NHL Eastern Conference Breakdown

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Picture 2022-2023 Season

We have seen an unusual amount of offseason moves, with players having more control over their careers unlike past years. Every sport is trending this way with players having leverage over their current teams, and trades taking place because of it. Recently the massive trade with Matthew Tkachuk going to the Florida Panthers is the perfect example of that. It is the first time two 100+ point players have been traded for each other (Jonathan Huberdeau), with Mackenzie Weegar and futures going the Flames way as well.

May 15, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) controls the puck during the warmup period against the Dallas Stars in game seven of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

With all of that being said, here are how my eastern conference playoffs are being set, given all of the drastic player movement.
X = Playoff Spot
Y = Home Ice
Z = In the Hunt Late, But Missing Playoffs
Atlantic Division:
1) Toronto Maple Leafs (Y)
2) Boston Bruins (Y)
3) Tampa Bay Lightning (X)
4) Ottawa Senators (Z)
5) Detroit Red Wings (Z)
6) Florida Panthers
7) Buffalo Sabres
8) Montreal Canadiens
Metropolitan Division:
1) Carolina Hurricanes (Y)
2) Pittsburgh Penguins (Y)
3) New York Rangers (X)
4) New York Islanders (X)
5) Columbus Blue Jackets (X)
6) Washington Capitals (Z)
7) New Jersey Devils
8) Philadelphia Flyers
 8 Playoff Team’s Breakdowns:
Toronto Maple Leafs – Not much to add from previous years. Their core 6 forwards will remain the same, they have some good veteran defensemen mixed with some talented kids, and I think that one of their new goalies (most likely Samsonov) takes that spot and plays decently. Overall. the Leafs were bottom 5 in goaltending last year, and were good enough to theoretically make it to the Stanley Cup finals.
Boston Bruins – A team that has good veteran depth, Bergeron and Krejci most likely coming back, a top-tier defensive corps, as well as very solid goaltending. Their core, including Pastrnak, Marchand, and Debrusk, are going to run it back at least one more time with the old guys.
Tampa Bay Lightning – I don’t think they have improved at all by losing Ondrej Palat and Ryan McDonaugh, but they are still too good to miss the playoffs. They have locked up their core, which includes Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli, and Nick Paul, which bodes well for their continued success. They still have the best goalie in the world in Andrei Vasilevskiy, which will drag their tired old group to the playoffs.
Carolina Hurricanes – They are still going to get carried by their fantastic blueline, which now includes the bearded wookie that is Brent Burns. Mix that defensive corps with a scary forward group that now includes Max Pacioretty, and you have the winners of the Metropolitan Division.
Pittsburgh Penguins – They still have their core of old geezers that won’t go away, and they added another one in Jeff Petry. This team has solid goaltending with Tristan Jarry, some very solid veteran defensemen, and a decent forward group. Their forwards are old and top-heavy, but if healthy, will still have a powerplay good enough to carry them through.
New York Rangers – The Rangers lost 3 of their top 6 forwards, but I still deem them dangerous enough to secure a playoff spot. They lost Ryan Strome, Andrew Copp, and Frank Vatrano; while adding Vincent Trocheck. With their top studs still there, I believe they are still dangerous enough up front, with Lafreniere, Kakko, and Chytil taking even further strides. I don’t think Igor Shesterkin can possibly repeat a similar season; however, his defense still sports Miller, Fox, and Trouba, so Shesterkin will still be very solid.
New York Islanders – It hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, but I believe Nazem Kadri will be signing with the Islanders which makes their top 2 centers Mathew Barzal and Nazem Kadri; pretty dynamic. They also have some decent scoring touch on the wings with Wahlstrom, Lee, and Beuvillier. Where they will make their playoff bid is with their blueline that includes Dobson, Pelech, and Pulock; as well as having Ilya Sorokin in net. A team built from the back-end up, with 2 solid centers is a recipe for a playoff bid.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Call me a homer, I guess, for saying my team may squeak into the final playoff spot. The Jackets had 81 points last year while having a career worst from their traumatized starting goalie, as well as an inexperienced and soft defense. Oh yeah, and the Jackets added an MVP candidate from last year in Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau has never played with a sniper like Patrik Laine, and Patrik Laine has never played with a playmaker like Johnny Gaudreau. With their prospect pipeline now filling up after 5 first round picks in 2 years, they may add some depth at the trade deadline with the extra picks the recouped from the Bjorkstrand trade (I hate that trade). The Jackets have a ton of young talent that will have the ability to play free under Brad Larsen. Organically, I think the young defense will improve, and I expect a bounce-back year from Elvis Merzlikins, who nobody can blame for having a tough season last year. The Jackets are trending up, and I think that they are that final team that stressfully squeaks into the playoffs.

May 20, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) skates during the warmup period against the Edmonton Oilers in game two of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Non-Playoff Team Breakdowns:
Ottawa Senators – They might be a top 5 team in regards of their top 6 forwards, but they have tons of question marks on defense. Brady Tkachuk, Claude Giroux, Tim Stuetzle, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Alex Debrincat, is an absolute nasty top 6; but, their forward depth is also lacking a bit. I’m also not sold on Anton Forsberg as a franchise goaltender, but overall, he is solid. I see the Senators as a team that could sneak in over my Blue Jackets if they buy at the trade deadline. Adding 1 or 2 defensemen like a John Klingberg from the Anaheim Ducks at the deadline might push them over the playoff line.
Florida Panthers – From winning the President’s Trophy to out of the playoffs; yowzah. They added Matthew Tkachuk, which is great, but traded Jonathan Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar, and a 1st round pick. They have top-end talent in regards to their forwards, but have an abysmal blueline, question marks in net; and, are already over the salary cap, as well as have no 1st round picks in the next 3 years to trade for current ammunition. Bad management in my opinion.
Detroit Red Wings – Great forward depth, a below-average blueline, and a giant question mark in net. Ville Husso has looked pretty good for half a season, and the Wings decided on 3 years for the goaltender. Chiarot is a solid pickup defensively, but does not bridge the gap enough between him and Moritz Seider. Perron and Copp are good players to build with Larkin, Raymond, and Vrana; but, they aren’t quite there yet in my opinion. The Red Wings are close however, with Edvinsson, Cossa, and Kasper on the horizon as well. They may flirt with contention as soon as this season.
Washington Capitals – Old, broken, and question marks everywhere. It looks like Nick Backstrom’s hall of fame career may be coming to an end, Alex Ovechkin is another year older (if that’s relevant), and their defensive corps is one giant question mark. Also, Kuemper won a Stanley Cup with a world-class team and blueline, and he gets paid to go get pelted for Washington. I could eat my words here, but the reign of the Capitals is over for me.
New Jersey Devils – They add Marino and lose Ty Smith, add Ondrej Palat, and add Vitek Vanecek; and the Devil’s fans are in my mentions about how good they are. Welp, you won 27 games last year, and added a decent but not great goalie, and are suddenly going to make the playoffs? Nope, not for me. They have some nice young pieces here with Bratt, Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Mercer; as well as a very solid blueline, but a giant question mark in net, and a lack of organizational direction. Their biggest strength is their defense, yet they have Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec in the pipeline, and need to add goals up front. Palat is a nice player, but he’d be lucky to bang in 30. No playoffs yet Devils fans, sorry.
Philadelphia Flyers – Oh yikes. How is a team this bad up against the salary cap? Coach Tororella will have them be a pain in the ass for a while, but they won’t touch the playoff picture. Johnny Gaudreau could be a Flyer but Chuck Fletcher didn’t want to do his job. Instead, they would rather trade future picks for Tony Deangelo; because of-course you would. They suck, but buy-out Oscar Lindblom, and trade for old, over-priced defensemen. Terrible asset management, no direction, crappy veteran team.
Buffalo Sabres – Same ole, same ole. They didn’t have that active of an offseason. Not a bad team, and they will keep getting better and better, but they aren’t there yet. I like drafting Savoie, and I like Owen Power and Peyton Krebs. With that being said, they just need to improve everywhere, and are in the tough eastern conference. Also, I don’t see Tage Thompson as a perennial 40 goal scorer.
Montreal Canadiens – They continue to build. I like that they have Suzuki, Dach, and Dvorak down the middle; and I also like Anderson, Gallagher, Hoffman, and Slafkovsky on the wings. I don’t think Slafkovsky is going to play in the NHL this year though. With that being said, I don’t think enough goals are going to be scored there, and their defense needs a ton of work. Also their goaltending is an enormous question mark. They keep building, but they aren’t quite there.