The 2021-22 NHL season is right around the corner, and after a year of weirdness, one of the most familiar things, the typical division alignment, is back again.
That, obviously, means the Atlantic Division is back together, and it promises to be a powerhouse, perhaps the toughest of the four. It features the reigning Stanley Cup champions, as well as the runner-up and a cast of bona fide contenders.
So, let’s take a look at where each team stands. We have them in order based on where we think the standings will shake out, so there’s a prediction aspect to this, too.
Tampa Bay Lightning (Odds to win division: +210)
Notable additions: Corey Perry, Zach Bogosian, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Brian Elliott
Notable subtractions: Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, David Savard, Luke Schenn, Mitchell Stephens, Curtis McIlhenny
Outlook: Soaring over the salary cap last season worked out just fine for the Lightning, but that forced them to part with a lot of impactful players this offseason — most notably all of their stellar third line. Guess what, though? They’re still going to be great. Much of their top-six remains intact, as well as the bulk of their defense. Anchoring all of that is a top netminder in Andrei Vasilevskiy. There were key losses this offseason, to be sure, but many were around the margins. This will be a good team.
Florida Panthers (Odds to win division: +425)
Notable additions: Joe Thornton, Sam Reinhart
Notable subtractions: Anton Stralman, Keith Yandle, Brett Connolly, Chris Driedger, Nikita Gusev, Vinnie Hinostroza, Riley Stillman, Lucas Wallmark, Alexander Wennberg
Outlook: You can look at their first-round exit last season and say they underperformed, but they gave the Lightning a good fight. This is a team on the rise, and the Sam Reinhart and Joe Thornton additions will help them continue to be a potent offensive group, as they long have. However, the same questions remain: Do they have the goaltending, and will the defense come around? We think there’s enough there.
Toronto Maple Leafs (Odds to win division: +195)
Notable additions: Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase, Petr Mrazek, Kurtis Gabriel, Michael Bunting, Michael Amadio
Notable subtractions: Zach Bogosian, Nick Foligno, Alex Galchenyuk, Zach Hyman, David Rittich, Joe Thornton
Outlook: While it is always fun to dunk on the Leafs for being bad in the postseason, the reality is they usually are a very good regular-season team. The Petr Mrazek-Jack Campbell goalie tandem could be a problem, especially behind a defense that historically has been erratic in its own zone, at best. But their forward group is among the league’s finest, and the Ondrej Kase and Michael Bunting acquisitions this offseason could prove to be shrewd, low-cost moves.
Boston Bruins (Odds to win division: +380)
Notable additions: Derek Forbort, Tomas Nosek, Erik Haula, Nick Foligno, Linus Ullmark
Notable subtractions: David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak, Steven Kampfer, Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase, Sean Kuraly, Jeremy Lauzon, Greg McKegg, Jarred Tinordi, Dan Vladar
Outlook: The Bruins are going to be a very good team for being in the fourth spot, which simply is the nature of the powerhouse that is the Atlantic. There are a lot of new faces who could prove impactful this season, but it’s going to come down to the success of the Linus Ullmark-Jeremy Swayman goalie tandem, as well as the success of the middle-six centers. Boston should have good depth, and only would be forced into a wild card spot because the division is such a grind.
Montreal Canadiens (Odds to win division: +3500)
Notable additions: Sami Niku, Mathieu Perreault, Chris Wideman, Mike Hoffman, Cedric Paquette, David Savard, Christian Dvorak
Notable subtractions: Phillip Danault, Erik Gustafsson, Corey Perry, Charles Hudon, Jon Merrill, Eric Staal
Outlook: The Habs were a fun story last year, but they sure feel poised to plummet this season. Losing Phillip Danault is a gut punch, and they’re going to be without Shea Weber, as well (though he has not yet technically retired due to injury). The ceiling is high for this team — Christian Dvorak, Mike Hoffman and David Savard were good pickups, and Nick Suzuki could be in line for a big step forward — but there is a ton of uncertainty and room for things to go wrong.
Ottawa Senators (Odds to win division: +15000)
Notable additions: Zach Sanford, Nick Holden, Michael Del Zotto, Kole Sherwood
Notable subtractions: Logan Brown, Evgenii Dadonov, Ryan Dzingel, Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan
Outlook: Give them this: They play incredibly hard. The Sens are loaded with fascinating youngsters, and truthfully they are probably not far off from being a competitive team. It just seems like they need another year of refining their younger players and continuing with the baptism by fire approach before going out and filling the rest of the roster with more expensive veterans. So, they’re not there yet, but guys like Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, Tim Stutzle and Thomas Chabot make them worth watching.
Detroit Red Wings (Odds to win division: +10000)
Notable additions: Pius Suter, Mitchell Stephens, Alex Nedeljkovic, Nick Leddy, Jordan Oesterle, Luke Witkowski
Notable subtractions: Richard Panik, Luke Glendening, Frans Nielsen, Valtteri Filppula
Outlook: They got some pretty awful deals off the books this offseason, and they did an actually OK job rounding out the roster with pickups like Pius Suter, Alex Nedeljkovic and Nick Leddy. However, they really don’t have a ton of young players on the roster that will blow you away, and they’re going to be without Tyler Bertuzzi at times thanks to his refusal to get vaccinated, so they need more time before they start threatening anybody.
Buffalo Sabres (Odds to win division: +30000)
Notable additions: Will Butcher, Robert Hagg, Aaron Dell, Craig Anderson, Vinnie Hinostroza, Mark Pysyk, John Hayden
Notable subtractions: Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen, Riley Sheahan, Jake McCabe, Matt Irwin, Carter Hutton, Linus Ullmark
Outlook: This team is going to be really bad again. Don Granato is the perfect coach to handle a rebuild, especially with a team chock full of young players, but the Jack Eichel controversy doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon, and that’s a tough cloud hanging over a team that was likely going to get walloped nightly in the first place. This is just the early stages of a long, hard rebuild.
For even more Bruins, tune into “Bruins: Back To Work” Thursday on NESN at 5:30 p.m. ET. For the latest updates, view the NESN TV schedule here.