The weather is cooling, blades are sharpening, ice is freezing, banging and swishing sounds of washers and dryers cleaning franchise paraphernalia are heard, and jerseys are being mounted in locker rooms across the country.
This can mean only one thing – the NHL is back for another entertaining, nerve-wracking, hand clenching, heart stopping, thrilling season.
With the completion of the 2012-13 season, the NHL deliberated and decided to realign the divisions to the Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan, and Pacific areas of North America. The realignment adds strong talent and competition to the teams specifically battling in the Atlantic division. The division consists of the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Numerous players with a skillset and mind for the game of hockey will compete in the Atlantic division this upcoming season. I have comprised an All-Star team of the division’s elite skaters and goaltenders.
Standing solid at 6-foot-0, Toronto Maple Leaf Phil Kessel will be the glue on this line that includes Buffalo Sabre, Thomas Vanek on the left wing and Tampa Bay’s Teddy Purcell on the right wing. Kessel, in his fourth season with the Maple Leafs, is the epitome of a sharp-shooting goal-scorer. He has tallied 119 goals, gathering 253 points in 282 games played. After the 2011-12 season, according to The Hockey News, Kessel was ranked No. 16 in a list of the best players in the NHL.
The Austrian native Vanek has a knack for both scoring and assisting on goals. In the 2006-07 season, he won the NHL Plus/Minus Award, finishing with +47. Despite sour seasons due to injuries, he has collected 488 points in 585 NHL games. Purcell and Vanek on the wings will open a door of countless shots on goal for Kessel to trigger. Like Vanek, Purcell finds the majority of his involvement in assisting and setting up goals. Since the 2010-11 season, Purcell has assisted on 100 goals in 210 games.
The second line will put a smile on Detroit Red Wings fans’ faces. Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen on the wings with Pavel Datsyuk centering the two can only offer success.
The Red Wing trio competed on the 2007-08 Detroit team, winning the Stanley Cup that season. The Swedish wing duo of Zetterberg and Franzen ignites fear and worry in opponents’ eyes. Zetterberg has made a prolific and iconic name for himself in Detroit by competing in 714 games, scoring 263 goals and racking up 409 assissts for an impressive total of 672 points.
Like Zetterberg and many other famous Red Wings (Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman, etc.), Franzen has given Detroit a legendary franchise connotation. After a horrible season-ending ACL injury during the 2009-10 season, he came back strong for the Wings, chipping in 71 goals and 81 assists for 152 points.
Datsyuk, arguably a future Hall-of-Fame nominee, has the finesse and stick handling skills of a hockey god. In the 11 seasons Datsyuk has worn a Red Wing jersey, he has broken many records, won many division titles, and hoisted the Stanley Cup twice. He has competed in 779 games, tallying 767 points, scoring 255 times while assisting on 512 goals. The Red Wing line will use their finesse and strong attacking skills to pressure the defense to cough up the puck time and time again.
Continuing the offensive fore-check, Boston Bruin Brad Marchand will lead Toronto Maple Leaf, James van Riemsdyk and former Ottawa Senator – now Detroit Red Wing, Daniel Alfredsson on the third line.
The 25-year-old Marchand did not just step through the door of the NHL, he plowed right through it. Since the 2010-11 season, the year the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, he has tallied 132 points (67 goals and 65 assists) in 197 games. In the 2011 postseason, he demonstrated how strong of a competitor and skater he was, holding his own at just 5-foot-9. He scored 11 times for the Bruins, gaining 19 points in 25 playoff games.
Dani Alfredsson, a staple figure in Ottawa Senators franchise history, has scored 426 goals and assisted 682 goals during his 17-year career. His notable years came during a stretch of seasons following the NHL lockout in the 2004-05 season. Within the three seasons after the lockout, Alfredsson scored 112 times and helped assist 167 goals for an astonishing 289 points. He battled in 224 games during those three seasons.
Although much younger than Alfredsson with a whole career ahead of him, van Riemsdyk will help Marchand snipe wrist shots deftly past goaltenders. Disregarding the first few seasons, while he got his feet wet in the NHL, he has collected many points for both the Philadelphia Flyers (former team) and Toronto Maple Leafs. In the half season last year, he scored 18 times and had 14 assists for 32 points in 48 games.
The fourth and final divisional All-Star line gels two Tampa Bay Lightning stars, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, with a Florida Panther, Tomas Kopecky. A younger skater, like van Riemsdyk, Stamkos makes it his mission to chip in goals and help teammates sneak the puck around opposing netminders.
The no. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, he has undoubtedly proven why he was No. 1. Since his debut season in 2008-09, Stamkos has collected 208 goals and 178 assists. Three seasons in a row he scored at least 45 goals. Even more impressive is his durability. He has not missed a game in four consecutive seasons.
Considered small for the NHL at just 5-foot-8, St. Louis has demonstrated that size is not an issue. In his 12-year career with the Lightning, he’s appeared in 979 games, scoring 340 times, while assisting on 572 goals. During the 2006-07 season, he had 43 goals and 59 assists, boosting him to the elite club of collecting 100 plus points in one season.
Kopecky, a strong offensive player and battler, has been a consistent contributor, tallying 122 points during his last four seasons.
Backing the offense is a pair of Boston Bruins, Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara, a Florida Panther, Brian Campbell, and Montreal Canadien, P.K. Subban.
The help of Seidenberg and Chara at the blue line edged the Bruins to two Stanley Cup finals appearances in three years. In the past three seasons together as Bruins, Seidenberg and Chara have tallied 185 points.
The mix of Subban and Campbell will blend fast, explosive, strong and smart together. Campbell, a monster on skates, has played 756 games, helping the four NHL teams he has competed for by scoring 66 times, while assisting 326 goals. His partner, Subban, an outrageously fast and explosive defender, is a major asset to the Canadiens, hence why opponents dislike facing him. Subban, as a 21-year-old competing in the 2010 playoffs, appeared in 14 games, chipping in eight points.
Nicknamed “Leaf Killer” by Toronto media, Ryan Miller, the Buffalo Sabres’ stonewall goalie, is by far the smartest and quickest netminder in the Atlantic Division, and potentially the NHL as a whole. Miller, a Team USA fan-favorite, has a save percentage as a Sabre of .915 in the 10 seasons he has been with the franchise. He has competed in 500 games (29,277 minutes), only allowing 1262 goals. To add to his résumé, Miller has an impressive 2.59 goals against average with the Sabres.
Clearly, the Atlantic division is going to be an extremely intense division to battle in for the 2013-14 season. The outstanding skaters comprised on this divisional All-Star team acquire the skills of teamwork, hard work, talent, and perseverance making them the best.