The calendar has turned over to September, which means one thing: hockey is nearly back. Captain’s skates are starting, prospects are getting ready for their camps and development tournaments, and the rest of the players are slowly making their way back to the rinks for training camps later in the month.
And with another offseason coming to a much anticipated close, there are some new looks around the league as many players are swapping jerseys. Over the month of September, tune in to our Division Preview series for a recap of some of the biggest moves per team in the offseason and a look at what the storyline for the upcoming season might be. Some players have yet to sign as of the writing of the article and are left out of the key subtractions category but are also not with the team they played for last season.
Last will be a look at the Atlantic Division.
Boston Bruins 2023–24 preview
Boston Bruins season preview
The Boston Bruins have been one of the league’s deepest teams for years. This season, that depth will be put to the test. The team has lost quite a few important players, notably Bergeron and Krejci, which has decimated their centre depth. There are huge opportunities for a couple players, like Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha, to take on a big role. But will they be able to meet the challenge?
It will be interesting to see how the Bruins perform after having the best regular season in NHL history in 2022–23. The goaltending tandem of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman had unbelievable numbers that surely are not sustainable.
But with an incredibly strong top-four on defence, the drop off may not be as drastic as anticipated.
The amount of turnover and losses on the roster this offseason has left the Bruins scrambling to fill some spots with capable players. Over the years, Boston has developed a strong core and culture that bodes well for acclimating the new faces and line changes. But as other teams in this division keep getting better, the Bruins appear to be headed the other way and may find themselves struggling to compete for a wild card spot.
Buffalo Sabres 2023–24 preview
Buffalo Sabres season preview
The Buffalo Sabres are finally turning a corner. And we really mean it this time. After a decade of failed rebuilds and false hope, the performance of the 2022–23 Sabres looks promising for what is in store this season.
Last season, the Sabres had one of the most potent offences in the entire NHL. Overall, Buffalo’s 293 goals was third in the league. On the roster were four 30-goal scorers and four 70-point players. With another year of development, this should only get better.
They have two potential number one defenders developing on their roster that they can now build around, which is destined to compliment the offence and subsequently shut down the other elite offensive players in the league.
But the biggest question mark for the Sabres in 2023–24 is goaltending. Buffalo is banking on Devon Levi to carry the team in what will be his rookie season. He has shown promise, but that is a tall order for a guy with no NHL track record.
The skaters on the roster are most definitely good enough, but this may not yet be the year for the Sabres to break out as they wait for their future goalie to develop. Nevertheless, Buffalo should be solidly in the mix for a wild card spot and the team’s first playoff berth since 2011.
Detroit Red Wings 2023–24 preview
Detroit Red Wings season preview
It’s another season of having to place faith in the Yzerplan. The Detroit Red Wings have begun to show some signs of growth, but it is at a very slow pace and they seem to be getting left behind within their division. The team is still filling out the roster and creating competition with a variety of free agent signings as they look to find the right fits.
On paper, the additions of the offseason look promising. They’ve added a more reliable scorer in DeBrincat, added a ton of defensive depth with players like Petry and Holl, and helped with overall offensive composition with players like Compher and Kostin.
However, the strength of the roster and state of the rebuild with the growth of prospects is still leaving lots to be desired. There will not be a whole lot of room for some of the players in the pipeline to fit onto the NHL roster. Which may be part of the plan to let them develop properly instead of rushing into the big leagues, but it could also suggest a slower than anticipated development path for these prospects.
Detroit is slowly getting better. But as the Ottawa Senators and Sabres start to jump up into playoff contention, the Red Wings appear to be getting left behind. There is not much room in the middle of the division for Detroit to compete for a wild card spot this season.
Florida Panthers 2023–24 preview
Florida Panthers season preview
After a miraculous run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Florida Panthers, with a roster that is largely the same as last season, are eager to show us what the real version of this team is. Will they be the world-beaters that took out the Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Carolina Hurricanes in the playoffs? Or the team that barely squeaked into the playoffs and didn’t clinch until the final days of the season?
Matthew Tkachuk has proven to be the key driving force for this team, so with him healthy and coming into this season more accustomed to the Panthers organization, they could be well set up to compete early on.
However, Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour, two of the team’s top defenders, are expected to be out of the lineup until mid-December. The defensive depth will be put to the test right from opening night. It leaves Gustav Forsling in a position where he will be the de facto top defender and will be placed in many tough matchups.
Unfortunately, goaltending is a question mark for the Panthers as well. It remains to be seen which version of Sergei Bobrovsky will show up. And if he falters, will Spencer Knight be able to take over like he has in the past?
The Panthers should be a strong competitor in the division this season and surely for a wild card spot, but it may be tough early in the season as they wait for their defence to get healthy.
Montreal Canadiens 2023–24 preview
Montreal Canadiens season preview
It is rebuild era for the Montreal Canadiens. A dismal showing last season in the standings, despite some exciting players and individual progress. And with a relatively quiet offseason, more of the same can be expected again in 2023–24.
The Habs are trying to build a core around the unreal chemistry between captain Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, with both now locked up long term. But beyond that there is not much star power and a lot of younger players trying to find their place in the league.
One exciting part about this era in Canadiens history is the amount of players who came out of nowhere to make names for themselves last season due to injuries and weak depth. Players like Michael Pezzetta, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, and Arber Xhekaj were barely on the radar but had stellar showings with the team in 2022–23.
There is very little chance for the Canadiens to compete this season, especially in a division as tough as the Atlantic. But that may be all part of the plan as Montreal tries to rebuild and hopefully create another Habs dynasty.
Ottawa Senators 2023–24 preview
Ottawa Senators season preview
The Ottawa Senators are ready to enter a new era in team history. With the sale to Michael Andlauer complete and a group of players in the locker room ready to compete, this organization is looking to put the past behind them and build a foundation of success on the ice and in their community.
The Senators were a tad disappointing at times in 2022–23. Some stretches of major inconsistency and struggles marred what could have been a breakout season. But another year of development for the young core should create an environment where these types of difficulties become fewer and farther between.
Am important piece of the Senators success this season rests on Korpisalo’s shoulders. Goaltending has been a weak spot for the Senators and may have held them back at times in recent years, but their big free agent signing this offseason should give them some stability and confidence to grow.
Luckily, a strength for the Senators is their defence. The top four with Thomas Chabot, Jake Sanderson, Artem Zub, and Jakob Chychrun could very well be one of the best in the league this coming season.
It could be a big year for the Senators. They should be fully expected to grow from the inconsistencies of last season and build on the excitement of an ownership change to find a way back into the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Lightning 2023–24 season preview
Tampa Bay Lightning season preview
The question surrounding the Tampa Bay Lightning this season is how long will their success be sustainable? We saw what may have been the first signs of regression last season as the Lightning struggled at times and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. But this is a team with Hall of Famers at every position and they cannot be overlooked.
The depth on the Lightning’s roster has been dwindling each season, but they have done a solid job at replacing or finding the lost production from other players. Additions like Brandon Hagel have worked very well for them.
Unfortunately, the defence for Tampa Bay could be a weak spot. Behind Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev, the Lightning’s defensive group is weak on paper and could find themselves having major difficulties in the event of injury to either of their two top defenders.
We may start seeing some added challenge for Tampa Bay in 2023–24 as teams like Buffalo and Ottawa climb up the standings. The Lightning should still be a solid choice for the playoffs, but a big jump from a developing team may knock them out.
Toronto Maple Leafs 2023–24 season preview
Toronto Maple Leafs season preview
Have the Toronto Maple Leafs finally slain the dragon? After six consecutive seasons of losing in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Leafs finally won a round and advanced to the second round for the first time since 2003. Will this lift the weight off the shoulders of the players?
The Maple Leafs have undergone some major turnover this offseason and will have plenty of new faces in the lineup.
Their offence has typically been a bit top-heavy, but with the additions of Bertuzzi and Domi, they will be able to spread the scoring out over a few lines. The additions of those two, along with Reaves, also give the forward group a physical element to the offence that may have been lacking a bit before.
Ilya Samsonov came into the Leafs organization last offseason and had an incredible year, the best of his career. A major question for the team is going to be around his sustainability. If he regresses, the burden will fall on Justin Woll or Jones to fill in. And neither of those 2 are proven and/or consistent.
This division appears to be Toronto’s to lose. They enter the season as the favourites to take the top seed.
And with the Atlantic Division now covered, our division preview series has been completed!
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire