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Atlantic Division: Survival of the Fittest

Penguins Locker Room

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Atlantic Division will be the toughest division in all of the NHL this season. The New Jersey Devils won the division last year with 107 Points. The Penguins came in second with 105, the New York Rangers third with 94, and the New York Islanders finished fourth with 92. All four of these teams made it to the NHL playoffs. The last time a division placed four teams in the playoffs: 2003-04 Season Northeast Division: Boston, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

The lone team that dove into the Atlantic Ocean: (does 10,000 losses ring a bell? Yea, same town as the Phillies) the Philadelphia Flyers. As a Pens fan, I want to remind all Flyers faithful that the Pens swept the season series last year. The Flyers finished with a deplorable 56, last in the Eastern Conference and last in the National Hockey League. Okay, that was last season.

All five teams have revamped due to the Entry Draft and Free Agency.

In the Draft, Philly got the second pick: James Van Riemsdyk a New Jersey native, 18 year old Left Winger that probable won’t pull a Jordan Staal and make a NHL roster at the age of 18. The NY Rangers first pick was Russian Alexei Cherepanov, another 18 year old. He will not try to escape Russia like Malkin had to do last year; Cherepanov said he will stay with his team in Russia. The Pens drafted Angelo Esposito, an 18 year old center from Montreal. He will have a difficult time getting on the Pens roster. New Jersey and the NY Islanders didn’t have any first round picks. None of their respective drafted players are expected to play in the NHL next season.

Although the teams’ picks from the 2007 Entry Draft most likely won’t make an impact this season, the free agents most certainly will affect the Atlantic Division teams. The NHL Free Agency Season started on July 1st.

Thus far, the Penguins have signed Petr Sykora, Darryl Sydor, Dany Sabourin, Jeff Taffe, Ty Conklin, Tim Brent and Mike Weaver. The Pens lost backup goalie Jocelyn Thibault and right wing Michel Ouellet in free agency. Thibault is now with the Buffalo Sabres; Ouellet is a member of the Tampa Bay Lighting. The Pens definitely improved through free agency. Thibault is replaced by Dany Sabourin and Ty Conklin; MAF(Marc Andre Fleury) is still the starting goaltender. Petr Sykora will put to shame any ideas coming from the ‘Burgh that Ouellet is better than him.

The New Jersey Devils signed Dainius Zubrus, a former Sabre and Capital. Also, Karel Rachunek, a defenseman, and Kevin Weekes, a goalie, signed with the Devils, both leaving the Rangers. Vitaly Vishnevski left the Predators, and the defenseman is now a Devil. Aaron Asham, former Islander forward will now play for the Devils.

Ian Moran

True Pens fans will remember Ian Moran, the great utility defenseman and forward for the Pens from 1995-2003.

Unfortunately, he is now a Devil; God rest his soul.

Although the Devils signed a lot of players, they lost a few key skaters to free agency. Scott Clemmensen, the irreplaceable backup to Martin Brodeur, is a Maple Leaf now. Brad Lukowich has left New Jersey for better beaches in Tampa Bay that he longed for last year, and Brian Rafalski is in Detroit.

Scott Gomez has gone from the Devils to New York Rangers. This is the first time the Rangers have actually signed a good player and not payed too much for him… o wait he will make 10 million dollars next season. Wow, New York just loves over paying everyone. Chris Drury is now a Ranger, yea Buffalo choked again. He will earn 7.1 million this season. The Rangers lost Brad Isbister, Michael Nylander, and Jed Ortmeyer.

New York Islanders signed Jonathan Sim, sucks, Andy Sutton, Matthew Spiller, Aaron Johnson, Joey MacDonald, and a few real hockey players named Mike Comrie, Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko. The team lost Tom Poti, Viktor Kozlov, Jason Blake AKA Cheap Shot Aficionado, Sean Hill, Ryan Smyth(GM Garth Snow lost the battle for him to Joe Sakic and Colorado) and Richard Zednik.

Philly tried to forget that they finished at the bottom of the NHL. They signed Daniel Briere and umm yea no one else. Mike York left to be with Gretzky in Phoenix; Todd Fedoruk is now a Star, Dallas Star that is.

Clearly, the Atlantic Division had a ton of free agent activity. My rankings of the team’s free agent affairs:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins: Sydor and Sykora are awesome and Ray Shero is a genius.

2. New York Rangers: Getting both Gomez and Drury gets you here, but overpaying them will come back to kick New York in the ass.

3. New Jersey Devils: Zubrus, Vishnevski and Ian Moran gained, Martin Brodeur still there. That’s all you need.

4. New York Islanders: Comrie, Guerin, Fedotenko all really good, but Garth you lost too many good players.

5. Philadelphia Flyers: Briere is a tremendous player, but will he be enough to carry you?


2 Responses to “Atlantic Division: Survival of the Fittest”

  1. I loved the Angelo Esposito pick, even with my limited hockey knowledge. Esposito was one of the most talented players in the draft but doesn’t have the star player mentality that Crosby and Ovechkin possess where they thrive under the spotlight. That shouldn’t be a problem in Pittsburgh where Esposito can wait a year before winning rookie of the year in 08’09’.

  2. I hope you’re right Jay, with your rankings. I am cautiously optimistic.

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