NHL: The Metro Division is here to stay
A lot was made of the hot start of the entire Metro Division at the beginning of the NHL season, as every team started out scorching hot. From top to bottom each team was stacked with a good mix of youth and experience that hasn’t quite been seen in any other division. It seemed like every team had a shot at winning the Metro, and it was some real healthy competition.
The new season waned on, the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers fell back to the pack But there were still five Metro teams that made the playoffs. Hell if the NHL didn’t change the alignment of the Stanley Cup playoffs, all eight teams would have had a shot at making it.
Regardless of the bottom dwellers, this division is something special, and no team is going away anytime soon. The New York Islanders with John Tavares hopefully re-signing next year will be a force to be reckoned with as new goaltending, improved defense and one more year of Mat Barzal could help them take the next step. The Carolina Hurricanes have a good young core with guys like Sebastian Aho, Noah Hanifin, Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner. The Rangers still have Henrik Lundqvist and have compiled plenty of talent and draft picks to compete next year.
Of the playoff teams, the Flyers still have their dynamic top six coming back and the emergence of Shayne Gostisbhere and Ivan Provorov make them a legit threat. The Devils surprised a lot of people but their core fundamentals are there and having a coach like John Hynes will help propel this group again next year. The Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets are in the midst of an intense series, and guys like Alex Ovechkin and Artemi Panarin are NOT going away. And then of course there are the Pittsburgh Penguins, winner of two straight Stanley Cups and on their way to maybe a third straight. They have two of the top ten players in the world, and Sidney Crosby may be the most clutch player of all time.
The Metro Division has boasted three of the past four representatives in the Stanley Cup for the Eastern Conference. The Pittsburgh Penguins have won the past two, and the New York Rangers were in just a few years ago against the Los Angeles Kings. There may be some other great teams in the Eastern Conference, but there’s nothing like a classic Metro rivalry.
Regardless of who makes the Cup this year, next year should be just as interesting. Every team in the division could win the Metro and go on to the Stanley Cup. Some of the bottom dwelling teams (if you could even call them that) may have a lot more work to do, but they’re just as capable of a quick turnaround. The Penguins may be king right now but next year it could be the Devils, Rangers, Islanders, really anyone. The NHL is an amazing place where a team can go from worst to first, Exhibit A being the Colorado Avalanche.
The Metro Division is the best in hockey for a reason, and will continue to be for a long, long time. It’s the land of opportunity, and anything can happen when these teams get together.