Armchair’s NHL Pre-Season Power Rankings

NHL Preseason Power Rankings

1. Chicago – Defending Champions kept their core together through the off-season. With young players like Brandon Saad set to further develop as players this season, Chicago earns the top spot going into the 2013-2014 NHL season.

2. Los Angeles – Last season, Quick (G), coming off back surgery under performed in the regular season, but was great in the playoffs. Starting the season healthy, with a very deep team in front of him, the Kings are poised to make another run.

3. Boston – It was a busy offseason for the Bruins, but after the changes they are still the class of the Eastern Conference. The core is still there and with two finals appearances in the last three seasons, the Bruins are a top contender again this year.

4. St. Louis – The Blues claim the fourth spot on our list because they are arguably the deepest team entering this NHL season. As long as, one of the three goalies (Halak, Elliot, or Allen) can be a legitimate No.1 this season, this team is ready to contend.

5. Pittsburgh – This team is filled with star power! Although they floundered in the post-season, this team has the potential to be great. They fall to #5 on our list for the obvious questions in goal this season. Vokoun is sidelined indefinitely and Fleury has a number of questions after his poor post-season.

6. Detroit – The addition of top free agents Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss in the offseason gives the Red Wings a great veteran top 6. With Howard set to provide strong goaltending again, this group has potential to be a beast in the East.

7. San Jose – With a top three lines that can all produce the Sharks have the potential to be one of the most deadly offenses in the league. This is a veteran group, but like most seasons in the shark tank, will they just be good or will they be great?

8. Washington – No longer will the Capitals be able to cruise in the Southeast Division! However,  with the late addition of Mikhail Grabovski to the team, they are still a top 5 team in the East this year. Tom Wilson will add some grit to what it is a supremely, offensively gifted group lead by Alexander Ovechkin.

9. Ottawa – This team performed so aptly without it’s two stars for most of the season, Karlsson and Spezza. Expectations have now risen, especially with the addition of Bobby Ryan. If Anderson can continue his fine form in goal, the Sens will compete for, at least, the Atlantic Division title.

10. Vancouver – The Canucks round out the top ten although they lack depth this season. The Sedins and Ryan Kesler are healthy, the goaltending controversy is behind them, and with a new coach the Canucks are ready to leave their past playoff failures behind them.

11. NY Rangers – Even with the loss of two top 6 forwards (Callahan, Hagelin) to start the season, the depth at the back end support the Rangers still ranking high on my list. Lundquist is a goalie that will keep this team in games, and look for Rick Nash to have a big year in the big apple.

12. Philadelphia – The Flyers added, veteran, Mark Streit to their defence in the offseason. When you examine their very talented group of forwards, this move should give them enough at the back end to compete. Mason or Emery will need to step up in net, and I think Emery will.

13. Minnesota – This is a team that could be higher on my list, but many will argue should be lower. The Wild are hard to read this season because their success will rely on key contributions from the youth outside their core. Both wingers, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter, will need to play big roles this year if the Wild are to earn a top 6 spot in the West this season.

 

14. Montreal – Although the Canadiens were second in the East last season, I don’t predict nearly as strong of a performance this season. They have three lines that can score, but they have too many questions defensively and in net to rank any higher on my list. I don’t share in the belief that Price will rebound significantly this season.

15. Toronto – The Maple Leafs start this season with many questions around whether they can repeat there success last season. They remain strong upfront with three lines capable of contributing offensively on any night. If they can manage the goaltending situation (Reimer and Bernier) this is a team that will compete for a playoff spot.

16. Anaheim – Look for Corey Perry to regain his form this season. The Ducks have potential to be a surprise team in the West this season, but losing Sheldon Souray to start the season will be felt. Cam Fowler and Jonas Hiller will need to come up big if the Ducks are to contend.

17. Dallas – The Stars added Tyler Seguin in the offseason, and he should be in line for a big year. This is a team with a nice mix of veteran (Gonchar, Robidas) and young talent (Benn, Nichushkin), with a new logo the Stars will look for a fresh start this year.

18. NY Islanders – The Isles will miss the services of veteran, Mark Streit, who departed in the offseason. Look for another stellar year from superstar John Tavares, but don’t expect much more than to be competing for the eighth seed. This is a young group that is still developing together.

19. Winnipeg – Lead by defencemen, Enstrom and  Byfuglien, this is a young team that is still a few years away from being a legitimate contender. Finally in a conference geographically suited to them, look for the Jets to experiment this season as players like Mark Scheifele adjust to the NHL.

20. Columbus – The youth movement continues in Columbus! This is a team with very few players over the age of thirty. They are a talented bunch, but need more experience. Look for Sergei Bobrovsky to prove the doubters wrong and show he is a No. 1 goalie in the NHL.

21. Tampa Bay – This is a team that just hasn’t put all the pieces together yet. Superstar, Steven Stamkos, is a top three scorer in the league, but the depth isn’t there and questions in goal are still to be answered (Lindback, Bishop).

22. New Jersey – They lost Ilya Kovalchuk, but added Jagr, Clowe, and Ryder… and Schneider! So why aren’t they higher on my list? The Devils just lack that game breaker, I see a good team, but not a great one.

23. Phoenix – Strong goaltending and a very capable defense will keep the desert dogs in games, but offensively they are lacking. Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be a standout again this season on defence, but I don’t predict a playoff birth this year for the Coyotes.

24. Edmonton – Healthy this team would be higher on my list, but their top centers are out to start the season (Sam Gagner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins). Combined with an unproven group on defence I had to drop them down. Expect a big year from Taylor Hall, as he will take on a big role this season.

25. Carolina – A great top two lines, but the Hurricanes lack depth to compete over a long season. If Cam Ward can stay healthy, he is a top goaltender and could potentially lift the Canes to playoff contention.

26. Nashville – I can’t rank a team that places there hope of a playoff birth solely on it’s goalie any higher. This is a team that will rely on Shea Weber to shut down top lines and Pekka Rinne to stand on his head night after night. Unsustainable!

27. Colorado – The Avalanche are rebuilding, and with a rebuilding team your expectations have to be limited. With so much young talent upfront, at least Avalanche fans have a potentially very bright future ahead. Development at the back end is dearly needed though.

28. Buffalo – A lot of changes in Buffalo, they cleared out and are a new team, with a new coach. Rebuilding, with top players Miller and Vanek on expiring contracts the changes may not be finished yet.

29. Florida – The only way I see Florida contending for a playoff shot is if Tim Thomas after being away from the game for a year can find his form that won Boston a Stanley Cup. That seems unlikely so this group may well find itself in the East cellar again.

30. Calgary – Flames fans be warned, this may be a long season! Playing in a tough western conference with an unproven goalie and group of second and third line scorers at best.. Start scouting early.

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