A day late, and really I should have done this on Saturday. Don’t worry, I feel all the shame. We’re still at a point in the season where it’s difficult to tell who is what. So I did tiering this time around and basically you can put the teams in each tier in any order you please and I wouldn’t really argue with you.
My power rankings are done by me ranking the teams I like best to win the Cup at this point in the season. 31st is the furthest away from winning, and 1st is my Cup favourite. And I have a lot of writing to do so I won’t take anymore time dicking around with an opening and let’s get right to it!
31. Detroit – They’ve been a lot better since last month, but I still just see bottom five with Jack Hughes are very real possibility. That sounds like a bad thing, but it really isn’t. Some will see this ranking and be pissed at me because they’re record isn’t near this, but it’s how I feel.
30. Chicago – It’s really bleak there right now. I said it before the season began and will say it again: Duncan Keith is a prime candidate to be dealt. I really don’t get caught up in the trade rumour mill anymore, the only people you need to listen to on that front are McKenzie and Friedman, so I have no idea if that’s out there (though I’m sure it is). But I’d bet good money Keith is on the move by the deadline.
29. Ottawa – I saw how they could be competitive this season, and they are. They’re not a disgrace on the ice like most believed they’d be and it seems from a far like they have a great room. But they’re still pretty bad.
28. Vancouver – A massive tumble back down my personal rankings, but I really hope Canucks fans aren’t discouraged by another hot start, fizzle out type of season because this organization is getting loaded with talent. Imagine simply adding a guy like Bowen Byram to Quinn Hughes and of course what they already have up front in Pettersson, Horvat and Boeser. This thing might be painful, but it’s on the right track and just a season or two away from popping.
27. St. Louis – Craig Berube isn’t fixing shit, I’m sorry. They’re a lot like the Kings, and we’re also seeing the impact Hitchock had on this team. Pre Hitch, they were awful. Post Hitch, it’s been a steady decline. Big changes are needed to the roster moving forward, but they do have a tremendous system to soften that blow.
26. Los Angeles – You know, they’re looking a lot better and now have Jonathan Quick back. Kopitar, Doughty, Quick. When those three are going good, even with how slow and old they are they’ll have a chance. I know they’re last right now, but watching them lately I just feel as though with Quick back and healthy they’ll move back to respectability.
25. Philadelphia – You fired Ron Hextall?! So the GM who finally had your organization on the right track got axed? Ooooooook. Philly has a lot of the same problems the Oilers do in that as long as certain people are still around the organization, they’ll just never get it right. Chuck Fletcher is now the new GM, and apparently/allegedly he was just a puppet for Craig Leipold in Minny so I can’t imagine why the Flyers brass wanted HIM so bad….
24. New Jersey – Yep. I just didn’t buy what was going on here and now we’re seeing that without goaltenders standing on their skull that they just aren’t that good of a team. Everything went perfect last season and all that happened was they snuck into the final playoff spot in the East. If I’m Taylor Hall, I’m not signing long term with this squad barring winning Jack Hughes. Too many holes and not a lot in the system to get excited about.
Might Make Playoffs, Probably Won’t
23. NY Rangers – I’m not buying what they’re selling. They had a hot streak to get above .500, and actually I had them being a surprise team this season, but the fact is they’re still probably going to sell some good pieces barring an insane run.
22. NY Islanders – Here they come back down to earth. You knew it couldn’t last. They’re so on the right path though and really even though they’ve had the puck bounce their way a lot this season, it’s not going to hurt anything. They have great pieces in place with Barzal, Trotz behind the bench, Lamoriello at the controls. Another thing with the Isles: underrated talent on the way.
21. Montreal – I feel as though they’re built a lot like Jersey, but while I have the Habs in this 20-25 range, they have Carey Price who can get as hot in net as both Keith Kinkaid and Cory Schneider were last season. Unlikely they’re more than just a competitive non-playoff team, but I said it before the season that if they make it then it’ll be Price who gets them there. They’ve fallen of late, but he hasn’t played to his potential yet either.
In the Race
***DISCLAIMER: You see three Pacific teams right off the bat in this tier, they aren’t in my opinion any better than the last three teams I listed, but the Pacific is the worst division in the league so their path to the playoffs/Cup isn’t near as difficult.
20. Arizona – I’m just not much of a believer. I know what their goal differential is, and then I look at the reason for it and it’s just because they’re basically massive front runners. Aiden Hill is giving them amazing goaltending?! And I know I say that as an Oilers fan who have Koskinen running just as hot, but at least Koskinen has a track record! (even if it’s a KHL/IIHF track record) Credit where it’s due, but I just haven’t bought what they’ve sold all season and continue to take that stance until I see what a lot of other people seem to. They’re like 3/4 of the league: if they’re goaltender is ridiculously good then they can win.
19. Vegas – Tough to judge this team. On one hand, I don’t buy their recent success to get them back in the hunt. On the other hand, I didn’t buy it for 102 games last season and they proved me wrong. So here with the Coyotes and the next team, I think you could put these three in any order you want. Problem is that none of the three can get higher than 4th in the Pacific right now and they might need to get to 3rd to make the playoffs.
18. Edmonton – I know I got them ahead of certain teams you can make an argument for to be ahead of them, but the reality is teams from about 22-15 are pretty even in my mind. Last time around I really don’t think I overrated them! You looked at what the record was at the time and who they had gone through to get there and it seemed very legit! But man, what a horrible month where they gave it all back. Still, they’ve gone through the worst part of their season, they’re around .500, Oilers fans think they’re done but I don’t believe they realize how big that start to the season was. Hitch taking over behind the bench and Koskinen playing great between the pipes has bought Peter Chiarelli some time, but now he has to make the necessary moves to help get them over the hump and into the playoffs.
17. Carolina – I’m intrigued to see what they might do now that the Willie Nylander saga is done, because as you know they were basically considered the top contender for him. Justin Faulk now in play? What about their goaltending? Will they roll with Mrazek and McElhinney or look to get someone more trustworthy? An interesting team to watch…off the ice…not so much on it, unless they’re doing that stupid yet awesome celebration after home wins.
16. Florida – I still can’t give up on them, but they’re running out of time too. I was right that once Luongo returned they got it going, but then they fell off a bit and now Luongo has been hurt again, though he was starting to shit the bed before the injury, have to wonder if the knee was bugging him before he officially went down? If they get the goaltending, they can still make a real good run, same as 3/4 of the league though.
Playoff Teams who are No Cup Threat
15. Dallas – I’m not too worried about what they’ve been lately because they’ve been hammered by injuries. Staying in the hunt despite that. With Jason Spezza going how he is, this is a playoff team.
14. Minnesota – Bruce Boudreau baby! This team should be falling off, and yet they’re as good as anyone in the regular season. Why? Bruce FUCKING Boudreau. His teams never underachieve, and rarely don’t overachieve.
13. Calgary – They’re scorching hot since the 3rd period of the game against the Oilers a couple weeks ago. Everyone will tell you it’s the new blood in the room or it’s the added depth, and it’s neither of those things. It’s David Rittich stepping up and becoming their number one goaltender. And this team as much as any team in the league gets a boost when they trust their goaltending. Maybe a little more so for whatever reason.
12. Colorado – Is there a more underrated goaltender in the league than Semyon Varlamov? The guy has three seasons with a Sv% of .920 or better (min. 50 GP) and is well on his way to a fourth right now with it at .930. The first line gets all the love, but the reason they’re fighting for first in the league is the play of Varlamov.
11. Columbus – Bobrovsky has got right and so have the Jackets. I don’t see them as being anything of a threat, and strongly believe that they need to deal both Bobrovsky and Panarin, but it doesn’t look as though they will. It’s fine, they’ll be back in the playoffs, but I can’t see them going far.
10. Buffalo – Let’s keep in mind here with that 10 game winning streak that 7 of the 10 wins were in OT or a shootout. They don’t play 3 on 3 or have shootouts in the playoffs. Having said that…let’s also keep in mind that while they’ve lost 3 in a row, all by 1 goal, two of the three were on the road to my two top ranked teams, the other in OT against a good Panthers team on the 2nd half of a back to back. I’ll also say for the Sabres, while 7 of the wins were in extra time, I don’t care how you have to build your confidence in this league as long as you’re building it. Really pumped for Sabres fans.
9. Anaheim – They just won’t die. Probably too high for most, I know. But I’m a massive believer in their young talent. They looked horrendous, yet they’ve weathered that storm and are now rolling, with the 5-1 comeback win on a back to back as big time proof of that. Won’t be shocked if they end up at the top of the Pacific when the season comes to a close. Gibson was my pick for the Vezina…not to brag….oh and the blueline is beat up and they’re STILL getting it going. Oh and they have a mountain of cap space. Oh and they have a shit ton of assets to play with.
Legitimate Cup Contenders
8. San Jose – I’m going to keep them here, but pretty reluctantly. The reason I’ll keep them here is because you shouldn’t count “suck at 3 on 3 hockey” as any reason a team can’t win a Cup. If they are decent at 3 on 3, they’re much higher in the standings, and last I checked playoff OT isn’t 3 on 3. Having said this, I probably disliked the Karlsson move more than anyone for them, and it’s been worse than even I thought it would be.
7. Pittsburgh – Spare me if you want to tell me how the sky is falling in Pittsburgh. It’s not, they’ll be fine. I know, they’ve been dog shit, but they’ll get it figured out. I trust them more than San Jose because both have been bad by their standards, but if they play in a best of seven who are you betting on? Yeah, the Pens. So save it if you want to “at me” as the children say.
6. Boston – Bergeron out is huge, Chara out is still pretty important, McAvoy isn’t back yet, they have a lot of key injuries right now. And Rask hasn’t been that shit hot either. I knew this was coming, everything went too perfect for them from about December on last season, had to balance out a bit. But they’re still one of the best when everyone is healthy.
5. Washington – Might seem dumb as they’re fresh off a 6-5 loss where they blew a 5-1 lead midway through the game. But the fact is that they haven’t put it all together yet, and likely won’t feel the pressure to do so until April. I’m still sky high on them.
4. Winnipeg – They haven’t played well at all to this point…and are still looking great in the standings. Imagine what’s going to happen once they get their shit together? The big comeback last night against the Rangers may have been the starting point.
3. Toronto – Maybe it’s just me now loving them because the media had quit drooling all over them for a bit, but going into November I felt as though they were in big trouble with Nylander not signed and Matthews hurt, serious potential to take a fall and sound the alarms with the Toronto media. Instead, they stayed the course, and now Matthews and Nylander are back and they look primed to really take the league by the balls. I know the blueline is still suspect, still lack some size and toughness they’ll need in the spring, but Dubas has the chips to upgrade it big time.
2. Tampa Bay – No Vasilevskiy, no problem. They’re skilled, they’re deep, they can defend, and they’re basically an afterthought in their division. Only real question will be how much Julien Brisebois can do to improve their chances between now and the trade deadline.
1. Nashville – I just like them a LITTLE better than Tampa if they were to meet in the final. I could easily put them as co-number 1’s, but if they met in a best of seven right now, I’m taking the Preds in 7. They can play it anyway you want, and they haven’t skipped a beat without Subban and Arvidsson, two pretty key guys. Need anymore? Well Eeli Tolvanen just got recalled and has Calder candidate type talent…
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