Beaten, bruised, relegated to minor-league millionaire status, possibly suspended for mimicking BJ's...the Atlantic defenses have been put through the blender already this year. And Rick DiPietro's actually healthy.
Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Alex Goligoski - Ben Lovejoy
It pains me to put this group on top, but I have to grudgingly admit that they have redeemable qualities. Paul Martin had long been under-appreciated as a sound, two-way player, and Letang and Golisoski's offensive talents match up admirably with the defensive work of Orpik and Michalek. While neither Letang nor Goligoski have "taken off," they both have the possibility of giving positive contributions to the powerplay.
Fleury has always been a bit of a liability, but he's also been just good enough to stay the #1 goalie. His stats will look better this year because Michalek will block 1 million shots.
Chris Pronger - Matt Carle
Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Andrej Meszaros - Sean O'Donnell
Brian Boucher - Sergei Bobrovsky
I think this one hurts more. Now, we do have to keep in mind that Pronger is a bit gimpy right now, but the real reason this group is below the Pens is because a majority of these guys are about as consistent as Eli Manning. Overall, as they proved in the spring last year, they can be the best unit in hockey, but they can absolutely disappear during the regular season.
Please don't make me talk about their goalies. Okay, one sentence: Michael Leighton hurts but he's not that good anyways, Boosh is Boosh, and Flyers fans should consider calling the Russian guy "Robertrovsky."
New York Rangers
Marc Staal - Michal Rozsival
Michael Del Zotto - Dan Girardi
Steve Eminger - Mike Sauer
You know what? Screw the Devils. Because I do think the Rangers have a lot of promise but I won't quite say they're there yet. Securing Marc Staal was a smart (gasp!) move by Slats, the Redden move makes me feel all warm and mushy inside, and Dan Girardi is a smart player when he's not letting Carcillo beat on Gaborik. MDZ is a future offensive stud, and even Rozy has his moments.
Not much to say about King Henrik, except to point out that he wins games the Rangers shouldn't.
New Jersey Devils
Anton Volchenkov - Mark Fraser
Henrik Tallinder - Andy Greene
Matt Taormina - Colin White
I'm trying not to put too much into the beginning of the year, because this is supposed to be a preview, but if the first couple of games have been any indication, the Devils are a different team. Volchenkov might block 1 million shots and rack up 500 hits, but he still won't be able to make up for the fact that almost none of these guys know how to move a puck. Maybe Taormina makes me change my mind...or maybe Taormina adds to the recent Devils history of middle-sized, middle-talented defensemen.
Brodeur is who we thought he was. He won't be as bad as he has been so far, but this might be the first year of his career that we genuinely wonder if he's tailing off.
New York Islanders
Mike Mottau - James Wisniewski
Mark Eaton - Radek Martinek
Milan Jurcina - Andrew MacDonald
Rick DiPietro - Dwayne Roloson
BJ's aside, the Islanders were absolutely crushed by the loss of Mark Streit, but reports suggest that he could return in time for the playoffs...mmm...can't hold it...tchhhh...BWAHAHAHAHA
This group is a smattering of bit parts that slipped off the rosters of teams all over the league. Combined, I think these guys have played for all 30 NHL teams, and are getting prepped for sweeping the European leagues as well.
There's a part of me that is a little happy that DiPietro has a chance to prove he was a bad pick for reasons outside of his injuries. And let me be the one to say that it is a crime that Dwayne Roloson's career has had to take pit stops in every godawful team in the league. He's always been better than he will ever get credit for.
Overall, the Atlantic defenses could be a worse lot, but they also could be a lot better. The goalies alone put them ahead of the Southeast, and underrated talent makes this division still one of the defensively-tougher divisions in the League.
Atlantic Division Defense Rankings
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Philadelphia Flyers
3. New York Rangers
4. New Jersey Devils
5. New York Islanders