NHL Playoffs: The Former Southeast Division Is Finding Success


Its former members are finally showing that the Southeast Division may not have been “least” after all

When the NHL decided to realign its divisions for the 2013 season, one of the side effects was the dissolution of the NHL Southeast Division. The Winnipeg Jets (Atlanta Thrashers) moved to the Central Division of the Western Conference, the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning returned to the restructured Atlantic Division, and the Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes joined the Metropolitan Division.

With the exception of the rise of the Washington Capitals, as well as the Stanley Cup Championships won by the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes, the Southeast Division struggled to compete with the rest of the league. Attendance issues in both Florida and Atlanta also did not help the division, which quickly got the moniker “South-Least Division”.

However, if you do a quick “where are they now?” for the former members of the Southeast Division, we see several positive outcomes.

We’ll get the bad over with first and that is the Carolina Hurricanes, who currently sit in 15th in the Eastern Conference – ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres. Carolina has struggled to get things going this season, but on the bright side have a chance in the NHL Draft lottery. Buffalo and Edmonton still hold the best odds of getting the first overall pick, but with the modification of the draft lottery odds means that even the third-worst team had a good chance of winning.

Moving north we find the Washington Capitals, who are finding great success (on both ends of the ice) under new head coach Barry Trotz. The Capitals currently hold the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with 72 points. Alex Ovechkin leads the league in goals, but is also finally playing defense as well. The Capitals were always the one bright spot every year in the Southeast Division, and despite some struggled last season, they are finally carrying things over to the Metropolitan Division.

Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning are currently tied with the Montreal Canadiens with 78 points for first place in the Atlantic Division. Stamkos is the third overall ranked goal scorer so far this season. While the Florida Panthers have struggled with attendance this season, the Tampa Bay has flourished as a hockey market, proving that a team can find success in a non-traditional market, provided there is a good on-ice product.

While the perception surrounding the Florida Panthers was that they were in for another difficult year, they have surprised everyone and find themselves just three points out of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. With the Bruins running into a rough-patch it is certainly possible that the Panthers can finish in the playoffs. The season may have started with everyone paying attention to the empty seats in the Florida, but they can completely redeem themselves (and start repairing their market) with a playoff push.

And finally, the former Atlanta Thrashers, the Winnipeg Jets, are sitting in the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and are on the verge of making the post-season for the first time since the move to Winnipeg.

When the NHL broke up the Southeast Division many didn’t think it was too much of a loss, since most of the teams were either struggling financially or in the standings. Fast forward to two seasons and later and you can see in most cases the teams are in much better positions.

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