Pre-Training Camp NHL Power Rankings
The NHL Entering Pre-Season
As every NHL team opens up training camp this week, it is official: Hockey is back. Sure it seems like last season just ended, and with there being only 75 days since the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup it pretty much did. But it is September and how could you really disagree with more hockey?
Luckily for the fans the 2013-2014 season will feature a full 82 game schedule instead of the 48 game schedule that was played during the 2012-2013 season because of the lockout. This will mean more games to go to, watch, talk about and generally drive fans around the country crazy.
Not that the league has done anything to not drive the fans crazy since the end of the 2012-2013 season. We have seen a number of changes during the summer ranging from the cataclysmic changes such as the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings moving conferences to the signing of backup goaltender Anton Khudobin by the Carolina Hurricanes and everywhere in between.
Heading into the 2013-2014 season there will also be many organizations trying to prove that the 2012-2013 season was either a fluke or a signal of better things to come. For the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Minnesota Wild the mission will be to return to the playoffs and work toward challenging for the Stanley Cup for the first time in what seems to be an eternity. Likewise, the Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Phoenix Coyotes will be out to prove that missing out on the playoffs last season was more indicative of lockout fatigue than organizational issues by making it back to the playoffs.
We have decided to make some sense of the madness surrounding the 2013 summer dealings and question marks surrounding organizations by forming a power ranking for 30 NHL teams going into the pre-season.
After a 2012-2013 season that saw the Florida Panthers finish with the fewest points in the NHL they can only go up. But with a roster that is going to be extremely young and inexperienced, the Panthers may actually stand still at last in the NHL.
After adding Nathan MacKinnon with the number one pick and picking up Patrick Roy as coach the future looks bright in Denver. Unfortunately the future looks bright and the present looks dreadful. Maybe next year, Avalanche fans.
28.New Jersey Devils
Despite adding Cory Schneider this season is going to be rough for the New Jersey Devils. The team's real issue was scoring last season, and that will only get worse after losing Ilya Kovalchuk to the KHL. The outlook for the 2013-2014 is bleak in Newark.
This season looks like it will be a rebuilding effort in Calgary, especially after Miikka Kiprusoff announced his retirement. On the bright side at least Brian Burke is in town to help turn the ship around.
The Carolina Hurricanes have the potential to be a successful team with a top six forward corps that consists of Jiri Tlusty, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu and Alexander Semin. The only issue is that with questions surrounding Joni Pitkanen's health there may be issues stopping pucks from getting into the net, and the Hurricanes have not proved consistent enough to make the playoffs in recent seasons. Until they prove anyone wrong it is hard to get in Carolina's corner and believe they will be a consistently effective team during the 2013-2014 season.
Much of what happens with the Sabres during the 2013-2014 season centers around how Ryan Miller performs. During the last four seasons his goals against average has skyrocketed from 2.22 to 2.81, a worrying trend that signals a change will need to be made at some point. Unfortunately for Sabres fans their roster surrounding him is not good enough to make a playoff run with a goalie that is any worse than average.
After finishing in 10th place in the Eastern Conference last season and in 11th place during the 2011-2012 season, it is clear that Winnipeg has the potential to make the playoffs. But after finishing on the outside looking in during each of these seasons and making no significant additions during the summer, there is no reason to believe this will be the year they make the playoffs. Expect another narrow miss.
23.Tampa Bay Lightning
Despite finishing with the second fewest points in the NHL last season, this one will surely be much better in Tampa. They have two of the most offensively skilled players in the NHL in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, who will make up for many defensive flaws over the extended 82 game schedule. Expect somewhere in between the 10th place finish in the Eastern Conference during the 2011-2012 season and 14th place finish in the 2012-2013 season.
After finishing in 10th place in the Western Conference last season a shaking up was needed to make the playoffs possible this season for the Dallas Stars. A changing of the guard was given when the team acquired Tyler Seguin, Ryan Button and Rich Peverley, giving up Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith and Joe Morrow in the process. It is hard to predict how this trade will pan out during the 2013-2014 season, but theyare still not a surefire playoff team.
Eventually this Oilers team composed of talented young players is bound to gel together and make a playoff run. After all they do feature Justin Schultz, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, amongst other young talented players. They will definitely be in the running for a playoff spot but are not a favorite to claim a spot until they prove themselves.
After finally figuring out they will be staying in Phoenix during the summer this franchise has stability. Unfortunately they have no game changers and will still be relying on a strict defensive structure to make a run to the playoffs. They may just sneak their way in.
The Philadelphia Flyers have made huge strides during the offseason to make up for a dreadful 2012-2013 season with the acquisition of Mark Streit, Ray Emery and Vincent Lecavalier. They are still not a surefire playoff team but will definitely be fighting for a spot come April.
Last season was a downer for Nashville as Pekka Rinne had an off year. It is hard to see that happening again as he tries to gain a spot on the Finnish Olympic Team in January. The addition of youngster Filip Forsberg for an entire season will also bring some much needed scoring punch. Expect Nashville to finish anywhere from 6-9 in the Western Conference.
17.Toronto Maple Leafs
After watching James Reimer lead the Maple Leafs to the playoffs the team made a somewhat head scratching decision to trade for Jonathan Bernier. How the two goalies co-exist will decide whether or not the Maple Leafs return to the playoffs during the 2013-2014 season.
16.Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets made a push for the playoffs last season but narrowly lost out as they finished ninth in the Western Conference. The addition of Nathan Horton looks to have made the Blue Jackets much stronger, and it is hard to see them not pushing their way into the playoffs during the 2013-2014 season.
Despite finishing in third place in the Western Conference last season, Vancouver is a team on the decline. With the Sedin twins only getting older and the team deciding to keep an unhappy Roberto Luongo in town, this season looks to be the year when this decline becomes evident.
Ottawa made a somewhat stunning run to the playoffs during the 2012-2013 season and will be looking to build upon that during the 2013-2014 season. After losing Daniel Alfredsson and picking up Bobby Ryan this season, the team looks to have added talent but lost leadership. Still, it is hard to see them getting any worse as their young talent develops in 2013-2014.
13.St. Louis Blues
Despite featuring no real superstars the Blues finished in fourth place in the Western Conference last season. That could be a detriment during the extended 2013-2014 season as game changers become more important, but expect Captain David Backes to ensure that St. Louis sees another round of playoff hockey in 2014.
12.New York Islanders
Last season the Islanders sneaked their way into the playoffs and made noise by stealing two games from the Pittsburgh Penguins and nearly forcing a Game 7 during the Conference Quarterfinals. With Captain John Tavares leading a young and talented group expect the 2013-14 season to be another step in the right direction.
11.New York Rangers
Replacing John Tortorella with Alain Vigneault as head coach will have a huge impact for the Rangers. The more level headed approach of Vigneault will be a substantial upgrade as the Rangers have a much better 2013-2014 regular season than they did during 2012-2013.
The first season of the Ryan Suter and Zach Parise went relatively well as they finished in eighth place in the Western Conference. Expect the two to integrate themselves even further into the Wild's systems and have a bigger impact during the 2013-2014 season as the Wild take a big step forward.
After finishing in second place in the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens may have actually gotten better during the summer with the acquisition of Daniel Briere. Young stars Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher will only be getting better as well, making a playoff appearance a sure thing for the Canadiens.
Losing Bobby Ryan during the summer could actually turn out to be a positive move for the Ducks, as he has been a headache in recent seasons. With Teemu Selanne coming back the team's heart and soul will be on the ice, making it likely they will again be towards the top of the Western Conference.
7.San Jose Sharks
Despite not being able to get over the hump in the playoffs there is no arguing that the San Jose Sharks are one of the most consistent teams in the NHL during the regular season after making the playoffs in 14 out of the last 15 seasons. With the same core returning that has led the team in recent seasons, it is hard to see any way that the Sharks don't finish towards the top end of the Western Conference
6.Detroit Red Wings
After extending their streak of playoff appearances to 22 during the 2012-2013 season, it is impossible to bet against Detroit. And with the addition of Daniel Alfredsson during the offseason to a roster that already included Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard, making an argument against this Detroit team is even more difficult. Expect the organization's move to the Eastern Conference to actually benefit them, as they will travel less and be better rested as the season progresses as a result. The streak will progress to 23.
The Washington Capitals will be out to prove that last season's second half tear under first year coach Adam Oates was not an aberration. The only real change they made to the roster was letting Mike Ribeiro go and signing Mikhail Grabovski so continuity will not be a deterrent to maintaining somewhere close to the 15-2-2 tear the team ended the 2012-2013 season on. Expect Alexander Ovechkin to have another big year, in the process both proving that last season was not an aberration and leading the Capitals to another great season.
4.Los Angeles Kings
Los Angeles will again be a team to be reckoned with after returning Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown to a team that advanced to the Conference Finals last season.
Coming into the 2013-2014 season the Boston Bruins will have to prove that trading away Tyler Seguin, Joe Peverley and Ryan Button for Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser was the right move to make. If the move works out how they expect they could jump up to number one on this list but could drop as low as eight or ten throughout the season if the move backfires.
The Pittsburgh Penguins come into the 2013-2014 season off of a disappointing playoff exit in the Conference Semifinals to the Boston Bruins. This exit was largely due to being physically manhandled, and the Penguins tried to address this issue with the signing of Rob Scuderi. Expect them to come out highly motivated, and if Sidney Crosby stays healthy the whole season expect another first place finish in the Eastern Conference during the regular season.
The Chicago Blackhawks are returning a core group that includes Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford that steamrolled its way to a Stanley Cup championship last season. They will be the unanimous number one team in the NHL until someone proves otherwise.