Check out this mid season power rankings by one of our fans!
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (Preseason ranking: 2)
The Lightning are on pace for an astounding 130 points in the regular season, which would be the third-best mark of all time. They’re loaded up and down the board and boast the league’s top power play. We expected them to be good, but probably not this good. It really is hard to find a legitimate weakness with this group. Until the real test starts in the spring, it’s unlikely they’ll be bounced from this spot.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (Preseason Ranking: 5)
The Penguins looked nothing like the cup contender they were labelled as for the first two months of the season, and then flipped the proverbial switch, going 15-4-1 since the start of December. Kris Letang is quietly putting together a Norris-Caliber season, Sidney Crosby is back to his old self, and the depth is pulling some weight finally. The scariest thing could be that they’ve made these drastic improvements without Justin Schultz and with Evgeni Malkin mired in a slump of poor play. Cutting down opponents’ shorthanded opportunities will be a priority going forward; they’re on pace to give up 18 this year.
3. Washington Capitals (Preseason Ranking: 1)
What Stanley Cup hangover? The Caps have picked up right where they left off last season and look hungry to repeat. There isn’t much to say about this team that we don’t already know. The league-worst faceoff percentage is a little concerning, but they make up for it in the other facets of their game; if it’s a huge issue, their play doesn’t show it. Todd MacLellan will be looking for this year’s Michael Kempny at the deadline.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (Preseason ranking: 6)
Toronto is just as good as everyone expected. JT and the kids are scoring at a torrid pace, Morgan Reilly is making himself known as a true no. 1 defenseman (if he wasn’t already) and Freddy Andersen has been playing at his usual high level. The perceived problems on the blue-line haven’t materialized and the Leafs are getting solid contributions from their depth forwards, as well. Everything’s in place for them to take the next step forward. Oh, and we’ve gone more than a month now without hearing about William Nylander!
5. Winnipeg Jets (Preseason Ranking: 3)
The Jets sit here despite a couple of concerns. Connor Hellebuyck has been more pedestrian this year after being the Vezina runner-up, but he hasn’t played poorly enough to sink the Jets. Patrik Laine’s inconsistency is a little alarming, but a goal is a goal and he’s got 24. It also helps having two of the league’s top-10 scorers to go with Laine. And a top-5 power play. Yeah, they’ll be just fine.
6. Nashville Predators (Preseason Ranking: 4)
I really struggled picking between Nashville and Winnipeg, but two things made it a little easier: special teams and discipline. Nashville’s power play only connects at a 15.1% clip, 26th in the league, and they’re penalized at the second-highest rate in the league. The good news is they still have half of the season to address those warts either internally or with a trade, and their defense-first style helps negate a lot of the bad stuff. Could Nashville-Winnipeg be the new Pittsburgh-Washington type playoff matchup that we look forward to every year?
7. Boston Bruins (Preseason ranking: 7)
This just about does it for the “well what did you expect?” section of the rankings. Through a rash of injuries and some inconsistent play, the Bruins are still positioned to challenge for home-ice in the first round of the playoffs. Their “big line” of Bergeron, Pastrnak, and Marchand is finally reunited and back to wreaking havoc on opponents. I don’t see the Bruins as being as good of a team as those above (the top-6 is really a toss-up outside of Tampa), but they’re close.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets (Preseason Ranking: 9)
Panarin and Bobrovsky’s contract situations be damned, the Jackets look good. They seem to be in that purgatory of “always good enough to make the playoffs, but after that who knows?” Regardless of what transpires with their Russian stars, they look poised to make this an all-in season and make the answer to the “who knows” part of my question better than “eliminated in the first round”. A lot is riding on this year for Columbus, and they’re playing like it.
9. San Jose Sharks (Preseason Ranking: 13)
Just another season in sunny San Jose. The old guard is playing well. The young guys are stepping up. Erik Karlsson has found his stride (even if the puck isn’t going in for him). The Sharks might be the ultimate “call me when the playoffs start” team, and this year doesn’t look very different. The most curious aspect of this team may now be how things work out with a Karlsson extension, until April at least.
10. Calgary Flames (Preseason ranking: 24)
Some of these bits will have moments of silence built in for you to make fun of my preseason rankings, and this is the first. Good? Alright. Much like Winnipeg and Nashville, my ranking between Calgary and San Jose hinged on a couple factors, this time goaltending and, again, discipline. I expected Bill Peters approach to make the Flames more disciplined, and it has in some ways, but they take by far the most penalties in the league which doesn’t help anybody. Their goaltending duo of David Rittich and Mike Smith doesn’t inspire much hope, but they’ve been solid, albeit inconsistent. An upgrade in net and staying out of the box could work wonders for a team that has probably already exceeded expectations.
11. Vegas Golden Knights (Preseason Ranking: 11)
In a shocking turn of events, the Knights are what everyone expected them to be. They’re doing it without the fanfare from a year ago, but they’ve played solid hockey and have kept themselves in a good spot in an open Pacific division. Marc-Andre Fleury is putting together another great season and the forward group is getting it done with the “by committee” approach. It got them within a series of the Cup a year ago; it wasn’t broke so they didn’t fix it.
12. Buffalo Sabres (Preseason Ranking: 22)
I think it’s fair to omit the moment of silence on this one. Most people expected the Sabres to be better, but not this much better. The youth movement is in full swing, being led by Jack Eichel and Casey Middlestadt. Jeff Skinner has found another gear, and Jason Botterill’s depth acquisitions are proving to be valuable. They’ve hit a skid over their last 10 or so games, but the early season boon has the Sabres positioned to make a run at a wild-card playoff spot, maybe even better. Does this finally mark the end of the rebuild?
13. Dallas Stars (Preseason Ranking: 21)
Stars’ president Jim Lites’ expletive-laden tirade about his best players was perhaps the most entertaining thing to happen to the Stars this year, but it did have some truth to it: they are heavily reliant on their, ahem, stars. This team will go as far as they can carry it, and lately they’ve picked it up, helping Dallas to win 6 of their last 10 and breathe new life into their playoff push. Getting healthy will help them, but as the deadline gets closer, an addition to the forward group could prove essential, even if Lites’ press release for that isn’t as entertaining.
14. Colorado Avalanche (Preseason Ranking: 14)
Two weeks ago, the Avs may have been as many as 5-6 spots higher on this list, but a lot can change in that time. A lot has changed, with Colorado losing 8 of their last 10 and their seemingly-unstoppable top line cooling down dramatically. Make no mistake, this is still a good team, but a very top-heavy one that needs its stars to get back to (or start playing to) a very high level if they want to prove that last season – and the first half of this one – weren’t aberrations.
15. Montreal Canadiens (Preseason Ranking: 27)
The Habs have been another surprising turnaround this year, and they’ve only gotten better since Shea Weber returned to the lineup. Their young, fast lineup is challenging every opponent they face. Carey Price looks more like Carey Price lately. Jesperi Kotkaniemi looks like the center Marc Bergevin has been waiting for. They don’t look like a serious playoff threat, but they certainly could get there, which would be a win for a team that had such low expectations after last season. *Insert Bergevin cheering gif*
16. Minnesota Wild (Preseason Ranking: 15)
In the midst of a roller coaster of a season, the Wild find themselves in a competitive position at the halfway mark. They’re not lighting the scorecard up in any certain area, but they’re a solid team with good options at every level and some enviable depth. That’s been enough for 6 straight playoff appearances, and it could very well be 7 this season. The big question is when will new GM Paul Fenton make a move? And will it be the one that gets them out of the first round?
17. New York Islanders (Preseason Ranking: 28)
Barry Trotz is making his presence felt on the Island in a big way: without a stud goaltender or elite defense corps, the Islanders are leading the league in goals against and that has them within striking distance of a wild-card spot. Even with this, they could be sellers at the deadline with a couple attractive pieces on expiring contracts. They probably won’t make much noise the rest of the year, but they’ve done well to calm some of the post-Tavares anxiety.
18. Anaheim Ducks (Preseason Ranking: 18)
The bad news: The Ducks are the league’s most injured team, and they’ve lost 10 straight, the most recent being a heartbreaker where they squandered a 3-0 lead. The good news: the West is wide open in terms of Wild-Card spots and the Ducks could still get there. A 10-game skid would sink most teams, but Anaheim has the good fortune of still being in the hunt in spite of it. They have the star power to get out of this; their guys have been here and done this before, as bittersweet as that may sound.
19. Carolina Hurricanes (Preseason Ranking: 26)
*Checks document title* No this isn’t the “most shots” power rankings, so the ‘Canes find themselves at 19th. They’ve made some strides in the right direction, but this is still a young team trying to find its way with a new coach, and it shows. At the very least, they look to be responding to Rod Brind’Amour’s message and having fun doing it. With that, the successful incorporation of Andrei Svechnikov into their lineup, and the young talent they have, they’re set up for a bright future, maybe starting in the second half if the puck goes in a little more for them.
20. Vancouver Canucks (Preseason Ranking: 31)
Another preseason ranking that was completely wrong, albeit pretty fair. Vancouver’s young players are showing the future is now for this team and that while they’re not going to make any noise this year, they could do so sooner than most expected. Elias Pettersson is electrifying to watch and gives this franchise its cornerstone and poster-boy. In the up-and-comer power rankings, Vancouver gets a much more favorable spot.
21. Edmonton Oilers (Preseason Ranking: 20)
After a decent start to the season, and another surge when Ken Hitchcock took over as head coach, the Oilers haven’t been able to gain any positive traction. Pete Chiarelli’s recent dearth of depth trades seemingly equates to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic: you’re addressing the wrong issues on a sinking ship. Hitchcock looks to have them playing better under his tutelage, but they have yet to turn those efforts into consistent wins. They’re still within striking distance of a playoff spot, but the push has to start now if they don’t want to be on the outside looking in for the third time in four years.
22. Florida Panthers (Preseason Ranking: 17)
From a pure talent standpoint, the Panthers may be hockey’s most disappointing team. Their lineup was already playoff-caliber before they added Mike Hoffman. He settled in quickly and the Panthers got off to a hot start, but they’ve played uninspiring hockey since then. They continue to struggle at even-strength and the goaltending has been mediocre. With the playoffs looking more and more like a fantasy with each passing loss, it’s do or die time for the Panthers. They came awfully close in a similar situation last year so it’s not out of the question, but the East is loaded and the top teams continue to separate themselves from the pack.
23. New York Rangers (Preseason Ranking: 25)
In the midst of a full-blown rebuild, no one expected much from the Rangers and they’re living up to it. But they’re doing the rebuild thing immaculately, and deserve credit for it. Sticking to your guns isn’t always easy, as evidenced by their spot in the standings, but it should pay dividends if they can make some savvy decisions along the way. This is a bridge year for them, nothing more, and nothing less.
24. Chicago Blackhawks (Preseason Ranking: 19)
The ‘Hawks fall from grace continues this season, and if it weren’t for the heroic pre-injury efforts of Corey Crawford, things may be worse. They’ve made tweaks around the edges of the roster and, more notably, to the coaching staff, but nothing has given them the spark they need. With playoff position slipping away, perhaps the most pressing issue for this team is now to pick a direction going forward. Here’s to hoping Crawford can return from his latest concussion in good health and give them something positive for the future.
25. New Jersey Devils (Preseason Ranking: 15)
After being one of the league’s pleasant surprises a year ago, the Devils have regressed in a major way. Taylor Hall is no longer playing at an MVP level, but he’s still better than a point-per-game, and Nico Hischier is set to eclipse his point total from last year while improving his two-way play. That’s all well and good, but when you lack any real forward depth – especially at center – and your young players regress, the results suffer. Last year they were a playoff team, this year they’re a basement dweller. Would the real New Jersey Devils please stand up?
26. Philadelphia Flyers (Preseason Ranking: 12)
The moment of silence for this one is probably replaced with a mix of boos and expletive-laden chants; it is the Flyers, after all. A new GM and a new coach haven’t been the fixes this team had hoped for, and their promising young players have stagnated or regressed in big ways. Combine all this with the fact that they can’t find solid goaltending – outside of a few good starts from promising youngster Carter Hart – and they’ve floundered their way to 30th in the league. With the talent they have on board, that’s unacceptable. With the playoffs seemingly out of sight, the focus for them should be getting the youngsters ample playing time and getting them back on track.
27. St. Louis Blues (Preseason Ranking: 8)
Take your moment of silence. I could write an entire novel on how disappointing the Blues have been and how many things are wrong with them. The most unsettling aspect of this depressing first-half of the season is how they just can’t carry any momentum from game to game. Jake Allen, the defense, and the forwards all seem to be on different pages except for one or two nights when they put it all together, and then lay an egg the next time out. The Blues are so good on paper you’ve probably been waiting for the time it all clicks and they turn it around, but it hasn’t happened and, now past the halfway point, it doesn’t look like it will any time soon.
28. Ottawa Senators (Preseason Ranking: 29)
There hasn’t been much to write about the Senators in the “good” column, on or off the ice. They continue to struggle and do so in vain this season, with their first-round pick belonging to Colorado. They play hard every night, but they don’t have the talent or depth to turn the effort into wins consistently. If any good comes from this season, it has to be that Brady Tkachuk looks promising and Tomas Chabot has stepped into Erik Karlsson’s role almost seamlessly. The Duchene/Stone negotiations will have great bearing on how this team moves forward.
29. Arizona Coyotes (Preseason Ranking: 23)
The Coyotes again had a great offseason, and again have followed it up disappointingly. I didn’t expect them to compete for the West, but a wild-card berth didn’t seem out of the cards for a team that tore up the league in the second half of last season, made some good additions and found its starting goalie. Perhaps an even more disturbing trend: only 5 of the Coyotes last 12 Coyotes drafted in the first round are still with the team, and only 3 – OEL, Clayton Keller, and Jakob Chychrun – are contributing in the NHL this year. Rick Tocchet looks like the coach this young team needs, but the bad draft trends need to change if the Coyotes want out of the basement. Unfortunately nothing they can do this year helps that cause.
30. Los Angeles Kings (Preseason Ranking: 10)
Take your final moment of silence. Part of me can’t believe the Kings are this bad, and then the other part of me reminds that part that the Kings barely made the playoffs on the back of a herculean season from Anze Kopitar, and then their only major change was adding 35-year old Ilya Kovalchuk. So it makes some sense, but probably not to this degree. The Kings are old and slow, and the league’s new emphasis on speed literally has other teams passing by them with ease. A hasty retool seems to be in the cards as they still have some good pieces, but they’re just not built to compete in the new NHL as currently constructed.
31. Detroit Red Wings (Preseason Ranking: 30)
The final juncture of these power rankings is perhaps the most predictable. Like the Rangers, the Wings are in the midst of a roster rebuild and their play and record shows it. There isn’t much to say about them; they’re a bad team playing for the future. That future looks bright, with young talent playing at every level of the club. The Wings will look to be the next version of the Avalanche or Maple Leafs, and have the pieces to make it happen. Another could be on his way this summer, depending on how the lottery balls fall.