Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Who's on top entering 2015-16 season?

toewskanecele.png

NHL Power Rankings: Who's on top entering 2015-16 season?

The biggest challenge about putting together preseason NHL Power Rankings is separating where you believe teams stand entering the season as opposed to where you believe they'll finish.

Let's give it a crack anyways.
 
Check in with CSNChicago.com for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015-16 campaign.

 

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1   -

Three Stanley Cups in six years, it's only fair the defending champions claim the No. 1 spot entering the year despite an offseason roster makeover.

2   -

The Lightning should be the favorites to win this year's Stanley Cup, returning with virtually the same roster. The big question is, will Steven Stamkos' contract talks — or lack thereof — be a distraction and get in the way of another deep postseason run?

3   -

With the additions of Carl Hagelin (speed), Kevin Bieksa (toughness), Chris Stewart (depth) and Shawn Horcoff (leadership), this is by far Bruce Boudreau's best team, on paper, in Anaheim. Time to put it together.

4   -

The Capitals may feel the loss of Mike Green on the blue line more than they think, but Vezina Trophy candidate Braden Holtby should help ease the pain. The acquisition of T.J. Oshie relieves some offensive pressure off Alex Ovechkin, while Justin Williams, aka Mr. Game 7, gives Washington a big-time player in big-time moments.

5   -

Sidney Crosby finally gets the right-winger he's never had in Phil Kessel, who may surpass 40 goals for the first time in his career. The issue for the Penguins isn't on the ice; it's staying there. They're healthy ... right now.

6   -

It's been a whirlwind offseason for the Kings, but a recharged and hungry group after missing the postseason following three deep playoff runs — which included two Stanley Cups — and the additional spark of Milan Lucic makes Los Angeles as dangerous a team in the West as any.

7   -

The Blues have nothing left to prove in the regular season, and everything to prove in the postseason. Which is why the acquisition of Troy Brouwer was a sneaky good trade. 

8   -

Coach Jim Blashill gives the Red Wings a much-needed breath of fresh air behind the bench. Durability (and goaltending) might be their biggest issue, but unlike last year, depth isn't a problem. If — and it's a big if — they can stay healthy, Detroit can hang with anyone.

9   -

The Rangers won't be in the mix for the President's Trophy this season after losing some scoring depth up front, but their defense and goaltending is still great enough to make them a contender in the East.

10   -

The Canadiens sneak in at No. 10, simply because Carey Price is that good, but he can only take his team — that struggles to score — so far. At 31, can Alexander Semin resemble that 40-goal scorer he once was in Washington? They need him to be.

11   -

Four-time 30-goal scorer Patrick Sharp joins a Stars offense that scored the second-most goals last year, and gets a healthy Valeri Nichushkin back. With that fire power on offense, Dallas' defense just needs to be average and they'll be a playoff team.

12   -

The Blue Jackets began last season with a 6-15-2 record and lost a league-high 508 man-games due to injuries yet still were within reaching distance of a playoff berth during the final weeks. The question isn't if they'll make the playoffs, it's if they can win their first round in franchise history.

13   -

The Islanders are a team that's ready to take the next step, but they didn't do much in the offseason to help. Can Jack Capuano lead them there? Retaining him during an offseason that saw Mike Babcock, Dan Bylsma and Todd McClellan on the market was bold. 

14   -

The Sharks may have something left in the tank before they officially enter rebuild mode. A new voice under coach Peter DeBoer, a nice top-six addition in Joel Ward, a reliable top-four veteran defenseman in Paul Martin and potential sleeper Martin Jones in net could make San Jose a surprise team in the Pacific Division.

15   -

The Flames were bound to take a step back after defying analytics last year, until GM Brad Treliving prevented that from happening with the acquisition of rising star Dougie Hamilton and reliable penalty killer Michael Frolik.

16   -

The Predators rival the Rangers for best defensive unit, but Nashville relied too heavily on rookie Filip Forsberg to score goals and it did nothing to address that in the offseason. Defense wins championships, but you have to put the puck in the net as well, especially in the Central Division.

17   -

Nobody knows exactly what the Bruins' plan was this offseason. The loss of Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton will certainly hurt, leaving 38-year-old Zdeno Chara as the sole anchor of the blue line. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask should (barely) keep them above water.

18   -

The Panthers are filled with youngsters ready to explode, led by 19-year-old defenseman Aaron Ekblad. If it all comes together at the same time, watch out. But there may be more growing pains.

19   -

Don't expect to see the same Devan Dubnyk that dominated the second half of last year, but also don't expect the guy who suffered a meltdown in the second round to the Blackhawks. The Wild lived and died by Dubnyk last season, and it may be more of the same this year. They go as he goes.

20   -

After a rough start, rookies Mark Stone and goaltender Andrew Hammond spearheaded the Senators into a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season after finishing the season on a remarkable 23-4-4 run. Can they replicate that?

21   -

The Jets are fighting an uphill battle in the NHL's toughest division that got even better. Ondrej Pavelec must respond to his career year last season with an even better one if Winnipeg has a shot at returning to the playoffs.

22   - The Avalanche were a terrible puck-possession team last season. A bounce back year from Nathan MacKinnon and puck-moving defenseman Francois Beauchemin should improve those numbers, but will it be enough to catapult Colorado back to relevancy?
23   -

Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be enough to keep the Canucks from hitting the basement. That's about it.

24   -

Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek will again lead the team in scoring, but it won't matter as the Flyers have too many questions with few answers.

25   -

Finally, the Oilers bring in a No. 1 overall pick to a healthy environment under new leadership in GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Todd McClellan. Connor McDavid will change life in Edmonton.

26   -

There are still many holes on this roster that will take time to fill, but the foundation is set: Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly up the middle with Dan Bylsma at the helm is the right place to start.

27   -

The Hurricanes' roster is about as thin as it gets, and it may get even thinner after selling at the trade deadline, which could include captain Erik Staal, who's in a contract year. When it's all said and done, the Hurricanes may be the favorites to land the No. 1 overall pick.

28   -

Mike Babcock is the perfect man for this job, and his presence could accelerate the Maple Leafs' rebuild. But their roster is still at least two years away from playoff contention.

29   -

The only thing preventing the Devils from sinking is Cory Schneider.

30   -

Oliver Ekman-Larsson will have another Norris Trophy-type season, but nobody will notice.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.

Dagger...

Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.