The 29 other teams are chasing the Chicago Blackhawks.
The NHL has had a busy offseason, thus far, with both the draft and the initial free-agent frenzy now completed.
While more signings and trades are coming before the season gets under way in October, this is a good time to see which teams have made progress, so far, this offseason and which teams have regressed, at least on paper.
Teams are judged on what talent they added, what they lost and how well they filled their needs since the offseason began. A club's salary cap situation is also taken into consideration.
Feel free to comment on these rankings, but if you disagree, indicate why you feel the way you do.
The Ducks have had a very busy start to the offseason, but are they better?
Last Year: 30-12-6, won Pacific Division, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, Zack Sortini
Key Departures: Bobby Ryan, Nate Guenin
Verdict: The Anaheim Ducks took a huge step forward last season. By trading a top talent like Bobby Ryan, they may have taken a half-step back to improve the team in the long run.
Silfverberg and Nosesen both have a lot of offensive potential and should make the Ducks dangerous once they realize it.
The Ducks are still not sure if Teemu Selanne will be returning for another season, but they made a great move by retaining veteran center Saku Koivu for another year.
Anaheim should be a better team in the long run as a result of the trade with Ottawa, but they may not be better this year.
Can the Bruins bounce back from their loss in the Stanley Cup Final?
Last Year: 28-14-6, second place in the Northeast Division, lost in the Stanley Cup Final
Key Additions: Loui Eriksson, Jarome Iginla, Matt Fraser, Chad Johnson, Nick Johnson, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow
Key Departures: Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Andrew Ference, Nathan Horton, Anton Khudobin
Verdict: The Boston Bruins made a lot of changes since the end of the playoffs when they fell just a couple of games short of another title.
Seguin had a lot of potential, but the organization wasn't so sure he'd ever realize it and dealt him. Eriksson should fit in better with the Bruins' system even if he isn't as dangerous offensively. Horton and Ference were sent packing mostly to help the Bruins fit under the salary cap. Boston has plenty of young defensemen and will rely on them to help fill the void.
It's ironic that the Bruins added Iginla who turned down a potential deal with Boston to go to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline. Now the Bruins will have the former Calgary captain for a full season.
Chad Johnson should replace Anton Khudobin as the backup goalie.
Overall, the Bruins may need a little time to have their new pieces gel, but the club has a deep roster and a core that should keep them contending for the next few seasons.
The Bruins are different, but they won't necessarily be better or worse than they were last season.
The Sabres are still looking to make more changes.
Last Year: 21-21-6, fifth place in the Northeast Division, did not qualify for the playoffs
Key Additions: Henrik Tallinder, Jamie McBain, Drew Bagnall
Key Departures: Jochen Hecht, Adam Pardy, Nick Tarnasky, Andrej Sekera
Verdict: The Buffalo Sabres have started their rebuild, but you just get the feeling they are not done making moves this summer.
They added defensemen Jamie McBain and Drew Bagnall and reacquired Henrik Tallinder who was part of the club in more successful days.
Rumors abound that the Sabres are still interested in moving goalie Ryan Miller and forward Thomas Vanek, as Brian Stubits of CBSSports.com reported.
Expect more moves from the Sabres before the summer is over. As of right now, Buffalo has made only the slightest of improvements over last year.
The Flames have finally started their rebuilding program.
Last Year: 19-25-4, fourth place in the Northwest Division, did not qualify for the playoffs
Key Additions: T.J. Galiardi, Shane O'Brien, David Jones, Kris Russell
Key Departures: Alex Tanguay, Cory Sarich, Anton Babchuk, Roman Cervenka
Verdict: The Calgary Flames traded captain Jarome Iginla at the trade deadline. That combined with the likely retirement of goalie Miikka Kiprusoff means the Calgary Flames are finally in the midst of a long overdue rebuilding program.
The trade with Colorado for O'Brien and Jones makes the Flames younger, but not a whole lot better. Unless they can replace Kiprusoff with a quality NHL starter, Calgary is going to have a large falloff in goal. Neither Joey MacDonald nor Leland Irving are proven NHL starters.
As of right now, the Flames are not as good a team on paper as they were last year. That isn't necessarily called regression, it's taking a step back to take two steps forward.
The Hurricanes have tried to improve their defense.
Last Year: 19-25-4, third place in the Southeast Division, did not qualify for the postseason
Key Additions: Mike Komisarek, Anton Khudobin, Andrej Sekera, Mark Flood, Matt Corrente
Key Departures: Dan Ellis, Bobby Sanguinetti, Joe Corvo, Jamie McBain
Verdict: The Carolina Hurricanes are concentrating on upgrading their defense. Adding Mike Komisarek gives Carolina a physical presence on defense and some badly needed leadership and experience.
Khudobin upgrades the backup goaltending position with somebody GM Jim Rutherford feels can start if Cam Ward is injured again.
The Hurricanes also re-signed Alexander Semin who played for the club last year on a one-year contract. Semin adds scoring ability to a club that badly needs it.
A healthy Ward is the key. As of now, the Hurricanes have made some improvement this offseason. If Cam Ward is healthy, the improvement in their record next year could be noticeable.
The Blackhawks kept their core together after winning another Stanley Cup.
Last Year: 36-7-5, first place Central Division, Stanley Cup champions
Key Additions: Nikolia Khabibulin
Key Departures: Michael Frolik, Ray Emery, Viktor Stalberg, Dave Bolland
Verdict: The Chicago Blackhawks lost some talented players off their Stanley Cup-winning roster, but nothing near the number of players they lost after their last win in 2010.
GM Stan Bowman was able to re-sign some key players like Bryan Bickell, Nick Leddy, Michal Rozsival, Michal Handzus and Marcus Kruger.
The players they lost were role players, important role players, but not irreplaceable pieces of Chicago's smooth-running machine.
The biggest step down will probably be in goal where the 40-year-old Khabibulin is not as reliable a backup as Ray Emery was. The biggest difference may be the number of games each backup can play. Emery kept Cory Crawford well-rested, but don't expect Khabibulin to play 35-40 games this season.
There is no question that Chicago was regressed a bit since winning the Stanley Cup in June, but there is also little doubt that they remain one of the deepest and most talented teams in the NHL. The Blackhawks should be a contenders again next season.
The Avalanche hope to get back to the playoffs this season.
Last Year: 16-25-7, fifth place in the Northwest Division, did not qualify for the postseason
Key Additions: Nate Guenin, Cory Sarich, Alex Tanguay, Andre Benoit
Key Departures: Shane O'Brien, David Jones, Geoff Walker, Aaron Palushaj
Verdict: The Colorado Avalanche have a new coach and made an attempt to add some physicality to their defense and some experience to their lineup.
Nate Guenin and Cory Sarich should make Colorado tougher to play against and help them get the puck out of their own end. Alex Tanguay adds experience to a young group of forwards that can use the leadership.
New coach Patrick Roy's club is making some progress and should have a little more balance heading into next season.
The Blue Jackets continue to add high profile players as they rebuild.
Last Year: 24-17-7, fourth place in the Central Division, did not qualify for the postseason
Key Additions: Nathan Horton, Mike McKenna
Key Departures: None
Verdict: The Columbus Blue Jackets re-signed some key players and added a high-profile free agent as they continue to remake the culture of the team.
The biggest move was keeping Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky whom they signed to a two-year extension. They also inked Artem Anisimov to a three-year extension and coach Todd Richards to a one-year deal.
In free agency, Columbus added another offensive weapon in Nathan Horton. Horton will give the Jackets more depth and talent among their top-six forwards and show players around the league that Columbus is a place big-name free agents want to sign with.
The Blue Jackets are building momentum and improving.
There have been a lot of changes under a new GM in Dallas this summer.
Last Year: 22-22-4, fifth place in the Pacific Division, did not qualify for the postseason
Key Additions: Shawn Horcoff, Dan Ellis, Sergei Gonchar, Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin
Key Departures: Loui Eriksson, Eric Nystrom, Richard Bachman
Verdict: The Dallas Stars pulled off a major trade with the Bruins which gave them Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley, two players who should fortify the Dallas attack. After the Bruins' management was critical of Seguin before the trade, he should have some extra incentive to prove them wrong.
Dan Ellis should be an upgrade as backup goaltender over Richard Bachman.
Signing Sergei Gonchar provides the Stars an experienced offensive-minded defenseman who should help the power play and has a Stanley Cup ring.
Dallas also added a new coach in Lindy Ruff with a lot of experience.
The Stars may be a year or two away from becoming serious contenders, but they are a better team now than they were at the conclusion of last season.
The Red Wings made several new additions this offseason.
Last Year: 24-16-8, third place in the Central Division, eliminated in the second round of the postseason
Key Additions: Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss
Key Departures: Valtteri Filppula, Jan Mursak, Carlo Colaiacovo
Verdict: The Detroit Red Wings added veteran leadership in former Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson. His best scoring days are behind him, but the 40-year-old Swede should be rejuvenated by joining a new club with a winning tradition like Detroit's.
Detroit also added a bit more offense in Stephen Weiss who was a top-line player in Florida, but may settle down on the second line in Detroit.
The future of Damien Brunner is still uncertain, although the talented Swiss-born forward is rumored to be receiving interest from the New Jersey Devils, according to Nicola Berger of Neue Luzerner Zeitung, a Swiss newspaper.
Detroit will miss Filppula, but the Tampa Bay Lightning overpaid for him, and the Wings were wise not to match the offer.
Overall, the Wings added a younger top-six forward and an experienced top-six forward. They should be a bit more dangerous in the short run and have improved a bit since the end of last season.
The Oilers hope this is the year they break through and return to the playoffs.
Last Year: 19-22-7, third place in the Northwest Division, did not qualify for the postseason
Key Additions: David Perron, Jason LeBarbera, Andrew Ference, Richard Bachman, Boyd Gordon
Key Departures: Magnus Paajarvi, Nikolia Khabibulin, Shawn Horcoff
Verdict: New coach Dallas Eakins takes over a team that is waiting to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
The acquisition of Andrew Ference will add some experience and consistency to a defense that has lacked both in recent years.
LeBarbera and Bachman will battle to replace the departed Khabibulin and will probably be a slight upgrade.
Perron is an offensive upgrade over Horcoff, but isn't as responsible defensively. You would think the Edmonton Oilers needed to add more defensively responsible players.
Overall, with another year of experience and physical maturity for their young snipers and the addition of Ference, the Oilers are making a little bit of progress in their quest to return to the postseason.
The Panthers hope a return to health and some new faces will help return them to the postseason.
Last Year: 15-27-6, fifth place in the Southeast Division, did not qualify for the postseason
Recent Additions: Matt Gilroy, Mike Mottau, Joey Crabb, Jesse Winchester, Bobby Butler
Recent Departures: Stephen Weiss, George Parros, Jack Skille, Tyson Strachan, Corban Knight
Verdict: Getting their key players healthy is the biggest way the Florida Panthers will improve over last season.
Gilroy and Mottau are depth defensemen. They should help a bit on the power play and on the third pairing.
The Panthers have to replace Parros' toughness and the scoring power of Weiss. Weiss has not been spectacular, but he has been steady.
Overall, the Panthers have lost more talent off their roster than they brought in this offseason. That doesn't mean they won't improve on the ice once the season starts if they can get healthy and some young players improve and mature.
The Kings still have their core in place for another Stanley Cup run.
Last Year: 27-16-5, second place in the Pacific Division, eliminated in the third round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens, Jeff Schultz
Key Departures: Rob Scuderi, Brad Richardson, Jonathan Bernier
Verdict: The Los Angeles Kings kept together most of their core, and that means they should continue to contend again next year if they stay relatively healthy.
They lost their goaltending depth in the Bernier trade, and unless that draft choice and/or Frattin becomes something special, they probably didn't get full value for Bernier. Scrivens is a serviceable backup goalie even if he lacks the potential most scouts accorded to Bernier.
The loss of Rob Scuderi will hurt the Kings depth on defense although that was an area of strength for them before the deal. Schultz will help stem the loss of Scuderi to an extent.
Overall, the Kings have regressed since last year, but only very slightly.
The Wild made the playoffs last season and now hope to join the league's elite.
Last Year: 26-19-3, 2nd place in the Northwest Division, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Jonathon Blum, Matt Cooke, Keith Ballard
Key Departures: Devin Setoguchi, Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Justin Falk, Cal Clutterbuck
Verdict: The Minnesota Wild lost some key players, but their additions are designed to replace most of them.
Super pest Matt Cooke will replace banger Cal Clutterbuck. Cooke is a little older, but hasn't lost much yet and should be a solid replacement.
Blum has offensive potential, although he hasn't realized it yet at the NHL level. He can learn behind Ryan Suter. Ballard has talent, but lacks consistency. They should replace Falk who was dealt to the New York Rangers.
Bouchard has been hurt a lot in recent seasons and hasn't contributed as much as he used to. Cullen's steady presence will be missed, but can be replaced from within.
Overall, the Wild have improved slightly if Blum realizes his potential and Cooke stays healthy and effective.
Can the Canadiens overcome last year's playoff disappointment?
Last Year: 29-14-5, first place in the Northeast Division, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Nick Tarnasky, George Parros, Daniel Briere
Key Departures: Yannick Weber, Blake Geoffrion, Michael Ryder
Verdict: The Montriel Canadiens added some desired sandpaper to their lineup by adding Parros and a little playmaking ability in Briere.
Briere will replace Ryder and could be his equal if he's healthy and inspired by playing near where he grew up.
Overall, the Habs improved slightly, mostly due to Parros adding some size and grit, things Montreal really needs.
The Predators hope last year's down season was a temprorary setback.
Last Year: 16-23-9, fifth place in the Central Division, did not qualify for the postseason
Key Additions: Eric Nystrom, Viktor Stalberg, Matt Hendricks, Matt Cullen.
Key Departures: Bobby Butler, Jonathon Blum, Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt Halischuk
Verdict: The Nashville Predators added free agents who fit into their system well. Nashville likes to roll four lines and wear down opponents with a determined forecheck, and players like Hendricks, Nystrom, Cullen and Stalberg should fit in well. Stalberg adds a lot of speed which is always a weapon.
Losing Blum and Kostitsyn will cost the Preds some skill, but they added grit, and that fits their persona and system more.
The Predators improved slightly because the team fits their philosophy a bit better after their offseason moves.
The Devils have to adjust to life without Ilya Kovalchuk.
Last Year: 19-19-10, fifth place in the Atlantic Division, did not qualify for the postseason
Key Additions: Ryane Clowe, Cory Schneider, Rostislav Olesz, Rod Pelley
Key Departures: Ilya Kovalchuk, Henrik Tallinder, David Clarkson
Verdict: Losing Clarkson and Kovalchuk takes away a lot of offensive firepower, and the Devils have no replacements on their roster. A few years ago, GM Lou Lamoriello had to choose who to pay, Zach Parise or Ilya Kovalchuk. They gave the money to Kovalchuk, and now that he's left, the Devils don't have either player on their roster.
Clowe adds some grit and some goal-scoring ability to replace Clarkson, but he's older than the player he's replacing and more injury-prone. The Devils also overpaid him.
There have been rumors the Devils are interested in Damien Brunner who would help add a little more skill to the lineup.
Schneider was a steal from Vancouver. The Devils now have the heir apparent after Martin Brodeur retires, which should be after the coming season.
Overall, the Devils improved in net, but lost too much scoring ability. Overall, New Jersey took a step back this summer.
The Islanders look to build on last year's playoff appearance.
Last Year: 24-17-7, third place in the Atlantic Division, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Cal Clutterbuck, Peter Regin
Key Departures: Mark Streit, Nino Niederreiter, Keith Aucoin
Verdict: The New York Islanders have added some grit to the bottom-six forwards with Clutterbuck who could combine with Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas to form one of the best hitting trios in the league. Bouchard will help the top-six if he's healthy and will likely replace Brad Boyes.
The Isles will try to replace Streit's offensive production with several of their young prospects, as they have stockpiled young blueliners in the draft the past two years. Streit was great on the power play, but gave up the puck too often in his own zone.
Re-signing key players like Josh Bailey, Travis Hamonic and Evgeni Nabokov were also a big key for the Isles.
Overall, the Isles forwards should be more productive, and they have made progress if some of their young defensemen can step up and contribute at the NHL level.
The Rangers have a new coach and new hope.
Last Year: 26-18-4, second place Atlantic Division, eliminated in the second round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Justin Falk, Aaron Johnson, Benoit Pouliot
Key Departures: Matt Gilroy, Ryane Clowe
Verdict: The biggest change on Broadway came behind the bench where Alain Vigneault replaces John Tortorella. This should give the New York Rangers a different and refreshing atmosphere and prospective.
The loss of Clowe is the biggest one. Falk and Johnson can easily replace Gilroy as depth defensemen.
On the ice, the Rangers are more or less the same team as they were a year ago. The attitude in the locker room should be improved. Don't be surprised to see more moves made early in the season, as Glen Sather gives Vigneault players who fit better in his system, not Tortorella's.
The Senators lost their captain, but added key new players.
Last Year: 25-17-6, fourth place in the Northeast Division, eliminated in the second round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Clarke MacArthur, Bobby Ryan, Joe Corvo
Key Departures: Jakob Silfverberg, Peter Regin, Sergei Gonchar, Daniel Alfredsson
Verdict: With the trade for Ryan, the Ottawa Senators added more offensive skill than they've had in a few years. MacArthur is a solid second- or third-line forward.
The loss of Alfredsson marks the end of an era in Ottawa and the departure of the team's heart and soul. If Erik Karlsson is healthy, the Sens can withstand the departure of Gonchar.
Once new leadership emerges, the Sens have improved their roster in the short run with the addition of Ryan.
The Flyers added some new players, but have they solved their defensive issues?
Last Year: 23-22-3, fourth place in Atlantic Division, did not qualify for the postseason
Key Additions: Vincent Lecavalier, Ray Emery, Mark Streit, Kris Newbury
Key Departures: Ilya Bryzgalov, Daniel Briere, Ruslan Fedotenko, Andreas Lilja
Verdict: The Philadelphia Flyers added offensive talent in Lecavalier and Streit, but they don't have enough cap room left to address their need to improve defensively. Philadelphia still needs some big, talented stay-at-home defensemen.
Steve Mason and Ray Emery may not be an improvement over Bryzgalov and Mason, but the new duo is cheaper, at least, and roughly as good. The Flyers still need to upgrade in net.
Unfortunately, Philadelphia spent a lot of money in areas that didn't match their biggest needs. Their strong points have gotten stronger, but their weaknesses haven't been improved.
The Coyotes are staying in town and have added some new players.
Last Year: 21-18-9, fourth place in the Pacific Division, did not qualify for the postseason
Key Additions: Mike Ribeiro, Tim Kennedy, Thomas Greiss
Key Departures: Nick Johnson, Jason LaBarbera, Chad Johnson, Boyd Gordon
Verdict: Ribeiro adds some offensive talent and leadership to the Phoenix Coyotes while Greiss is a serviceable backup goalie.
The Coyotes hope to have added some stability by announcing they will be staying in the desert for the foreseeable future and hope to have new owners shortly.
The addition of Ribeiro and a return to health for some key personnel means the Coyotes have improved slightly this offseason.
GM Ray Shero loves to make bold moves for his Penguins.
Last Year: 36-12-0, first place Atlantic Division, eliminated in the third round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Rob Scuderi
Key Departures: Tyler Kennedy, Matt Cooke, Jarome Iginla
Verdict: Scuderi meets a big need for the Penguins, a defensive defenseman who can clear the puck and keep opposing players away from the Pittsburgh net.
The loss of Kennedy and Cooke takes away some grit from the forwards. It would have been tough to keep Iginla and to stay under the cap, but it has to be galling to the Pens to see him go to Boston.
Keeping Kris Letang, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz makes this offseason a successful one for the Pens.
They may have taken a baby step back overall, for the loss of some role-playing forwards, but if they can get even average goaltending, Pittsburgh should be a contender again this coming season.
The Blues hope to add more scoring punch to their lineup.
Last Year: 29-17-2, second place Central Division, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Derek Roy, Maxim Lapierre, Keith Aucoin
Key Departures: David Perron, Andy McDonald
Verdict: Derek Roy has the potential to add some offense, and that's an area the St. Louis Blues need to improve. He should more than make up for the loss of Perron and McDonald's production. Aucoin and Lapierre are bottom-six forwards who can help the Blues.
Re-signing Patrik Berglund and Kevin Shattenkirk were important moves.
The Blues have more or less remained at the same level, so far, this offseason.
The Sharks are a team in transition, but they remain dangerous.
Last Year: 25-16-7, third place Pacific Division, eliminated second round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Tyler Kennedy, Rob Davison
Key Departures: T.J. Galiardi, Thomas Greiss
Verdict: The San Jose Sharks have more or less stayed put this summer. The addition of Kennedy gives them a slight improvement over the departing Galiardi, but we're splitting hairs here.
Steve Yzerman continues to reshape the Bolts.
Last Year: 18-26-4, fourth place Southeast Division, did not qualify for the postseason
Key Additions: Valtteri Filppula, Geoff Walker
Key Departures: Vincent Lecavalier, Benoit Pouliot
Verdict: The Bolts lost their captain when they elected to buy him out. Lecavalier is still a good player, but he was earning superstar money, and he isn't on that level anymore.
Filppula is a bit of a gamble if they expect him to be a second-line forward. Steve Yzerman overpaid for him, but he has plenty of talent around him and should have lots of chances to succeed.
The Lightning have taken a small step forward by freeing up some cap space and getting younger.
The Leafs finally returned to the playoffs, now they try to become a contender.
Last Year: 26-17-5, third place Northeast Division, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
Key Additions: David Clarkson, Jonathan Bernier, Dave Bolland
Key Departures: Clarke MacArthur, Ben Scrivens, Mike Komisarek, Matt Frattin
Verdict: The Toronto Maple Leafs improved themselves in goal for certain. Bernier is an upgrade over Scrivens as a backup, and most scouts feel he has more potential long-term than James Reimer.
Clarkson adds scoring punch and replaces MacArthur. Bolland adds experience and versatility to the bottom-six forwards.
Toronto still has a big need for some defensemen who excel in their own zone, but they have definitely improved the team this offseason.
The goaltending situation is finally settled in Vancouver, or is it?
Last Year: 26-15-7, first place Northwest Division, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Mike Santorelli, Brad Richardson
Key Departures: Derek Roy, Keith Ballard, Maxim Lapierre, Cory Schneider
Verdict: On paper, the Vancouver Canucks lost more talent than they acquired.
The biggest issue is in goal where Roberto Luongo goes from unwanted spare tire to the starter. How will he handle the emotional roller coaster?
New coach John Tortorella may be just what Vancouver needs to whip this team into shape, but he will have to get more from less.
The Caps hope to build on last season's strong finish.
Last Year: 27-18-3, first place Southeast Division, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Tyson Strachan
Key Departures: Mike Ribeiro, Matt Hendricks, Jeff Schultz, Wojtek Wolski
Verdict: Ribeiro is the biggest loss, and the Caps haven't added anybody who can replace his production offensively.
The loss of Schultz will be felt in the Washington zone where he was a steady, if unspectacular, presence. Strachan will be given the chance to assume his role.
Overall, the Capitals have a bit less talent on their roster now than they did at the end of last season.
The Jets continue to rebuild primarily through the draft.
Last Year: 24-21-3, second place Southeast Division, did not qualify for the postseason
Key Additions: Michael Frolik, Devin Setoguchi, Adam Pardy
Key Departures: Mike Santorelli
Verdict: Winnipeg has primarily rebuilt through the draft, but adding pieces like Frolik and Setoguchi gives the Jets more talent and versatility up front.
They didn't really lose any core parts of their team and added some players who can help. Overall, the Jets have improved this summer.