Last time I looked at the supposed new East Division, and judged which teams were finished roster tinkering, and which weren’t. I used Greg Wyshynski’s proposed divisions, and as was bound to happen, there is new information. Some of the changes were just obvious and make me wonder about Wychynski’s sources or his guesses.
Not finalized yet, and still subject to change, but the 2020-21 four-division re-alignment currently looks like this according to sources:— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 9, 2020
This moves Columbus out of the same division with Pittsburgh, which is smart because their TV markets partially overlap. It puts Pittsburgh with Philly, which is smart because they hate each other. It also puts the three most southerly teams, who all hate each other, together.
The West loses Minnesota and gains St. Louis, making life pretty tough for the mediocre teams with a stacked division at the top. That’s a tough four-way race now.
The Central loses St. Louis and Pittsburgh and gains Carolina and Minnesota. That’s a net weakening of a division with a group of very boring middleclass teams. Carolina still needs a goalie to be competitive, but I think this might be easier than the East.
The East loses Carolina and gains Pittsburgh, making up all the proper Metropolitan rivalries again. It makes good business sense, and it will be one hell of a race for the playoffs.
We haven’t changed our national borders, and the Jets haven’t been forced to move to Hamilton yet, so this last, most-important division remains unchanged.
The Flames haven’t signed Oliver Kylington yet, and that leaves them a little undersupplied on defence. But Juuso Valimaki, who was hurt last year, is, without one single question, the best defender in the Liiga right now, and they likely don’t care much about Kylington. They have enough space for at least 22 on the roster, and aside from questions about the wisdom of running that forward roster back out, they look ready to go.
If Edmonton hadn’t been playing Chicago in the playoffs, more people might have noticed just how dreadful they were. They are at the salary cap with defender Ethan Bear unsigned and with a full roster, so his deal shouldn’t present too big a problem. They’re trying again with Jesse Puljujarvi (good luck with that) and they have the same goalies who aren’t capable of carrying them. Oh, and Tyson Barrie instead of the injured Oscar Klefbom. If they put Klefbom on LTIR for the season, they can add one player. This feels like a holding pattern year while a lot of contracts expire. They’ll score a lot of goals, and the only question really is, how many will they give up?
Are the Canadiens more likable now they’ve ditched Domi for Leafs-killer Josh Anderson? Don’t be silly. They are at the cap with a short roster, have one non-NHLer in Charles Hudon to sign or not as they choose, so they are done and ready to roll.
Are they good, though? Weeeellll. Yes and no. They have a good, but not overwhelming defence, a really good middle six, like, really, really, really good. They have the best least-important players in the NHL, but Brendan Gallagher is still their most talented forward.
It all depends on Carey Price, of course, but the team really is missing the flash and sizzle that would make them seem like the Canadiens of old. Speaking for a team with maybe just a little too much flash and sizzle, the Leafs vs Habs rivalry should be like a science experiment in team building. Let’s get going and find out who wins it.
The Sens easily leapt over the cap floor with some interesting signings this offseason. It doesn’t matter what they do, though, their fans are super, super mad about it. That one-year deal for Erik Gudbranson is going to ruin the team. Ruin them, I say, here look at this chart...
If Matt Murray was just in a slump for a couple of years, if he’s the real thing, the Sens are set up to start bringing on a very nice set of prospects, not overwhelming in any one individual, but excellent in quantity. If Murray was a bad gamble, they’ll be in a pickle. And Erik Gudbranson is a hometown guy who works hard either way.
Look for Vitali Abramov to be annoyingly good and Erik Brannstrom to take a while to mature. Also look for Evgeni Dadonov to score a lot of goals on the Leafs.
The Sens can do whatever they want in trades or signings, since they have the space for it. It’s just a question of how much actual money they want to spend. They still should easily finish last in this division, though.
Why does Vancouver’s cap situation look a lot like the Lightning’s? Because the Canucks actually want an overpaid grinder line. They think that’s sound management. They are somewhat competitive in their usual division, but they haven’t quite matured into a team that should be considering trading guys under 25 to make cap space. With a 23-man roster, they are $1.5 million over the cap, so that gets solved with the short roster scenario or finding someone to LTIR. Or they can always trade whichever 23-year-old they’re mad at this week and sign Matt Martin. They are neither bad nor good, and will win more games than most Leafs fans expect.
The Jets are the Canadian team that most looks like they’d rather this season just got cancelled. They need to re-sign Jack Roslovic, who they don’t seem to actually want. They have Patrik Laine, who they don’t seem to actually want, and they have the worst defence outside of Detroit. They signed Luca Sbisa, for god’s sake. The Maple Leafs have at least six extra defenders better than him. Oh, and they’re over the cap, and can only run about 21 men on the roster. Just trade Roslovic for picks, and send Dominic Toninato to the minors (they signed Dominic Toninato!!) and it’s all sorted. This team was a goalie and three good forwards last season, and that’s who they still are. Really, really good goalie, though.
Toronto Maple Leafs
I’ll tell you what I think of the Leafs when they actually decide which of their 50 or so guys are on the roster. Except most of that is irrelevant. The team wins or loses with 11 guys, and the only new one there is TJ Brodie, so they’re better, and will be as good as Frederik Andersen lets them be.
Sportsnet and TSN are the real winners. Two TV markets for every game with only one broadcast crew absolutely necessary? Gold. Solid gold.
If the Maple Leafs don’t take this division with no more trouble than the Flames are capable of handing them, I’ll want another Bloody Sunday of firings, because there’s no excuse not to win it. None.
And that’s the most likely four divisions, with most of the NHL teams ready to hit the ice for camp. We might set a record for camp signings and trades, but most of the deals are going to be minor. And speaking of, if we ever get a date for the AHL to start their camp, the minor league signings and trades can commence too.
Until we know for sure, though, keep marking these dates the NHL hands out in pencil.