In the world of professional ice hockey, the divisional landscape is constantly evolving. With the start of the 2023-24 NHL season looming, it’s time to reevaluate and rank the four divisions based on their strength and competitiveness. While last year’s Atlantic Division was regarded as the cream of the crop, this year’s rankings present a tougher nut to crack.
1. Metropolitan Division: The New Powerhouse
Despite what the traditional metrics might suggest, the Metropolitan Division takes the crown as the toughest division in the NHL. Leading the way are the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils, two teams that embrace analytics and utilize it to their advantage. These squads represent the perfect blend of talent, strategy, and innovation. While the Hurricanes play with relentless energy and utilize traditional tactics, the Devils have embraced a modern style of play characterized by speed and skill. Both teams pose a significant threat to their opponents and have the potential to build dynasties.
Furthermore, the Metropolitan Division boasts elite goaltending with the likes of Ilya Sorokin, Igor Shesterkin, and an impressive support system for their star goalies. The addition of Erik Karlsson to the Pittsburgh Penguins only adds to the division’s strength and potential. Even the Columbus Blue Jackets have the opportunity to make some noise and surprise their rivals. The depth and competitiveness of the Metropolitan Division make it the top dog in the NHL.
2. Atlantic Division: A Battle for Supremacy
While the Atlantic Division may not claim the top spot in this ranking, it is by no means a slouch. With a plethora of young, up-and-coming teams and established powerhouses, the Atlantic Division is a battleground for supremacy. The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Toronto Maple Leafs have strong track records but face challenges this season. The Bruins are dealing with key losses in their center group, the Lightning are without their star goaltender for a few months, and the Maple Leafs have undergone significant changes in the front office and roster. These obstacles give rise to the potential for a power shift within the division.
The emergence of teams like the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, and Detroit Red Wings adds intrigue. While they may still be works in progress, their growth and improvement could shake up the division’s hierarchy. The Atlantic Division holds great talent and potential, but whether the established teams can maintain their dominance or if the younger squads can rise to the occasion remains to be seen.
3. Pacific Division: A Clash of Titans
In the Western Conference, the Pacific Division finds itself in a close race with the Central Division. However, it is the Pacific that comes out on top, thanks to the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Vegas Golden Knights, and the undeniable talent of Connor McDavid from the Edmonton Oilers. While age may be a concern for the Golden Knights, their depth and superb coaching give them the edge.
The Oilers, led by McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, have consistently been a force to be reckoned with. Their management’s focus on supporting their star players has allowed them to contend for greatness. Additionally, the Los Angeles Kings have taken steps to join the top contenders with their offensive additions. Although they are not quite there yet due to some goaltending issues, they have the potential to disrupt the status quo.
4. Central Division: A Balance of Power
Bringing up the rear of this ranking is the Central Division, a conference that boasts its own fair share of talent. The Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, and St. Louis Blues have been the dominant forces in recent years. The balance of power in this division makes it difficult to distinguish one team as a clear frontrunner. While the division may lack the heavyweight contenders seen in the other divisions, its competitive nature and evenly matched teams make for exciting matchups.
1. What criteria were used to rank the NHL divisions?
The rankings were based on a combination of teams’ recent performance, roster strength, depth, coaching, and potential for success in the upcoming season.
2. Can these rankings change throughout the season?
Yes, these rankings are not set in stone and can change as the season progresses and teams’ performances evolve.
3. Are there any sleeper teams that could surprise in each division?
In the Metropolitan Division, the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils are the teams to watch. In the Atlantic Division, keep an eye on the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, and Detroit Red Wings. In the Pacific Division, the Los Angeles Kings are a team on the rise. In the Central Division, the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche are perennial contenders.