Better late than never I guess, seeing it’s March 4th. It would have been better for me to have done this a week ago, right after the trade deadline, so it would have been more of a deadline recap. This still is, but obviously a week has gone by. Ok, I’ll quit bitching and get on with this.
Before I start, again I’ll explain: I have teams still in the hunt behind teams with no chance. Why? Because I don’t feel those teams still in the hunt will make the playoffs, and that they’re in a worse situation moving forward. So, for example, I have Ottawa higher than Arizona. Arizona is in the race in the West, but I don’t feel as though they’ll get in, and therefore I look at how they are moving forward and moving forward the Senators are LOADED. It’s a different/weird way of doing it, I’m aware, but it’s how I want to do it. Also, these have very little to do with how teams are playing of late as some moronic power rankings do it. Basically, I’m ranking who I like to win the Cup until I get to the teams that have no shot (and then as I just explained, I then rank those teams differently). We good? We better be…
31. Detroit Red Wings
Last month: 31st
They haven’t moved above 30 this season. The worst thing for Wings fans is that I’m not sure this season will be the end of the worst of it.
30. San Jose Sharks
Last month: 30th
What a mess this is. And they might get back in the hunt next season to make the playoffs, but they aren’t going anywhere if they do. Doug Wilson just seems to refuse to rebuild it, and I understand why. But they need a massive rebuild and continually putting it off just digs a deeper hole.
29. Los Angeles Kings
Last month: 29th
Unlike the Sharks, they’ve accepted who they are. But I still say, I do not have a clue what they are hanging onto Kopitar and Doughty for. “But they have NTC’s!” Ask them. If they don’t want to go, fine, but ask them. This rebuild will not be done before they are, so move them now and get some big returns for them.
28. Anaheim Ducks
Last month: 27th
The Ducks don’t have a big time player to move like the Kings do. You might say Getzlaf, but they wouldn’t get anything for Getzlaf at this point. The other thing is that the Ducks have drafted well over the years, so they have more of a head start on things than the Kings and the Sharks. It is still a big hill to climb though.
27. Chicago Blackhawks
Last month: 21st
They’re going nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. Third year in a row that they’ll miss the playoffs, and I’m not sure where they’re headed. They do have some very nice young pieces, but much more is needed.
26. Montreal Canadiens
Last month: 26th
You know, I don’t think they’re out of it thanks to how inconsistent the Leafs are and how bad the Panthers are playing. But I don’t like this team at all moving forward as I’ve expressed several times by now.
25. Arizona Coyotes
Last month: 20th
They likely gave the Devils a top 10 pick for a player that they won’t be able to re-sign. A top 10 pick, for nothing. That stings. They have to hope they win a top 3 spot so they can avoid that happening. Well, they’ll still lose Hall, but at least if they win a top 3 spot the pick defers until next season and perhaps they can ensure it’s a pick in the 16-30 range.
24. New Jersey
Last month: 28th
How ironic that I have the Devils one spot ahead of the Coyotes before the season is out. They could have three 1st round picks this year, two could be top 10, the other would likely be in the 15-20 range. Combine that with Hischier and Hughes and they are in a very good spot in their rebuild.
23. Ottawa Senators
Last month: 24th
While the Devils might have three 1st rounders, the Sens are guaranteed to have two, and at this point they would be no worse than 6th and 8th. Add to that, the Islanders are looking dicey to make the playoffs and that 1st rounder is only top three protected. So they might be looking at three picks in the top 15 of the draft. It gets better as they own four picks in the 2nd round and three of those look like they’ll be in the top 50. So six picks in the top 50 of a deep draft, seven likely in the top 60, and of course this is a team that has already acquired a boatload of talent. They are going to get REALLY good before too long.
22. Buffalo Sabres
Last month: 22nd
So I think they’re growing and are in the best spot they’ve been in since their rebuild began, but it sure sounds like there is a ton of panic there again. I worry Eichel is going to ask out after the season. He doesn’t seem like the type of guy who would be willing to stick it out. I’m not sure it would be the worst thing for them either. Awesome talent, but the return they’d get would be astronomical, and I could see it being a bit like the Duchene situation in Colorado with Rasmus Dahlin playing the role of Nathan MacKinnon.
21. Florida Panthers
Last month: 8th
I’m tapping on them! This is a mess. Bobrovsky looks done, because don’t forget this didn’t just happen. He was never right all last season either. Showed up in the playoffs, but was awful by his standards in the regular season. So weird that Joel Quennville didn’t “change the culture” there. I was told that coach Q was going to “change the culture”. And now it looks like Dale Tallon is going to be axed, and therefore Quennville may get axed, and they are likely bleeding money given the rumour that they need to cut 10 million from the payroll…WHAT. A. MESS.
20. Columbus Blue Jackets
Last month: 16th
The Seth Jones injury has killed their season. If you go by percentage points, they’re already on the outside looking in at the playoffs and Jones isn’t coming back. Their only wins in the last month have been against teams that they should be beating. I think they’re done, but it’s been one hell of an effort.
19. NY Islanders
Last month: 15th
The Jackets have been sliding, but so have the Islanders, and the way I have it finishing up I don’t believe the Islanders will get in either! It’ll be close, but the Rangers are trending up, and the Hurricanes are simply a better team. Four points up right now, but I just don’t believe they’ll make it, much to the delight of Ottawa Senators fans barring the Islanders then winning a top three pick.
18. Minnesota Wild
Last month: 25th
I am at a bit of a loss as to how this team is playing so well. I like their blueline a lot, but offensively I just don’t get how they aren’t relatively easy to shut down. But they’re charging up the standings right now, and just may get in. The big test is that they still have to play Nashville twice, and Winnipeg once. But the reverse of that is they have seven games on the schedule that they should win.
17. NY Rangers
Last month: 23rd
It’s funny, I hate that they think they’re done their rebuild because I don’t feel as though they have much more coming. And as great as Panarin has played this season, this is likely the peak. Kakko is going to be a good player, I don’t know if he’s going to be that star who can carry a team. But credit where it’s due, they’re coming on strong, and they might have the best goaltending in the league right now, and I believe they are going to sneak in the playoffs.
16. Calgary Flames
Last month: 17th
I sound like a broken record with them, but I just don’t know that they do or have anything elite that is going to give opponents trouble. Ok goaltending, ok blueline, ok forwards, ok speed, ok size, everything is just ok.
15. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last month: 10th
I fully admit I’m now starting to get worried about this team moving forward. I worry Dubas can’t bring himself to make the type of move he may need to do where he’ll sacrifice a bit more than he should to get the piece or pieces they need. Beyond the blueline which looks fine moving forward it just isn’t great at the moment, what really concerns me is that none of their big four up front bring a 2nd dimension to the table. Dubas might need to move one of them out either to get the roster tremendous depth, or to get a different element much like how in the fall of 1996 the Red Wings dealt Keith Primeau, Paul Coffey and a 1st for Brendan Shanahan (and Brian Glynn, but nobody remembers poor Brian Glynn). They’re getting in the playoffs this season, but I can’t see them getting out of the first round, and wonder about how it’ll work moving forward.
14. Winnipeg Jets
Last month: 14th
At 14 and holding for the 3rd straight month. It’s funny too because I don’t ever look at what they were previously ranked until after I rank the teams. If this team can sneak into the playoffs, they’re capable of doing some damage. But can they overcome all the issues they’ve been faced with this season?
13. Vancouver Canucks
Last month: 12th
The BIG x-factor here is Markstrom’s health. If they can hang on without him, and he’s back by the playoffs, I really believe they can do some damage. I know they don’t have much experience, but they have a lot of guys who are made for April and May. But they need their stud goaltender to lean on.
12. Nashville Predators
Last month: 11th
Remember the 2006 Oilers? Meet the 2020 Preds, a team that by a lot of measures has been excellent this season and can’t figure out their special teams. This is one of the best rosters in the league and in a wide open West, it is just begging for another 2006 Oilers, 2012 Kings, etc. I’m not suggesting they are going to do that, but to me they have that kind of feel to them.
11. Philadelphia Flyers
Last month: 13th
They are so quietly playing terrific hockey. But I just don’t buy them in the playoffs. Right now they look like they’d play either Pittsburgh, Carolina, or Washington in the first round. I don’t like them against any of those teams. They are a very well-rounded club though.
10. Edmonton Oilers
Last month: 19th
I cringe having them this high, but if they’re healthy, they’re one of the most well-rounded teams in the league. They might be the fastest team in the league. They can put burners on all four lines, good-great skaters will occupy 10 of the 12 forward spots. They haven’t sacrificed size to do it either and they still have a lot of skilled size that teams need in the playoffs. Finally, that blueline features five guys who can move the puck (when healthy) and is extremely deep. That is scary. Now, the two question marks for me are A) will they be able to figure out where Anthanasiou fits by the playoffs? B) will the goaltending hold up? We’ll have to see about A, but if you look close at B, Mike Smith has been very solid this season if you simply take out a bad month of December when the Oilers as a team played awful. I don’t feel as though they have a major flaw.
9. Colorado Avalanche
Last month: 9th
I can’t recall who it was around the deadline, but they put it perfectly. The Avs window is just now opening. You don’t go for it the moment your window opens, because how do you even know you don’t have enough to win already?!? I’d take it a step further, I personally don’t believe their window opens until next season when Bowen Byram steps in.
8. Carolina Hurricanes
Last month: 7th
I’m still sky high on that roster, but that goaltending scares the hell out of me! I don’t understand why it wasn’t more seriously addressed at the deadline. Trocheck, Skeji and Vatanen is a great haul, but I’m not sure how much they improve the Hurricanes. A good goaltender would have made them serious contenders. And obviously, they have to get in! IF they get in, they’re a threat.
7. Dallas Stars
Last month: 6th
This team is much more built for the playoffs than the regular season, and they are going to be one very difficult out for whoever gets them. The one thing I will say though is that it’s very possible one of Nashville or Winnipeg gets the wildcard spot for that division, and both those teams match up very well with the Stars. Not to mention they have the Blues to deal with as well.
6. Vegas Golden Knights
Last month: 18th
A massive jump, but they got the top four defenceman they needed, and they went out and upgraded their goaltending which was smart. Although someone needs to point out that Robin Lehner’s numbers have gone down as the season has worn on. They still feel very flawed to me, but this team has an ability to get hotter than any team in the league when they feel it.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last month: 5th
I believe this is the third straight month I have them at five. They appear to have completed their hot streak that they badly needed to get back in it, and now that they’re comfortable they appear (to me anyway) to have let off the gas and are getting ready for the playoffs. The Stamkos injury hurts a bit, but not to the level that others will have you believe. As long as they get him back before the start of the second round, I believe they’ll be fine and I see them taking their game to another level come April.
4. Washington Capitals
Last month: 2nd
They have everything you need to win…except the speed. That didn’t matter in 2018, and it didn’t matter for the Blues last year, but it has hurt the Caps in the past when playing Pittsburgh and last season with Carolina. But they have as good of a shot at winning it all as anyone.
3. St. Louis Blues
Last month: 1st
They’ve seemed kind of bored of late. I really don’t see anyone knocking them off in the West though. They just seem to have everything. The one thing I would worried about for the Blues is that they might end up getting one of Nashville or Winnipeg in the first round, and if either of those teams got right, they could knock off the Blues. But they sure look like a team that is going to go back to the final.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last month: 4th
They look scary good. I’ve probably wrote this for four seasons now, but the fall off a cliff is coming for this group. But it hasn’t happened yet and won’t happen this season. I like the Zucker pick up despite how much they gave up, I feel as though he’s a perfect fit. It’s a solid team everywhere, and two of the best players in the world (still) leading the way.
1. Boston Bruins
Last month: 3rd
For me, no team stands out as a clear cut favourite to win the Cup at this time. And I’m not sure I should be putting THIS much stock into a team that might get worn out having just gone to game seven of the final last season. But they are fast, play tough, are great defensively, have great goaltending, and can score. This is a terrific team that can play it any way you want.
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