THW’s Pre-Season NHL Power Rankings

With the NHL set to open on January 19th in arenas around USA and Canada, lets take a close look at how every team stacks up before the first puck is dropped. Also, please check back every Monday this season for updated weekly power rankings around the NHL.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule@Nashville

Breakdown: Entering 2013 with no Rick Nash and first round pick Ryan Murray out up to 6 months, the fans in Columbus should be in for a long season. One bright spot could be a resurgent year from a slimmed down Steve Mason who will be vying to keep his job from former Flyer’s backup Sergei Bobrovsky.

29: New York Islanders (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: New Jersey

Breakdown: I have been fooled far too many times in recent seasons to believe that this is going to be the year that the Islanders “are back”. While talents like John Tavares and Matt Moulson will score enough to keep the Isles in games, playing a tough Atlantic Division with a thin blue line will ultimately lead to another top 5 draft pick for the Islanders this off season.

28. Montreal Canadiens (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: Toronto

Breakdown: A healthy Brian Gionta should give the Canadians a slight boost this season, but the team’s hopes will once again rest with goalie Carey Price. At this point, the Canadians will go as far as Price can take them. After finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference last season, the only way for the Canadians to go is up.

Toronto Maple Leafs logo27. Toronto Maple Leafs (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @Montreal

Breakdown: Firing your GM on the eve of the season is quite a risky move, but the Leafs were clearly in need of some change. The off-season acquisition of James Van Riemsdyk could prove fruitful, but the pressures of playing in Toronto could end up being too much for the young winger. The question also remains if James Reimer can be a legitimate starting goaltender in the NHL as well – If not, the Leafs may have to look to Vancouver to fix their goal tending woes.

26. Calgary Flames (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: San Jose

Breakdown: Although his contract is hefty, the addition of Jiri Hudler as well as rookie Sven Baertschi should help bolster a Flames offense that struggled last year on their way to finishing 24th in the league in goals per game. Talented players like Jarome Iglina and Mikka Kiprusoff should keep the Flames in a lot of games, but won’t be enough to get them to the playoffs.

25. Anaheim Ducks (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @Vancouver

Breakdown: On a team stacked with offensive talents like Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf, the Anaheim Ducks’ offense was possibly the most underachieving in all of the NHL last season. A full year under head coach Bruce Boudreau should help get the Ducks headed in the right direction as they try to get Teemu Selanne to the playoffs one last time.

24. Dallas Stars (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: Phoenix, @Minnesota

Breakdown: While the additions of Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney will give the Stars’ offense a nice boost, one must question how these aging forwards will hold up in a compressed season. Jamie Benn’s contract situation could also be a big distraction for the team as their best player’s future is in limbo. Although the team did address their offensive needs, the Stars did little to improve their sub-par defense and it could come back to haunt them.

jets logo 100 2011 - present23. Winnipeg Jets (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: Ottawa

Breakdown: After receiving their own NHL team once again, the fans in Winnipeg repaid the Jets by giving them one of the best crowds in the league as well as one of the top home-ice advantages. A talented forward group led by Evander Kane will keep the Jets in a lot of games this season through creative scoring. However, another year of rigorous travel in a much improved Southeast Division should keep the Jets from making the playoffs once again.

22. Buffalo Sabres (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: Philadelphia

Breakdown: Although they made a strong push toward the playoffs last season, the Buffalo Sabres once again missed out on post season play. The Sabres did little in the off season to help their squad and once again will be filled with overpaid underachievers next season. Unless players like Ville Leino and Christian Ehroff can have bounce back seasons, Ryan Miller could be the only thing keeping the Sabres’ playoff hopes alive.

21. Phoenix Coyotes (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

Last Week’s Schedule: @Dallas, Chicago

Breakdown: After making the playoffs three years in a row, I expect that the Coyotes will fall back to earth this season playing in an improved Pacific Division. While the return of Shane Doan will help the club both on and off the ice, divisional games against the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings could send the Coyotes tumbling down the standings. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson could have a coming out year after impressing in the playoffs last season, and goalie Mike Smith will have to prove that his astounding year wasn’t just a fluke.

20. Ottawa Senators (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @Winnipeg

Breakdown: After surprising the league last season and impressing both during the regular season and playoffs, the Ottawa Senators will look to make another improbable run to the post season in what looks to be Daniel Alfredsson’s last year in the NHL. The offensive abilities of Alfredsson, Spezza, Silfverberg and Karlsson should give opposing teams fits through the year. The Senators biggest question mark will be the tandem of Craig Anderson and Ben Bishop in net. While both are capable NHL goalies, playing behind a sup par defense could prove to be far too difficult for non-elite goalies to overcome.

19. New Jersey Devils (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @New York (Islanders)

Breakdown: After reaching the Stanley Cup Finals last season, I expect the New Jersey Devils to have a rough start to their 2013 NHL as they begin life after Zach Parise. While Adam Henrique and Ilya Kovalchuk’s offensive abilities should keep the Devils in some games, I expect them to crash and burn while playing in an extremely loaded Atlantic Division. Five games each against the Rangers, Penguins and Flyers will be a big obstacle for the Devils to overcome this year. Also, although he has yet to struggle too much, the 40 year-old Martin Brodeur will eventually have to show his age.

18. Florida Panthers (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: Carolina

Breakdown: Even though they backed into the playoffs last season, the Panthers’ rebuilding process was ahead of schedule when they took home the Southeast Division title and forced the New Jersey Devils to 7 games in the playoffs last year. Players like Peter Mueller and Jonathan Huberdeau will help bolster a Panthers’ offense that struggled often last season and defenseman Brian Campbell should continue to excel while “quarter backing” the Panthers’ power play. This season the Panthers will have to prove that their previous success was not a flash in the pan.

Edmonton_Oilers_Logo1.jpg17. Edmonton Oilers (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @Vancouver

Breakdown: Another bad season and another number one over all pick led the Oilers to selecting Russian scoring sensations Nail Yakupov in last years entry draft. The offensive abilities of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Yakupov should give the Oilers one of the better offensive units in the NHL. However, a thin blue line and questionable goal tending should have the Oilers attempting to dig themselves out of a hole in a lot of games this year. Expect Edmonton to be much improved from last year, but still fall just short of the playoffs once again. One silver lining for Oilers’ fans is that even if the team does finish 9th in the west, with the new draft lottery system in place, the team will still have a shot to keep their streak of number one overall picks alive!

16. Washington Capitals (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @Tampa Bay

Breakdown: Coming off a good playoff performance last summer, the Washington Capitals will look to keep their momentum going heading into their first season under new coach Adam Oates. One of the brightest spots for the Capitals this season will be to see how well goalie Braden Holtby plays after he shined so brightly during last year’s playoffs. Alex Ovechkin will need to return to his old form if the Capitals hope to win the Southeast Division and news that star center Nicklas Backstrom is no longer suffering from concussion like symptoms should breath new life into the Capitals franchise and fan base.

15. Tampa Bay Lightning (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: Washington

Breakdown: Even though Steven Stamkos turned heads around the league as he sniped and shelved his way to 60 goals last season, the Lightning were still unable to reach the playoffs. The Lightning’s key faults were both addressed this off season when the team signed former Flyer’s defenseman Matt Carle and former Predator’s backup goalie Anders Lindback to improve on their abysmal defense and goal tending situation that plagued the team throughout last season. Even though Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier are both one year older, a new young core of talented scorers led by Cory Conacher and Tyler Johnson should give Steven Stamkos enough help to get the Lightning back to the playoffs this season.

14. Nashville Predators (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: Columbus

Breakdown: The departure of Ryan Suter to Minnesota will surely be felt this season in Nashville as the Predators look to gather themselves after taking a big hit this off season. Luckily for the team, they still have perennial Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber and potential Vezina Tophy candidate Pekka Rinne on the squad. The combined efforts of Weber and Rinne should hold most opponents offenses at bay throughout the season inevitably be the driving force behind their playoff push this season. Just like last year, Predator scorers like Mike Fisher and David Legwand will have to find a way to put the puck in the net, or an early playoff exit could be in their future.

13. Colorado Avalanche (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @Minnesota

Breakdown:Led by Matt Duchene and Calder Trophy winner Gabriel Landeskog, the Colorado Avalanche bolster one of the best group of young offensive talent in the NHL. While the Avalanche faded near the end of the season and missed out on a playoff berth, another year for a young team can do wonders and I expect the Avalanche to come out improved and with a chip on their shoulder. Erik Johnson will have to carry the bulk of the load for the Avalanche on defense, but if he can make life easy on goalie Semyon Varlamov I expect the Avalanche to make a run in the playoffs this season.

12. San Jose Sharks (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @Calgary

Breakdown: While forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are being bothered by the words “past their prime”, the San Jose Sharks will look to make one last run at a Pacific Division that they used to dominate. Skaters like Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture will need big offensive years in addition to Marleau and Thornton playing up to their abilities. Goalie Anti Niemi will also need to show the league that he can still be a top goaltender now a few years after his Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.

hurricanes logo 1997 - present11. Carolina Hurricanes (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @Florida

Breakdown: The Hurricanes made a splash this off season when they acquired Penguins’ forward Jordan Staal in a draft day blockbuster trade. Along with the Staal brothers, players like Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner will help make the Hurricane’s a top offensive team in the NHL this season. If the team is able to stay afloat until Tuomo Ruutu’s return from injury, expect them to make a run at the Southeast Division crown this year. Playing behind an improved team, look for former top tier goalie Cam Ward to have a bounce back year.

10. Chicago Blackhawks (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @Los Angeles, @Phoenix

Breakdown: A few seasons removed from their Stanley Cup victory, the Blackhawks will look to make another run at the title this year if they can keep the puck out of their own net. The leadership and playmaking ability of Jonathan Toews as well as the scoring capability of Patrick Kane should help the Blackhawks run a smooth and fast offense this season. The main question will be whether or not defenders other than Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will be able to help Cory Crawford who is coming off an awful season in goal.

9. Philadelphia Flyers (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: Pittsburgh, @Buffalo

Breakdown: Already blessed with a stellar offense even with the loss of Jaromir Jagr this off season, the main sticking point for  the Flyers this year will be whether or not goalie Ilya Bryzgalov can fix whatever went wrong with him last season. Scorers like Matt Read, Brayden Schenn, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds will help the Flyers maintain the uptempo offense that carried them last season and the acquisition of Luke Schenn should help a thin Flyers defense. If Bryzgalov can get back to who he was in Phoenix, or if the Flyers can find a steady goalie elsewhere, look for them to be a big threat in the Eastern Conference.

8. St. Louis Blues (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: Detroit

Breakdown: Much like last season, the St. Louis Blues will once again be carried by the two headed goal tending monster that is Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot. Sharing time last season, this elite goalie tandem was helped the Blues make the playoffs after a terrible start to begin the season. If players like David Perron, TJ Oshie and David Backes can get their offense going, the Blues could be a favorite in the Western Conference. Even if they can’t get their offense to reach its full potential, their goalies should be enough to get them to at least the first round of the playoffs.

7. Minnesota Wild (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: Colorado, Dallas

Breakdown:The Minnesota Wild were clearly the most talked about team this off season around the NHL as they signed both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to major contracts in hopes of finally getting their team to the promise land. Along with all-stars like Parise and Suter, the Wild also boast a strong offense core consisting of players like Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi and rookie sensation Mikael Granlund. The Wild will play this season carrying a major burden of heavy expectations and how they respond to such pressure will determine whether or not the succeed this year. Though their chemistry may be a bit off to star the season, I expect the Wild to right the ship mid-season and make a strong push for the playoffs.

6. Detroit Red Wings (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @St. Louis

Breakdown:  In their first season without former captain Nicklas Lidstrom since the 1991-1992 season, I don’t expect the Detroit Red Wings to miss a beat as they are once again a power in the Western Conference. Like a well oiled machine, the Detroit Red Wings are already set to continue their lives post-Lidstrom with young talent like stud defenseman Brendan Smith and stellar forward prospect Gustav Nyquist. While the departures of Lidstrom, Holmstrom and Hudler will have some impact on the Red Wings, I wouldn’t expect too big a drop off and I still consider them a safe bet to make the playoffs.

5. Boston Bruins (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: New York (Rangers)

Breakdown: As Tim Tomas makes his exit from Boston, the Bruins are lucky to have talented goalie Tuukka Rask waiting to take over for t he team between the pipes. Throughout the season, Rask will have the benefit of playing behind an elite defense led by former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara. The addition of a finally healthy Nathan Horton and another year of experience for Tyler Seguin should help the Bruins’ offense be formidable in a tough Northeast Division.

4. Los Angeles Kings (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: Chicago

Breakdown: With the good news that star center Anze Kopitar will only be out 2-3 weeks with a knee injury, the Kings organization is breathing a sigh of relief as they look to defend their Stanley Cup Championship. The Kings shocked the world last season when they ended up winning the Stanley Cup as an 8th seed in the Western Conference behind the play of their elite goalie, Jonathan Quick. Talented scorers like Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown should light the lamp often in SoCal this season and goalie Jonathan Quick will keep opponents scoring low as he makes a run at the Vezina Trophy this season.

3. Vancouver Canucks (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: Anaheim, Edmonton

Breakdown: With the Sedin twins at the helm, the Vancouver Canucks will always be a threat to win the Stanley Cup even after falling short in recent years. Along with the Sedin twins, the return of Ryan Kesler from injury (reportedly at some point this season) should help propel the Canucks back to their President’s Trophy form. With Cory Schnieder playing well in net, I don’t expect the Roberto Luongo situation to be any kind of distract to a veteran club like Vancouver, especially with their solid leadership.

2. New York Rangers (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @Boston, Pittsburgh

Breakdown: After falling short of expectations last season, the New York Rangers will be back this season, reloaded and focused. The Rangers’ first line of Brad Richards, Marion Gaborik, and Rick Nash could end up being the top scoring line in the NHL this season – which will greatly benefit a Rangers squad that forgot how to score near the end of last season. Returning in net they have last seasons Vezina Trophy winner in Henrik Lundqvist who could easily make a run at some more hardware this season. While the Atlantic Division will be a dogfight this season, I fully expect the Rangers to come out on top.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (0-0-0)

Last Week’s Ranking: N/A

This Week’s Schedule: @Philadelphia, @New York (Rangers)

Breakdown: With Sidney Crosby finally back to full health after multiple concussion related setbacks, the Pittsburgh Penguins will look to make a run at the Stanley Cup Finals once again. If the addition of Crosby wasn’t enough, the Penguins also bring back last year’s Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin and 40 goal scorer James Neal. However, the Penguins can’t win it all just with their offense and will need goalie Marc Andre-Fleury and defenseman Kris Letang to both have stellar seasons in order for the Penguins to recapture glory.

 

For NHL coverage of the Florida Panthers or to yell at him for underrating your team in these power rankings, please follow Jameson on Twitter @coopdaloop123

Jameson Cooper

Jameson Cooper

An English major with a passion for pucks, Jameson has been a credentialed media member covering the Florida Panthers for Panther Parkway since the 2012-2013 season. Although his focus rests mainly with Panther Parkway, Jameson still contributes occasionally to the Sunbelt Hockey Journal. Through player interviews and discussions it's his goal to help bring players closer to their fans through interesting stories and personal pieces. With a unique brand of humor and insight, Jameson looks to provide hockey fans with articles that not only entertain, but also educate.
Jameson Cooper
Jameson Cooper

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