This week SUCKS for me. It’s starting to literally heat up outside. I hate the heat. I’m a fall/spring guy. Friday was supposed to be the draft, which has become my Christmas, so I’m bitter that my Christmas got canceled (well, pushed back anyway). Summer is here, which means a ton of people are going to try to convince me how life is so much better at the lake. It is the most overrated thing on the planet. If I can take the pontoon out and hang out, cool. If I can go to the cabin and not work the whole day, cool. If I can make BBQ a burger or two using a paper plate rather than having a five course meal with a sink full of dishes to wash after the fact, cool. If I can go there and simply be bored rather than constantly have people who are unaware that they’re also so bored constantly on my ass to do something, cool. None of that is ever possible, so I can’t stand the lake. And many people in my life love the lake, so I am completely fucked. I don’t hate the lake more than I love these people. It’s CLOSE, but they scrape by for the win.
One good thing about THIS summer however is that we’re slowly moving towards sports starting up again! MLB got their shit settled for now (I say for now, because I would bet big money that they don’t play in 2021 as they fight over the CBA), NHL training camps still seem as though they’re on track to start July 10th, and the NBA still seems to be going forward with their setup in Orlando. So we’ll be getting back at it soon, and therefore I felt it was as good of time as any to put out my latest power rankings!
I did it a little differently this time. We have two categories: the 24 teams who have a shot at the Cup, and the lottery teams. With the lottery teams, I don’t rank how good they are, but rather where they’re at with their rebuilds. And then of course the top 24 is pretty straight forward, though a ton of thought is given to things like their “play-in” round matchup, and the rust that I believe teams with a bye are going to have despite playing games while the “play-in” round is ongoing.
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I believe all these teams either are in a rebuild, or desperately need to rebuild. There are a few teams who got into the top 24 who also qualify for this list, but for now I’m just going to stick to the seven teams who will be in the lottery on Friday (well…not San Jose…).
7. San Jose Sharks
This is a mess. The cap is maybe the worst I’ve seen, they have nothing in the system, and they don’t own their top pick which has a great chance to end up top three. This team might get back into the playoffs next season, but it would be completely hollow. As it currently stands, at a minimum this team is completely fucked for the next five seasons.
6. Los Angeles Kings
They’re in a better spot than the Sharks that’s for sure, but it’s still rather bleak. One thing I would say is that you shouldn’t get obsessed with a good system. It’s nice, but you need elite pieces, and I don’t see any of the pieces they have becoming elite. That isn’t to say they can’t get there, but all we can base it off of is what we know now.
5. Anaheim Ducks
Basically what I just said for the Kings, goes for the Ducks as well. A couple of things that I like better about the Ducks though is the cap situation and guys like Fowler, Lindholm, Manson, and Gibson who are in their primes and on good contracts. Their systems are about the same, so therefore I got the Ducks a spot ahead of them.
4. Detroit Red Wings
Not a whole lot different from the Kings and Ducks, as the Red Wings are still waiting for their big contracts to burn off the cap, and have yet to find those star pieces to build around. The good news for the Wings though is they are guaranteed a top-four pick in this draft, which I believe will get them the first of those star pieces.
3. New Jersey Devils
The cap situation is great, and while they haven’t drafted a STAR player (though Hughes has that type of ability), they appear to be compiling the type of depth that can win in the league. Also, the potential of three picks inside the top 20 is massive.
2. Ottawa Senators
What a difference a year can make. Obviously the cap situation is great, but the depth of the organization is ridiculous, and they have a 25% chance of winning the 1st overall pick. It’s not far fetched that the Sens own the 1st and 2nd picks in this draft. Even if they end up with the 5th and 6th picks though, the amount of high-end talent this team is collecting is getting ridiculous.
1. Buffalo Sabres
I know this will be looked at as “WHAT?!?” with what has gone on there recently. But the fact is that they have Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin to build around. It isn’t impossible to find those pieces, but it’s damn near impossible. So now it’s just a matter of filling out the roster, and that’s doable. The new regime desperately needs to address the goaltending, but I believe that this team is a fringe playoff team with solid goaltending. They simply just need to invest in it (which means make intelligent decisions, not just throw money at it). Not to be forgotten, the cap situation is good too despite having 15 million tied up in Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo. Even if the cap was as low as 80 million for next season, the Sabres will still have over 30 million in cap space. It is a shit show organization right now, nobody knows that better than me as I’ve screamed for years now that people were jumping the gun on them. But as long as Kevyn Adams isn’t a complete moron, they’re in a very good situation moving forward.
Here’s the thing: We don’t know. I can do these rankings 100 times over and still not have the correct order because nobody knows what in the actual FUCK we are going to see. This is the most unpredictable hockey we will have seen since the 05-06 season. I’ll do my best here to rank these teams in the order that I believe they should be in, but we don’t know who’ll be in shape, who won’t be, the impact the whole environment plays into it (the isolation, no crowds, etc) we just don’t know. So when this is completely backward come October, I don’t want anyone hitting up @coldtakesexposed with this piece! But if it’s spot on, then I want you all to kiss my ass and tell me how amazing I am…
24. Chicago Blackhawks
Some Oilers fans are worried about them, but the fact of the matter is that this team hasn’t even won a playoff game since 2016. Toews, Keith, and Crawford aren’t what they once were. Very good still, but not what they were. And that experience doesn’t translate to empty arena’s and living in isolation, that part is all brand new for everyone.
23. Arizona Coyotes
The Taylor Hall experiment simply didn’t work. Nor did the Phil Kessel experiment. The belief was that the Darcy Kuemper injury derailed their season, but their goaltending was excellent while he was out. So if they can’t win WITH amazing goaltending, then I’m not sure how they can do anything.
22. NY Islanders
This team was AWFUL after an amazing start. From November 23rd on, they were 23rd in the league (points percentage). From the start of 2020 on, they were 28th. It’s not a good team on paper, and Barry Trotz can only do so much. If Florida gets any kind of decent goaltending, I don’t see how the Islanders can beat them.
21. Montreal Canadiens
A fresh Carey Price…I’m not sure where this theory came from that a fresh Carey Price is unbeatable. Has Carey Price put up incredible numbers in the month of October the last several seasons or something? I will say though, I believe they’ll be a miserable out thanks to Price, their coach, and how miserable some of their guys can be to play against (Gallagher, Domi, etc). Again I’ll say it, I hate the direction the Habs are going. I strongly believe that they should have blown it up at the trade deadline and looked to truly rebuild it. But they lucked out with the pause maybe more than anyone, and now they have a shot to do something.
20. Columbus Blue Jackets
They’re going to be fully healthy. A fully healthy Blue Jackets club is going to give the Leafs problems. They’re going to play their balls off, we know that, but do we seriously view them as any kind of threat to win it all should they get past Toronto?
19. Minnesota Wild
They were coming on STRONG down the stretch, but I have three pretty big concerns. 1) Bruce Boudreau always gets worked in the playoffs. 2) they got off to a dreadful start with this same roster. 3) Jacob Markstrom in the “play-in round”. Can’t see them getting past Vancouver, and even if they did, can’t see them going far.
18. Florida Panthers
20 years ago we were asking if the real Slim Shady would please stand up. Then, we would ask that of everyone. Then, it got so annoying that it was stupid to say it. Now 20 years have passed so I’m bringing it back and asking that the real Sergei Bobrovsky please stand up. In other words, if he’s back to form, then the Panthers could go deep. But given how he played this season, it’s a pretty big “if”.
17. NY Rangers
Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev. They have a chance to do some serious damage because of this tandem. Panarin was incredible this season, but he can be shut down in a series. Their goaltending was spectacular once Shesterkin arrived though.
16. Calgary Flames
They were playing their best hockey of the season when this all happened. I was extremely hard on the Flames this season, but there was no denying that they had turned a corner. Having said that, I still think that blueline is insanely overrated, and Johnny Gaudreau looked like a shell of himself all season. You also have the question of whether or not they make the correct decision to start Cam Talbot, or their guy David Rittich? I worry for them that they’ll go with the stick flipper, who was awful after that completely meaningless shootout win in Edmonton. A Sv% of .885 in 11 starts following that night.
15. Dallas Stars
I strongly believe that everything which has happened is a disaster for the Stars. They’re a heavy team that relies on wearing you down, and they can’t score. We saw it early in the season, they got off to a dreadful start. And then on top of that, the team they get is going to be conditioned much better. I know they’ll play exhibition games and whatever the number of games the league has for the teams with a bye set to play, but it won’t be the same. It’s all wrong for the Stars.
14. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets and the Flames might be the biggest toss-up of all the “play-in round” series. I like the Jets because I like their top-end talent better than the Flames, and I like their goaltending better than the Flames. I have them playing the Blues in the “first round”, and while I like the Blues, the Jets match up extremely well with them.
13. Vegas Golden Knights
Every time I think they’re about to hit a roadblock, they pull something out of their ass and make me look very wrong! But this isn’t just a Vegas thing, this is because of the bye which I don’t like for any of the eight teams which got one. If things go the way I believe they will then the Knights play the Preds in the 2nd round…that’s not a good matchup for the Knights.
12. Vancouver Canucks
A healthy Jacob Markstrom and depth are the reasons I’d be pretty damn afraid of the Canucks. I actually like how strong the Wild were coming on late in the season, and the Canucks were fading, but that was all injury-related. They’ll have their MVP back along with Brock Boeser, and they’ll be tough.
11. Edmonton Oilers
I like this set up for them given how much Ken Holland improved the speed of the club, and how hard that Dave Tippett can ride his two horses. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Oilers run 11 forwards and 7 D-men most nights.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs
There is basically only one reason I like the Leafs this high: the start of each of the last three seasons, they’ve been pretty lethal in October, and this is going to be a lot like October hockey.
9. Philadelphia Flyers
I very honestly apologize to Flyers fans if this seems too low for the team that was the best in the league from January 12th on. But I just don’t see how they’re going to be much of a threat.
8. Carolina Hurricanes
Similar to the Flyers, but the two differences are that they proved themselves in the 2019 playoffs, and they have an incredible blueline. If you read these power rankings throughout the season, you know I’ve been sky-high on the Canes the entire time, despite some of their struggles. The Rangers are such an awful matchup for them, but if they can sneak by them, they’re in good shape.
7. Nashville Predators
They were my darkhorse team throughout the 2nd half of the season, and I believed that the adversity/struggle they faced all season was going going to be a blessing in disguise for such a well-rounded team come playoff time. I’m not sure if that can carry over now, but the fact of the matter is that the Preds have one of the most complete rosters in the league.
6. Colorado Avalanche
It is a much more clear picture for me in the West than it is with the East. I like the Avs to go deep, which is weird because I was telling people all season to pull back the reigns on them a bit as this was their first season emerging as a contender, which almost always results in a team being upset in the 1st or 2nd round. But this setup looks great for them, and top to bottom this is just a damn solid club.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
The question will be what will their goaltending give them. From January 1st on, Matt Murray had a .905 Sv%, while Tristan Jarry who was amazing out of the gates, came crashing back to earth at .901. If they get the goaltending, they’ll be lethal. But that’s a big “if”.
4. Washington Capitals
It’s the same story for the Caps, except I trust Holtby to get back to what he’s capable of, despite the fact that he really hasn’t been the same goaltender since 2018 (and even that year it was just the playoff performance). If they get the goaltending, they’re right there with my top three teams.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
I feel very confident about the teams I have in my top three. These three have the star power, depth, and goaltending to win. The only thing I worry about for the Lightning is that I have them playing Toronto in the “first round”, and the Leafs or Jackets coming off a series could be a bitch for Tampa to handle.
2. Boston Bruins
The Bruins likely won’t have the concerns that the Lightning will with their “first round” opponent as they’re locked into the top seed. It’ll be difficult for any of the top teams to play teams who have already played series, but I believe Boston will play the Panthers, and barring Bobrovsky getting his shit together, that series is all wrong for Florida.
1. St. Louis Blues
I worry about the speed factor out of the gates, but that’s about it. I believe they’ll play the Jets in the “first round” which is a great matchup for the Blues. Then they’d play the Preds which is another great matchup for them. Now they’ve made it to the Conference final to play the Avs, and by that time I love the Blues playing playoff hockey. So I love them to go to the final, and by that point it’ll truly be playoff hockey, so I really like the Blues to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.
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