The Metropolitan Division does not have a single bad team in it. It is almost impossible to accurately predict, as anyone can finish anywhere. In this article, we will rank the eight teams and predict their point totals for the 2018-19 season, providing some reasoning as to why they were placed where they were.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets- 77 pts.
- Best Player: Cam Atkinson
- Coach: John Tortorella
- Goaltender: Joonas Korpisalo
- 2018-19 Season: 98 points, lost in second round to Boston
The offseason in Columbus was absolutely diabolical. Things last year were looking really hopeful for the Jackets — they swept Tampa Bay, then took a 2-1 lead on the Bruins. This team looked like the real deal and had a great shot at the Stanley Cup last season.
However, they lost most of their best players, which is the risk of going all-in for the Stanley Cup as Columbus did last season. Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel all decided to take their talents elsewhere. John Tortorella is an extremely demanding coach, leading goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to say he felt “uncomfortable” playing in Columbus.
The Blue Jackets signed Gustav Nyquist, which is a good pickup in a star-studded Metropolitan Division, but went backwards worse than any team in the NHL. They have yet to find an adequate replacement for Bobrovsky, as Joonas Korpisalo is inconsistent and not proved as a starting goalie. Although there is still loads of talent in this organization, the team is not at a point where it can realistically compete with the rest of the teams in the division. They lost too much in too little time.
7. New Jersey Devils- 83 pts.
- Best Player: Taylor Hall
- Coach: John Hynes
- Goaltender: MacKenzie Blackwood
- 2018-19 Season: 72 points, missed Playoffs
New Jersey had the offseason of a lifetime, acquiring a long list of big name players: Jack Hughes, P.K. Subban, Nikita Gusev, and Wayne Simmonds. Along with these high-caliber players, they already have all-stars Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall.
This is in addition to a solid depth core that New Jersey has established, including Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood, Blake Coleman and Jesper Bratt.
Their defense is certainly a weak point. P.K. Subban was obviously a tremendous pickup. He brings a lot of offensive skill and energy to the game, which is always key. Will Butcher and Damon Severson are solid young defenders, but they aren’t exactly going to win you the Cup. Now here’s where things get ugly.
The other three defensive spots go to Andy Greene, Sami Vatanen, and Connor Carrick. A potential seventh spot can go to Mirco Muller. That presents a problem. Greene is a good leader but is way past his prime, and while Vatanen and Carrick are decent players and would work well as a bottom-pair, speciality defensemen, having these three players crack the top-six is a red flag and those holes need to be filled immediately if New Jersey wants any kind of success.
Also, the goaltending scenario is a fiasco. Cory Schneider has gotten older, and after last season, nobody should be overly convinced that he will have a bounce-back year. Mackenzie Blackwood isn’t proved at all, and when he has played, has been mediocre to average.
The Devils may have perhaps the best offense in the division, but it is hard to see them not keeping pucks out of their net. Once they build their defense and get a solid enough goalie, they can be contenders.
6. Philadelphia Flyers- 87 pts.
- Best Player: Claude Giroux
- Coach: Alain Vigneault
- Goaltender: Carter Hart
- 2018-19 Season: 82 points, Missed Playoffs
The Flyers aren’t as bad as people make them out to be. The reason I have them doing slightly better than last year is we see a tremendous breakout season for young goaltender Carter Hart. Hart put up a .917% SV in 31 games in a chaotic rookie campaign with the Flyers, with a struggling defensive core in front of him. He has unbelievable potential, and can be in the top handful of goalies very quickly.
Their defense is still a question mark, but their younger defensemen can only improve from here, particularly Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Shayne Gostisbehere. However, the Flyers blue-line is still pretty weak. That won’t cut it in a division like the Metropolitan.
Their offense will still be very good. I foresee a typical year of Philadelphia hockey, scoring a lot of goals and giving up just as many. Carter Hart will definitely steal some wins for this team though.
5. New York Rangers- 90 pts.
- Best Player: Artemi Panarin
- Coach: David Quinn
- Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist
- 2018-19 Season: 78 points, Missed Playoffs
The Rangers had a tremendous offseason, acquiring Artemi Panarin, Kaapo Kakko and Jacob Trouba. The rebuild in New York City was quick and aggressive, and the Rangers should be playing competitive hockey for the first time in a couple seasons. They are only going to get better from here, when guys like Kakko, Lias Andersson, Vitali Kravstov and Adam Fox develop. They are a playoff team for years to come.
But, things aren’t perfect for the Rangers just yet. Their forward depth is subpar. Ryan Strome and Filip Chytil are fighting for a second line center spot, and once the first-line is off, the Rangers can’t expect any consistent scoring, especially with young and developing players.
The defense is also subpar. Losing Neal Pionk is a bigger loss than people realize as he had great potential. Also, as historic of a goalie that he is, Lundqvist is getting up there in age and just isn’t as good as he used to be. Alexandar Georgiev is a solid backup.
The New York Rangers are a good hockey team, and should be playing some very meaningful hockey in March and April to try to win the Metropolitan Division. It will be challenging down the road to sign all of their young players, but the reality is the Rangers had an incredible offseason and will not be a bad team. There are holes in the lineup, but major steps to becoming a playoff team were made this offseason and it will only get better for them.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins- 95 pts.
- Best Player: Sidney Crosby
- Coach: Mike Sullivan
- Goaltender: Matt Murray
- 2018-19 Season: 100 points, lost in First round to NYI
The Penguins just aren’t the same anymore. Their forward depth and prospect pool is some of the worst in the entire NHL, meaning a dark future is coming ahead for Pittsburgh.
I see a slight regression this season. The Penguins are slowly getting worse every season, as their star players grow older and their depth diminishes. Matt Murray’s play has also gotten more shaky and inconsistent every season.
The management in Pittsburgh saw how the team was getting worse over time. So, GM Jim Rutherford decided to make a couple big moves, by signing Brandon Tanev to a six-year deal, and trading away elite sniper Phil Kessel to Arizona and getting Alex Galchenyuk as a return.
This team went backwards. Tanev’s term is way too long, and trading away Kessel was a panicked gesture by Jim Rutherford, which was not needed. The Penguins have still won two championships in the last four seasons, and Kessel was one of the key contributors. One “off” season of 82 points shouldn’t be a reason to completely panic. Championship teams know how to bounce back. But, considering their offseason moves and prospects, that statement is pretty hard to believe, especially in a difficult Metropolitan Division.
3. New York Islanders- 97 pts.
- Best Player: Mathew Barzal
- Coach: Barry Trotz
- Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov
- 2018-19 Season: 103 points, lost in Second round to Carolina
The Islanders present a “wait and see” kind of solution. So far in this offseason, they haven’t brought in any top goal scorers, which is a spot they needed to fill. Lou Lamoriello couldn’t reach an agreement with Vezina candidate goaltender Robin Lehner, and replaced him with an older, smaller, and more injury-prone goaltender in Semyon Varlamov. This is a big question mark. This move can end up being fantastic if he plays well and helps bring over Ilya Sorokin from Russia, but if his subpar play and injuries continue, can turn into a disaster.
The defensive core should only improve with experience after a historic season. Barry Trotz prioritizes defense, and any team with Trotz as their bench boss should have a decent amount of success. Their defense was so good last season that they were 22nd in the NHL for scoring, but fifth in the NHL with 103 points.
The offense is not great. But the forward depth is superb. For example, having Casey Cizikas, a 20-goal scorer on the fourth-line is incredible. The team is well-rounded. However, their top guys did not produce nearly as much as they needed to. They can’t score any goals.
While hiring Jim Hiller, the best power-play specialist in the National Hockey League is a big step, the offense is still too inconsistent and Varlamov is too questionable to rank the Islanders any higher than third for now. It will take a few weeks, maybe even months, to see who the Islanders really are this season compared to the rest of the Metropolitan Division.
2. Washington Capitals- 106 pts.
- Best Player: Alex Ovechkin
- Coach: Todd Rierden
- Goaltender: Brayden Holtby
- 2018-19 Season: 104 pts, lost in First round to Carolina
If the Caps want to win another cup, this is the year to do it, as they will almost definitely lose either Nickolas Backstrom or Brayden Holtby to unrestricted free agency in 2020.
The Capitals had a rather quiet offseason. Andre Burakovsky was dealt to Colorado, and Matt Niskanen was also moved to Philadelphia for physical defenseman Radko Gudas. The lineup did not go undergo any drastic changes, as expected and necessary, as Washington has taken first place in the division for five consecutive seasons.
The Capitals are a very top team in the NHL, as they have been every year in the last decade. The only difference this year is that the Metropolitan has gotten so much stronger, which is why we believe they won’t win the division for the sixth straight time. For this Washington team, however, there is nothing too different to expect. Ovechkin may score another 50, Holtby can be standing on top of his head, and the Capitals can win 50 or more. Don’t expect any surprises from the nation’s capital.
1. Carolina Hurricanes- 108 pts.
- Best Player: Sebastian Aho
- Coach: Rod Brind’Amour
- Goaltender: Petr Mrazek
- 2018-19 Season: 99 pts, lost in Third round to Boston
This may seem a bit bold, but this team is absolutely stacked. First, we’ll focus on the defense, which can very well be the best in the entire National Hockey League. It also is a relatively young defensive core, so it can only get better. Here are the top defensemen on the team:
- Justin Faulk
- Jaccob Slavin
- Brett Pesce
- Dougie Hamilton
- Trevor van Riemsdyk
- Jake Gardiner
- Jake Bean
- Haydn Fluery
- Gustav Forsling
That is an incredible group of defensemen. A defense like that can do something special. Slavin is arguably a top-10 defenseman in the entire league, and all six of their top d-men could work in a top-four spot or maybe even on the top-pairing of some NHL teams.
Secondly, Petr Mrazek has proven himself as a solid NHL goaltender last season. There were some questions about the goaltending headed into last season, but it was good enough to get them to the third round and shouldn’t be considered a concern.
Their young and improving offense had some trouble scoring deep in the playoffs last season, but the team made some additions such as Ryan Dzingel. Now let’s list some of their other forwards:
- Sebastian Aho
- Andrei Svechnikov
- Jordan Staal
- Teuvo Teravainen
- Nino Niederriter
- Brock McGinn
- Martin Necas
- Ryan Dzingel
- Warren Foegle
- Jordan Martinook
- Erik Haula
Talk about an incredible amount of young talent and depth. Their prospect pool is deep, so they should be able to roll four solid lines and three amazing defensive pairings for years and years to come.
This team brings so much excitement, passion, and skill each and every night and that is a dangerous combination. It can be a revolution in Raleigh, and we see them as a dark horse team to finish in first.
Anything can happen in the Metropolitan Division. All eight teams are competitive and can finish in any order. That is what makes it the best, and most exciting and competitive division in the National Hockey League.