The South East division has been the worst in the NHL for quite awhile now. While Carolina did luck into winning the cup a few years ago, the division as a whole is very week, and given that there will be less divisional games this regular season it is unlikely that more than one team gets to the playoffs from the southeast, and guaranteed no more than two.
#1 Washington Capitals
The Capitals, who were good last season, and almost won their playoff series have returned with the core of their team intact. They still have the league's best player in Alexander Ovechkin, and a very solid supporting cast with Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, and Sergei Fedorov. The Capitals real problem is in goal, where they forced out Olaf Kolzig, and then lost replacement Cristobal Huet to free agency. They now have veteran Jose Theodore, but he is no longer one of the leagues top goalies.
#2 Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina has a strong team, but has almost no standout players. The one exception is Rod Brind'Amour, but he can't carry the team on his own, and needs more of a supporting cast. Carolina finished just outside of the playoffs last season, and will likely finish just outside again this year.
#3 Tampa Bay Lighting
Tampa has some very talented players, but for a while now has been a very dysfunctional club. Lecavalier and St. Louis are as good as ever, but have no help from their other lines. Rookie Steve Stamkos will do ok, and my even have a shot at winning rookie of the year, but won't do enough to help this team.
#4 Florida Panthers
Not much to say about this team. They have the supporting cast that Carolina and Tampa Bay need, but without the leaders and top of the line players to push them over the edge. Tomas Vokoun is still a bit of a question mark as far as goaltending goes as well.
#5 Atlanta Thrashers
Will be battling with the LA Kings for the top spot in the draft. The team has Ilya Kovalchuk but very few other players. Second year defenseman Tobias Enstrom is really the best that they have on the blueline. The only chance this team has for staying out of the basement is if goalie Johan Hedberg can get lucky and steal some games for them.
See also the review of the Central division