I’m breaking down this first ranking into 3 categories. 1-16 are expected playoffs (obviously), 17-25 are all teams that have the potential to sneak into a playoff spot, 26-31 have no chance, they are the bottom feeders. As we know hockey is a crazy sport and any of these teams can become this years Golden Knights.
31. Ottawa Senators
This team is the definition of dumpster fire, seriously check the dictionary…i’ll wait. See, told ya! I feel bad for the players there, cause its obvious that management doesn’t care, this really seems like a ploy to move the team.
30. Detroit Redwings
Can they just hire Yzerman now? They have to start getting some of these big contracts off the books and rebuild, believe it or not, theyre still the oldest team in the league. That’s not exactly how you rebuild a team, if Yzerman can come back home and rebuild this team, he’ll be a hall of fame player and GM.
29. New York Islanders
They lost a pretty key player and couldn’t replace him, new coach Barry Trotz must have seen something with this group when he came here. He has ways of making an average d-core good, but is there any offensive fire power beyond Barzal, Bailey and Lee?
28. Carolina Hurricanes
This is one of the best young defense cores the league has to offer, but can a goalie step up? They also have to be looking forward to some of the young forwards they have as well, but the depth just isn’t there.
27. Chicago Blackhawks
These guys are paying WAY to much money to a small number of players. The biggest issue is that Chicago used to be the masters of finding good bargain guys and drafting well. That hasn’t happened in a few years and they just keep sliding back. Is it time to rebuild, because the defense isn’t getting any younger, in fact its falling apart quicker than anyone could have imagined.
26. Montreal Canadiens
I didn’t put these guys 31st because of Carey Price, but even he may not be able to help this train-wreck. The key is if Shea Weber comes back healthy, because if so, hes dominate. There’s definitely a chance the locker room rallies and plays well despite management, but that doesn’t happen often.
25. Vancouver Canucks
This group is top heavy and their defense isnt very good. The Sedins are gone, its time for this team to find a new idenity, Brock Boeser may be just the guy to do that.
24. New York Rangers
This is the first time in a long time, that you look up and down the Rangers roster and wonder who the hell these kids are. They still have Hank in net so that will add wins to their total, just by him stealing some games. The matter is what direction will this rebuild take?
23. Buffalo Sabres
It seemed to be a complete dismantling in Buffalo, but then turned into a potential playoff team. Jack Eichel needs to breakout into full super star mode and this team will cruise into the playoffs. Rasmus has been widely hyped and a huge campaign from him would boost everyone’s play. Which Rasmus am I talking about? Dahlin is the most obvious answer as the #1 pick, but I meant Ristolainen. Dahlin needs someone else on the blue line to step up and take some of the pressure off him, the 2 Rasmus’s both look to have huge seasons.
22. Edmonton Oilers
They have one of the best players in hockey, top 2 with Crosby, but the holes in this line up are huge. Can Cam Talbot hold the work load? Can the defense stop anyone? We know how good McDavid can be, but when will he become a true leader and elevate this team to where they need to be.?
21. Arizona Coyotes
This team could make the playoffs or finish dead last, such a mystery here. The potential is there, but have they put it together yet? Raanta showed signs of brilliance last season, and a good campaign from him could put this team over the top. The Alex Galchenyuk trade showed that Arizona is attempted to put together a winner now sooner than later. They are a team on the cusp, but how far away is the breakout?
20. Colorado Avalanche
They really surprised everyone last year, and they have some young stud pieces but it doesn’t seem like Sakic has put together the full package yet. Give it a couple years and this could be a cup worthy team similar to how Winnipeg and Tampa have been built.
19. New Jersey Devils
Taylor Hall’s back must really hurt, he won the MVP and carried his team to the playoffs. Nico Hischier needs to continue his break out, his progress is key to this teams success. The health and status of their goaltending is also key, Cory Schneider returning will be huge for this team. Kincaid did fine last year, but a healthy Schneider adds 10+ wins to this teams record.
18. Minnesota Wild
This team is deep, but they have no huge breakouts stars. Staal needs to keep up the huge numbers, because no one else on the team will. This team is built to win, that just hasn’t translated to the playoffs.
17. Dallas Stars
Valeri Nichushkin returning from Russia was bigger than any other free agent signing they could have made, but they also feel short on Karlsson and Tavares. This team wants to win now, so its interesting to see if they continue to try and land a big star.
16. Vegas Golden Knights
They didn’t dwell on their miracle season, instead they made the moves to actually win the cup. Big additons could actually make this team better than last years, but now that teams have seen more of this group as a team, they wont win as many games. That doesn’t mean they can’t get back to the cup or win a lot of games.
15. Anaheim Ducks
They have a stellar D and a great goalie, but those forwards are getting old. Can they make another run before its too late? A youth movement has to be on its way, but for now its still the Perry and Getzlaf show.
14. Calgary Flames
This team made some moves, Real Deal type moves. James Neal joins, Johnny Hockey aka Johnny Ham-n-Cheese, plus Sean Monahan and Matt Thachuk give this team some real offensive threats. The defense is arguably top 5 in the league, so if Mike Smith has a big year this team is more than just a playoff team, they’re a contender.
13. Florida Panthers
Sleep on this team…I dare you. Barkov is the truth and he has pretty good company around him. The make or break is Bobby Lou, hes aging, but one more good run could really put this team over. Luongo doesn’t seem like the guy that will play past his time, so Florida needs to take advantage while they still have time.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets
They have a top 3 goalie, and once Seth Jones gets back they have a top notch d-core. Its just a matter if they can finally put it together and make an epic run, similar to the Jets last season. They desperately have to get past the first round.
11. Philadelphia Flyers
Gritty may push this team to the cup.
Claude Giroux and company have all the fire power to do some damage in the playoffs. The key here will be goaltending, its weak right now, but is Carter Hart really the answer now? He’s young and a huge prospect, but unlike Matt Murray in Pittsburgh, he doesn’t have a Marc Andre as a safety net. If the Flyers score tons of goals but can’t stop anything then Carter may get the call up.
10. Boston Bruins
Boston exceeded exceptions last year with standout young studs, but will there be a sophomore slump? Even with a slight slump this is still a good team, everything rest on Tukka though. He plays almost every game, so if he gets off to a rough start, the Bruins fall with him.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs
They are going for it, signing Tavares makes them a fancy Cup pick, but lets not forget the defense isn’t that good. Its middle of the league at best, but that doesn’t mean they win a lot. The key is that defense usually gets exposed in the playoffs.
8. LA Kings
This team is all in, they need to win now. Its only a matter of time before this turns into a Blackhawks situation, with all the absurd contracts. This team has a core of players who have won multiple Stanley Cups, no reason to believe they can’t do it again.
7. St. Louis Blues
If any teams made all the right moves, its the Blues. They need to improve their power play, the acquisitions they made should do just that. If Jake Allen takes the strides he needs to become a top goaltender then there may be no stopping this team.
6. San Jose Sharks
This team did nothing in the off season to improve, they wont have the best defense in the league either. Seriously though the addition of Karlsson puts the San Jose vets on notice, this is the best chance they’ve had to win in a long time. Hopefully some of these guys find the fountain of youth, like Thornton and Pavelski.
5. Washington Capitals
There’s a chance the Caps can repeat, but it’s way more of a possibility that they don’t. They did everything they could to resign everyone, but now for the first time ever, the target is on their back. This team will be good, but can they repeat, its the story that will haunt them all year.
4. Winnipeg Jets
This team has to believe its Stanley Cup or bust, they did everything but reach that point last year. Yes, they lost 4-1 to Vegas but every game was close and they never seemed to get completely out played. If they play with something to prove then they could end up with the best record in the league, but never leave out the option that they blame everyone but themselves for failing to make it all the way last year.
3. Nashville Predators
This team has to feel forgot about, everyone wants the new shiny toy (Vegas, Winnipeg), but the West still belongs to Smashville. They have just as good a defense as San Jose, maybe the best goalie in the league, and great top line forwards. This is the team to beat in the West, but they have to win a cup to make people remember how good they are.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
Falling short of the cup, after back-to-back, might actually benefit the Penguins. They got some rest, Matt Murray needed it, the whole team probably needed it. They have a Stanley Cup worthy team, just because 1 year has passed doesn’t mean we should forget how good these guys are. It seems like Sidney Crosby enjoys reminding people that this is his league until he retires, why should this year be any different.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
A model of depth, the Lightning boast the best top-nine forward combinations in the league. They’re coming off three deep playoff runs in the past four springs, so perhaps this is the season it all comes together. This is the most complete team the NHL has to offer this year, but the NHL proves time and time again that a super team doesn’t guarantee a championship.