Scouting reports on NHL Eastern Conference teams for 2014-15. Listed in order of predicted finish.
Coach: Claude Julien (eighth season with Boston).
Record: 54-19-9, 117 points, 1st in East.
Playoffs: Lost to Montreal in Eastern Conference semifinals.
Notable: Bruins didn’t replace top-line right wing Jarome Iginla. They’re up against the cap, mostly because of Iginla’s bonus overage penalty. But Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Tuukka Rask are the best at their job descriptions.
2. Tampa Bay
Coach: Jon Cooper (third season with Tampa).
Record: 46-27-9, 101 points, 3d in East.
Playoffs: Lost to Montreal in Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Notable: Steven Stamkos is recovered from his broken leg. Youngsters Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson will be better. Rookies Jonathan Drouin and Brett Connolly will contribute. New additions Anton Stralman, Jason Garrison, and Brian Boyle will help the Lightning take the next step.
Coach: Mike Babcock (10th season with Detroit).
Record: 39-28-15, 93 points, 8th in East.
Playoffs: Lost to Boston in Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Notable: Up-and-comers Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, and Danny DeKeyser will learn from last year’s playoff appearance against the Bruins. But the Wings need graybeards Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Johan Franzen to stay healthy, which is never a guarantee. Goaltender Jimmy Howard must be better.
4. Montreal (wild card)
Coach: Michel Therrien (third season with Montreal).
Record: 46-28-8, 100 points, 4th in East.
Playoffs: Lost to Rangers in Eastern Conference final.
Notable: Canadiens have star power in Carey Price, P.K. Subban, and Max Pacioretty. But they depend too much on packing it in defensively and going on the counterattack. That’s playing with fire.
Coach: Randy Carlyle (fourth season with Toronto).
Record: 38-36-8, 84 points, 12th in East.
Notable: The Leafs are in Year 1 of a makeover, starting with Brendan Shanahan at the helm. Shanahan has all the resources. But it will take the Leafs time to round out the roster and play with more structure. Carlyle is not safe.
Coach: Gerard Gallant (first season with Florida).
Record: 29-45-8, 66 points, 15th in East.
Notable: Roberto Luongo is finally out of Vancouver and in his year-round home. Some good young players in Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, and Aleksander Barkov. But not enough horses.
Coach: Paul MacLean (fourth season with Ottawa).
Record: 37-31-14, 88 points, 11th in East.
Notable: Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky are gone. The Senators replaced them with David Legwand and Alex Chiasson. Star defenseman Erik Karlsson will waste away his best years.
Coach: Ted Nolan (second season with Buffalo).
Notable: So-so goaltending in Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth. Ho-hum defense in Tyler Myers and Josh Gorges. Not much up front after Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis. All adds up to a shot at drafting Connor McDavid.
1. New Jersey
Coach: Peter DeBoer (fourth season with New Jersey).
Record: 35-29-18, 88 points, 10th in East.
Notable: Miserable shootout record (0-13) cost the Devils a playoff spot. With Martin Brodeur out of the picture, Cory Schneider will make the 60-plus starts he deserves. Punishing, disciplined style will make New Jersey tough to play against every game.
Coach: Mike Johnson (first season with Pittsburgh).
Record: 51-24-7, 109 points, 2d in East.
Playoffs: Lost to Rangers in Eastern Conference semifinals.
Notable: Sweeping changes in front office and coaching staff underscore that anything short of a Cup is unacceptable in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are good enough to carry the Penguins all the way. But bottom-six is always an issue with this top-heavy group.
3. New York Islanders
Coach: Jack Capuano (fifth season with Islanders).
Record: 34-37-11, 79 points, 14th in East.
Notable: GM Garth Snow finally acquired legitimate goaltending in Jaroslav Halak. Big dogs John Tavares and Kyle Okposo will dominate puck possession.
4. New York Rangers (wild card)
Coach: Alain Vigneault (second season with Rangers).
Record: 45-31-6, 96 points, 5th in East.
Playoffs: Lost to Los Angeles in Stanley Cup final.
Notable: Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will always keep this team in the hunt. Ryan McDonagh will be in the Norris conversation. But too many contributors left Broadway in the offseason.
Coach: Barry Trotz (first season with Washington).
Record: 38-30-14, 90 points, 9th in East.
Notable: Trotz, formerly of Nashville, is a fine coach. He’ll get the most out of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. But Braden Holtby is no Pekka Rinne.
Coach: Todd Richards (fourth season with Columbus).
Record: 43-32-7, 93 points, 7th in East.
Playoffs: Lost to Pittsburgh in Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Notable: Nathan Horton is out indefinitely with back pain. Boone Jenner is out with a broken hand. Just the start the Jackets need.
Coach: Craig Berube (second season with Philadelphia).
Record: 42-30-10, 94 points, 6th in East.
Playoffs: Lost to Rangers in Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Notable: Defenseman Kimmo Timonen is done because of blood clots. Steve Mason is a question mark in goal. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek may be an excellent combination, but even they’re not good enough to overcome defensive issues.
Coach: Bill Peters (first season with Carolina).
Record: 36-35-11, 83 points, 13th in East.
Notable: Jordan Staal is out with a broken leg. Jay McClement, cast off by Toronto, could see more minutes. Can GM Ron Francis trade in his suit for a uniform?
NHL 2014-15 preview features: