NHL Power Rankings: Buckle up for a new season
Are we overhyping the power of the Atlantic Division headed into this season?
After all the Stanley Cup champs came from the Western Conference, and two of those top Atlantic Division hockey clubs were done after the first round of last spring’s playoffs. But once again this season the Atlantic Division will be top heavy with the Maple Leafs, Lightning and Bruins all expected to be top-5 teams in the NHL.
It will be entertaining once again to see all three teams slug it over the course of the regular season, but there’s a nagging suspicion that this could be the year Toronto really takes off after learning their lessons over the last few seasons with a young group. Regardless it should be more of the same this year with those three power brokers in the Atlantic, old standbys like Washington and Pittsburgh in the Metro and an absolute free-for-all in the Western Conference where anything could happen.
Buckle up, hockey fans. Your season is here.
Now on to the power rankings:
31. Ottawa Senators (29-47-6)
While it’s good news that the Senators have convinced Thomas Chabot to make the investment in Ottawa, that’s a lot of money and term for a player that’s still got a lot to prove at the NHL level. It’s just the Senators being the Senators.
30. Los Angeles Kings (31-42-9)
Is Ilya Kovalchuk still on this team? Yikes, what a bad move that was for a hockey team that needs to embrace the pain and fully rebuild at this point.
29. Detroit Red Wings (32-30-10)
RIP Hockeytown 2016-2020.
28. Edmonton Oilers (35-38-9)
Can Ken Holland finally come in and clean the stench around this Oilers team? Will they ever get it together with a complimentary group around Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? That’s the big question.
27. Buffalo Sabres (33-39-10)
The Sabres looked promising in the first half of last season, and they have enough talent to be the surprise team in the Atlantic Division this season. But we’ll believe it when we see it.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (47-31-4)
Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene are gone, and Gustav Nyquist is the one coming in return? That is not going to get them back to the second round again.
25. Anaheim Ducks (35-37-10)
The Ducks finally moved on from Corey Perry in a franchise-altering transaction, but they are still far too old, slow and behind the times to compete out West.
24. Minnesota Wild (37-36-9)
Bill Guerin is a bright guy and the Wild definitely still have some talent on their roster. But it just feels like they are perpetually stuck in the middle, doesn’t it?
23. New Jersey Devils (31-41-10)
The Devils added Wayne Simmonds on top of PK Subban at NHL Draft weekend on top of their No. 1 overall pick. It sure feels like New Jersey is in store for a big one-season turnaround when things get going for them, but we’ll wait until a few games are played to crown them our “it” team this year.
22. Philadelphia Flyers (37-37-8)
The Flyers could be a big surprise team in the Metro Division based on the play of goaltender Carter Hart along with the young cast of characters. It’s not exactly the Broad Street Bullies anymore, but still some talent here.
21. Winnipeg Jets (47-30-5)
The Jets were already taking some hits going into this season with roster departures and a disappointing playoff last season. Now they’re dealing with the uncertainty of Dustin Byfuglien as well. It feels like things are starting to go bad in the Peg.
20. Chicago Blackhawks (36-34-12)
The Blackhawks are trying to piece together a contender in Chicago, but it’s tough to get over the fact that Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Keith Seabrook are getting long in the tooth.
19. Vancouver Canucks (35-36-11)
Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat, oh my. The Canucks should be fun to watch this season.
18. Arizona Coyotes (39-35-8)
The Phil Kessel “Great American Hero” social media meme is going to lose steam quickly in the desert, but there is quite a talented young core that they’re building in Arizona.
17. Florida Panthers (36-32-14)
Are Sergei Bobrovsky and Joel Quenneville enough to get the Panthers back into the playoffs? Could be.
16. Montreal Canadiens (44-30-8)
The Habs nearly made the playoffs last season, and they should be even better this season with a year of experience for some of their younger players. It all comes down to Carey Price, however, like it always does in Montreal.
15. Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14)
The Avalanche will bring in Nazem Kadri, but they’ve also lost Semyon Varlamov and weren’t able to land the big fish in Artemi Panarin. It feels like they are treading water.
14. New York Rangers (32-36-14)
The rebuild just got fast-forwarded with the addition of Jacob Trouba and Artemi Panarin to the youngsters already coming through the system. Watch out for the Blueshirts.
13. New York Islanders (48-27-7)
Semyon Varlamov could be exactly the kind of goaltender that takes off behind Barry Trotz’s grinding style of defense. The Islanders aren’t going to be terribly exciting, but they will be effective again this year.
12. Calgary Flames (50-25-7)
Can the Flames survive with a high-powered offense and a goaltending tandem of mediocre netminders? Certainly, they’ll be okay during the regular season, but we’ll see what goes down during the playoffs.
11. Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7)
Carolina was the big winner this summer while slapping around the Canadiens when they tried a half-measure offer sheet to sign Sebastian Aho. Now we see if they can build off last season’s success.
10. Dallas Stars (43-32-7)
Could Joe Pavelski be exactly what the Stars needed to get the best out of everybody down there? It could be as the potential is boundless for that team now that they’ve showed up the defense and goaltending.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (44-26-12)
There’s always a chance for the Penguins when Sid the Kid and Geno are still around. And the subtraction of Phil Kessel will be a good thing for Pittsburgh in the long run after getting the best he had to offer.
8. San Jose Sharks (46-27-9)
Let’s see what kind of difference a healthy Erik Karlsson can make for a Sharks team that went deep last season regardless of the injuries. Did they miss their window with a group that’s starting to get a little old? We shall see.
7. Washington Capitals (46-28-8)
Now that the Capitals have slept off their season-long hangover, they should once again be a handful in the Metro Division. They’re skill skilled, strong and mean as all get-out.
6. Nashville Predators (47-29-6)
The Predators should once again be one of the top teams in the West, but they won’t be quite as fun to watch with PK Subban already moving on from Music City. Oh well.
5. Vegas Golden Knights (43-32-7)
A full season with Mark Stone should make a difference in Vegas, and pretty soon they won’t be the new expansion kid on the NHL block anymore either. How about that?
4. Boston Bruins (49-24-9)
On paper the Bruins look like third-best in the stacked Atlantic Division when allowing for Stanley Cup Final fatigue and the undeniable age factor on their roster. But the Bruins always seem to surprise, and this season could see that play out once again.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (62-16-4)
The Lightning are locked, stocked, loaded and should be pissed off after last year’s first round exit. It will be interesting to see what that turns into this season, and this postseason, given their still-awesome talent level.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs (46-28-8)
The Maple Leafs dusted playoff problem child Nazem Kadri and upgraded with Tyson Barrie and veteran Jason Spezza. They also managed to sign Mitch Marner and get under the cap. This could be Toronto’s year as long as Auston Matthews stays out of the back of security guard cars.
1. St. Louis Blues (45-28-9)
My prediction: The Blues aren’t going to stay here for very long. But we’ll give the Stanley Cup champs their due one last time. Besides, that ring delivery to their No. 1 fan Laila was pretty awesome this week.