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NHL Power Rankings: Where Each Team Stands Post-NHL Lockout

Tom SchreierCorrespondent IJanuary 6, 2013

NHL Power Rankings: Where Each Team Stands Post-NHL Lockout

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    The NHL is back...well, tentatively back, at least.

    By all means, run around! Jump for joy! Unleash your unfettered passion!

    So let’s say it with me, “No. More. Labor issues!”

    Or wait…I mean, “Let’s. Play. Hockey!”

    Right now let’s forget about the loss of the Winter Classic or the collective bargaining agreements. Instead, let’s focus on the action on the ice and which teams will be around when the playoffs begin.

    It may be starting late, but the beginning of season brings hope to every fan.

    Is this the year your team wins it all? We’ll just have to wait and see.

    Take a deep breath, my friends, hockey is back. And that’s a good thing.

    Here are how the teams rank as the lockout comes to an end.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Good sign: This team has nothing to lose.

    Bad sign: This franchise has been known to lose a lot.

    Before we make fun of the lowly Blue Jackets, let me remind you that there is talent on this team.

    Out is Rick Nash, but in is Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky. They will join a team with two promising 24-year-old goaltenders—Steve Mason and Sergei Bobrovsky—and Derick Brassard and Jack Johnson, two 25-year-olds who are capable NHL players.

    There probably isn’t enough here to get the Jackets out of the cellar, but it's something to build on.

29. New York Islanders

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    Good sign: The young talent is growing up.

    Bad sign: It’s probably not enough to turn things around immediately.

    John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson are all in their prime, which should be a good thing for the Islanders.

    The problem is that they may not have the right supporting cast around them.

    Nino Niederreiter is still a question mark, Rick DiPietro is probably still bad, and Evgeni Nabokov and Mark Streit are aging.

    Things could turn around this year if Tavares, Okposo, Grabner and Moulson really go off and everyone else chips in…but that’s a big if.

28. Calgary Flames

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    Good sign: Calgary booted some exhausted veterans and brought in some young blood.

    Bad sign: The core of this team is still pretty old.

    Unless your team has a rivalry with Calgary, every hockey fan wants to see the Flames win, or at least play competent hockey.

    Their arena is always packed with fans decked out in red who believe, even after years of futility, that their team is just a step away from making a playoff run.

    Perhaps this is their year.

    Out is Olli Jokinen. In is Roman Cervenka.

    This team has kept its proven stars—Alex Tanguay, Michael Cammalleri and Miikka Kiprusoff— while supplementing them with players like Cervenka and Dennis Wideman.

    Regardless of who wears the Flames sweater next year, this is still Jarome Iginla’s team.

    He’s a proven star, but he’s also 35.

27. Winnipeg Jets

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    Good sign: There are a lot of great young players on this team.

    Bad sign: They might not be ready to win yet.

    The Jets will probably have a breakout year soon.

    Evander Kane, Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian and Co. are all going to be great NHL players, but it’s hard to see things coming together this year.

    This team is still really young and will have to endure a difficult travel schedule once again.

    If Winnipeg puts it together this year, they will be one of the league’s best stories.

26. Anaheim Ducks

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    Good sign: This team has proven talent and the youth has added depth.

    Bad sign: This team is usually very talented, but falls short of expectations.

    Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne, Cam Fowler, Jonas Hiller…the list goes on and on.

    This team is stacked. Those six names stand out immediately, but there’s much more to like about this Ducks squad.

    The unfortunate thing for hockey fans in Anaheim is that this team often falls short of expectations.

    If there’s reason to hope that things will be better, it’s that players like Kyle Palmieri and Devante Smith-Pelly have another year of NHL hockey under their belt and should improve this season. With that added depth, something the Ducks have always needed, Anaheim could shock a couple people and make a dramatic leap this year.

    If not, well, we’ve heard that story before.

25. Florida Panthers

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    Good sign: They made the playoffs last year!

    Bad sign: They might not know how they did it.

    Let’s face it, the Cats backed into their first playoff appearance since 2000 last season.

    Once they got there, however, they put a scare into the eventual Eastern Conference champion Devils.

    Florida will not be able to take the same route to the postseason this year, but with a rejuvenated fanbase and a lot of similar faces, it’s not hard to think that they can make the playoffs again.

    This year we’ll learn if the Panthers have a plan or were just lucky last season.

24. Montreal Canadiens

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    Good sign: Montreal has been a successful underdog team before.

    Bad sign: They were so bad last year.

    Nobody wants to play the Habs in the playoffs. Before last year, they were that low seed that screws over your team in the first round.

    You’ve got to make the playoffs to upset a top seed, however.

    Last year they didn’t sniff the postseason and they didn’t do anything dramatic in the offseason.

    Perhaps last season was a fluke. Most of the league hopes that isn’t so.

23. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Good sign: The Coyotes won their division last year and had a great playoff run.

    Bad sign: The Pacific was pretty weak last year.

    The Pacific was one of the weirdest divisions last year.

    The Sharks and Kings were uncharacteristically poor in regular season. While L.A. went on to win it all, its Northern California brethren took a big step back.

    Then there’s Phoenix, a team that has made the playoffs three years in a row after years of futility. They took advantage of a bad division and then went on a tear.

    The Western Conference Finals appearance should galvanize fans and players alike in the desert, but there is some concern about whether they will top the Kings next year.

22. Nashville Predators

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    Good sign: They kept Shea Weber.

    Bad sign: They lost Ryan Suter.

    The Predators are known as an overachieving team that uses a lot of its own talent to fill out a roster.

    The problem is the Predators always lose their best players.

    Dan Hamhuis, Scott Upshall, Scott Hartnell and now Ryan Suter are all wearing different sweaters after having success in the Music City.

    The Preds chose to match a monster offer from the Flyers for free agent defenseman Shea Weber, the heart and soul of this club, meaning the best player to ever play in Nashville will stay put.

    Will it be enough? We’ll find out soon enough.

21. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Good sign: The fans will return.

    Bad sign: This team always tortures them.

    Leafs fans will pack the ACC hoping that Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and James van Riemsdyk can take this team to the playoffs for the first time since the last lockout.

    History says that it won’t happen, but, hey, anything can happen.

20. Edmonton Oilers

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    Good sign: Having the first overall selection year after year yields talent.

    Bad sign: This team may still be too young.

    Edmonton easily could be a surprise team this year.

    Their young talent is marinating in the American League, and those players who are too old or established to play in Oklahoma City should have enough experience in the NHL to know what to do once the season starts.

    There is some concern about how sound this team is defensively and in net.

    Wendy’s once asked, “Where’s the beef?” Edmonton will have to answer that question.

19. New Jersey Devils

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    Good sign: They won the Eastern Conference Finals last year.

    Bad sign: They lost Zach Parise.

    Here’s a bit of good news for Devils fans: It looks like the financial issues have abated for now.

    Here’s some bad news: Zach Parise is no longer on the team.

    There’s still a lot of talent in New Jersey—Ilya Kovalchuk, Adam Larsson and Martin Brodeur immediately come to mind—but there is some serious question about how they will fare against the daunting Atlantic Division.

18. Colorado Avalanche

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    Good sign: This team is talented.

    Bad sign: They’re also really young.

    It’s hard not to like the Avalanche’s decision to name Gabriel Landeskog their team captain. He’s one of the league’s premier young players on a team of potential superstars.

    Along with Matt Duchene, Jamie McGinn, Ryan O’Reilly and Erik Johnson, Landeskog headlines an under-25 group that could have a breakthrough season this year and bring the great people of Colorado back to the Pepsi Center this year.

    In that same breath, however, they may be too young and management will have to tell people once again to wait until next season.

17. Ottawa Senators

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    Good sign: This team was surprisingly good last year.

    Bad sign: It’s hard to see why.

    Don’t get me wrong: There are great players in Ottawa.

    Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson are all premier players. Kyle Turris is a good young player and Craig Anderson hasn’t disappointed since his breakout season in Colorado a while back.

    Having said that, nobody looks at the Senators' roster and says they’re stacked.

    This year we’ll learn whether last season was a fluke or a sign of things to come.

16. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Good sign: This team kept its homegrown stars while adding proven talent.

    Bad sign: Success in the offseason doesn’t always translate to wins in the regular season.

    Carolina kept Jeff Skinner, Tim Gleason and Co. in town while uniting two Staal brothers (Jordan and Eric) and adding a former division rival (Alexander Semin).

    Best-case scenario? Skinner and Semin go off, Gleason locks down and the Staal boys make people go “Henrik and Daniel who?”

    Worst-case scenario? Skinner slumps, Semin has a conflict with management, the Staal brothers collide with each other and Gleason wishes he had signed elsewhere.

15. Dallas Stars

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    Good sign: This team is close to making the playoffs.

    Bad sign: Isn’t that what people said last year?

    If there is one player that encapsulates what it means to be a Dallas Star, it is team captain Brenden Morrow. He hits you hard, but he hits you cleanly.

    The Stars know that hockey is a football fan’s contact-sport fix when the Cowboys season ends. They expect the same level of intensity on the ice that they have off it.

    The organization also is considered one of hockey’s classiest, exemplified when they cut Sean Avery, a popular player, after his infamous “sloppy seconds” comment.

    It’s been a while since Dallas was a force in the league, but with guys like Loui Eriksson, Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney and Stephane Robidas, this team is ready to make a postseason run.

    It all starts with Morrow, though. As he goes, so does the team.

14. Minnesota Wild

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    Good sign: Minnesota signed two bona fide superstars.

    Bad sign: Sometimes big signings don’t pay off (just ask Columbus).

    The Wild brand had gone stale.

    No longer was the team the brand-new, shiny team in town. No longer were Minnesotans satisfied just having a team.

    They had to win. Now.

    Best-case scenario? Zach Parise and Ryan Suter lead a team with established stars like Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley on a deep playoff run.

    Worst-case scenario? This team will have to wait until more of its prospects are NHL-ready.

13. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Good sign: Guy Boucher is a genius.

    Bad sign: He got figured out last year.

    The Lightning have plenty of talent and arguably the most cerebral coach in the league.

    Everyone’s curious what tricks Boucher has up his sleeve this year.

    This season is on him: Was the success of his first year a trend or simply a result of a gimmick that the Flyers figured out?

12. Buffalo Sabres

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    Good sign: This team finally spent some money and got the talent it needed.

    Bad sign: The investment did not pay off last year.

    Last year the Buffalo Sabres were wimpy, wimpy, wimpy.

    Want to take our superstar goalie’s head off? Go right ahead!

    This year they’ve made efforts to become hefty, hefty, hefty.

    It all starts with the acquisition of Steve Ott, via trade, this offseason.

    A change in the locker room culture will hopefully bring out the best in underachieving players, specifically longtime Sabre Thomas Vanek and two highly paid imports, Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino.

11. San Jose Sharks

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    Good sign: There are players on this roster who have won before.

    Bad sign: Those same players lost in the first round last year.

    For years it was the same story with the Sharks. They were a great regular-season team that can’t win it all.

    Now there is question about whether they’ll even make the playoffs.

    Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Co. remain in the Bay Area, but generally this team has traded away youth (Milan Michalek, Jamie McGinn, Devin Setoguchi) and now has some concern about players on the wrong side of 30 (Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Douglas Murray).

    Was last year a small bump or a harbinger of things to come?

    We’ll get an answer pretty soon.

10. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Good sign: This team has always made aggressive moves to get better.

    Bad sign: L.A. won last year with a couple former Flyers.

    Flyers fans seem pretty certain that their team is making the right moves to bring a Stanley Cup to Philadelphia for the first time since the '70s.

    It had to be hard to see Mike Richards and Jeff Carter win it all with the Kings last year, but Philly has talent of its own. Claude Giroux is beloved in the city, Sean Couturier may become one heck of a hockey player, and it’ll be fun to see whether the Schenn brothers can outdo the other fraternal connections in Carolina and Vancouver. 

    There’s still some questions about whether Ilya Bryzgalov really is that curious about the universe or if he is perpetually high (and, if so, does he store his weed in Scott Hartnell’s hair?).

    But, really, the question Flyers fans are asking is: When are they going to win it all?

9. Detroit Red Wings

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    Good sign: The Red Wings know how to win hockey games.

    Bad sign: If Kobe were to describe them, he’d say they’re “old as sh*t!”

    Go onto the Red Wings' site and the first thing you’ll see is an offer to buy tickets to the Michigan vs. Michigan State hockey game at Joe Louis Arena.

    They don’t call Detroit Hockeytown for nothing. People out there see players play hockey from squirts to high school to juniors to college and finally to the pros.

    Motown lives and breathes hockey and is used to seeing a winning team in red. Unfortunately, even though Nick Lidstrom may be the perfect human, he gets old and retires just like the rest of us. 

    Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk may still be lacing up the skates for the next couple years, but at this point they are closer to retirement than any Red Wings fan would like to believe.

8. Washington Capitals

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    Good sign: This is the most talented team in the Southeast Division.

    Bad sign: It relinquished its hold over it last season.

    On paper, the Capitals should have gotten their division title back last year. Unfortunately for hockey fans in Washington, Alex Ovechkin and Co. underachieved big-time.

    It would be convenient for puckheads to write that season off as an anomaly, but that might not be a safe assumption at this point.

7. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Good sign: The Hawks' roster seems to have stabilized after suffering post-Cup casualties.

    Bad sign: Umm…who’s playing goalie?

    Let’s take a moment to make fun of Patrick Kane one last time for getting absolutely wasted in Madison, Wis., before the season starts.

    Because once this team gets rolling, this guy will be coming back with a vengeance.

    He has a stacked team with stellar forwards Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, and two stalwart blueliners in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

    The problem is the Blackhawks are banking on Ray Emery, who’s known more for his fighting than his goaltending, and inconsistent Corey Crawford in net.

6. Los Angeles Kings

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    Good sign: They won the Stanley Cup last year and are returning a similar team.

    Bad sign: Like a celebrity after a night out in L.A., this team may be due for a hangover.

    It’s a great time to be a Kings fan.

    Your team finally won a Stanley Cup and did it with players who should be in Los Angeles for a long time. Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are all under 30.

    This team should take the Pacific Division and make a serious run at a two-peat this season.

    Unfortunately for Kings fans, sometimes things don’t always work out as they should.

5. St. Louis Blues

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    Good sign: The Blues finally made a splash in the playoffs.

    Bad sign: Are they talented enough to win it all?

    The Blues were the Sharks before the lockout. They always made the playoffs, never won it all.

    As it stands, St. Louis has a lot of gifted young players and a great team-based philosophy.

    It’s nice to have a team of talented, selfless players, but the question the team has to answer is if it can win it all with what it has.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Good sign: With Sid the Kid, this team is one of the best in the league.

    Bad sign: Sidney Crosby has a serious injury history.

    The Penguins can win without Sidney Crosby, no doubt, but it’s hard to see them winning the Stanley Cup without their best player.

    A healthy Pittsburgh will be expected to win it all, but what happens if No. 87 gets injured again?

3. Vancouver Canucks

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    Good sign: This team isn’t much different than the one that almost won it all two years ago.

    Bad sign: The window is closing.

    For years Vancouver has dominated a weak Northwest Division.

    Now the Wild, Avalanche and Oilers have improved, and the Canucks are beginning to look like an older team.

    The Sedins are 32 and the four primary defensemen are 30 or older. All of these players are still in their prime, but it won’t be long before they will be considered old hockey players.

2. Boston Bruins

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    Good sign: The core from the 2011 Stanley Cup champion team is intact.

    Bad sign: The players are also two years older than they were when they won it all.

    Boston is a sports town that outsiders love to hate and, honestly, the locals probably love to be hated.

    It’s not hard, then, to see why they love this hockey team.

    The Big Bad Bruins will bash in their opponent’s faces, break their ankles with dangles and go hard to the net on every shift.

    They have Zdeno Chara, a man bigger than any building in Buffalo; Patrice Bergeron; Chris Kelly, a man who is proud to say he got out of Ottawa; and Tyler Seguin, who thanks God every day that the Maple Leafs traded that pick; at least if you hear them say it.

    The great thing about being cocky is that if you win it’s justified. The worst is if a watered-down version of the Capitals knocks you out of the playoffs in the first round, you look like a fool.

1. New York Rangers

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    Good sign: They’re probably the best team on paper.

    Bad sign: That rarely means anything once the games start.

    This team has it all.

    Acquired by free agency or trade: Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Rick Nash.

    Established homegrown talent: Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal and Henrik Lundquist.

    Superstar youth: Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan.

    This team should be the best in the league next year. The problem is that things don’t always happen like they’re supposed to.

    That’s why they play the games.

     

    Tom Schreier writes a weekly column for TheFanManifesto.com and contributes to Hockey’s Future and Stadium Journey.

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