The 2013-14 season is right around the corner. We already previewed what you should be watching for in the Western Conference and now we shift our attention to the East. As always, the East has a ton of captivating stories and plots to follow in the upcoming season. As if things weren't interesting enough, the league shifted Detroit and Columbus into the Conference, adding more drama and excitement in the heated battle for the playoffs.
With that, here are 16 stories you should keep an eye on in the Eastern Conference.
How will the Bruins respond after their Stanley Cup loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. On paper it would appear that the Bruins are a team still built for success, but it'll be interesting to see how the squad responds after a crushing loss in the Finals in 2012-13.
Don't forget you'll also get to see Jarome Iginla in a Boston sweater. Wait, we're positive he's actually a Bruin now, right?
What's in store for Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek? The two men who were rumored to be on their way out of Buffalo are still on the roster heading into 2013-14. Despite the fact they're starting the year as Sabres, the duo might be sporting new uniforms before the season wraps up.
Vanek has apparently never asked for a trade and is open to staying in Buffalo in the future, but that might change if the Sabres have another disappointing season.
This one is easy: How will Detroit perform in the East? If we had to guess, we'd bet they'll still perform and will once again be a playoff contender. You should also look forward to the 2014 Winter Classic which will offer fans a look behind the scenes with the Red Wings on HBO's 24/7.
Get ready to see Daniel Alfredsson as a Red Wing (that still sounds weird).
Last week we weren't sure what to focus on in Florida. Though the Panthers will have new owners and some of the cheapest ticket packages in the league, there wasn't one story that stood out above the others. Then Tim Thomas happened. After a tryout with the Panthers, Thomas agreed to a one-year deal with the team.
How will Thomas look between the pipes after his sabbatical? What crazy comments and quotes should we expect from Thomas as he steps closer to retirement?
Danny Briere is a Canadien and P.K. Subban is in the final year of his "bridge" contract. Both of these players need to have big seasons and for two very different reasons. Subban is hoping to show he deserves one of those massive contracts which have been handed out to numerous young defensemen around the league and Briere is hoping to prove he's worth $4 million a year and can be as valuable in the regular season as he is in the playoffs.
The Senators didn't give us much to talk about this summer, did they? The club won't have Daniel Alfredsson in their ranks for the first time since 1995. As if that wasn't enough, they also traded for Bobby Ryan. The Sens will lean heavily on Ryan and it'll be interesting to see if he's up for the challenge.
It'll also be interesting to see how Erik Karlsson performs now that he's further removed from his horrifying ankle injury.
What's life like after Vincent Lecavalier? Lecavalier called Tampa Bay home since 1998, but he left over the summer to take on a new challenge in Philadelphia. Even without Lecavalier, offense is still an area of strength for the Lightning, but questions persist on defense and in net. Have the Lightning finally found their goaltender in Ben Bishop?
Where to start? There's Jonathan Bernier vs. James Reimer. There's Phil Kessel in the final year of his current contract. There's the challenge to rebound after an unbelievable exit from the playoffs in 2012-13. Which story stands out? That's up to you, but there are plenty of options to choose from.
Carolina rewarded Alexander Semin's hard work in 2012-13 with a shiny five-year, $35 million contract. Can he possibly live up to that price tag? Yes, but it won't be easy. Semin tallied 44 points in 44 games last season and will need to play at a point-per-game pace in 2013-14 to avoid looking like an expensive bust.
We could spend a few paragraphs on the Columbus Blue Jackets. Aside from the obvious "How will they perform in the East?" question, you could also focus in on the franchise's resurgence, Sergei Bobrovsky's play in net, Nathan Horton's ridiculously huge contract or Marian Gaborik's first full season as a Blue Jacket.
Columbus might be the most interesting team to follow in 2013-14.
Is this Martin Brodeur's final season? The Devils planned for Brodeur's inevitable retirement by trading for Cory Schneider over the summer. They also lost their best offensive weapon (Ilya Kovalchuk) and one of their best workers (David Clarkson). They responded by adopting a "scoring by committee" approach, signing Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, Ryane Clowe and Damien Brunner. Will it be enough to cover their losses?
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
The Islanders were a pleasant surprise last season, making the playoffs after a five-year absence. Can they make it two in a row? The Islanders play on the ice continues to take steps forward, but plenty of attention will be focused on the Barclays Center ahead of the team's move. Will the arena make any changes to its current flawed configuration?
NEW YORK RANGERS
The John Tortorella era in New York is over and the Alain Vigneault era is about to begin. How will history look back on the coaching change?
There's also the little story concerning Henrik Lundqvist's contract, but we probably shouldn't stress out Rangers fans any further.
Vincent Lecavalier is the big addition, but all of the attention will be on Philadelphia's crease. After using an ineffective and sometimes bizarre combination of Ilya Bryzgalov, Steve Mason, Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher, the Flyers will turn to Ray Emery and Steve Mason.
Bold strategy. Let's see if it pays off for them.
It feels kind of cheap telling you to focus on Sidney Crosby given all of the other stories and weapons on the Penguins. However, after Crosby stated his goal for the year is to stay healthy, all eyes are on Crosby to avoid a concussion or another serious injury. Are his injuries truly behind him?
It's all about Alex Ovechkin, but you probably knew that was coming. After silencing his critics last season, Ovechkin needs to have another impressive campaign to continue rebuilding his image as one of the best players in the NHL. If Ovechkin really is back to the form of old, the Capitals could make a serious playoff run.
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