Even though the Philadelphia Flyers were playing actual hockey games four months ago, it feels like an eternity since we’ve seen the guys and dudes skate around on the ice. I don’t want to dwell too much on the past though, it’s time to look at the Philadelphian future. Now is the most wonderful time of year in sports, where we can intrepidly project our hopes and dreams on to our favorite sports team.
Of course, this is also the time that every single reader is essentially swimming in quick thoughts blogs and individual predictions that can feel suffocating with the amount of hot takes, trying to grab a hold on some semblance of knowledge. Instead, you’ll now get a slightly better version of that with some form of realism and understanding that we’re all just living in hell and hockey is a weird sport to predict.
Let’s just try to get a hold on this division, shall we?
8 — New Jersey Devils
Up first — and last — are the disgusting New Jersey Devils with their nice jerseys but everything else about the team smells like some week-old hardboiled eggs coated in cologne.
They haven’t really gotten any better, but they have gotten considerably younger with some additions of Andreas Johnsson and Janne Kuokkanen on the wings. Unless Jack Hughes explodes into his potential, the forward group is a sorry sack of depth but no star quality. On the blue line it’s somewhat the same. I personally just love Ty Smith for some damn reason and think he can turn out to be a consistent top-four dude for a long time, but depending on the other guys like Ryan Murray and Will Butcher to carry some of the backs, along with a saddened P.K. Subban, it’s hard to really think they’ll be better.
Corey Crawford is cool though. They’ll still suck.
7 — New York Islanders
I might be putting them down here for doing terrible things. Of course, this franchise and their terrible unentertaining, ugly, and grueling form of hockey is the reason the Flyers left the post-season last year, but they also are leaving out the only good thing about their team. Mat Barzal is still unsigned and despite showing up randomly on the team’s training camp roster, he might not be in the lineup when the puck drops on January 13.
Personally, I’m betting that their history of defensive hockey will get exploited and their goaltending will reach an unsustainable climax, crashing down within weeks of the season.
6 — Buffalo Sabres
The unheralded winners of the offseason, the Sabres were able to sign Taylor Hall to a one-year deal, a sign of desperation to keep Jack Eichel still interested in living in Buffalo. Even with Hall, Eichel, and the forever underrated Sam Reinhart at the top of their lines, they still boast some of the worst forward depth in the entire league. Like, dude, Tobias Rieder, Curtis Lazar, and Zemgus Girgensons are still in the NHL.
Their defense sucks and has always sucked. Unless Rasmus Dahlin turns up for his scheduled breakout season — which is the only reason I’m giving them a longer leash at the sixth spot — this might be so rough.
5 — Pittsburgh Penguins
Ha ha ha ha ha. The Penguins got worse this off-season, but are still home to some of the league’s best talents so I guess they might be good enough. But I still like watching them panic and sign Cody Ceci after trading for Mike Matheson is certainly some panic ass moves.
GM Jim Rutherford even said he wants to extend some “success” by signing more free agents in the future. Go for it old man.
But unfortunately they still have one of the best top-six forward groups in the NHL and an admirable group of some defensemen. Goaltending is still a considerable question mark, as they’re depending solely on Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith to carry the load after trading Matt Murray to the Ottawa Senators.
Oh, and they don’t have their first-round pick this year so this can get so ugly at the deadline if they’re scrambling to make the playoffs.
4 — New York Rangers
As someone that doesn’t put a whole lot of stock into the ability of prospects, even the high-end ones such as Alexis Lafreniere, I don’t want to believe that the Rangers will instantly become a playoff favorite.
Every single game last season was a round of beer hockey played by highly-talented players; no defense just vibes.
Similarly to the Penguins, the Rangers are extremely top heavy at both ends of the ice. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad should score some goals, but they still employ Brendan Lemieux and Kevin Rooney, so who can really say if they’ll win hockey games.
I think that their offense will be enough to put them over the edge and maybe sneak somewhere around the playoff bubble.
3 — Philadelphia Flyers
I really tried to be realistic with this one. Every single fiber of my being was trying to force my fingers to put the Flyers winning the division, but I just couldn’t do it. I’m not pessimistic, but I’m barely staying in the middle of things.
It felt like a mountain of things went the Flyers’ way last season and I’m betting that some of them won’t continue. Their offense looks alright, but at points throughout last campaign, goals were completely foreign to this club. It just feels abnormal for me to predict a division title, even in these weird circumstances.
With all of that said, the hockey pendulum could swing the other way and result in some Flyers, in desperate need of a boost, to have career seasons. But considering some of the teams around them within this hellscape of the East division, it’s safe to say that they will be secure in a playoff spot at season’s end, but most likely won’t be at the top.
2 — Boston Bruins
Even if every single Bruins fan is facing an identity crisis due to the departures of franchise legend and big giant tall man Zdeno Chara, as well as defenseman Torey Krug signing with the St. Louis Blues this winter, they should still be a very good hockey team.
They still possess the “best line in hockey” with David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron — even if the two wingers will miss some time at the start of the season — and have a respectable blue line with Charlie McAvoy no doubt taking an even larger step into the league’s elite. Hell, they even added analytics darling Craig Smith to the team.
While the hot takes are firing on all cylinders and placing the Bruins out of the playoffs or just on the cusp, they’re still a potent team that was just so damn good the past couple of seasons under Bruce Cassidy.
1 — Washington Capitals
Nothing would make me happier to watch the Capitals succumb to underperformance and read quotes from Tom Wilson about the other players not trying enough, but that is just some fiction formed inside my dumb brain.
They added reasonable players this off-season in the aforementioned Chara, and forward Conor Sheary, but didn’t really change their look too much. They handed the reins over to Ilya Samsonov in between the pipes with former netminder Braden Holtby signing with the Vancouver Canucks, which can certainly be a wash if everything breaks right.
They’re still here. They’re still good. They’re still wearing ugly ass jerseys. The Capitals can score a ton of goals and be decent on the back end and still make out losing less than a dozen games through this weird season.