This is actually a month late, and then I won’t do another one of these until post trade deadline (which will be a lot more fun to write given I’ll be able to factor in teams deadline day moves). Blogging in general has become extinct for me of late since I’ve taken on podcasting and been busy the last month or so. Not quitting doing it, just haven’t had time of late, I know you all have missed me oh so much….
So as has been with my rankings, I’m not too worried about the standings. I’m worried about which teams are the biggest threat’s to win the Cup in order. With the trade deadline coming up, how big of a buyer certain teams have the potential to be is without a doubt a factor. Other than that I’m exhausted as I’m typing this and can’t think of anything else to say, so here we go.
31. Ottawa – They’d be in a much better spot than LA or Chicago if they owned their 1st this season. I know the draft is getting pissed on a bit lately, but the top five is still DAMN good and it appears as though the Avs will own a top five pick thanks to the Sens.
30. Los Angeles – It’s not JUST the spot in the standings, it’s how long it is going to take them to get back near the top. I love Kopitar and Doughty, but I just do not see the pieces who are coming to save this organization anytime soon.
29. Chicago – Same with the Hawks. The Hawks have drafted a little better than the Kings so I give them the slight edge here, but obviously both are in bad spots.
28. Detroit – Not much to say for the Wings. It’s a season that was expected, and it’ll likely be a while for them. I will say though, Ken Holland appears to be building one of the fastest teams in the league.
27. New Jersey – Unless they get amazing goaltending, they’re a bottom feeder. MacKenzie Blackwood has been terrific for them, but he’s just another Keith Kinkaid.
26. NY Rangers – Similar to Detroit. Not much to say, but they’re doing it right. I see where some are speculating if they’ll start loading up this summer by going after guys like Panarin and Karlsson, that feels SO MUCH like Minny going after Suter and Parise in the summer of 2012 which looked sexy at the time, but it really handcuffed the Wild from ever building a true contender. If the Rangers won Hughes, then I’d be more on board for that idea, but barring that, even if it’s Kakko, I’d say keep being patient and wait for the right time, not the knee jerk time.
25. Philadelphia – Ron Hextall, contrary to what some may believe, did a great job as Flyers GM and has them setup for the long haul. Their system is stocked and their cap situation is very good. Carter Hart has looked very good, but they still need to buy him some years. He has two years of his ELC left, and after two seasons the CBA is up and teams will likely get at least a couple of compliance buyouts. Jonathan Quick?
Should be Something, But They’re Not
24. Buffalo – They’re slip sliding away. When they won 10 straight, 7 were in extra time. You have to judge teams more realistically. This is why when teams go on heaters, analytics guys are usually quick to point out what their numbers show because fans and media just rush to anoint teams. They have the two very key pieces in place, more coming, but they’re not ready. Sucks for Sabres fans, sucks seeing a team in a similar situation to the Oilers, it’s no fun. They’re getting closer, but more patience is required.
23. Florida – It’ll be interesting to see what they do in goal this summer. I still maintain that Luongo is going to retire, and actually will double down on that with his season going to shit as it’s been, and Reimer is a buyout candidate this summer. If they had good goaltending this season, they’d be right there with Boston and Montreal, but they very much so do not.
22. Edmonton – It’s a mess obviously and the best course is to be patient yet again and retool for 18 months. It wouldn’t be a rebuild because the core is in place. But you need to re-do what the core has surrounding them, and need to build up depth. What would Oilers fans prefer, a true contender or to continually be bounced in the 1st or 2nd round every season? Take a breathe, do it right this time.
The Playoffs are Their Cup
21. Anaheim – They’re in a weird spot right now. You could say they need to re-tool much like the Oilers, but I still haven’t lost faith in them. It’s what they seem to do is look like they’re done and then make a run.
20. Arizona – FULL CREDIT to these guys who I openly mocked at the start of the season. Thought it was beyond ridiculous that people were picking them to be in the hunt if not make the playoffs this season. And the big reason’s people expected that are underperforming as he always does while the other is out for the season. Yet they’re right in the thick of it.
19. Colorado – They’re fading, but they still have enough to get things straightened out. Tyson Jost not emerging is really hurting them, I believed he was going to bust out this season and it just hasn’t happened.
18. St. Louis – Wow, what a turnaround for these guys! Now, some of these is a result of the lower half of the West being a complete joke. After the top five, it’s just a pile of very average teams. But full credit to them because they were DONE, and now won’t be anything of a surprise to get a wildcard spot.
17. Vancouver – Is it bad that I’m an Oilers fan and I’m going to pull for them to get in the playoffs (barring the Oilers making a miraculous run)? Look, will they win a Cup? No, they’re not coming close. But, if Pettersson stays healthy will they make the playoffs? Easily could. Embarrassing as an Oilers fan that a rebuild which started during the peak of the last Canucks contender is still only up to a “doubtful” for a damn playoff spot while the Canucks fly past them, yet here we are.
16. Dallas – I really don’t like this team. They’re built very much so like the Avs and Oilers, though they’re blueline is going to be VERY good in a few seasons. They’ve had some wild swings in momentum and I’m having trouble figuring out what they are.
15. Carolina – Similar to the Panthers in that I wonder where they’d be with some high end goaltending?! They’re well built thanks to Ron Francis, and I give the new regime credit for the Niederreiter deal. Of course the talk is that they’ll move some D out to load up with scoring, but they have an insane 44 million in cap space at the moment, 76 million on trade deadline day. If they’re close to a playoff spot in a month, they could REALLY make some noise!
14. NY Islanders – A lot of this is smoke and mirrors, but full credit to Trotz and Lamoriello because it’s not exactly a coincidence either. These two are elite at what they do, and it rubs off on people. I’m not a big believer in them this season despite the amazing record, but what a bonus this will be if they keep it up and make the playoffs this year. The system is looking pretty good too and will only get better now that a very competent GM is in place.
13. Montreal – Over the Islanders, yes. I’ll tell you why: If they get in the playoffs, and it looks as though they will, I’m taking Carey Price all day over Robin Lehner. Islanders have been a great story, but the Habs would be a miserable team to play in the post season, and they have some pieces to deal if they want to chase a centre they badly need.
12. Minnesota – This is where it falls off badly. I don’t like the Wild at all. They’re in no man’s land, badly need to rebuild and might make the playoffs…might not. But…if we’re doing this by chances teams have to win the Cup, they’re 12th. It looks better than it actually is, I give them no shot.
Great Season, Not a Cup Contender
11. Columbus – I’m putting them here, but Bobrovsky is gone possibly by the deadline, and Panarin is gone after the season. So they aren’t good enough to win as is, and are about to lose their two best players. Kekalainen needs to attempt a reboot at the deadline in my opinion. Sure, it’s not fair to the guys that are there, but two of the guys in that room want to bail on the team, so is that Kekalainen’s fault? It’s not as if he’s saying he doesn’t want to sign them. GM with your head, not your heart.
10. Vegas – I don’t get it, but I tap on doubting them. They’re clearly legit, clearly making the playoffs again, I still think it is a joke that they were given as much as they were as an expansion team, but what’s done is done and I better get used to it. One thing I’ll never take away from them is how hard they work though. What I saw this year and didn’t see last season is they did have some adversity early which is when I figured they’d fold. Instead they’ve become one of the best teams in the league since that time, full credit and respect.
9. Calgary – The thing about the Flames that keeps them out of my Cup contender teams is for me they lack one more big piece to the puzzle. It’s funny, I say it’s a centre and that if they had the right centre then I’d bump them to Cup contenders, but they are filling the net. I also don’t like that they are coming back late to win so many games as that won’t fly come April. But don’t get this twisted, they’re easily a top 10 team right now, I’m just talking about them in terms of being a serious Cup threat.
A Sliver Below Elite
8. Boston – They’ve been beat to fuck, but now are finally healthy. I’ve been impressed with how they’ve withstood the injuries. I really believed last season this was an organization that simply had everything bounce their way, but they’ve proven this season they can take a punch.
7. San Jose – They’re coming, aren’t they? I still say they need a centre, and I still say Doug Wilson will have to work a miracle to get that done. But crazier things have happened. No doubt though that Karlsson has his game going now and largely because of that they’ve been looking scary good.
6. Toronto – “How can you like Toronto more than Boston right now?!” Because the Leafs have SO MUCH to offer at a trade deadline that appears to be right up their ally. Imagine if they add something like Wayne Simmonds, Radko Gudas, and Michael Ferland? And they can. It’s looking more and more likely the Leafs window to win could be this season and then close for a season or two while Dubas adjusts to life with monster contracts, so watch for him to make a big push at the deadline. If he does, I’m moving them to this next tier.
True Cup Contenders
5. Pittsburgh – Rutherford is a threat to do something big in the next month. What is big? Matt Duchene? Elliotte Friedman has brought up more than a few times that the Pens have had big interest in Duchene, and we know Derrick Brassard is on the trading block as that hasn’t worked out. So how could the Pens do that deal? Well if Brassard goes without retaining salary, that’s 3 mil, and then in the deal I could see a guy like Olli Maatta being a fit for the Sens given their holes on the blueline and the Pens having Justin Schultz returning before the end of the season (at last check, mid February was the speculation on a return). After Maatta, I’d suggest their 1st round pick this season, and perhaps a future conditional pick should the Penguins re-sign him or make the final. Oh yeah, also I know they’re only in a wildcard spot right now but we all know they’re a true Cup contender.
4. Washington – They’re on a big losing streak right now, Holtby is playing some of the worst hockey of his career, does it matter?! Don’t buy into great teams losing games in January. They’re bored. Come April, it’ll be fun to see how they come together. I believe they’ll be even better than last season because now they have ZERO pressure.
3. Nashville – Is anyone going to be surprised if they win the Cup? I don’t know if I’d trust Rinne or not come this spring, but I know I trust David Poile to get them what they need by the trade deadline.
2. Winnipeg – They get the slight (and I mean SLIGHT) nod over the Preds for me based off the standings. It’s a total coin flip right now between the two. And I STILL am not sure if they’ve really hit their stride yet. Imagine them acquiring a Matt Duchene? It’s possible.
1. Tampa Bay – Much tougher decision here than you may think. Who are you taking in a seven game series right now, Tampa or Winnipeg? Tampa or Nashville? I’m probably taking either one of those teams. But Tampa doesn’t have to go through either one of them before seeing the other, they do. So the Lightning get the nod here.
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