The Southeast Division of the NHL has been absolutely pitiful this season. The best team in the division currently has 40 points, which is less than what the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference currently possesses. Obviously, it’s been a rough season for all Southeastern United States NHL teams. Let’s break down how each team in the division should finish the season:
This season for the Carolina Hurricanes has been a total and complete failure. After expecting to win the division handily, the Canes have essentially given up on this year with more than 10 games to go, despite only trailing the Southeast division leader’s, the Washington Capitals, by only 6 points with a game in hand. With the new additions of Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal, this should have been a year that Carolina ran away with the division and won the Southeast. However, it does not appear to be leaning towards that for the Canes. Poke Czech predicts that Carolina will finish the season with about 42 points or so, in 4th place in the division. This will be a very disappointing season for Canes fans, however, it could be attributed to the lockout shortened season, so Carolina will be a team to watch out for in the new divisions next year.
I don’t know where to begin with the Florida Panthers. Go figure that a team that didn’t even win half of its games last year is struggling. After suffering some injuries and frankly, just not being a good team to start with, the Pants find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and second to last in the league. I could say that Florida fans could be shocked, but that would be a lie. Any one who didn’t expect Florida to be at the bottom of the division this season is either very optimistic or just not understanding of hockey at all. No team is going to be able to be successful for multiple seasons without winning games. For some reason, the Pants thought they were an exception. They only won 38 games last season (not even half, which would be 41 games). Instead, they counted on Overtime Losses to win the division last season. Unfortunately, with the lockout shortened season, they didn’t have time to practice how to take games to overtime, and now they just lose in regulation. I highly expect Florida to finish the season with about 38-40 points at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and last in the Southeast Division, and I don’t expect them to be contending in their new division next year either.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Gay Lightning got off to a strong start this season, only to regress to the bottom of the division and fall behind the Caps, Canes and Jets. It has been a fairly disappointing season for the Lightning, however, they are not out of contention for the division and I expect them to make a run at the division title. They currently sit 6 points back of the Capitals with a game in hand, however, with the new addition of Ben Bishop, and the roster that Tampa already had, they have a strong team. I could see them catching up to the Caps if the Caps start to struggle a little bit. Having the leading goal scorer and first transgendered hockey player, Steven Stamkos, on the team is a very important piece that the Bolts would be nowhere without. I see Tampa Gay finishing the season 2nd in the Southeast Division with about 48 points. With another season not in the playoffs for Tampa, they will probably sign some elite players this summer, and possibly contend in their new division next year, but frankly who cares? Florida barely supports hockey anyway.
Anything less than a division title in the Southeast Division this season will be an embarrassment. The division is literally the weakest it could be and the weakest it has been in years. Luckily, everyone’s favorite team, the Caps, have beaten up on the division this year, having won 11 of their last 12 divisional games. With Alex Ovechkin finally heating up and dominating, Ribeiro and Backstrom producing as well, the new addition of Martin Erat (if he recovers from the cheap hit from the Panthers on Saturday night), and Braden Holtby playing solidly the last month, the Capitals are EASILY the best team in the Southeast. I would be shocked if the Caps don’t win the division with at least 52 points. If they don’t, however, I do believe they will get the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. The Caps will be a team to watch if they make it to the playoffs this year.
The Winnipeg Jets have actually been a decent team in a lousy division this year. The Jets were winning the division for a decent amount of time this season, but they have finally been caught by the Caps. The Jets will not be in the playoffs this season, I believe, and it’s probably for the best (they aren’t even geographically located in the East after all). The fact that they didn’t re-sign Eric Fehr after last season is a bad omen for them. He has been on multiple Southeast Division winning teams, and it appears he’s about to be on another (the Caps — 2013). Ondrej Fagalec has been solid, but he’s just an average goalie. The Jets will probably finish third in the Southeast Division with about 46-48 points. When was the last time Winnipeg/Atlanta was in the playoffs? No one remembers, so let’s not talk about it.
As you can see: the Caps are the best team in the Southeast division. They should win the division and maybe make some noise in the postseason..