The Metropolitan Division is back.
After spending one year in the briefly-created Central Division as a result of the (somehow still on-going) Coronavirus pandemic, the NHL division alignment will transition back to what fans were accustomed to.
For the Columbus Blue Jackets, that means a return to the Metro Division and a renewal of rivalries that were lost during the 2020-21 season.
Most of the teams in the metro were still in the same division last season, though operating under a different name (the East Division). Only the Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes were assigned to the central. The remaining six teams (New Jersey, NY Rangers, NY Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington) battled each other eight teams each in a division ultimately won by the Penguins.
So with the exception of Carolina, the Blue Jackets will need to get reacquainted with their rivals. By time the 2021-22 season starts, over a-year-and-a-half will have passed since the Blue Jackets played games that count as a member of the division.
Almost every team across the division has a much different look and feel to them than they did in the pre-Covid era. Here's a look at what has changed since March of 2020.
2020 Key Additions: Jesper Fast (F)
2020 Key Subtractions: Joel Edmundson (D), Justin Williams (F), Trevor van Riemsdyk (D), Anton Forsberg (G)
2021 Key Additions: Frederik Andersen (G), Antti Raanta (G), Ian Cole (D), Ethan Bear (D), Tony DeAngelo (D), Brendan Smith (D), Derek Stepan (F), Stefan Noesen (F)
2021 Key Subtractions: Alex Nedeljkovic (G), Petr Mrazek (G), James Reimer (G), Dougie Hamilton (D), Warren Foegele (F), Cedric Paquette (F), Brock McGinn (F), Morgan Geekie (F)
What To Expect: On paper, the Hurricanes are not as strong of a team as they were in recent seasons. The blue line is still strong, but lost its top player when Dougie Hamilton signed with the division rival Devils. As soon as goalie Alex Nedeljkovic proves himself as a number one goalie, he's traded to the Detroit Red Wings. The Hurricanes will now rely on former Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen to carry the load as Carolina looks to stay one of the top teams in the division. (Playoff Chance: 85%)
New Jersey Devils
2020 Key Additions: Corey Crawford (G), Ryan Murray (D), Andreas Johnsson (F)
2020 Key Subtractions: Cory Schneider (G), Joey Anderson (F)
2021 Key Additions: Dougie Hamilton (D), Jonathan Bernier (G), Ryan Graves (D), Tomas Tatar (F)
2021 Key Subtractions: Ryan Murray (D), Will Butcher (D)
What To Expect: Last season, the Devils were worse - by a significant margin - than the year before. Their point percentage came in at .402, down almost a hundred points from the 2019-20 campaign's .493. Dougie Hamilton immediately makes them better, and if their young players (specifically Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier) can take that next step, the Devils could be back in the realm of .500. (Playoff Chance: 15%)
New York Islanders
2020 Key Additions: Cory Schneider (G)
2020 Key Subtractions: Devon Toews (D), Thomas Greiss (G)
2021 Key Additions: Richard Panik (F)
2021 Key Subtractions: Jordan Eberle (F), Andrew Ladd (F), Nick Leddy (D)
What To Expect: Losing Jordan Eberle in the expansion draft hurts; he was a consistent scorer in the Isles lineup for their successful seasons over the last few years. Richard Panik is the only NHL-caliber new to the team, but doesn't move the needle much. Barry Trotz always seems to find a way to get the most out of his teams though, and the Islanders will likely be right back in the postseason. Ridding themselves of Nick Leddy and Andrew Ladd gives them plenty of cap space; if they want to make a splash via trade, they have the means to do so. (Playoff Chance: 85%)
New York Rangers
2020 Key Additions: Alexis Lafreniere (F), Jack Johnson (D)
2020 Key Subtractions: Henrik Lundqvist (G)
2021 Key Additions: Barclay Goodrow (F), Ryan Reaves (F), Sammy Blais (F), Patrik Nemeth (D), Jarred Tinordi (D)
2021 Key Subtractions: Pavel Buchnevich (F), Colin Blackwell (F), Brendan Smith (D), Brett Howden (F)
What To Expect: They gave Barclay Goodrow too much money. They overcompensated with grit after the Tom Wilson incident to end the season. There's talent here (Mika Zibanejad is a treasure), but after taking strides the last two years under the watchful eye of John Davidson (until this happen), it feels like the Rangers took a step backwards this summer. (Playoff Chance: 25%)
2020 Key Additions: Erik Gustafsson (D)
2020 Key Subtractions: Matt Niskanen (D), Tyler Pitlick (F), Derek Grant (F)
2021 Key Additions: Cam Atkinson (F), Ryan Ellis (D), Keith Yandle (D), Rasmus Ristolainen (D), Martin Jones (G)
2021 Key Subtractions: Jakub Voracek (F), Nolan Patrick (F), Shayne Gostisbehere (D), Robert Hagg (D), Philippe Myers (D), Brian Elliott (G)
What To Expect: The Flyers had one of the most intriguing off-seasons of any team. They made some good moves (Cam Atkinson), some questionable moves (Rasmus Ristainen), and a few more that balance each other out (Ryan Ellis and Keith Yandle or Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg? Six, meet half dozen.) Nonetheless, the Flyers have enough pieces in place that they should be competitive, provided they stay healthy. (Playoff Chance: 65%)
2020 Key Additions: Kasperi Kapanen (F), Mark Jankowski (F), Mike Matheson (D)
2020 Key Subtractions: Conor Sheary (F), Matt Murray (G), Patric Hornqvist (F), Justin Schultz (D), Patrick Marleau (F), Jack Johnson (D)
2021 Key Additions: Danton Heinen (F), Brock McGinn (F), Dominik Simon (F)
2021 Key Subtractions: Jared McCann (F), Brandon Tanev (F), Cody Ceci (D)
What To Expect: Last year seemed like the year that the Penguins would start to flounder. Then they won the division. So it has to be this year, right? Their second consecutive underwhelming off-season, and their veteran talent is another year older. This means, of course, they’ll probably run away with the Metro… and then lose in the first round of the playoffs, again. (Playoff Chances: 75%)
2020 Key Additions: Henrik Lundqvist (G), Justin Schultz (D)
2020 Key Subtractions: Braden Holtby (G), Radko Gudas (D)
2021 Key Additions: Vitek Vanecek (G)
2021 Key Subtractions: Zdeno Chara (D), Brenden Dillon (D), Vitek Vanecek (G), Henrik Lundqvist (G), Craig Anderson (G)
What To Expect: Similar to Pittsburgh, the Capitals are an aging team that are due for a decline. And similar to Pittsburgh, they continue to find a way. It doesn’t say a lot for their off-season when their key addition was a guy that spent last season with the team. Vitek Vanecek went to Seattle in the expansion draft, and promptly re-acquired by Washington. They have Ovechkin, though. (Playoff Chances: 65%)