NHL Eastern Conference 2015-16: Puck Daddy’s predictions

Puck Daddy

The rosters are set, the red carpet is unfurled and the puck is about to drop. 

So you know what that means: It’s time for baseless shots in the dark as we predict the Eastern Conference divisions and playoff teams!

Check out our predictions for this season’s NHL Awards and some predictions on trends and players like Connor McDavid.

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Your esteemed panel: Greg Wyshynski, NHL editor, Puck Daddy; Sean Leahy, editor, Puck Daddy; Jen Neale, editor, Puck Daddy; Josh Cooper, editor, Puck Daddy; Ryan Lambert, lead columnist, Puck Daddy; Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs, fantasy columnist, Puck Daddy; Sam McCaig, NHL editor/columnist, Yahoo Sports.

Greg Wyshynski, Editor, Puck Daddy

The Metro is stacked with playoff teams, although I do fear they could end up cannibalizing each other. But we’ve had five teams from one division (the Central) make it in the first two years of this playoff format, so this time it’s the Metro’s turn. 

The Capitals win the division, as the deepest team in the conference (and one that, frankly, is usually at its best in the regular season). The Islanders and Rangers could flip-flop if the Brooklyn home ice advantage turns out to be something more that we expect. The Blue Jackets climb back into the postseason … or at least they better, lest this be Todd Richards’ final season there.

In the Atlantic, Detroit makes it (again), as Jeff Blashill has a Jon Cooper-esque effect on the team’s younger players. But the actual Jon Cooper gets the Lightning to the top of the division.

As for Montreal, my guess is that they locate their offense and make waves in the East ... potentially with a different coach. 

Sean Leahy, Editor, Puck Daddy

Atlantic Division

Metropolitan Division

Tampa Bay Lightning

Washington Capitals

Montreal Canadiens

Pittsburgh Penguins

Detroit Red Wings

New York Rangers

Florida Panthers

New York Islanders

Ottawa Senators

Columbus Blue Jackets

Boston Bruins

Philadelphia Flyers

Buffalo Sabres

New Jersey Devils

Toronto Maple Leafs

Carolina Hurricanes

Barring the injury ninja doesn't take up residence again inside the Blue Jackets dressing room, they should find a way back into the postseason at the expense of the Senators. The rest of the playoff teams in the East will be the same as last year, with everyone fighting to get by the Lightning and rep the conference in the Stanley Cup Final. 

The Red Wings, unlike the Undertaker, will keep their playoff streak alive for another year. The Panthers will again make great strides and hover around the wild card bubble before ultimately falling just short, thereby robbing us all of a Jaromir Jagr playoff mullet.

Jen Neale, Editor, Puck Daddy

Atlantic Division

Metropolitan Division

Tampa Bay Lightning

Washington Capitals

Montreal Canadiens

Pittsburgh Penguins

Florida Panthers

New York Islanders

Detroit Red Wings

New York Rangers

Boston Bruins

Columbus Blue Jackets

Ottawa Senators

Philadelphia Flyers

Buffalo Sabres

Carolina Hurricanes

Toronto Maple Leafs

New Jersey Devils

The usual suspects will make the playoffs. The two newcomers are Columbus and Florida.

The addition of Brandon Saad to the Blue Jackets helps a young but potent offense. If Sergei Bobrovsky can stay healthy and prove he wasn't just a one-Vezina wonder, the Jackets make the playoffs. The cardiac Cats are one year older, one year better. They showed glimpses of promise throughout the previous season and will shock people again.

Detroit will finally miss the playoffs after a million years. Philly is in midlife crisis mode going for a hot new coach. Boston doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing with the roster. One thing we know for sure, Babcock’s first season in Toronto is going to be painful, leaving him to wistfully stare across the Great Lakes thinking about ‘what could have been’ with Mike Green on his team. 

And you're right, I do hate your favorite team.

Josh Cooper, Editor, Puck Daddy

Atlantic Division

Metropolitan Division

Tampa Bay Lightning

Pittsburgh Penguins

Florida Panthers

Washington Capitals

Montreal Canadiens

New York Rangers

Detroit Red Wings

New York Islanders

Ottawa Senators

Columbus Blue Jackets

Boston Bruins

Philadelphia Flyers

Buffalo Sabres

Carolina Hurricanes

Toronto Maple Leafs

New Jersey Devils

Five teams from the Metropolitan Division make sense to make the playoffs.

The Capitals and Penguins should slug it out for the Metro crown all year, with the Pens winning the division by one point. 

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The Atlantic Division seems weak and I see a drop-off with the Ottawa Senators. They have some good, young players but I don’t think they can have another magical run in them. Their goaltending and overall depth is an issue.

The Florida Panthers will be this year’s postseason surprise. A full season of Jaromir Jagr and another year of seasoning for Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov will push Florida into the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Lightning will likely end up with the best record in the Eastern Conference – mostly based off the Atlantic’s lack of strength.

BOSTON - APRIL 4: (third period) Zdeno Chara (#33) of the Boston Bruins grimaces in pain as he hobbles back to the Bruins bench after looking like he was injured late in the third period. The Boston Bruins take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - APRIL 4: (third period) Zdeno Chara (#33) of the Boston Bruins grimaces in pain as he hobbles back to the Bruins bench after looking like he was injured late in the third period. The Boston Bruins take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Ryan Lambert, Columnist, Puck Daddy 

Atlantic Division

Metropolitan Division

Tampa Bay Lightning

Washington Capitals

Boston Bruins

Pittsburgh Penguins

Montreal Canadiens

New York Islanders

Detroit Red Wings

New York Rangers

Florida Panthers

Carolina Hurricanes

Buffalo Sabres

Columbus Blue Jackets

Ottawa Senators

Philadelphia Flyers

Toronto Maple Leafs

New Jersey Devils

I almost felt bad picking eight teams to make the playoffs from the East. They don’t have enough that deserve it. I can’t imagine anyone is putting anyone but the eight picked here (and maybe Columbus instead of Detroit or Montreal or something?) but there’s such stratification between “clearly good” and “clearly awful” even here.  

Tampa/Washington/Pittsburgh, the clear top three, though perhaps not in that order. After that? Anything can happen. Who cares? All the rest aren’t very good.

Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs, Fantasy Columnist, Puck Daddy

Atlantic Division

Metropolitan Division

Tampa Bay Lightning

New York Rangers

Montreal Canadiens

Pittsburgh Penguins

Ottawa Senators

Washington Capitals

Detroit Red Wings

New York Islanders

Florida Panthers

Columbus Blue Jackets

Boston Bruins

Philadelphia Flyers

Toronto Maple Leafs

Carolina Hurricanes

Buffalo Sabres

New Jersey Devils

I can see the Eastern Conference requiring 96 or even 97 points to get in, with the Red Wings battling to the last but in the end - the playoff streak is over. There will be a dogfight amongst the elite teams in this conference, with the Lightning, Penguins, Rangers, Capitals and Islanders within three points of each other. There is a definite separation between the elite and the very good. 

Sam McCaig, NHL Editor, Yahoo Sports

Atlantic Division

Metropolitan Division

Tampa Bay Lightning

New York Rangers

Montreal Canadiens

Pittsburgh Penguins

Ottawa Senators

Washington Capitals

Detroit Red Wings

New York Islanders

Florida Panthers

Columbus Blue Jackets

Boston Bruins

Philadelphia Flyers

Toronto Maple Leafs

Carolina Hurricanes

Buffalo Sabres

New Jersey Devils

Barring disaster, the Lightning and Canadiens in the Atlantic as well as the top five teams in the Metropolitan (Penguins, Rangers, Capitals, Blue Jackets and Islanders) should be locks for the postseason. This leaves the third-place finisher in the Atlantic for the eighth and final spot. The Red Wings, Senators, Panthers and Bruins – in that order -- all have a shot, we’ll take Detroit to extend their postseason streak to 25 in a row.

As for the outsiders, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if the Sens build off last season’s surprising playoff berth and make it back in, and the Panthers are also a candidate with the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Roberto Luongo, Aaron Ekblad and a cast of promising young players.

This version of the Bruins might have one more roar left (but don’t bet on it), while the Flyers appear to be wasting Claude Giroux’s prime years. Buffalo is much improved but going from the basement to the postseason doesn’t happen very often; the Devils, Leafs and Hurricanes are draft lottery teams.

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