NHL Predictions: Power Ranking Every Division
Cue the music! "Whooah, we're half way there, whooah, livin' on a prayer!" And those prayers were finally answered after 113 days of a grueling lockout. Finally, a new collective bargaining agreement was reached, so now it is time to predict how this season is going to unfold.
The structure of the NHL's shortened 48-game schedule was released on Tuesday, and really gives the upper hand to teams playing in weaker divisions. Every team will play 18 of their 48-game season against teams in their own division, meaning 37.5 percent of the shortened season will be against the same four teams.
Well lets get to it! Here are the power rankings of all six divisions.
6. Southeast Division (Eastern Conference)
The Winnipeg Jets will be looking for their first playoff birth since relocating from Atlanta
Marianne Helm/Getty Images
Teams: Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets, Carolina Hurricanes.
The Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals were the only two teams to make the playoffs out of the Southeast, Florida was ousted in the first round, while the Caps defeated the Bruins in 7 in round one, but fell to the Rangers in the second. Alex Ovechkin will hope to finally lead the Capitals to the Stanley Cup finals, while it is difficult to imagine the Panthers winning this division once again.
The most interesting team to watch will be the Carolina Hurricanes after the headlining acquisition of Jordan Staal to complement his brother Eric. It's rare that a team goes from the gutter to the top of the division, but I think the Canes will do just that in 2013.
As a whole though, there isn't a whole lot of fire power outside of Steven Stamkos in Tampa, Ovie in Washington D.C., and the Staal brothers in Carolina. The Southeast Division is the weakest division in the NHL.
|Tampa Bay Lightning||82||38||36||8||84|
5. Northeast Division (Eastern Conference)
Both Montreal and Toronto will look to make steps forward in 2013
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
Teams: Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens.
Don't get me wrong, the Boston Bruins are once again going to be a great team, and will be one of the contenders for the Stanley Cup at season's end; however, the other four teams in the Northeast Division aren't going to scary anybody.
The Senators and Sabres are both solid teams and have veteran leadership and experience; however, both teams lack depth, which is really going to cost them as the season progresses. The Senators snuck into the playoffs as the eight seed, and actually took the New York Rangers to seven games, but don't expect them to do what the Los Angeles Kings did last year and win the Stanley Cup from the bottom of the bracket.
Toronto and Montreal are both trying to define themselves, and both need to make serious adjustments in 2013. I mean Toronto just dusted GM Brian Burke, they're in shambles. The Canadiens need to find a way to improve their power play, which was 28th best in the NHL at 14.3 percent last season. The Maple Leafs couldn't stop anyone a man down, and their penalty kill was ranked 28th last year at just over 77 percent. It'll be interesting to see how the bottom four teams in the Northeast shape up, but as a whole they rank fifth out of the six divisions.
|Boston Bruins ||82||49||29||4||102|
|Ottawa Senators ||82||41||31||10||92|
|Buffalo Sabres ||82||39||32||11||89|
|Toronto Maple Leafs ||82||35||37||10||80|
|Montreal Canadiens ||82||31||35||16||78|
4. Northwest Division (Western Conference)
The Vancouver Canucks will be one of the Stanley Cup favorites in 2013
Rich Lam/Getty Images
Teams: Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers.
This is when it starts to get tough, and the bottom of the Northwest Division will be improved this year, and the Vancouver Canucks could quite possibly win the Presidents Trophy for the third straight year, but they still fall behind the other two divisions in the Western Conference as far as overall talent goes.
I'm looking forward to seeing the Wild play with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but people believe those two players alone are going to transform them into a Stanley Cup contender, which is far from the truth. The Oilers will be fun to watch with the acquisitions of Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz to an already fast paced and exciting attack, but still need work on the back end of the ice to make a serious run.
The Avalanche will continue to make progress and the Flames have yet to do anything that deems them worthy of anything better than a team that sneaks into the playoffs every year. The reason I place the Northwest at number four on this list is because the Canucks are the only serious Stanley Cup contender in the division.
|Vancouver Canucks ||82||51||22||9||111|
|Calgary Flames ||82||37||29||16||90|
|Colorado Avalanche ||82||41||35||6||88|
|Minnesota Wild ||82||35||36||11||81|
|Edmonton Oilers ||82||32||40||10||78|
3. Pacific Division (Western Conference)
Shane Doan will have to have a big year if the Coyotes want any chance at winning the Pacific Division
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Teams: Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks.
At first glance this division might look weak, but remember that three teams in the Pacific Division made the playoffs last season and the Los Angeles Kings went on to win it all - setting a playoff record with just four losses en route to the title.
The Coyotes will struggle to repeat as division champions, but Shane Doan deciding to stay in Phoenix is a huge step for the franchise and really displayed his leadership. If Mike Smith can have another great year in between the pipes, there's no reason they can't find themselves back in the playoffs.
The Stars will be the most improved team in the Pacific after adding both Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney, which will bring veteran leadership to accompany young guns Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson.
Everyone seems to forget about the Sharks, but they have all the pieces of the puzzle to make a serious run toward raising Lord Stanley. Making them the fourth team in the division that you could make a legitimate argument about to have a very successful season.
|Phoenix Coyotes ||82||42||27||13||97|
|San Jose Sharks ||82||43||29||10||96|
|Los Angeles Kings ||82||40||27||15||95|
|Dallas Stars ||82||42||35||5||89|
|Anaheim Ducks ||82||34||36||12||80|
2. Central Division (Western Conference)
Detroit and Chicago will battle all season for first place in the Central Division
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
Teams: St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets.
Just missing the number one spot is the powerful Central Division, which is by far the toughest division in the Western Conference. Four teams from the central made the playoffs last year, but all failed to reach even the conference finals. The Blues will be solid again with great, young defensemen and two fantastic goaltenders.
Nashville and Detroit both lose big named defensemen, in Ryan Suter and Nicklas Lidstrom respectively, and it will be interesting to see how both squads adapt to their losses. The Red Wings obviously take the biggest hit, and it will be interesting to see how Henrik Zetterberg handles his duties as captain. He is just the third captain in the last 26 years. To put that in perspective, the Wings had 20 different captains in the 26 years prior to 1986.
I think the Blackhawks are going to be the team to watch, they return their full core of fire power and have no excuses if they don't come out of the gates flying when the puck drops on January 19th. With a shortened season, getting off to a fast start will be crucial, and if they can play solid defense and help out goaltender Corey Crawford, I think they win this division.
Sorry Columbus fans. I'm just sorry.
|St. Louis Blues ||82||49||22||11||109|
|Nashville Predators ||82||48||26||8||104|
|Detroit Red Wings ||82||48||28||6||102|
|Chicago Blackhawks ||82||45||26||11||101|
|Columbus Blue Jackets ||82||29||46||7||65|
1. Atlantic Division (Eastern Conference)
It will be fun watching the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia rivalry unfold in 2013
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
Teams: New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders.
The Atlantic Division doesn't just have arguably the three best teams in the Eastern Conference, but perhaps the entire NHL. The New York Rangers have to be the favorite to bring home Lord Stanley after acquiring Rick Nash, while still keeping all other essentials.
Claude Giroux established himself in the playoffs last year as an elite superstar in the NHL, and if Ilya Bryzgalov can have a solid year, there is no reason why the Flyers can't bring home the cup. Losing Jaromir Jagr to the Dallas Stars will be tough, but Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds should be able to step up and fill that missing offense.
The Penguins have arguably the two best players in the world in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, so that's always an advantage. The question will be whether or not they can keep the puck out the net with a young defensive core and Marc-Andre Fleury coming off of a terrible playoff outing.
The Devils have a sticky situation on their hands, first they lost Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild, and now it isn't even certain if Ilya Kovalchuk is going to return to the United States or not. If they lose him too, they're done like dinner. Oh and Islanders fans... I'm sorry, it's going to be another rough season.
|New York Rangers ||82||51||24||7||102|
|Pittsburgh Penguins ||82||51||25||6||92|
|Philadelphia Flyers ||82||47||26||9||89|
|New Jersey Devils ||82||48||28||6||80|
|New York Islanders ||82||34||37||11||79|