1. Montreal Canadiens
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Washington Capitals
4. Philadelphia Flyers
5. Ottawa Senators
6. New York Rangers
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Carolina Hurricanes
9. Tampa Bay Lightning
10. Boston Bruins
11. Buffalo Sabres
12. Florida Panthers
13. Atlanta Thrashers
14. Toronto Maple Leafs
15. New York Islanders
This really isn't too bold. It's pretty much all the top teams from last year at the top, and the weak teams from last year at the bottom; with a slight step back for Boston and a step ahead for Carolina.
Obviously if/when Mats Sundin decides on a team (and the Rangers and Philly may or may not be on his short-list, though it would take a lot of salary cap wrangling) that could tip the balance of power too.
Puck Daddy asked:
So the Pens still win the division?
We're biased, but we think so. The Atlantic division will, as always, be very competitive and the Rangers, Flyers and possibly Devils are all relative summer locks to be playoff teams. But each has their flaws.
--The Pens ran over Philly last year and beyond Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen, we're not sold on the rest of their defense. Plus, Marty Biron sucks.
--The Rangers re-loaded significantly on offense, losing Jaromir Jagr and (possibly) Brenden Shanahan and replacing them with Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev. Neither Naslund or Zherdev are very good away from the puck at this point. Plus Wade Redden is on this team. It's hard to respect a man that Ryan Whitney made his bitch.
--Paul Martin, Bryce Salvador, Collin White, Vitaly Vishnevski, Andy Greene, Mike Mottau, Johnny Oduya. That's the Devils defense and they have a 36 year old Martin Brodeur. That's not going to hold the Pens back.
So yeah, we think the Pens have the leg up on the rest of the division, in effect since they destroyed the Rangers and the Flyers in the playoffs. Even if that team did lose Hossa, Malone, Roberts, etc they've gained a year of experience for the core and added guys like Satan and Fedotenko to try to fill the gaps.