This is a team which at best will finish around the 7 - 8 spot
I like you, frank, but I just can't get behind this. You're saying that at our best - which, as 2013 showed, is really quite good - we barely squeak into the playoffs in the weak East, and, to me, that's giving the conference way too much credit. I get that there's this narrative that we're barely clinging to life and THIS is the season that the playoff streak comes to an end, but I think it's largely just that - a narrative. Had we added Datsyuk in free agency, people would be saying, "Holy s***, Zetterberg and Datsyuk?! And they've got all these young studs like Nyquist?! This team's gonna be GREAT!" In fact, going into last season, a lot of the "experts" had us down for second or third in the Atlantic. Did we learn this past season that the conference is super-tough? No, we got destroyed by stupid-ass injuries - and, even then, we still made the playoffs.
The Bruins are an elite contender. They're a team built to win the Cup, and I'm not sure we stand a chance against them in the playoffs even with a healthy roster. But the Bruins are the only powerhouse in the Eastern Conference. Behind them are the Penguins, who feasted on a terrible division and didn't seem like world-beaters any of the times we played them; maybe the Rangers, who were lucky to make it to the Finals and are probably a weaker team this season (losing Pouliot and Boyle and Stralman is a big blow for them and they know it); maybe the Canadiens, who were terrible for stretches this past season and are, I think, entirely dependent on their goalie (look at their roster. Tell me, with a straight face, that they're much deeper and much more formidable than us); maybe the Lightning, who are setting themselves up for great success in the future but aren't there yet and very likely overachieved this past season because Bishop played out of his mind (remember: they lost him for the first round and the Habs streamrolled them); and I'm not even going to mention the Flyers or Capitals or Leafs or Senators or Devils or Hurricanes.
I believe the East is wide, wide open. I don't believe the Wings are truly a fringe team.
Think of all the points we pissed away. We get a few of those back, and we're not an 8th seed.
I can't imagine we don't substantially improve on this past season.