With the NHL’s April 3 trade deadline rapidly closing in, it’s time for teams across the league to take stock in their talent and decide whether they are buying or selling.
The NHL consistently has the most active trade deadline of any major professional sport, mostly due to the “just get in” philosophy of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And with the lockout shortening the season’s window of opportunity, at least three-quarters of the league still has a realistic shot of making the postseason.
So these next couple of weeks will ultimately decide for some whether or not the 2012-13 season is worth taking a risk. When taking a look at the landscape of the entire league, it’s difficult to say what teams will do at this point. There are too many jumbled teams in the standings, and the power rankings are violently vacillating (other than the top) on almost a weekly basis.
With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of where every NHL team stands heading into the trade deadline.
1. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks have slowed down from their historic pace at the start of the season, but it’d be impossible not to. Though Chicago has lost three of its past six since starting the season with 24-straight games without a regulation loss, it remains the best and deepest team in the NHL.
Patrick Kane has been nothing short of marvelous this season with 38 points and may well win the Hart Trophy when all is said and done. With Corey Crawford and Ray Emery also doing an excellent job splitting goaltending duties, it’s going to be interesting to see whether any team can stop this runaway train.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
If it’s possible to have a quiet 10-game winning streak, then the Penguins are doing it. Pittsburgh has reeled off a 10 spot and done so without reigning Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin. Sidney Crosby has returned to his own top-notch form with 50 points thus far and the Penguins lead the NHL at 3.5 goals per game and power play percentage.
This is an offensive juggernaut that will only get better once Malkin returns.
3. Anaheim Ducks
For all the understandable talk about Chicago’s streak to start the season, Anaheim has just as many regular-season losses. The Ducks are a fantastic all-around team—outside of penalty killing—and have taken a stronghold of the Pacific Division.
4. Montreal Canadiens
Speaking of top-to-bottom juggernauts, the Canadiens may be the deepest team in the NHL. They have 12 players with 10 or more points, none of which top Max Pacioretty’s 23 thus far.
Despite that no-superstar mentality, Montreal ranks inside the top-10 in almost every conceivable statistical category. They rank fifth in goals per game, seventh in goals against and 10th in power play percentage.
It’s certainly questionable whether this can sustain during the postseason. But the future and present looks very bright for the Canadiens.
5. Los Angeles Kings
The defending Stanley Cup champions might not be a dominating force defending their title, but lest we forget the Kings weren’t all that great last regular season, either.
Los Angeles has still managed to improve its place in the Western Conference from last season and has gotten strong all-around play offensively. Jonathan Quick showed signs of improving from his slow start by shutting out the Coyotes on Monday and still has a bevy of talent waiting to be tapped.
6. Boston Bruins
After looking like a Stanley Cup Finals favorite earlier during the season, the Bruins have come back to earth somewhat. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games, including two straight losses before Thursday night’s contest versus Ottawa.
With Pittsburgh running away with the top seed in the Eastern Conference, plenty of folks in Boston are rightfully concerned about the loss of home-ice advantage. This shortened season will undoubtedly have some players on their last legs heading into the postseason, and having any slight advantage could be key going forward.
That said, the Bruins can rest their laurels on having defense and goaltending—the two most important factors in the playoffs—on lock. Tuukka Rask has a goals allowed average of just 1.92 this season, third-best in the NHL, and Boston kills penalties better than any other team at a 92.2 percent success rate.
7. Ottawa Senators
Speaking of defense, the Senators just continue to astound on a nightly basis. They lead the NHL in goals allowed average at 2.0, are second in the league in penalty kills at 88.4 percent and keep despite defenseman Sergei Gonchar being their most prolific scorer thus far.
Ben Bishop has done a fine job without Craig Anderson in the lineup, but the Senators are still waiting on bated breath for their star goalie’s return.
8. Minnesota Wild
Winners of four straight games, the Wild are one of the NHL’s best stories this season. They have pulled into a tie for third place in the Western Conference with 38 points and have gotten contributions from all over the ice.
That said, there are still cracks in the armor. They have only scored six more goals then they have allowed this season, which means a reversion to the mean could be right around the corner. For now, Minnesota is an exciting thrill ride to watch every night.
9. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets are only in third place in the Eastern Conference by virtue of the division they play in, but have started resembling the NHL’s Cardiac Kids. Their comeback win over the Bruins on Tuesday was just another example, as they scored three goals in the third period to win.
There isn’t much hope for this side as a viable Stanley Cup threat, but Winnipeg can take solace in looking down at most of its conference foes.
10. St. Louis Blues
With six wins in their last 10 games, the Blues have slowly started emerging as a dangerous middle-of-the-pack team. Winger Chris Stewart has been on a bit of a scoring surge of late, scoring seven points in the team’s last five games, including back-to-back two-goal games.
They will need Stewart to keep that up going forward and the offense to keep improving to have a shot at becoming a sleeper.
11. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks’ talent level and level of play just have not matched up this season. Both Sedins are having mediocre campaigns, and the team has already lost six times in overtime. Part of that indicates some bad luck that will revert to the mean over time, but this doesn’t feel like a Stanley Cup contender whatsoever.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs
If the Leafs were an NBA team, they would probably be the Los Angeles Lakers. Equipped with a top-notch group of scorers, Toronto ranks sixth in the NHL at 3.0 goals per game. But the team also has major problems in net with Ben Scrivens and James Reimer, leading to a mediocre at best goals against average.
Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel are spectacular talents, but the front office will need to do something at the deadline to help out defensively.
13. Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings aren’t what anyone would call floundering—except in the Detroit area, where greatness is expected on a yearly basis. This team was flawed from the jump, with the old players getting only another year closer to retirement and the team’s younger talent not quite ready to make a real impact.
Hockey never stays down for long in Detroit, so this mediocrity is likely a short-term experience. But even a “bad” season for the Red Wings constitutes being one of the 10-15 best teams in hockey on a nightly basis.
14. New York Rangers
Other than Rick Nash and (to a lesser extent) Derek Stepan, the Rangers offensive production has been a mess this season. They rank 27th in the NHL in goals per game, and have been especially dreadful away from Madison Square Garden.
In other words, fans should be thanking their lucky stars that Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron have been so fantastic this season. Lundqvist especially has been an absolute marvel between the pipes. He’s missed only five games thus far due to rest, though one has to wonder whether his sterling health will keep up going forward.
If it doesn’t, the impetus will be on Biron to step up.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets
Speaking of teams that haven’t been able to find the back of the net, Columbus ranks dead last in goals scored. The Blue Jackets have gotten borderline dreadful performances from each of their stars, with no player having yet reached 20 points for the season yet.
Nevertheless, the team hasn’t lost in regulation in any of its past 10 games thanks to the continued greatness of Sergei Bobrovsky. The 24-year-old goaltender is 10-6-5 in net this season with a goals against average of just 2.05. He’s made saves on 93.1 percent of shots sent his way, and has taken plenty of games to shootouts due to the inefficiency of Columbus’ offense.
The Blue Jackets aren’t a serious contender until they start scoring goals. But Bobrovsky is a guy few want to see when the playoffs start.
16. Carolina Hurricanes
If it weren’t for their performance on power plays, the Hurricanes would probably be a whole lot closer to the mountaintop. They are 29th in the NHL in converting power plays at 13.1 percent, and have only stopped opposing teams 78.4 percent of the time.
It’s unclear whether this is a systematic problem, a personnel problem or just a minor blip. Either way, Carolina’s terrible power play performance has to be fixed before it can be taken seriously as a playoff team.
17. San Jose Sharks
San Jose is just like Carolina on the power play—only the complete opposite. The Sharks are fourth in killing teams’ momentum while shorthanded and is a top-half team scoring with an extra man.
Their problem, however, remains Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture are the only major goal-scoring threats. At 2.3 goals per game, the Sharks are 28th in the NHL in goals per game.
18. New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur finally made his triumphant return for the Devils on Thursday, and it couldn’t have come a moment sooner. The team was on the outside looking in of the Eastern Conference playoff race and had lost three straight heading into Thursday’s contest.
With a logjam down at the bottom of the conference, each result will be exemplified going forward. Having Brodeur back might just be the elixir that takes New Jersey to the postseason.
19. Phoenix Coyotes
Also on a downward slope, Phoenix’s recent four-game losing streak has pushed the team to ninth place in the Western Conference. The Coyotes don’t excel at any particular facet, nor do they fail at anything, so it will be interesting to see whether they are buyers or sellers at the deadline.
20. New York Islanders
The Islanders are one of a select few teams this season with a better road record than home, and their swing is the most noticeable of all. They are 5-9-2 at home, a record that would send them to the trash heap in either conference. On the road, New York is a sterling 8-4-1, which would put the team directly in the playoff hunt.
It could be an aberration or have something to do with the team’s impending move to Brooklyn in 2015. If it’s the latter, this could be a long two-year waiting period.
21. Dallas Stars
Jaromir Jagr is the Stars’ leading scorer with 21 points. Jagr is also 41 years old. That should tell you all you need to know about the team’s injury situation and goal-scoring this season.
22. Tampa Bay Lightning
There are plenty of mitigating signs that point to Tampa Bay being a dangerous team late in the season. The Lightning are the only non-playoff team that has scored more goals than they have allowed, and they are second overall in scoring this season.
Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis lead a high-powered offensive attack and have combined for 79 points between them alone. If only they could get their situation in net under wraps, Tampa Bay could emerge as a major sleeper.
23. Edmonton Oilers
Another team that’s fallen on a lot of bad luck this season, Edmonton has seven losses in overtime this season. Though the Oilers still get a point in the standings for those shortcomings, they also could have been a playoff contender had a shot or two gone their way.
24. Nashville Predators
After starting the season well, the Predators are in a tailspin. They are just 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, taking them from being in the mix for a playoff spot all the way down to 13th place in the Western Conference. Their goal-scoring has been nonexistent, and it doesn’t look like it will get better anytime soon.
Their early-season performance still counts for something, but this is a team headed in the wrong direction fast.
25. Philadelphia Flyers
Apparently losing integral parts of your team and missing out on free agents in the summer doesn’t beget a playoff spot the next season. Who knew?
26. Washington Capitals
It’s hard to watch Alex Ovechkin and wonder what happened to the young star who was once considered a future Hall of Famer. He’s still leading the Capitals in goals scored with 12 and has matched that with his assists, but Ovechkin is light years away from the player he once was.
His production stats are the lowest of his career, and this is the third straight year he’s descended sharply in that category. Washington isn’t going anywhere this season, and Ovechkin’s fall from grace is a big reason why.
27. Calgary Flames
Four different players have manned the pipes for Calgary this season. None have a goals allowed average of better than 2.98 (Joey McDonald).
Related: The Flames give up 3.3 goals per game, third worst in the NHL.
28. Colorado Avalanche
Crushing Chicago’s dreams of going through the season without a loss in regulation remains the Avalanche’s biggest accomplishment thus far. They are still languishing at the bottom of the Western Conference and have not even found a statistical niche.
That said, this is a young team very early in its rebuilding stages. Colorado has shown fight and plenty of its young players have shown promise, especially Matt Duchene.
29. Buffalo Sabres
Thomas Vanek’s injury is the latest in a season full of low blows in Buffalo. If there’s a team most in need of a major overhaul, it may be the Sabres.
30. Florida Panthers
It’s getting increasingly hard to find positives for the Panthers this season. They have gotten outscored by 19 more goals than any other team, are the only squad not yet to 25 points and have just eight wins all season.
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