Way-Too-Early Power Rankings: Metropolitan Division Edition

It's time for yet another power rankings article, where I appear like a genius for approximately ten games before things go south. This week we have the Metropolitan division, which people proclaim is the best division in the league. With talent oozing through the lineup, and most teams with a basic structure and win-now attitude, this division will be scary. Any of these teams can make a deep run and come out on top, but only one can prevail.

So who is going to finish first? Who is going to be the surpriser? Find out how each team stacks up against each other as another season approaches right now.

8. Philadelphia Flyers

Remember when I said every team has a chance? I meant every team but the Flyers.

If I had to compare this team to anything, it would be that scene in It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, where the girl holds the football, and Charlie Brown always tries to kick it and misses. That's the Flyers, holding out some form of hope, only to choke on the air while running. This team has no identity and no idea of where they are going. They are a hamster sprinting in circles on a wheel, just aimlessly running in no particular direction.

One second they're rebuilding, the next second the injury bug. One week they are aggressively retooling, the next week they are contenders with a championship-level squad. After destroying the development of once goalie prodigy Carter Hart, the Flyers opted to trade draft capital for offensive-defenseman Tony Deangelo. They signed Rasmus Ristolainen to a $5 million average annual value deal. This was done after finishing 30th in the league for goals against per game, with 3.6. After using this much cap space, they were unable to sign superstar Johnny Gaudreau, making them look even more foolish to the media.

But their new head coach doesn't need much help with being mediocre. John Tortorella, always known as a media headcase, was hired by the Flyers, and he is known for his defensive playstyle and calling out players. The Flyers also traded for the aforementioned Tony Deangelo, who has a history of behavioral issues and focuses on offense. Mixing these two is like mixing Mentos and Coca-Cola. It's just a matter of time before they explode. As for the team itself? They're not going to be good, you can count on that.

7. New York Islanders

This team's offseason was like a squirrel during winter: hibernation. Not many moves to highlight, the main move was sending the thirteenth overall selection in the 2022 National Hockey League draft for 22-year-old Alexander Romanov and a fourth-round pick. Now, what else did they do? For a tram who finished 26th in the league for goals scored per game with 2.75, they must've gone out and gotten a goal scorer, right? Oh no, of course not, because that would involve admitting there's a problem with the squad on the ice. This team, despite its nagging offensive issues, decided the best thing to do was to stand pat and not make any changes.

Well, for on-ice that is. For off-ice changes, it involved the firing of four-year head coach Barry Trotz, who went 152-102-34 with the team in four seasons, along with bringing them to two different Eastern Conference Finals appearances in those seasons. The club terminated Trotz's coaching duties following a cryptic season for the organization, and when it was reported he and star forward Matthew Barzal was having issues in the locker room. As it stands, Illya Sorokin and Seymon Varlamov, an exceptional goaltender tandem, are this team's only hope with questions in their offense and powerplay.

6. New Jersey Devils

When I look at this team, I see more problems than solutions, despite the changes this team makes. One thing I will stand by is that this franchise's fluke playoff appearance in 2018 was the worst thing that could have happened to them. Not only did it give them false hope and expectations, but it also has proven their biggest weakness: consistency. For the past years, they have always had one major problem. Last season, it was defense, letting in the 30th most goals in the league per game with 3.42. They addressed this by getting star defenseman Dougie Hamilton. This past season it was goaltending, as Mackenzie Blackwood had goals saved above expected of -12.7, and goals against average of 3.39.

The Devils are putting their money on a bounce-back campaign for Blackwood and newcomer Vitek Vanecek to keep stability in the cage. A lot has to go right for this team to make the playoffs, and I am betting the under on their performance. Enjoy another season of mediocrity, Devils fans, maybe another top 5 pick is in your future.

5. Washington Capitals

Keep hot takes coming because I am here for it. Every year, it's believed that this is the year the Capitals won't dominate, and every year they prove us wrong. But that is about to change, as this Capitals team is banking on raw talent to get them into the playoffs, which won't be enough. They still have the pieces to make a deep run, with captain Alexander Ovechkin not losing a beat since he entered the league. Their core remains intact, with T.J. Oshie, John Carlson, and Anthony Mantha all playing at a supreme level. They even addressed their goaltending woes, as they signed recent Stanley Cup champion Darcy Kuemper to a deal with $5.25 million annually. They still have the pieces to compete.

But they lost a crucial piece in center Nicholas Backstrom, who is recovering from hip surgery this season. He is just one of the many lingering questions this team has to answer this season: how long can this team stay healthy? How long are they able to push father-time away before it catches up with them? With every team getting better, it's unlikely this team can stay competitive. Look for some major changes from the Capitals this season.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

The future is now. No longer is this team building for tomorrow, they are firing this cannon right now. This team hit the jackpot this offseason, signing the premier playmaking forward in Johnny Gaudreau, who is coming off a 115-point campaign. They moved on from Oliver Bjorkstrand for two draft picks but were able to resign Patrik Laine to a four-year deal with $8.7 million annually. This team is going to be playing with a fire under its belt, and don't be shocked to see them sneak into the playoffs.

But the main question is in goaltending. I won't ridicule the tandem hard, since the passing of goaltending prospect Matiss Kivlenieks haunted this organization. It was reported that star goaltender Elvis Merzlikins would get PTSD when the cannon went off at their home stadium. If this tandem can bounce back, then the Metropolitan could be in for a massive awakening.

3. New York Rangers

The Rangers are the kid who talks smack during a basketball game and gets one lucky shot at the very end to win the game. This team, although talented, definitely had a run that will be very unsustainable to repeat this upcoming season. Their miraculous run starts and ends with one name: Igor Shesterkin. During the playoffs, he had a goal saved above expected of 18.6, with goals against average better than expected by .94, both very improbable to repeat this upcoming season. Although he was practically unbeatable, the rest of the team failed to mesh together properly.

However, that isn't to diss the team entirely. Management let go of forwarding Andrew Copp and Ryan Strome for the sniper in Vincent Trocheck. This team should be hard to beat with center Mika Zibanejad and winger Artemi Panarin to produce at a solid, two-way pace. It all comes down to the goaltending, and that is the question on everyone's mind heading into the 2022-2023 season.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

Never count out Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, who once again find themselves being doubted this upcoming season. There's been speculation over goaltending for pointless reasons, as this past season Tristan Jarry had an amazing season, plotting 12.7 goals saved above expected. The team was able to ink both Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin to deals that will keep them around past this upcoming season, and the depth remains elite.

The only setback this team faces is the injury concerns. The last playoff run was cut short due to the injuries of key players, such as Sidney Crosby and both goaltenders in Jarry and DeSmith, yet they still took the Rangers to seven games. If this team can stay healthy, they'll be dominating the Metropolitan for another year. But there is one team ahead of them, who needs this run more than anyone else.

1. Carolina Hurricanes

This is the team to beat in the entire Eastern Conference. As one of the only teams without any jaw-dropping flaws in the entire league, the Carolina Hurricanes are one of the best. With a struggling powerplay that ranked 13th in the league? They traded for the premier offensive styled-defenseman in Brent Burns. A team that was unable to find the back of the net with a shooting percentage of 9.9% and no top-tier superstar? They went out and got a sniping power forward in Max Pacioretty to fill the void. A goaltending duo who struggled with health? Both Frederick Andersen and Antti Raanta are back to full health to start the season.

If this team stays healthy, they are going to be elite. They remain a threat every night due to their well-rounded defense and offense, as well as their top-notch goaltending that put Andersen as a top 5 goaltender in the league. People better take warning, because this Hurricanes team is going to blow down everything in its path.

Did I miss-rank anyone? Am I somehow too high on the Flyers? Are the Blue Jackets the most slept-on team in the league? Let me know in the comments down below!

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