2022-23 NHL Preview: Metropolitan Division

by Sean Murphy

The puck drops on the 2022-23 NHL season with a pair of games between the Sharks and Predators in Czechia beginning on October 7th. Before that, I'm running through quick previews of all 32 teams, continuing with the Metropolitan Division.

Odds to win division in parentheses.

Carolina Hurricanes (+195)

I can't help but feel the Canes took the 'addition by subtraction' route by offloading constant distraction Tony DeAngelo and an aging Nino Niederreiter in the offseason. A pair of veterans, Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty, were brought into the fold although the latter will start the season on the shelf as he recovers from surgery to repair his achilles. The regular season hasn't been a problem for Carolina as it took top spot in the division last year and has been in the mix for a number of years. The question is whether the Canes can get over the hump come playoff time - just winning a round isn't enough anymore as expectations are seemingly sky-high on an annual basis, and rightfully so. An x-factor could be the performance of goaltender Frederik Andersen, who came up with a career year in 2021-22 but will need to match it to keep Carolina atop the heap in the Metro.

Pittsburgh Penguins (+340)

Evgeni Malkin is back to play Robin to Sidney Crosby's Batman for another year but it remains to be seen whether the once-dynamic duo has another Stanley Cup run in them. This seems to be a franchise unwilling to turn the page on an era that saw it win three Stanley Cups in relatively short succession. Yes, there is plenty of young talent in the fold to compliment veterans Malkin, Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Kris Letang but it just hasn't been enough to push the team from division contenders to Stanley Cup contenders in recent years. Pittsburgh's biggest offseason addition was steady veteran defenseman Jeff Petry. Instead of going out to get help between the pipes, the Pens will once again rely on Tristan Jarry, who has been frustratingly inconsistent throughout his career.

New York Rangers (+350)

After making a surprisingly deep playoff run last Spring, the Rangers are a popular Stanley Cup sleeper pick heading into this season. All of the right pieces appear to be in place with an All-World goaltender in Igor Shesterkin and a strong forward group led by Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. Despite their success last season, the Blueshirts didn't stand pat over the Summer, signing Vincent Trocheck to add even more offensive punch. Depth on the blue line could be an issue but New York has a couple of defensive anchors to work around in newly-named captain Jacob Trouba and rising star Adam Fox.

Washington Capitals (+730)

The Capitals made some interesting offseason moves, bringing in goaltender Darcy Kuemper from the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche and a pair of depth players up front in Marcus Johansson and Dylan Strome. Johansson is of course familiar with the team as this will be his third go-round with Washington. The most exciting part of the Caps 2022-23 season will likely be Alex Ovechkin's chase for the NHL's all-time goal-scoring record, currently held by Wayne Gretzky. It remains to be seen whether that ongoing storyline gives the Caps an emotional boost or proves to be a distraction over the course of the season.

New York Islanders (+880)

In a move that was questioned by many, the Islanders fired Barry Trotz following a disappointing 2021-22 campaign. It would have seemingly been difficult to fault Trotz for the Isles woes a year ago as they were handed a number of blows including an early-season Covid outbreak that put them behind the eight-ball in a crowded division. Apart from the ousting of Trotz, New York didn't make many offseason moves of note. It did lock up one of its young franchise cornerstones in defenseman Noah Dobson but Mat Barzal's free agency after this season is looming. A successful season would likely go a long way toward enticing Barzal to return for another run at the Cup on Long Island.

New Jersey Devils (+2280)

There are some good young pieces in place, namely captain Nico Hischier and 2022-23 breakout candidate Jack Hughes (who was on his way to a monster year before getting sidelined with an injury last season), but also a lot of holes in the New Jersey roster. That's especially true on the blue line and in goal where the Devils remain unsettled following a quiet offseason. You have to figure the Newark faithful are starting to get restless given it's been over a decade since the Devils last iced a team that had a legitimate shot at hoisting Lord Stanley's Mug. Head coach Lindy Ruff will likely need to work some serious magic to keep his team in contention for a Wild Card spot this season.

Columbus Blue Jackets (+3870)

It may seem strange to see the Blue Jackets being priced so generously given they landed one of the biggest free agent names in the league in Johnny Gaudreau. The problem is, there's not much depth behind the former Flames sniper. Elvis Merzlikins does inspire confidence between the pipes but the blue line needs help, as do the second-through-fourth lines up front. All indications are that Columbus is playing the long game to a certain extent as it has the services of Gaudreau for the next seven years. Given the steep return being offered, I don't mind taking a flyer with the Jackets in a division that could be a little more wide-open than most are expecting.

Philadelphia Flyers (+6180)

Will the John Tortorella experiment work in Philadelphia? One thing's for sure, he's going to be a polarizing character in Philly sports media circles. Curiously, the Flyers did little to bolster a roster than led to a last-place finish in the Metropolitan Division last season. It's becoming more evident with each passing season that Carter Hart isn't the answer in goal. Guys like James Van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier will be relied upon heavily to shoulder the load offensively but they both have plenty of miles on their tires. Travis Konecny has to feel like he's been left on an island given the lack of offensive talent around him. While there's little pressure given the low expectations, I'm anticipating another tumultuous campaign in the City of Brotherly Love. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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