1. Boston Bruins
Even though the Bruins received very nice long-term value for Phil Kessel, I'll always think of this off-season as the one in which Boston basically lost Kessel for Derek Morris. That's just terrible, in my opinion.
Still, the Bruins might just be the most versatile and impressive team in the Eastern Conference. Marc Savard has two scoops of raisin-flavored inspiration because he's in a contract year and he wasn't even invited to the Team Canada camp.
Combine his motivation with a team that can play with toughness, finesse and everything in between and you have a team that could very well fight for the President's Trophy once more.
(Editor's note: it's really a crapshoot after Boston)
2. Montreal Canadiens
[Insert Montreal midgets joke here]
3. Buffalo Sabres
Just about every team in the NE saw drastic sweeping changes and yet pundits consistently bag on the Sabres for doing nothing.
What's so wrong with stability? We know that the Sabres have a good coach, a good goalie and some spirited spritely little forwards with big offensive talent. Granted, the team lacks a standout on the blueline (Jay Bouwmeester would have been a fantastic fit) so their relative ceiling is limited.
With just a little more luck, the Sabres should make it back to the playoffs.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
It's strange that Brian Burke mortgaged so much of the team's future for an injury prone player like Kessel. I like Kessel - and the Leafs need offense pretty badly - but he seems to be an odd fit for Toronto in my opinion.
The moves they made to add defense and toughness bode well for the medium term but their goaltending is suspect in the least. For every import like Jonas Hiller, there have been a ton of letdowns who weren't ready for the North American game.
This division seems to be rife with odd, expensive decisions.
5. Ottawa Senators
If you're arguing from a chemistry/hustle/heart standpoint, the Ottawa Senators aren't exactly exploding with character guys in
Scott Gomez (Oops OMG I meant the Senators OTHER non-character guys ... clearly this typo erases my credibility in one swift motion!) and Alex Kovalev.
If you're looking for amazing goaltending, the Senators are average - at best - with Pascal Leclaire as their supposed No. 1.
If you want shutdown defense, just look away.
It could be a dark year in Ottawa.