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Summer Islanders Musings: Has the Atlantic Division Changed Enough?

Players come, players go.
Players come, players go.

Here's a timeless topic for a lazy summer Sunday, one that's erupted in comments around here lately: Given moves this summer, who's improved and who's declined in the Atlantic Division?

The division the Islanders toil in has traditionally been one of the toughest in the league, and last season was no different:

Atlantic 2011-12 Record Pts. Overall Ending
1. Short Island 51-24-7 109 2 Conf. Final
2. Pittsburgh 51-25-6 108 4 1st round
3. Philadelphia 47-26-9 103 6 2nd round
4. New Jersey 48-28-6 102 9 Cup Finals
5. Long Island 34-37-11 79 27 Golf

But have recent roster hits to each of the Isles divisional brothers chipped away at that? Tallying a ledger of the GVT for players who have come and gone makes it look so. But that's just one look, based on contributions from last season. As we know, players rarely repeat their performance from year to year.

The Rangers were taken the distance by Ottawa and Washington before letting the Devils take the bridesmaid role in the Cup finals. They have been quiet so far and will be without Marian Gaborik at the start of the season thanks to surgery. It's not a leg injury, which is good for the speed-dependent Gaborik, but it is a shoulder -- and we've seen how long player's shots can take to recover from that.

The Penguins were absolutely blitzed by Philadelphia in a fantastic display of awful defense and awful goaltending. They have lost Jordan Staal and replaced him with Brandon Sutter, but they also may be looking at a full year of Sidney Crosby. They dumped Zbynek Michalek, but they think they have the young blueliners to fill the void. Tomas Vokoun has been brought in to cover for Marc-Andre Fleury's Fleury moments.

The Flyers blitzed the Penguins, then showed that was their own mini-Cup as they rolled over for the Devils. They've swapped James van Riemsdyk for the very uncertain Luke Schenn.

The Devils made it to the finals of course and then ... eeesh. Zach Parise is gone. The goaltenders are another year older. Bryce Salvador was their big resigning. Could be trouble there.

The Islanders lost one of their top line wingers in P.A. Parenteau and brought in Brad Boyes to refill the top six. Lubomir Visnovsky should improve the defense and power play, while a youngster might step in if they can figure out how to use Matt Carkner without damage. With the youngsters they have up front and on the blueline, it's banking on a lot but at some point more prospects will mature. Their goaltending will need a good year from aging Evgeni Nabokov, a miraculous comeback from Rick DiPietro, or a shining rise by Kevin Poulin or Anders Nilsson. Questions.

So how do you see the new order? Is it enough to change where the Islanders stand?

Mind you, the usual "Dude, it's July." caveats apply.