Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Let the trades begin
The arms race has begun across the NHL. The Maple Leafs got in early with their trade for defenseman Jake Muzzin, a proven winner with the Kings who provides size, experience and a bit of the grit Toronto’s back end has been lacking. Will it work out for the Leafs in the end?
Only time will tell, but there is something to be said for GM Kyle Dubas beating the rest of the NHL to the treasure trove of available players at the deadline. They had some ground to make up if they wanted to catch up to the seemingly unbeatable Tampa Bay Lightning in terms of talent in their own division. The Leafs made up for some of that earlier this week. Now, we sit back and see how it unfolds for the rest of the prospective buyers across the league.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (37-10-2)
The leading candidate for the Presidents' Trophy and an NHL-best plus-59 goal differential really tell the tale for how dominant the Bolts are. They are the class of the Eastern Conference and it’s not even really that close.
2. Calgary Flames (33-13-5)
Johnny Gaudreau is the confirmed NHL All-Star Puck Control champion with wins in back-to-back seasons and he’s taken his game to an explosive new level this season.
3. Winnipeg Jets (32-16-2)
The Jets have size, strength, depth and they have a pretty darn good goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck. One of these years it’s going to be their turn to ascend to Stanley Cup champion. Maybe this is it.
4. New York Islanders (29-15-5)
Who could have guessed that the Isles would have this kind of success after waving bye-bye to John Tavares? Well, maybe Lou Lamoriello saw it coming.
5. San Jose Sharks (29-16-7)
The Sharks got off to a slow start, but the talent is finally rising to the top in San Jose. It’s what was envisioned back when Erik Karlsson came on board this summer.
6. Nashville Predators (30-18-4)
The second-ranked Predators defense has kept them near the top through the first half of the season and they should stay there throughout. The Preds again looked locked and loaded for a long playoff run.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (30-17-2)
The Leafs have played second fiddle to Tampa Bay all season, but now they have added D-man Jake Muzzin to the mix. Could he be the missing piece in Toronto?
8. Vegas Golden Knights (29-19-4)
The Golden Knights are back near the top of the West after a slow start, but it feels like some of the magic is gone from last year’s Cinderella season.
9. Montreal Canadiens (28-18-5)
The Habs have been a real surprise hanging around a playoff spot in the East. Credit Claude Julien for coaching them up and Carey Price for shutting other teams down.
10. Boston Bruins (27-17-6)
The Bruins battled valiantly through all kinds of adversity in the first half of the season. Now it seems like they can’t get on a roll with their full healthy lineup.
11. Washington Capitals (27-17-6)
The Washington Capitals have absolutely faced challenges with the Stanley Cup hangover. The current seven-game losing streak is just the latest example of that.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets (28-18-3)
The Blue Jackets are still in the thick of a playoff hunt, but it feels like Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin are not quite on board with everything in Columbus. How long can they sustain that?
13. Pittsburgh Penguins (26-17-6)
Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are putting up points per usual, but they’re also a combined minus-35 this season. Pittsburgh, I think we have a problem.
14. Minnesota Wild (26-21-3)
A perfectly fine regular season for a perfectly fine Minnesota team. It’s all fine and good in Minny, but it’s also not great either.
15. Buffalo Sabres (25-18-6)
The Sabres are a couple of points out of a playoff spot, but it’s going to be fascinating to see this young team in the thick of a playoff race for the first time.
16. Carolina Hurricanes (24-20-6)
What a season for Sebastian Aho with 22 goals and 57 points in 50 games. Too bad there aren’t more of the Hurricanes able to do it just like Aho.
17. Dallas Stars (24-21-4)
Are the Stars ever going to truly get through to Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn? It sure seems as if there’s some buyer’s remorse about that massive Seguin extension at this point.
18. Colorado Avalanche (22-20-8)
The Avs have arguably the best line in the NHL with Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, but it’s not a lock it will translate into the playoffs.
19. Vancouver Canucks (23-22-6)
Some pretty exciting things with Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson making a playoff push in Vancouver. You’ve got to like what Jim Benning is slowly, surely building out there.
20. Arizona Coyotes (23-23-4)
The Coyotes are battling to stay close to the pack in the West, but that 9-12-3 record on home ice is pretty meh.
21. Anaheim Ducks (21-21-9)
The Ducks are ranked second-to-last in the NHL in offense with 2.29 goals per game. They could use an offensive boost, but it’s more likely they’ll just find themselves as sellers at the deadline.
22. New York Rangers (21-21-7)
The Rangers are on the rebuild, but it looks like they’re going to be a year or two away with their young prospects. Watch out for them in about 2021.
23. Florida Panthers (20-20-8)
The Panthers have won three in a row to get back to even, but they’re going to have a long road ahead of them if they still want a playoff spot.
24. St. Louis Blues (22-22-5)
The Blues have gone 6-3-1 in their past 10 and they’re showing signs of life. Perhaps it was the wakeup call they needed after hearing some of their players might get traded soon.
25. Edmonton Oilers (23-24-3)
The Oil finally cleared out Peter Chiarelli as the GM, but they are going to be saddled with some bad contracts for a while in the aftermath. There’s a mess here that needs to be cleaned up.
26. Philadelphia Flyers (21-23-6)
The Flyers have won five games in a row and it looks like they might have found a young goaltender in Carter Hart. Perhaps this is the start of something big in Philly?
27. Detroit Red Wings (19-25-7)
The Wings have a losing record at home and a losing record on the road as well. I guess that’s some form of consistency, isn’t it?
28. New Jersey Devils (19-23-7)
The Devils were last year’s Cinderella darlings with Taylor Hall as the Hart Trophy-winning center of it all. This season Hall isn’t even the leading scorer on a Devils team going nowhere.
29. Chicago Blackhawks (18-24-9)
It’s stunning to see the Blackhawks struggling at the bottom of the Central Division with proven winners Toews, Kane, Keith and others. But that’s where they’re at these days.
30. Los Angeles Kings (20-26-4)
The Kings look old, slow and well past their days of competing for Stanley Cups. As with the Blackhawks, L.A. is now paying for past glory days.
31. Ottawa Senators (19-26-5)
The Senators staved off the losses for a while, but it feels inevitable that Ottawa was going to be destined for the bottom after all of the drama over the last year. Drama does not equal winning in the NHL.