1. Buffalo Sabres (14.5)

Offense: Thomas Vanek has averaged 34 goals in his first six NHL seasons, but it's still not enough for some critics. Ville Leino arrives to provide help down the middle. Drew Stafford is coming off a career year. Derek Roy should help a team going in the right direction. Jason Pominville needs to be more consistent. 3.0

Defense: Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr should fill two major needs, an offensive defenseman for the power play and toughness and leadership along the blue line. Tyler Myers is capable of having a huge year. The Sabres now have a good mix of defensemen who can provide offense and defense. 4.0

Goaltending: Ryan Miller is coming off a mediocre season by his standards, but he's a Vezina Trophy winner who could thrive behind an upgraded blue line. Jhonas Enroth figures to give them more stability as Miller's backup. 3.5

Intangibles: Terry Pegula changed the atmosphere in about 15 minutes when he purchased the team. He's covering all the details, and players want to win for him as much as anyone else. 4.0

Outlook: Center remains a minor concern, but the Sabres have all the makings of a division winner. They're also equipped for the playoffs.

2. Boston Bruins (13.5)

Offense: Milan Lucic is coming off a career year with 30 goals and 62 points. Brad Marchand was a handful in the postseason and could score more than the 21 he had last season. The Bruins are balanced across their four lines, which makes for matchup problems. Their top four returning scorers were a combined plus-80. 4.0

Defense: Zdeno Chara is still one of the best D-men in the league, and he has a solid partner in Johnny Boychuk. Dennis Seidenberg was terrific last season. Adam McQuaid was plus-30 last season. Their top six are very good, but they will need to stay healthy. 4.0

Goaltending: Tim Thomas won the Vezina and Conn Smyth trophies in leading the Bruins to the Stanley Cup. Asking him to have another season with a 2.00 GAA and .938 SP is asking too much. 3.5

Intangibles: The Bruins will find out, after a summer of celebrating, that the Stanley Cup hangover exists. Don't be surprised if they get off to a slow start. They could use Mark Recchi's presence. He retired, which should not be overlooked. 2.0

Outlook: Boston is capable of another deep run, but it's not easy after winning it all.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (12.0)

Offense: Tim Connolly could benefit from the much-needed change in scenery. He has enough skill to make an impact when motivated. He'll play between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. Mikhail Grabovski had career highs of 29 goals and 58 points. Clarke MacArthur had 21 goals. Newcomer Matthew Lombardi is nursing a concussion. 3.0

Defense: The Leafs have four good veterans in Mike Komisarek, Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn and puck-mover John-Michael Liles. Carl Gunnarsson is lesser-known but played well last season. Cody Franson comes over from Nashville with Lombardi. They need to play better team defense. 3.5

Goaltending: James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson will likely share duties until one of them takes over the No. 1 job. Reimer played well last season, finishing with a 20-10-0 record with five shutouts while Gustavsson was 6-13-2. 2.5

Intangibles: Toronto would like to build off its final stretch last season, when it finished 18-9-6 after a miserable first half. Its first five games are at home. A strong start could work wonders in terms of confidence. 3.0

Outlook: The Leafs should make the playoffs, but they're still several players away from challenging in the division.

4. Montreal Canadiens (11.0)

Offense: The Canadiens scored the fewest goals among playoff teams a year ago, and finding goals again figures to be a challenge. Scott Gomez, who had seven goals, 38 points and a minus-15 rating, has been a bust since he arrived in 2009. Erik Cole will help. Overall, their talent up front has not matched their production. 2.5

Defense: Andrei Markov is looking to return after blowing out his knee and missing 75 games last season. P.K. Subban is one of the best young defensemen in the league. They like Alexei Yemelin, who played seven years in Russia but is unproven in the NHL. Jaroslav Spacek and Yannick Weber are small. 3.0

Goaltending: Carey Price is coming off his best season with a 2.35 GAA, .923 SP and eight shutouts in 72 games. They picked up Peter Budaj with the idea he can lighten the workload. Budaj has been erratic throughout his career. 3.0

Intangibles: The Habs were seventh on the PP and PK last season, a key factor in them making the playoffs last season. They could be in trouble if their special teams are not as efficient this season. 2.5

Outlook: Until they find consistent scoring, they'll be straddling the line between making and missing the playoffs.

5. Ottawa Senators (9.0)

Offense: Ottawa has a good first line with Jason Spezza between Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek, but it's less exciting after them. Former sixth pick overall Nikita Filatov, acquired from Columbus, should get full-time work after playing 44 games over the three previous seasons. Depth is a major problem. 2.0

Defense: Thank goodness they have Erik Karlsson, 21, a rising star entering his third NHL season. He was second among Sens' scorers with 45 points. Chris Phillips was minus-35 last season, worst in the NHL. Sergei Gonchar made little impact and missed the final 15 games. Too many questions remain. 2.0

Goaltending: Craig Anderson grabbed the No. 1 spot after he was acquired from Colorado and posted an 11-5 record with a 2.05 GAA and .939 SP, enough for a four-year contract extension. He'll need to carry this team. Alex Auld is behind him. 2.5

Intangibles: The Sens have a new coach in Paul MacLean, who wants them playing an up-tempo style. The roster is loaded with players who have plenty to prove. 2.5

Outlook: Ottawa lacks talent and is playing in a tough division. It's a bad combination.


1. Philadelphia Flyers (13.0)

Offense: Jaromir Jagr returns from Russia, which makes things interesting. Philly traded two good centers in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Newcomers also include Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek. Brayden Schenn is rookie to watch. Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere were their top two scorers. James van Riemsdyk is a rising star. 3.5

Defense: The Flyers are deep along the blue line, but they were exposed when Chris Pronger was injured in the playoffs. Pronger, Kimmo Timonen and Andreas Lilja are all 36 years old. Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn need to play better and assume bigger roles. 3.0

Goaltending: GM Paul Holmgren believes he finally addressed the Flyers' annual problem when he acquired Ilya Bryzgalov from the Coyotes. Bryzgalov is the best they've had in years, and he allows Sergei Bobrovski to settle into a backup role. 3.5

Intangibles: Philly was looking for a change in chemistry when shipping Richards and Carter, their so-called leaders, out of town. It could make for a tighter team, which they hope translates to a better one. 3.0

Outlook: Improved goaltending and fresh faces should be enough for another division title, but the Flyers are looking for more.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins (12.5)

Offense: The top priority is Sidney Crosby returning from what was viewed Jan. 5 as a mild concussion. He still led the Pens in scoring with 66 points in 41 games. The Pens remain strong with Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal healthy. Steve Sullivan arrives from Nashville to play with Malkin. James Neal should add some punch. 3.5

Defense: Kris Letang is coming off a career year with 50 points and plus-15. East Amherst-raised Brooks Orpik is among the NHL's most consistent in his own end. Ben Lovejoy was plus-11 in 47 games and appears ready for full-time work in the NHL. Depth could be an issue. 3.0

Goaltending: Marc-Andre Fleury had a terrible start but was the NHL's best goaltender from November to January. He finished with a 2.32 GAA and .918 SP. Brent Johnson was solid behind him with a 2.17 GAA and .922 SP. 3.0

Intangibles: The Pens won even without Crosby and Malkin last season, which should make them better once both return. They were first on the PK and 25th on the PP, odd considering their offensive talent. 3.0

Outlook: If Crosby's healthy, they can win a division title. If not, look for them to start the playoffs on the road.

3. New York Rangers (12.5)

Offense: Brad Richards arrives as the marquee free agent and gives them a playmaker they've needed for Marian Gaborik, who had just 22 goals last season. Ryan Callahan had 23 goals in only 60 games. Derek Stepan should build off the 21 goals he had as a rookie. He helps balance the bottom three lines. 3.0

Defense: Marc Staal and Dan Girardi are solid. Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer are young but played well in tight spots last season. Micheal Del Zotto needs to rediscover the success he had two years ago as a rookie. Coach John Tortorella is more intent on playing team defense. Last year, they gave up only 198 goals. 3.5

Goaltending: Henrik Lundqvist was seventh in GAA (2.28) and SP (.923) last season. He appeared in the final 31 games last year after old friend Martin Biron was injured. Biron is back, which should lighten the load. 3.5

Intangibles: Callahan takes over the captaincy for retired Chris Drury. Richards was looking for bright lights and should flourish with Gaborik. He will help the PP, which was 18th. 2.5

Outlook: The Rangers needed help on offense. Richards makes them better but contending for the division title seems a stretch.

4. New Jersey Devils (11.5)

Offense: The Devils scored only 171 goals last season, excluding shootouts, the fewest in franchise history. Ilya Kovalchuk had 31, marking the first time he scored fewer than 40 since his rookie year. Zach Parise is healthy, a big plus. David Clarkson and Travis Zajac combined for 25 goals last season. They're capable of 25 apiece. 3.0

Defense: Henrik Tallinder had a career-worst minus-6 rating, prompting some to call him Henrik "Colander." His was solid compared to Andy Green, who was minus-23. Bryce Salvador's return should help. Their team defense was solid, largely because they have responsible forwards. 3.0

Goaltending: Martin Brodeur, 39, is coming off the first losing season (23-26-3) of his career, and his 2.45 GAA and .903 SP were miles from his career averages. He's one of the best ever and looking to prove his age isn't a factor. 3.0

Intangibles: Peter DeBoer is their seventh coach in the last seven years. The Devils had a 23-3-2 stretch last season, but they couldn't overcome a 9-25-2 start. They're convinced the talent is there, and they could be right. 2.5

Outlook: Finishing fourth in the division and still making the playoffs is conceivable.

5. New York Islanders (8.5)

Offense: The Islanders had five 20-goal scorers last season, but there's a major dropoff after that. John Tavares had 29 goals and 67 points and is looking to take the next step in his third year after signing a six-year contract extension. Michael Grabner needs to prove his rookie year (34 goals) wasn't a fluke. 2.5

Defense: Their blue line isn't exactly a Who's Who among NHL defensemen. Mark Streit missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, a devastating blow. He'll bring stability to a young blue line along with veterans Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina. Still, overall, they're thin. 2.0

Goaltending: New York used six different goalies with injury-prone veteran Rick DiPietro running into more health problems. It remains a primary concern. DiPietro was 47th, and last, among NHL goalies with a 3.44 GAA last season. 1.5.

Intangibles: Coach Jack Capuano, promoted last season to replace Scott Gordon, appeared to get the Isles moving in the right direction. A full season with him should help, but how much? 2.5

Outlook: The Isles could be better, but they still have too many persistent problems to make a run at the playoffs.