a one-man breakout machine. Bobby Ryan has played well and Kyle Turris has taken over as the top center well enough.

The secondary players like Clarke MacArthur and Mika Zibanejad have played well. They’re getting strong rookie seasons out of Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone. Alex Chaisson is doing his thing as a middle roster winger. The goaltender has been steady and Craig Anderson is having another strong year.

But that is about it for this team. Robin Lehner’s had his ups and downs when Anderson isn’t playing. The defence outside of Karlsson is disaster movie quality. Milan Michalek and David Legwand have both been pretty big wastes of space, but its not like many other forwards are exactly out playing them.

When I look at this team I see a roster like Edmonton or Calgary. The perfect kind of roster to combine with another half-good team to get one really good team. Unforunately, that is total fantasy.

Florida Panthers

Pre-season ranking: 6
Current ranking: 5 (49 points, no wildcard)

What I said then:

They have actual NHL level goaltending. Thats important. If their younger players can continue development and Gallant doesn’t play big minutes to all the bad players he was given, maybe they aren’t completely hopeless. But they look pretty hopeless.

What I say now:

I feel a strong sense of vindication with Roberto Luongo. For years in Vancouver you would hear east coast media “experts” talk about how he’s barely a good goaltender anymore and that he is a terrible human being basically.

Then he’s no longer and Canuck and is single-handedly dragging a terrible Florida hockey team to playoff contention. None of the other big additions this team has made are doing anything but being bad, except Jussi Jokinen who is being solid. But Luongo is playing great and should get a Vezina nomination this season.

Aaron Ekblad has been unbelievable for an 18 year old rookie as he’s second in team scoring. But beyond that, he’s legitimately playing good hockey. He is buoyed by strong veteran defence partners a bit, like Willie Mitchell and Brian Campbell, but he’s still holding his own.

If Alexander Barkov can start getting bounces and the rest of the offence holds pace this team could squeak into a wildcard spot. I sure hope they do, but it’ll be tough.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Pre-season ranking: 5 (no wildcard)
Current ranking: 6 (47 points)

What I said then:

If they can bring in a coach that is good to replace their bad one then they stand a solid chance at the playoffs. The pieces are there, but they need someone who knows how to use them.

What I say now:

What do you know. They fired their bad coach who was bad. I never saw so much “it wasn’t the coaches fault” spiel for a coach that was this bad. His entire defensive strategy was “hope the goalie makes 40 saves a game.” That isn’t conducive to winning.

The Leafs still stand a chance at making the playoffs but it isn’t going to be easy. It’s hard to evaluate just how good this team is going to play under a new coach, Peter Horachek, but the early results are promising. They haven’t quite gotten the wins yet, but they aren’t getting disgustingly outshot anymore and have been able to hang in against some of the better teams in the NHL lately and not look out-of-place.

If Horachek can play around with the lines and ease some of the burden on players like Kessel and Phaneuf, they should be more effective down the stretch. The less he plays Tyler Bozak the better.

With the Metropolitan division only looking to send 4 teams to the playoffs this year and the Bruins unable to really play anything resembling dominant hockey for a long stretch, and the feeling that Detroit is only a bad week away from injury trouble, the door is still open for the Leafs.

Read the full article at Talking Baws