2013 Eastern Conference Preview

Before the puck drops we’re taking a look at both conferences. Here’s how the East stands to shake down.

Boston Bruins (2012 record: 49-29-4; 1st in Northeast)

Key Additions: None
Key Losses: Joe Corvo, Brian Rolston, Greg Zanon, Tim Thomas
Season in three sentences: The 2011 Champs will be very much in the discussion to win another Cup, but they’ll have to do so with the very skilled Tuukka Rask carrying the load in lieu of Tim Thomas’ absence. They are very strong up front and on the back end and play a physical, up-tempo style many teams envy. The Bruins will be a tough out for any team.

Buffalo Sabres (2012 record: 39-32-11; 3rd in Northeast)

Key Additions: Steve Ott, Adam Pardy
Key Losses: Derek Roy, Brad Boyes
Season in three sentences: The Sabres were a massive disappointment in 2012 after making a splash in the offseason. They will try to be more physical in 2013 after getting bullied, but there are questions surrounding if they simply have enough pieces to get the job done. Ryan Miller should return to form after having his numbers take a dive last season due to a slow start.

Carolina Hurricanes (2012 record: 33-33-16; 5th in Southeast)

Key Additions: Jordan Staal, Joe Corvo, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Alexander Semin
Key Losses: Bryan Allen, Jaroslav Spacek, Brandon Sutter
Season in three sentences: The Hurricanes made a big splash in the offseason by picking up a second Staal, but there are still plenty of questions surrounding the roster. There are holes up front and on the back end, and there will be a ton of weight on the shoulders of Cam Ward. They will be on the bubble.

Florida Panthers (2012 record: 38-26-18; 1st in Southeast)

Key Additions: Peter Mueller, George Parros, Filip Kuba
Key Losses: Jason Garrison, John Madden, Mikael Samuelsson, Marco Sturm, Wojtek Wolski
Season in three sentences: The Panthers are trending upwards in the NHL with a big step forward last season, and a very deep farm system. With solid goaltending they are in the mix to win the Southeast again. If Roberto Luongo arrives, they could be a favorite to win the Eastern Conference.

Montreal Canadiens (2012 record: 31-35-16; 5th in Northeast)

Key Additions: Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong, Francis Bouillon
Key Losses: Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Brad Staubitz
Season in three sentences: The Canadiens are in year one of a rebuild after hitting rock bottom in 2012. They are a dangerous team with Carey Price in goal during a shortened season, but a weak farm system outside of Alex Galchenyuk means the focus has to be on re-stocking the cupboard. Max Pacioretty should take another step forward towards becoming a top flight NHL forward.

New Jersey Devils (2012 record: 48-28-6; 4th in Atlantic; Stanley Cup Finalist)

Key Additions: Krys Barch
Key Losses: Zach Parise, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Peter Sykora, Matt Taormina
Season in three sentences: The Devils lost their captain and one of their top scoring options via free agency this offseason and will need to hope for a boost from other sources in 2013. Without big steps forward from sophomores Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson, it’s tough to see a way they put together a successful season in a stacked Atlantic Division. Martin Brodeur is a year older, and will likely decline further after a 2012 season of mixed results.

New York Islanders (2012 record: 34-37-11; 5th in Atlantic)

Key Additions: Brad Boyes, Lubomir Visnovsky, Matt Carkner
Key Losses: Milan Jurcina, Al Montoya, Jay Pandolfo, P-A Parenteau
Season in three sentences: The Islanders have building blocks in place, but still lack the window dressing necessary to become a legitimate threat. The eventual addition of Lubomir Visnovsky to the blueline should help shore up the back end, but with a young forward corps that often struggles playing the full length of the ice, his presence is unlikely to sufficiently tighten up their defensive play. Rick DiPietro is supposedly healthy, though surely that will change.

New York Rangers (2012 record: 51-24-7; 1st in Atlantic)

Key Additions: Rick Nash, Taylor Pyatt, Arron Asham, Jeff Halpern, Micheal Haley
Key Losses: Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, John Mitchell, Brandon Prust
Season in three sentences: The Rangers fell just short of the Presidents Trophy last season which makes 2013 a Cup or Bust scenario. They have the (arguably) the best goaltender in the world, and have added one of the best goal scorers to an already dense roster. Barring a massive collapse, they will be a prime Stanley Cup contender.

Ottawa Senators (2012 record: 41-31-10; 3rd in Northeast)

Key Additions: Guillaume Latendresse, Marc Methot, Mike Lundin
Key Losses: Matt Carkner, Nick Foligno, Zenon Konopka, Filip Kuba
Season in three sentences: The Sens were the consummate surprise team of 2012, making a playoff appearance despite being a near-unanimous pick to finish last in the NHL. Erik Karlsson emerged as a superstar and took home a Norris Trophy for his efforts. The question this season is whether they will continue their rise or have the letdown many predicted a year ago.

Philadelphia Flyers (2012 record: 47-26-9; 3rd in Atlantic)

Key Additions: Ruslan Fedotenko, Luke Schenn
Key Losses: Blair Betts, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Carle, Jaromir Jagr, Pavel Kubina, James van Riemsdyk
Season in three sentences: The Flyers season hinges on which Ilya Bryzgalov comes to play. If its the perennial Vezina nominee they are a surefire Stanley Cup threat. If its the 2012 edition with Michael Leighton now backing him up, it’ll be back to the drawing board in Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Penguins (2012 record: 51-25-6; 2nd in Atlantic)

Key Additions: Bradon Sutter, Tanner Glass, Tomas Vokoun
Key Losses: Arron Asham, Brent Johnson, Zbynek Michalek, Jordan Staal, Steve Sullivan
Season in three sentences: The Penguins may very well be the most talented team in the NHL, and after 2012′s post-season flameout in Philly, they have a lot to prove. Having Sidney Crosby (ideally) for a full season ought to bolster their standing in the conference and put them in good position to win a Stanley Cup. A lot hinges on Marc-Andre Fleury and his play — veteran Tomas Vokoun will be waiting behind him if he falters.

Tampa Bay Lightning (2012 record: 38-36-8; 3rd in Southeast)

Key Additions: Benoit Pouliot, Matt Carle, Sami Salo, Anders Lindback
Key Losses: Sebastien Caron, Bruno Gervais, Dwayne Roloson
Season in three sentences: Whether or not the Tampa Bay Lightning improve rests on the shoulders of newly acquired Anders Lindback who was acquired from Nashville during the summer. If the 6-foot-6 ‘tender can provide NHL calibre goaltending, Tampa Bay will be in the discussion to make the playoffs and possibly win the Southeast. With Steven Stamkos up front, there will be no shortage of goals.

Toronto Maple Leafs (2012 record: 35-37-10; 4th in Northeast)

Key Additions: James van Riemsdyk, Jay McClement
Key Losses: Luke Schenn, Colby Armstrong, Jonas Gustavsson, Jeff Finger
Season in three sentences: Many Leafs fans are taking solace in the fact that after 48 games last season Toronto was squarely in the playoff picture and a threat to capture home ice advantage. Unfortunately this team appears to simply lack the talent — particularly on the blueline — to get the job done. If James Reimer returns to his pre-concussion form, however, they may stand a fighting chance.

Washington Capitals (2012 record: 42-32-8; 2nd in Southeast)

Key Additions: Mike Ribeiro, Wojtek Wolski, Eric Fehr
Key Losses: Alex Semin, Mike Knuble, Tomas Vokoun, Dennis Wideman, Jeff Halpern, Cody Eakin
Season in three sentences: Braden Holtby was a revelation for many hockey fans with a stellar performance in the 2012 playoffs. With Adam Oates now the head coach and looking to re-capture this team’s offensive flair, Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps may recapture their form from two seasons ago. This is a deep team many around the league have simply forgotten about after a disappointing 2012, and they will be looking to surprise.

Winnipeg Jets (2012 record: 37-35-10; 4th in Southeast)

Key Additions: Olli Jokinen, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Al Montoya
Key Losses: Eric Fehr, Tanner Glass, Chris Mason, Mark Flood
Season in three sentences: The Jets are in a tough position given the make-up of this 48 games schedule, as the transplanted Thrashers are still playing hockey in the Southeast division despite operating out of Manitoba. They will have (arguably) the best home ice advantage in the league, but with many question marks around the roster it will be a tall task to make the playoffs. Ondrej Pavelec will be a focus point as he looks to justify his massive contract.

How do you think the East will play out?