2011-12 NHL Preview: Atlantic Division

Philadelphia Flyers

2010-11 Result: 47-23-12, 106 points, 1st in Atlantic, 2nd in East, eliminated by Boston Bruins in second round of playoffs
Who’s in: G Ilya Bryzgalov, RW Jaromir Jagr, D Andreas Lilja, C Brayden Schenn, RW Wayne Simmonds, C Maxime Talbot, RW Jakub Voracek
Who’s out: G Brian Boucher, D Nick Boynton, LW Daniel Carcillo, C Jeff Carter, LW Matt Clackson, LW Ville Leino, D Sean O’Donnell, C Darroll Powe, C Mike Richards, D Danny Syvret, RW Kris Versteeg, RW Nikolay Zherdev
Big Questions: How will the Flyers deal without Mike Richards and Jeff Carter? Does Jaromir Jagr still have NHL skills at age 39?

Outlook: Philadelphia needed a goalie and some cap space. They may have even needed a slight roster shakeup, which led to the trading of franchise cornerstones Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Both players bring immense talent to any lineup and fans and foes alike questioned the Flyers’ decision to move the two. Either way, a group of young forwards, and Danny Briere, will lead Philadelphia into the playoffs again this year.

Also, Jaromir Jagr’s return to the NHL will surely be under close watch and scrutiny from the fans. Teemu Selanne can still get up and down the ice, and Jagr was impressive at last year’s World Championships, so this one looks like a wait and see. If he can still produce, the Flyers will be much more dangerous on the attack and especially on with the man advantage.

Pittsburgh Penguins

2010-11Result: 49-25-8, 106 points, 2nd in Atlantic, 4th in East, eliminated by Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs
Who’s in: C Steve Sullivan, LW Steve MacIntyre, RW Colin McDonald, RW Jason Williams, D Alexandre Picard, D Boris Valabik
Who’s out: C Maxime Talbot, C Michael Rupp, D Corey Potter, LW Brett Sterling, RW Eric Godard
Big Questions: Can this team win a Stanley Cup without Sidney Crosby? What happens when Crosby returns?

 

Outlook: Pittsburgh finished tied for first in the Atlantic division with 106 points and was missing Sidney Crosby for half the season and Evgeni Malkin for just less than that. With Malkin coming back with a vengence, impressive in the pre-season so far, and Crosby saying he’ll play again this year, the sky is the limit for the Penguins.

Marc-Andre Fleury continues to get better, Jordan Staal is becoming more of a leader and there is still a smart, strong core on the blue line anchored by veterans Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin.

If Crosby and Malkin return with the fury they often bring to the ice, and injuries stay in the past, there is no reason to believe the Penguns won’t be representing the Eastern conference in the Stanley Cup final.

New York Rangers

2010-11 Result: 44-33-5, 93 points; 3rd in Atlantic, 8th in East, lost to Washington in first round of playoffs

Who’s in: C Mike Rupp, D Tim Erixon

Who’s out: C Vinny Prospal, C Alex Frolov, D Bryan McCabe, D Matt Gilroy and C Todd White, C Chris Drury

Big Questions: Will Brad Richards be the answer as the top-line centre that Chris Drury and Scott Gomez never were?

Outlook: Brad Richards is the expected answer up the middle and he will be counted on to produce not only for himself but also Marion Gaborik, when the situation arises (the two haven’t been officially stamped down on a line together yet).

 

New captain Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky are great second line forwards with offensive upside and defensive awareness. Marc Staal’s health will be on close watch this year, after suffering a concussion after being decked by big-brother Eric last year.

Henrik Lundqvist has been a brick wall in the New York net for many years and should produce just another Vezina-like year. He’ll have to work hard to top the 11 shutouts he led the league with last year, but really, he is that good.

New Jersey Devils

2010-11 Result: 38-39-5, 81 points, 4th in Atlantic, 11th in East

Who’s in: Head Coach Peter DeBoer, LW Eric Boulton, RW Cam Janssen, D Maxim Noreau

Who’s out: C David McIntyre, G Mike McKenna, RW Brian Rolston, D Colin White

Big Questions: Can the newly repaired Zach Parise handle the pressure of being captain and lead the Devils back to the playoffs?

Outlook: The 30th anniversary of the New Jersey Devils hopes to be a little more positive than the 29th anniversary.

Zach Parise returns after an injury-riddled season, but he’ll need to set a fire under the bottoms of his high-powered offence in order to make any difference. This team has a lot of potential to light some goalies up on the powerplay. With Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrick Elias joining Parise up front.

New head coach Peter DeBoer will play a big part in setting an offensive game plan while keeping his players defensively sound. All eyes are on 2011 first round pick Adam Larsson, if he can make a comfortable jump to the NHL.

New York Islanders

2010-11 Result: 30-39-13, 73 points, 5th in Atlantic, 14th in East

Who’s in: D Matt Donovan, C Marty Reasoner, LW Brian Rolston

Who’s out: D Bruno Gervais, C Rob Hisey, C Zenon Konopka, G Nathan Lawson, D Radek Martinek, C Doug Weight, RW Trent Hunter

Big Questions: Will John Tavares suffer any setbacks after signing a big contract? Can Rick Dipietro experience any positives throughout the duration of his big contract?

Outlook: John Tavares is staying in Long Island for now and maybe longer than the team will and it will be his job to produce a brand of offence and leadership.

Tavares won’t be alone in his quest. The Islanders look loaded with point-producing talent with Matt Moulsen poised to surpass thirty goals and Michael Grabner itching to annoy goalies with another thirty of his own. With P.A. Parenteau, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, and prospect Nido Niederreiter (who starts on the injured list) the Islanders young core is starting to take shape.

A lot relies on whether or not goaltending shows up (and this time Nabokov decided to literally show up). Rick Dipietro has never been able to stay on the ice for a full season and Al Montoya has shown only glimpses of NHL-calibre goaltending.