2022-23 NHL Preview: Atlantic 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'll run through quick previews of all 32 teams, beginning with the Atlantic Division.

Odds to win division in parentheses.

Toronto Maple Leafs (+210)

Ah, what could have been. It seems like we've been saying that about the Leafs every year for the last decade-plus. Following another first round playoff exit, hopes are once again high in Leaf Nation. In fact, most have them pegged to win the division and they've been clustered with the Panthers and Lightning as a trio of favorites to grab top spot. There are few changes to discuss personnel-wise. Jack Campbell's tortured tenure between the pipes is over as he's on to Edmonton. Replacing him, presumably as the starter, will be Matt Murray. It's tough to envision Toronto improving on their poor defensive track record given all of the tread on Murray's tires. The bulk of the pressure will once again be placed on the shoulders of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner as the Leafs look to outscore rather than out-defend the rest of the division.

Florida Panthers (+230)

Only time will tell whether the decision to send heart-and-soul players Jonathan Huberdeau and Mackenzie Weegar to Calgary in exchange for Matthew Tkachuk will ultimately work in the Panthers favor. Some would say there's nowhere to go but down for Florida's 'other' team after it took down the President's Trophy last season. Getting over the hump (the hump being the rival Tampa Bay Lightning) has proved to be an arduous task with last year's trade deadline acquisitions of Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot failing to do the trick. Perhaps Tkachuk will breathe new life into the franchise but it seems to be that the dynamic duo of Huberdeau and Barkov will be tough to replace.

Tampa Bay Lightning (+240)

There's remarkably no rebuild in sight for the Lightning as they continue on as one of the favorites to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup on an annual basis. The usual suspects are all back in the fold, save for Ondrej Palat who perhaps became expendable with last season's underrated acquisition of Nick Paul from the Senators. As long as the likes of Stamkos and Kucherov up front and Sergachev and Hedman at the back are healthy, this team will be in contention atop the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. Perhaps last Spring's Stanley Cup Final drubbing at the hands of the overpowering Avalanche will light a brand new fire in Jon Cooper's squad.

Boston Bruins (+1000)

One of the biggest surprises of the offseason was the Bruins retaining the services of Patrice Bergeron for at least one more year. Bergeron appeared likely to test the free agent waters and perhaps even head back to his home province in Montreal but instead he's back in Beantown for perhaps one last run at the Cup. David Krejci is another veteran drawing back in while Pavel Zacha was the team's biggest trade acquisition. With a new head coach in Jim Montgomery and an aging roster it seems expectations should be tempered somewhat but tell that to the 'Black and Gold' faithful. Pastrnak, Marchand and Bergeron will ensure the B's are a player in the Eastern Conference playoff race but expecting much more than that will likely be a bridge too far.

Ottawa Senators (+2600)

The Senators ultimately exceeded expectations last season, doing much more than just avoiding the Atlantic Division basement - they actually finished ahead of three teams including the Bruins. Now the pieces are in place to do even more with Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux joining the fold. The latter should provide some much-needed leadership to this young squad that is brimming with talent. While the Sens defensive corps leaves a lot to be desired, Thomas Chabot is undoubtedly a stud. The addition of veteran goaltender Cam Talbot should provide some stability between the pipes but I'm not convinced he's that big of an upgrade over Matt Murray. While unlikely to make the jump to division contender, knocking on the door to the playoffs should represent Ottawa's ceiling in 22-23.

Detroit Red Wings (+2800)

Don't sleep on the Red Wings offseason addition of former Nashville Predator goaltender Ville Husso. That was certainly an area where Detroit was in desperate need of an upgrade and Husso represents just that over Alex Nedelkovic. General manager Steve Yzerman is quietly building a deep, talented roster in the Motor City, with the likes of Andrew Copp, Dominik Kubalik and Ben Chiarot joining the fold, among others. While scoring might still be a bit of a problem, there's a ton of grit up front - the Wings should be the very definition of a 'tough out' in that regard. On the blue line, Chiarot will be a likely pairing for last year's standout rookie Moritz Seider. It's apparent that Detroit is attempting to build a defense corps capable of contending with other high-powered offensive teams in the Atlantic and that strategy might just work wonders in time.

Buffalo Sabres (+5700)

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Sabres this season will be the return of the 'goat head' logo along with the black and red color scheme as an alternate look. Apart from that there's just not much to get excited about in Buffalo as it made little noise in the offseason, content to stick with last year's roster that produced a second-to-last place finish in the Atlantic. There are some solid young pieces in place, including Victor Olofsson and Tage Thompson, who are both back in the fold for at least a couple more seasons. Last year's acquisition of Alex Tuch from the Golden Knights in the Jack Eichel trade produced an immediate spark offensively but it didn't seem to be sustainable. This is a team that is likely a number of missing parts away from being a top-four team in a crowded division.

Montreal Canadiens (+13600)

Nick Suzuki was recently named the Canadiens captain, a clear indication of the direction this rebuilding franchise is headed in. Last year we saw the Habs gain some late season traction under the guidance of first-time head coach Martin St. Louis and there's nowhere to go but up after finishing last place in the division. Montreal is hoping a change of scenery will provide a spark for former Blackhawk and once highly-touted prospect Kirby Dach. The Habs used their lottery pick to select Juraj Slafkovsky but it remains to be seen how much of an immediate impact he can make. The hope is that he pans out better than former high draft pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who never really made his mark in Montreal before being snatched up by Carolina last year. There are still far too many holes in the roster to expect the Habs to make a considerable jump this season. 

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

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