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NHL Preview 2013-14

New conferences offer West slight advantage

The NHL will debut its new divisions and conferences in 2013-14. The Bruins will play in the Atlantic Division. Newcomers are Detroit, Florida, and Tampa Bay. The other eight teams in the Eastern Conference will play in the Metropolitan Division.

The top three finishers in each of the four divisions will qualify for the playoffs. The final two wild-card slots in each conference will go to the two remaining teams with the most points, regardless of division.

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The other wrinkle is the conference imbalance. The East has 16 teams. The West has 14. Fifty-seven percent of the Western teams will qualify for the playoffs, versus 50 percent of the Eastern clubs.

Harvard graduate student Stephen Pettigrew, who participated in the New England Symposium of Statistics in Sports last month, presented a model studying the conference imbalance. In Pettigrew’s simulation of 10,000 seasons under the new alignment, the No. 9 seed in the East would have qualified for the playoffs in the West 38 percent of the time.

“You would want to be in the West because there’s a higher chance of you being in the playoffs,” Pettigrew said. “The thing I’ve been thinking about is that players are motivated by money, but they’re also motivated to win the Cup. You can’t win the Cup if you don’t make the playoffs. It’s almost as if free agents should want to go West. I doubt this sort of thing will happen systematically. It’s probably pretty tough for a player to hinge his career on this sort of thing. But if you have a better chance of making the playoffs, you have a better chance of winning the Cup.”

Atlantic Division

Bruins right wing Jarome Iginla.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Bruins right wing Jarome Iginla.

1. Boston

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Coach: Claude Julien (seventh season with Boston).

Record: 28-14-6, 62 points, 4th in East.

Playoffs: Lost to Chicago in Stanley Cup Final.

Notable: Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, and Andrew Ference are gone. But GM Peter Chiarelli landed adequate replacements, if not upgrades, in Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, and postseason revelation Torey Krug.

2. Detroit

Coach: Mike Babcock (ninth season with Detroit).

Record: 24-16-8, 56 points, 7th in West.

Playoffs: Lost to Chicago in Round 2.

Notable: Wings will embrace far lighter travel schedule after moving from West. Daniel Alfredsson joins Swedish mafia (Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson) for Cup push. Jimmy Howard dependable in goal.

3. Ottawa

Coach: Paul MacLean (third season with Ottawa).

Record: 25-17-6, 54 points, 7th in East.

Playoffs: Lost to Pittsburgh in Round 2.

Notable: Longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson bolted for Detroit after balking at Ottawa’s offer. The Senators responded by landing Bobby Ryan from the Ducks. Ryan will be the man in Ottawa after serving under Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in Anaheim.

4. Montreal (wild card)

Coach: Michel Therrien (second season with Montreal).

Record: 29-14-5, 63 points, 2d in East.

Playoffs: Lost to Ottawa in Round 1.

Notable: Canadiens will rely on their Big Three: Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty. Not very busy in the summer, with Danny Briere and George Parros the significant signings.

5. Toronto

Coach: Randy Carlyle (third season with Toronto).

Record: 26-17-5, 57 points, 5th in East.

Playoffs: Lost to Boston in Round 1.

Notable: The Leafs upgraded in goal by acquiring Jonathan Bernier from Los Angeles. Bernier has ace stuff, but has never been a No. 1. But the Leafs will be without ex-Devil David Clarkson for the first 10 games because he left the bench during a preseason game against Buffalo. Phil Kessel is in a contract year.

6. Tampa Bay

Coach: Jon Cooper (second season with Tampa).

Record: 18-26-4, 40 points, 14th in East.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: Longtime captain Vincent Lecavalier, bought out by the Bolts, is now in Philadelphia. Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis will assume greater leadership roles. But Tampa will not adjust to Atlantic heavies after leaving creampuff Southeast Division.

7. Buffalo

Coach: Ron Rolston (second season with Buffalo).

Record: 21-21-6, 48 points, 12th in East.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: Odds are high that Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek, both in their walk years, could be traded before the season is over. This is the rebuild that Calgary, with Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla, should have started several years ago.

8.Florida

Coach: Kevin Dineen (third season with Florida).

Record: 15-27-6, 36 points, 15th in East.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: After year off, Tim Thomas looking to prove everybody wrong. He can do it. Trouble is with Thomas’s teammates. Not much star power in Sunrise, Fla.

Metropolitan Division

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Keith Srakocic/AP

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

1. Pittsburgh

Coach: Dan Bylsma (sixth season with Pittsburgh).

Record: 36-12-0, 72 points, 1st in East.

Playoffs: Lost to Boston in Round 3.

Notable: Backup Tomas Vokoun was diagnosed with a blood clot during the preseason. Not the way they want to start given Marc-Andre Fleury’s latest postseason implosion. Enough punch to overcome questionable goaltending, but Fleury must be better in playoffs.

2. New York Islanders

Coach: Jack Capuano (fourth season with Islanders).

Record: 24-17-7, 55 points, 8th in East.

Playoffs: Lost to Pittsburgh in Round 1.

Notable: Not busy in the offseason. Didn’t re-sign captain Mark Streit. Acquired Cal Clutterbuck from Minnesota for Nino Niederreiter. But young core is ready to take next step. John Tavares and Matt Moulson consistently one of the league’s top offensive duos. Evgeni Nabokov will be solid in goal.

3. Philadelphia

Coach: Peter Laviolette (fifth season with Philadelphia).

Record: 23-22-3, 49 points, 10th in East.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: GM Paul Holmgren spent big in summer. New faces are Vincent Lecavalier, Mark Streit, and Ray Emery. Strong core unit in Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, and Brayden Schenn. Question, as always, is in goal. Can Emery and Steve Mason save their bosses’ jobs?

4. New York Rangers (wild card)

Coach: Alain Vigneault (first season with Rangers).

Record: 26-18-4, 56 points, 6th in East.

Playoffs: Lost to Boston in Round 2.

Notable: Vigneault should be fresh air after lockdown environment of John Tortorella. But Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin will not be ready for start because of offseason shoulder surgeries. Derek Stepan only ended holdout last week. Rangers could be in early hole.

5. Carolina

Coach: Kirk Muller (third season with Carolina).

Record: 19-25-4, 42 points, 13th in East.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: Knee injury to Cam Ward helped KO Carolina’s hopes. Ward looking for bounce-back season and push for Team Canada Olympic spot. Talent up front in Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, and Jeff Skinner. But slow-moving back end.

6. New Jersey

Coach: Peter DeBoer (third season with New Jersey).

Record: 19-19-10, 48 points, 11th in East.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: Lost Ilya Kovalchuk to KHL. But upgraded in goal by pulling Cory Schneider out of Vancouver. Schneider could replace Martin Brodeur as starter, perhaps this season. Heavy legs up front in Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe, and Dainius Zubrus.

7. Washington

Coach: Adam Oates (second season with Washington).

Record: 27-18-3, 57 points, 3d in East.

Playoffs: Lost to Rangers in Round 1.

Notable: Alex Ovechkin will have full season at right wing. Found touch last year after rough start. Should be one of top scoring threats in NHL. But management didn’t do enough to round out roster in offseason.

8. Columbus

Coach: Todd Richards (third season with Columbus).

Record: 24-17-7, 55 points, 9th in West.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky almost carried Blue Jackets into playoffs. But Bobrovsky will be under assault in the Metropolitan. Ex-Bruin Nathan Horton might not be in uniform until January.

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Kane, left.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Kane, left.

1. Chicago

Coach: Joel Quenneville (sixth season with Chicago).

Record: 36-7-5, 77 points, 1st in West.

Playoffs: Won Stanley Cup.

Notable: The Blackhawks will suffer from the Cup hangover. But they have enough talent at all three positions — Corey Crawford in goal, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on defense, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane up front — to power past the fatigue. Chicago could be playing hockey in June again.

2. St. Louis

Coach: Ken Hitchcock (third season with St. Louis).

Record: 29-17-2, 60 points, 4th in West.

Playoffs: Lost to Los Angeles in Round 1.

Notable: Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jay Bouwmeester push the pace from the back end. David Backes and Chris Stewart are the beneficiaries of the puck movement. Goaltending must be more consistent.

3. Minnesota

Coach: Mike Yeo (third season with Minnesota).

Record: 26-19-3, 55 points, 8th in West.

Playoffs: Lost to Chicago in Round 1.

Notable: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter settle into their grooves as second-year Minnesota men. Full season of Jason Pominville will help offense. Jonas Brodin among league’s sharpest young D-men.

4. Dallas (wild card)

Coach: Lindy Ruff (first season with Dallas).

Record: 22-22-4, 48 points, 11th in West.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: Lindy Ruff will be firm hand with Tyler Seguin. But Seguin will have growing pains in the middle. Ruff might want Seguin back on the wing later in the season. Kari Lehtonen will have to bail out his team.

5. Winnipeg

Coach: Claude Noel (third season with Winnipeg).

Record: 24-21-3, 51 points, 9th in west.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, and Blake Wheeler form legitimate first line. Some secondary pop from Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi. Talent on defense via Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom, and Dustin Byfuglien. But too many up-and-down performances in goal from Ondrej Pavelec.

6. Nashville

Coach: Barry Trotz (15th season with Nashville).

Record: 16-23-9, 41 points, 14th in West.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: Same story every year in Nashville: Lean heavily on Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber, cross your fingers for goals from popgun offense. Weber must still be disappointed that Nashville matched Philadelphia’s offer sheet.

7. Colorado

Coach: Patrick Roy (first season with Colorado).

Record: 16-25-7, 39 points, 15th in West.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: Roy will bring passion to the bench. Joe Sakic, first-year executive vice president of hockey operations, adds stability to management. But Avalanche still years from contending. Good young foundation pieces in Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon.

Pacific Division

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.

1. Los Angeles

Coach: Darryl Sutter (third season with Los Angeles).

Record: 27-16-5, 49 points, 5th in West.

Playoffs: Lost to Chicago in Round 3.

Notable: Kings could be Bruins from 2013 – hungry for another Cup run after falling short last year. Core players still in career primes: Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards. Quick will be motivated to lock up No. 1 Olympic job for Stars & Stripes.

2. San Jose

Coach: Todd McLellan (sixth season with San Jose).

Record: 25-16-7, 57 points, 6th in West.

Playoffs: Lost to Los Angeles in Round 2.

Notable: Antti Niemi is making his case to be among the league’s top five goalies. Logan Couture could develop into a point-per-game player to complement Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Patrick Marleau. But the eternal question: Can the Sharks put it together in the playoffs?

3. Anaheim

Coach: Bruce Boudreau (third season with Anaheim).

Record: 30-12-6, 66 points, 2d in West.

Playoffs: Lost to Detroit in Round 1.

Notable: Short term, the Ducks will feel the loss of Bobby Ryan. It remains to be seen whether Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, and Ottawa’s 2014 first-rounder will make up for the sharpshooter’s loss. The Ducks should have enough offense remaining in Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Teemu Selanne.

4. Edmonton (wild card)

Coach: Dallas Eakins (first season with Edmonton).

Record: 19-22-7, 45 points, 12th in West.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: It’s about time for Edmonton’s kids to make the jump. Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Justin Schultz are ready. Ex-Bruin Andrew Ference will bring leadership to the room. Devan Dubnyk will have to be ace material in goal.

5. Vancouver

Coach: John Tortorella (first season with Vancouver).

Record: 26-15-7, 59 points, 3d in West.

Playoffs: Lost to San Jose in Round 1.

Notable: As he did on Broadway, John Tortorella promises to give his top dogs plenty of shifts. The Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler should be OK with that in the regular season. But will they have enough at the end? That’s all irrelevant, of course, if Roberto Luongo blows up.

6. Phoenix

Coach: Dave Tippett (fifth season with Phoenix).

Record: 21-18-9, 51 points, 10th in West.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: The Coyotes are seemingly stable in Glendale for now. Dave Tippett is one of the NHL’s best defensive-minded coaches. To that end, the Coyotes will depend on Mike Smith to carry the load in goal. Not much pop up front, though.

7. Calgary

Coach: Bob Hartley (second season with Calgary).

Record: 19-25-4, 42 points, 13th in West.

Playoffs: DNQ.

Notable: The Flames are going to be bad for a while. New president Brian Burke likes the team’s recent drafts. But those picks won’t be in Calgary jerseys for several more years. Until then, the Flames will have to bottom out to land even more high picks. This will be ugly.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fluto.shinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.
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