Easily the worst division in the NHL last year, only Washington made it into the playoffs. The rest of the teams Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Florida did not have over 85 points. The Capitals though were surpised in the playoffs by the Canadians. It was a down year for this division hopefully they can get it back to together this year or Washington again will easily get 100 points. Lets take a closer look at the teams:
The Washington Capitals - The Capitals had the most points (121) in the NHL regular season last year. I am surprised they did not receive a bailout from Obama after the epic collapse in the playoffs against the Canadians. All the usual suspects are back for the Capitals this year. Its going to be hard for any other team in this division to over take the Caps. The other teams just do not have talent and they lack organization. The Caps easily win this division and I think they get deeper into the playoffs this year.
The Atlanta Thrashers - They were the real winners in the Blackhawks garage sale. They finished 2nd in the division last year but they were almost 40 points behind the Caps. 40 points??? That is equal to 20 wins. The Thrashers are having a horrible preseason at 0-5-1. Hopefully that does translate into a long regular for the Thrashers but this division is so bad anything is possible.
The Carolina Hurricanes - They finished 3rd in the division last year. In my opinion they should be moved back to Hartford but since that will not happen they will continue to lose in Carolina. They just do not have enough players on this team to compete with the likes of the Washington Capitals. This division is really a race to see who finishes 2nd. The Caps are just far and away a much better team. Hopefully for the Canes, Cam Ward can have a great season in net, and they can step their game up.
The Tampa Bay Lightning - They have not been the same since the league handed them the Stanley Cup. They only had 80 points in the regular season last year. They are having a great preseason (4-1-1), hopefully they can keep it up into the regular season. It would be nice to see one of these teams challenge the Caps for the division title. Their big pickup in the off season was Simon Gagne from the Flyers. This was a good pickup for the Lightning, giving them experience and another LW that can do some damage. I think Tampa Bay is poised for a run at the Caps this year.
The Florida Panthers - They were the 3rd worst team in the NHL last year, and the 2nd worst team in the Eastern Conference. They have been pretty average in the preseason 2010 (3-2-1). They just do not have a bunch of big name or any big name players to compete in this NHL. This team was a product of the NHL's southern expansion, and I think it also time that the NHL brings back some of these teams to traditional hockey markets. Its going to be another long season for the Panthers.