NHL Power Rankings
by Trevor Whenham - 3/26/2010
It's been quite a while since we last checked in on the NHL Power Rankings. The crazy thing, though, is that things just haven't changed that much. Some teams have climbed and a couple of fallen had, but for the most part the teams that were the good ones before the Olympics still are, and vice versa. Previous rankings are in brackets:
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1.Washington Capitals (1) - What can you say about the Caps? They have the best player in the world, they are going to have home ice throughout the playoffs, and they are playing reasonably well now considering that they haven't had anything to really play for since the Olympics. The deserving favorites.
2. Phoenix Coyotes (6) - I am in awe of this team. They have absolutely every reason to be a disaster, but instead they are the hottest team in the league, and one of the best to watch. This is a spectacular, totally unpredictable story. I just hope they can carry momentum into the playoffs.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (3) - Chicago should probably be ahead of Phoenix because they just beat them, but the Blackhawks haven't been particularly dominant recently, so I can't reward them. They have definitely slowed down. I just hope that they can flip the switch again when the playoffs start - this is the year they finally need to realize their playoff potential.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (10) - By both the standings and their recent play I have Pittsburgh a touch too high here. I just don't believe that there is a team below them that is better than them - one that they couldn't beat in a playoff series. They aren't winning quite as much as they would like, but they are working on the little things to get ready for the playoffs runs that they are familiar with.
5. Vancouver Canucks (4) - Vancouver gets real credit for weathering the longest road trip in NHL history remarkably well. I would feel better about them as a team, and about their prospects next month, if Roberto Luongo was playing a little better. He's not nearly as sharp now as he was in the Olympics.
6. San Jose Sharks (2) - The Sharks have finally gotten their act together with two wins, but they just don't look very good right now. There is an inevitable lull for even the best teams this year, and I am willing to accept that that's what this is for them. It's either that or foreshadowing for yet another disappointing playoff run, but that's depressing to think about.
7. New Jersey Devils (8) - They are tied with Pittsburgh with a game in hand, so they have their playoff destiny - or at least their division win - in their own hands. I'd feel better about this team if Ilya Kovalchuk was meshing better, though his recent four-point night was a very good sign.
8. Nashville Predators (17) - The Predators are red hot, and they are getting fantastic goaltending. That has moved them into fifth in the conference and secured their playoff destiny. It isn't too crazy to suggest that this is the best that this franchise has ever played.
9. Buffalo Sabres (7) - It was ugly there for a while after the Olympics, but they have won four in a row and are rounding into good playoff form. If you saw the Olympics then you know how good Ryan Miller can be, and by extension how quietly dangerous this team could be in the Olympics.
10. Los Angeles Kings (5) - This team badly needs to rediscover their scoring touch heading into the playoffs, but their goaltending is good, and their defensive corps led by Drew Doughty is scary. This is probably a year too soon for this team, but I love the direction they are moving in.
11. Detroit Red Wings (13) - This has been great fun to watch. The Red Wings floundered through much of the season, but they are so experienced and so cool under pressure that they have raised their game to a whole new level since the Olympics and should cruise into the playoffs. It doesn't hurt that they are finally healthy, either.
12. Colorado Avalanche (11) - The shine is coming off this team a little bit recently, but they'll still make the playoffs, and that's a miraculous accomplishment given the expectations they faced entering the season. They may not do much once they get there, but that's okay, too.
13. Montreal Canadiens (21) - If the league was an ice cream parlor the Canadiens would be vanilla. There is nothing wrong with them, and what they do works well enough in any circumstance, but they just aren't particularly interesting or exotic. They are hard to cheer for, but equally hard to hate.
14. Philadelphia Flyers (12) - I thought that this team had finally turned the corner and was going to play up to their potential - I though t that they were a serious Cup contender entering the season - but then they went in the tank and lost four straight. This team is living proof that you can't win without a goalie.
15. Ottawa Senators (9) - I really want to like this team, but they don't make it easy. They are like the San Francisco 49ers of the NHL - they do a few things to get you excited and believing, then they go on a stretch of impossibly bad play, but just before you give up on them they turn it around again for a while. It's like riding a roller coaster.
16. Boston Bruins (23) - If there was justice in the world then the Bruins would fall out of the eighth playoff spot in favor of Atlanta. They have the talent to shine, but they just don't seem to care and they can't get their act together. I hate nothing more than seeing teams waste potential, and these guys are among the worst offenders.
17. Calgary Flames (15) - As a Calgarian I am not alone in being totally disgusted with everything about this team. The Sutter brothers - coach and GM - have proven their total incompetence with mystifying trades and stunningly inconsistent play, and the players, led by incredibly overrated captain Jarome Iginla, just don't seem to care. A total mess of a season for a mess of a franchise.
18. Atlanta Thrashers (24) - The fact that the Thrashers are just two points out of the playoffs and closing fast after losing a megastar like Ilya Kovalchuk and not getting equivalent value in return is a remarkable story that deserves more credit. These guys are getting by on heart and effort alone, but it's working.
19. St. Louis Blues (16) - The Blues played their best hockey of the season just after the Olympic break, but it wasn't enough to get them back in the picture, or to overcome what has been one of the most disappointing seasons in the league. These guys should be fighting for the division lead, not planning their first golf outing.
20. Carolina Hurricanes (26) - These guys were indescribably bad for much of the season, so it is impressive that they had the heart and determination to get things moving in the right direction again. A shootout win over Washington last night is a positive sign that this team has potential next year.
21. New York Rangers (22) - The Rangers are the Knicks on ice - an overpaid group of overrated players who just can't do anything particularly right, and don't give us any real reason to believe that things will change. It must really suck to be a sports fan in New York in the winter.
22. Anaheim Ducks (18) - I saw the Ducks play in person earlier this week. They just look old. Time is catching up with Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Todd Marchant, and their young stars just can't overcome it. The core is strong, but sadly it's time for a generational shift.
23. Dallas Stars (19) - One stat that fully illuminates the mediocrity of this team - they have not at any point this year w on three games in a row. They have some nice players, but they just can't get their act together. They got rid of Dave Tippett last year and have looked lousy since, while he has gone to Phoenix and worked miracles. Oops.
24. Minnesota Wild (20) - This season has been a step back for the team, but not an unpredictable one - the shift from a dull defensive system to a more offensive one wasn't going to come without growing pains. Let's call this one a wash and look forward to better days ahead.
25. New York Islanders (28) - Given the lack of talent they have this season has been as good as they could have hoped. Matt Moulson has been a pleasant surprise, John Tavares has shown that he will be a star in a year or two, and there are some other things to work for. There is still lots to do, but at least there is hope.
26. Tampa Bay Lightning (25) - They are still hanging around the playoff race, though I am not optimistic they'll make it. The story here, though, is definitely Steven Stamkos. The second-year player looked outclassed as a rookie last year, but this year he is tied for the lead in goals in the league and is a stone cold assassin. This team will be great one day if he sticks around and stays healthy.
27. Toronto Maple Leafs (29) - They are playing their best hockey of the season right now, so I guess that is something. This just isn't a good team, though. With Brian Burke in charge you know there will be a pile more deals over the summer.
28. Florida Panthers (14) - This is probably a few spots too low, but they get penalized for having a totally dormant trade deadline and failing to capitalize on their many assets to get the shakeup they need. They could be much better than they are if they traded away what they have and started over.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets (27) - Last year they made the playoffs and looked like they were ready to take a step forward as a franchise. This year they are just pathetic. It's sad, really. I guess that's what you get for playing so close to Ohio State, though.
30. Edmonton Oilers (30) - Here in Calgary we think that people in Edmonton are the dumbest on the planet. Proof of that - they are finally playing good hockey now for the first time all year - three wins in a row against decent competition - when all they can accomplish is getting fewer balls in the lottery. Luckily, they were so bad for so long that they have probably clinched the cellar spot.