One of my “new years resolutions” is to write shorter blogs and maybe pair them with my podcasts. I do these rankings and I dig WAY too much! So far, not good. I had these teams ranked when I sat down this morning, and I’m still nitpicking everything, write a ton on so many teams, it’s stupid on my part.
Anyway, what I’m looking to do here is rank these teams in terms of how close or far they are from winning a Cup. It gets tricky around 20-25 because you have to balance their chances of getting in the playoffs this season coupled with where they are in their rebuild. But keep in mind, this has little to do with how teams are playing lately as many power rankings do. I rank where I have the teams today, and I talk a little bit about them. Got it? Doesn’t matter, because here we go.
31. Detroit Red Wings
They supplant the Kings at 31st because the Kings at this point might actually have a shot at a playoff spot. I highly doubt they make it, but the Pacific is THAT weak. Several have said it already but I still will, this is not a bad thing for the Red Wings. Probably need a few years down here before they’re ready to go.
30. New Jersey Devils
I know they’ve been rebuilding it for a bit, this isn’t just starting. What worries me is that I’m not sure they had 1st overall picks in the right years. Hischier looks to me like he might top out as a high end 2nd line centre, and I personally see Hughes as a winger (a damn good one obviously). So while they aren’t starting from scratch here, they still have a lot of big pieces still to put in place.
29. LA Kings
Similar situation as to what I’ve just laid out with Jersey. The big thing I’d do if I were Rob Blake is move both Kopitar and Doughty out. They aren’t much with them, so why keep them? It is just prolonging things. Trade them, clear out over 20 million, get some great young pieces, speed this process up. They’re playing very well of late, but realistically where is that going to get them? Finishing 31st every year without Kopitar and Doughty is better than finishing 25th with them.
28. Anaheim Ducks
I’m frankly stunned that they aren’t better because this organization has done such a great job at drafting over the years, but it’s as if just a couple of missteps have set them back a lot of years. I believe you also have to start questioning Dallas Eakins all over again at some point.
27. Chicago Blackhawks
I wonder perhaps if they should look to move Kane just like the Kings should move Kopitar and Doughty. I can’t see any of the three being moved because of what they mean to the organizations, but Kane would still have great value and clear 10.5 million. Point being here that they aren’t going anywhere.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets
They have been playing extremely well lately, but they’ve had a ton of injuries including one now to Korpisalo. I believe that right now will be as good as this season will get for Jackets fans.
25. NY Rangers
I’m very intrigued at what they might do in net. I’d guess Georgiev would fetch them a pretty good player, because even though he only has a .908 Sv%, I really believe the kid is a damn good goaltender.
24. Ottawa Senators
I know what some of you are thinking. “Has he lost his mind?!?!” My rationale is this: They are currently holding TWO lottery tickets. At this moment, this club is a serious threat to own TWO top five picks. And this is a draft that in my mind has an all-time top five. And it isn’t as though they aren’t on the right track without having high picks like those. And then, add on to all of that, they have their own 2nd rounder, and the Jackets. So you’re looking at four picks in the top 40 of one of the deepest drafts of all time! People really need to start wrapping their heads around just how incredible of a situation this is starting to become.
23. San Jose Sharks
The ONLY reason they are this high is thanks to what started a year ago tomorrow with the Blues. But I really don’t think Jordan Binnington 2.0 is walking through this door.
22. Minnesota Wild
They’re coming on strong. It’s very likely the wrong thing to do, but then again I have to keep in mind that some of these organizations may want Cups, but they NEED playoff gates.
21. Montreal Canadiens
Brendan Gallagher is now out with a concussion, but they were already sliding. I’m not a believer in what they are currently building. Not what they’ve built, but what they are building. They have the look of an organization that will be in purgatory for a LONG time.
20. Edmonton Oilers
Their confidence is completely shattered. If they can get it back, ok. MAYBE they get in the playoffs thanks to a weak division. But I don’t believe they will. I’m hearing a lot about how much their schedule eases up this month. Yeah, it’s less of a grind. Not many cupcakes on it though. Remember Oilers fans: 25 mil in cap space this summer, Bouchard is going to be a terrific add on the blueline next season, Larsson is movable, Russell is likely movable after his bonus money is paid (only 1.5 mil in real dollars), this summer is huge for the Oilers, but this season really isn’t.
19. Buffalo Sabres
This team isn’t very likely to make the playoffs, but with the way Jack Eichel is playing and how improved their blueline is, they are at least pretty competitive. If they can find a goaltender, they might have a shot.
18. Calgary Flames
I just don’t know what to make of them. They look like they’re about to take off, and then they fall back into bad habits. Winning the Pacific won’t surprise me, and a 2nd half collapse won’t surprise me either.
17. Vancouver Canucks
The only reason I’m not higher on them is I wonder if their kids can truly carry them. But on paper, this to me is the best roster in the Pacific. It’s just a matter of the kids being able to carry them.
16. Arizona Coyotes
Taylor Hall gets them in the playoffs, maybe wins them the division, maybe wins them a round in the playoffs. But they’re looking to win playoff gates, not so much Cups. So it’ll be a great season for the franchise, but unless another move is coming I don’t think they scare anyone.
15. Philadelphia Flyers
They’re very much so under the radar, bizarrely so being Philly! In a terrific division, they’re holding up very well. I like the depth both up front and on the back end, just a matter of how Carter Hart will hold up.
14. Winnipeg Jets
It is awesome how they’re holding up with hardly anything on their blueline, but we need to be honest and say it like it is: Connor Hellebuyck should be a Hart candidate.
13. Florida Panthers
I keep saying it, but if Bobrovsky gets back on track, this team is going to be a serious threat come the spring. It’s funny, Barkov WAS the most underrated player in the league. Now, it might be Huberdeau.
12. NY Islanders
Yeah, I just don’t buy it. They’re having a tremendous regular season in maybe the best division in hockey, but does anyone truly believe they’ll go anywhere in the playoffs?
11. Colorado Avalanche
Moving forward, I think they’re set up to be the elite team in the West for years to come. I think a lot of people are confusing that with them being Cup contenders THIS season. I like them, but I can’t see this team seriously contending for a Cup THIS year.
10. Dallas Stars
The depth scares me up front, the lack of experience scares me a bit on the blueline, but this team is built for playoff hockey. And Jim Nill is in a position where he will be able to load up at one of these trade deadlines.
9. Nashville Predators
I still believe they’re going to figure it out. There is just too much talent on this squad, and we know that if there is a deal out there for them to upgrade, David Poile will pull the trigger.
8. Vegas Golden Knights
As far as being Cup favourites goes, they have a lot of work to do on their blueline. But the key ingredient here is that they look like they’re the best team in the very weak Pacific.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
They’re coming on really strong. Kyle Dubas shouldn’t be half assing this. He’s set them up to be in win now mode, so he better go all in come the trade deadline.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
ANOTHER major injury, this time to Jake Guentzel. The roster doesn’t look great at the moment, but as long as they continue to tread water they should be a force come the spring.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
They’re going to figure it out, it’s just a matter of when. I really believe this adversity is going to be a good thing for them come April and May.
4. Carolina Hurricanes
The depth of skill throughout this lineup is absurd. It’ll be interesting to see if they go after the type of goaltender who could put them over the top.
3. Washington Capitals
This top three is clear cut in the league, both in the standings and in terms of being Cup contenders. It’s the NHL, so it by no means is to suggest that only these three can win it all, but at the halfway point these three don’t just look the best during the regular season, but the best built to win in the playoffs.
2. Boston Bruins
They’re slipping a tiny bit here, but in reality, this team is fine. Did we seriously expect this team to keep the accelerator down all season long?!
1. St. Louis Blues
So this is a little recency bias, a little because of how closely I watched them one game in particular, but they played the Oilers on December 18th and normally I’d be pissed about mistakes the Oilers made in a game. Not that one. The Blues were completely suffocating all night long. I know it’s one game, but it’s just proof of how great they are right now because everyone is buying in. Combine that with a roster perfectly constructed to play playoff hockey and I’m not sure if they can be beaten in a seven game series right now.
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