You Make the Call: Best in the East?
August, 12, 2013
By Sarah Goldstein | ESPN.com
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesNHL players get back on the ice on Oct. 1.
We start off this week talking about the revamped, 16-team Eastern Conference.
Realignment is going to take a minute to get used to. There is still an Atlantic Division, but it is actually the former Northeast Division with the Wings, Bolts and Panthers added in. And the Metropolitan Division is the old Atlantic Division plus the Caps, Canes and Jackets.
Will these changes make any difference come playoff time?
The Red Wings exceeded all expectations in the postseason after fighting their way into a playoff spot. Less travel combined with more time for the veterans to jell with the young players could make Detroit a contender in the East. And Daniel Alfredsson certainly didn't change teams so he could help the city's economy.
The Boston Bruins aren't going to give up their standing as the conference champion too easily, but they could be sluggish to start the season after a short offseason. And the Pittsburgh Penguins do still have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.
How will the old Southeast Division teams do without one free ticket into the playoffs? I wouldn't be surprised to see Alex Ovechkin and company start summer vacation early, especially since the Olympics could take a lot of focus and energy away from the NHL season.
Maybe more interesting than who finishes on top is where the wild cards will go. Looking at last season, you could foresee the Atlantic Division producing five playoff teams. But it is never that easy, and a shortened season may not be the best barometer of future success.
So it is time for you to make the call: Who will reign supreme in the Eastern Conference?