American sports are about to be in full-swing. Football is a quarter of the way through its season, MLB playoffs have begun and basketball will be starting soon. Along with all that, the NHL season starts this week, and the 2022-23 campaign has big expectations. Let’s take a look at the teams in the metropolitan area and how they might shape up this season.
New York Rangers (2021-22 Record: 52-24-6)
Riding high after an Eastern Conference Finals appearance last season, the Rangers have a hill to climb after losing major scorers Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano. The addition of Vincent Trocheck through a seven-year, $40 million contract is a great pickup, but the Rangers still lack depth at the forward position to put up big numbers. They will have to rely heavily on names such as Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider — who combined for 52 goals last season.
Defense will be the same old story with the Rangers. Former Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox, along with K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba can take pressure off the forwards to score.
Nonetheless, Gerard Gallant’s defensive system will need restructuring this year if they want to make a playoff push, as reigning Vezina trophy winner Igor Shesterkin saw too much action in net last season and most likely cannot repeat his exact performance.
Can the Rangers make another run this year or will their lack of offensive prowess prove to be detrimental?
New Jersey Devils (2021-22 Record: 27-46-9)
After an abysmal season, there are only two components of the Devils roster deciding if they can make the playoffs or not — Jack Hughes and their goaltending.
Averaging more than one point per game last season, Hughes is turning into a player the Devils can rely on for years to come. Staying healthy will be his biggest obstacle after playing just over half the Devils’ games last year. If he can, the former No. 1 overall pick can display a legitimate MVP campaign.
After both Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier went down with injuries, the Devils started five other goalies throughout the season. Trading for former Washington Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek — who has playoff experience — could be vital to the push they make. If both him and Blackwood can stay healthy, New Jersey will be okay.
Can the Devils escape purgatory and make the playoffs for the first time since 2017 or will this just be another year for the division’s seventh-place team?
New York Islanders (2021-22 Record: 37-35-10)
Lou Lamoriello built a dynasty while in New Jersey, winning three Stanley Cups. He has done a tremendous job so far with the Islanders, building them to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final in two straight years. However, last season, and what might be this upcoming season, depict a different faith for the team out on Long Island.
The Islanders are one of the oldest teams in the league with a veteran-heavy lineup fighting to compete in a Metropolitan Division built around speed and young cores. Much like the Devils, the Islanders will lean on the play of a young superstar and consistent goaltending.
Having just signed a contract worth $73 million, Mathew Barzal has the team’s present and future in his hands. Barzal had 59 points in 73 games last season, making him their top scorer by far. Even with Oliver Walhstrom and Anthony Beauvillier, coach Lane Lambert’s system will revolve around Barzal and his ability to create high-scoring chances with his puck handling.
Between the pipes, goaltenders Ilya Sorokin — a young core piece — and Semyon Varlamov — veteran presence — will have to stay healthy and manage heavy workloads from stacked division opponents. Sorokin has emerged as a top-10 goaltender in the NHL and will probably compete for the Russian national team. Until then, the Islanders will need his services in order to make the playoffs.
A COVID-19 outbreak kept the Islanders in an odd spot this past season, postponing and delaying a large amount of games. Can they bounce back this year after a fifth-place finish?
With each team having different results, it will be interesting to see which teams take a big stride towards a Stanley Cup and which teams take a step back. The 2022-23 season for the Rangers, Devils and Islanders are due for electricity and chaos.
Photo courtesy of Clint Trahan/Abbotsford Heat, Wikipedia