Having a strong power play in the NHL isn't a necessity. The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks both had power plays that ranked in the bottom third of the league in 2013, but that didn't prevent them from reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
Still, an effective power play can make several positive impressions on a team. Outside of the obvious benefit of scoring more goals, a dangerous unit with the extra man can prevent the opposition from taking liberties during five-on-five play.
Tough Guy McGee is probably going to think twice about face washing your leading scorer after the whistle if the power play is clicking at 20 percent.
While reading this, please keep in mind that the percentage difference between the 25th-ranked power play and the 15th-ranked power play isn't massive. Typically, fractions of percentages separate teams within five or six spots of each other, so if you think a particular squad should be a bit higher, odds are it could be.
All power-play information appears courtesy of NHL.com.
2013 Final Ranking: Ninth (20.0%)
Key Players: Sven Baertschi, Sean Monahan, Mike Cammalleri
Why It's Here: The Calgary Flames had a strong power play in 2013. It was one of the few bright spots during a season that saw the franchise deal Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester for future prospects and hit the reset mode on the team as a whole.
While the leading scorers from the power-play unit are returning, it's likely that this group takes a step back as it searches for a new identity and leans harder on its youth.
2013 Final Ranking: 29th (14.1%)
Key Players: Thomas Vanek, Cody Hodgson, Steve Ott
Why It's Here: The Buffalo Sabres had one of the worst power plays in the NHL in 2013, and there's little reason to believe that the group will perform much better this year. Thomas Vanek is a monster with the extra man and scored nine power-play goals last season, but there's a huge drop-off after him.
In fact, you'd have to combine the next five power-play goal leaders on the team just to tie Vanek in production.
This group could take a step forward if Brayden McNabb breaks into the league and finds a home on the top unit. Getting a little more from Christian Ehrhoff wouldn't hurt matters, either. He scored one power-play marker last year—an unacceptable number for a guy who is paid to be an offensive defenseman.
2013 Final Ranking: 21st (15.9%)
Key Players: Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique, Michael Ryder
Why It's Here: Landing Michael Ryder helped lessen the loss of David Clarkson and his team-leading six power-play goals, but it's hard to see this group taking a step forward after losing Ilya Kovalchuk as well. The team will be relying heavily on the likes of Ryder and Jaromir Jagr to step in and fill those voids.
That's no small task for Jagr and his aging legs. Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique are still strong players when given the extra space and time on the power play, but this group is marked for a small regression after the offseason departures.
2013 Final Ranking: 30th (13.8%)
Key Players: Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane
Why It's Here: There's just too much finish available to the Winnipeg Jets for them to remain in the power-play basement for another year. Evander Kane is 22 now and is primed to take another step forward in his development.
He'd give the Jets an outstanding shoot-first option up front. A return to form for Dustin Byfuglien could push this group of slick players even higher, but that would just be a bonus at this point. Big Buff led the team in power-play goals last season and could score as many as 10 this year.
2013 Final Ranking: 17th (17.1%)
Key Players: Shea Weber, Patric Hornqvist, Colin Wilson
Why It's Here: Like the Boston Bruins, the Nashville Predators feature one of the hardest-shooting defenders that has ever played the game. And yet, also like the Bruins, the Predators still possess one of the weakest power plays in the NHL.
For a team that scores as infrequently as Nashville, an improved power play is something that could go a long way toward putting the Predators back into the playoffs this year. The offseason saw them add some depth players, but Matt Cullen isn't going to come to town and turn this power play around.
Filip Forsberg could make a difference, though, and Colin Wilson needs to continue to develop into a legitimate scoring threat for this team to improve on the power play.
2013 Final Ranking: 26th (14.8%)
Key Players: Brad Marchand, Jarome Iginla, Zdeno Chara
Why It's Here: Given the immense amount of talent and depth the Boston Bruins ice on a nightly basis, it's strange that they struggle so mightily on the power play. No one in the world shoots the puck harder than Zdeno Chara, yet he only managed to find the back of the net three times on the power play last year.
The Bruins might not miss Tyler Seguin in the locker room, but they'll miss his production and passing with the man advantage. He was one of their best power-play forwards in 2013, and while Loui Eriksson should replace Seguin's production, there's really no reason to believe that Boston will take a step forward on the power play this season.
2013 Final Ranking: 25th (14.8%)
Key Players: Mike Ribeiro, Keith Yandle, Mikkel Boedker
Why It's Here: There's a chance that this power play finishes higher than 24th this season. The good news for one of the worst power plays in the league is that Mike Ribeiro has been added to the fold.
He was a wizard with the extra man in 2013 and could help bolster the Phoenix Coyotes in this area. Of course, no one in a Coyotes uniform can even begin to pass as a finisher of Alex Ovechkin's caliber, so we have our doubts.
Keith Yandle could take another step forward in his development as an outstanding puck-moving defenseman, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson should be ready to take on more responsibility on the power play. Do all those pieces add up to a middle-of-the-pack unit, though?
2013 Final Ranking: 22nd (15.8%)
Key Players: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Alexander Edler
Why It's Here: The Vancouver Canucks have always been one of the more puzzling teams when it comes to their power play. Given the offensive talent that's on board here, you'd figure that the team would be able to finish at least in the middle of the pack as far as power-play effectiveness goes.
That just isn't the case, though. Management has tried to alleviate these woes by bringing in puck-moving defenders like Jason Garrison, but so far nothing has been able to ignite this group. Regression isn't likely, but we don't see this group dominating suddenly, either.
2013 Final Ranking: 28th (14.2%)
Key Players: James Wisniewski, Jack Johnson, Marian Gaborik
Why It's Here: While the leading power-play scorer in Vinny Prospal is gone, there's reason to believe that this power play could jump forward a bit this season. James Wisniewski needs to stay healthy and Jack Johnson needs to find his A-game with the extra man, but the pieces are there for this to be a solid unit.
Cam Atkinson has an outstanding finishing touch and could make an impact with the Jackets this year. Tack on a motivated Marian Gaborik and a maturing Ryan Johansen, and Columbus has a power play that could surprise some folks.
2013 Final Ranking: 27th (14.6%)
Key Players: Jeff Skinner, Alexander Semin, Eric Staal
Why It's Here: The Carolina Hurricanes had a season to forget in 2013. They were ravaged by injuries and never really seemed to get the cart on the tracks. A new year and a clean bill of health will allow this talented team to show off how good it truly is.
While a huge jump shouldn't be expected, it's tough to look at the top unit and see a 27th-placed power play. Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner are both outstanding goal scorers, and Eric Staal has established himself as one of the NHL's premier power forwards.
As such, the Hurricanes will have a better power play this year.
2013 Final Ranking: 14th (18.7%)
Key Players: Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk
Why It's Here: The Toronto Maple Leafs boasted a strong power play in 2013. Three players scored at least five power-play goals, and eight players scored at least two. We don't see Toronto's percentage dropping off this season—that isn't why the club has slid back six spots.
That's just a matter of other teams improving while the Leafs remain static.
They'll still have a middle-of-the-pack power play that will cause plenty of damage throughout the coming year. Phil Kessel is one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the league, and once Nazem Kadri is finally re-signed, the Leafs will have a good group available with the extra man.
2013 Final Ranking: 24th (15.0%)
Key Players: P.A. Parenteau, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog
Why It's Here: The Colorado Avalanche have too many offensive weapons for them to finish near the power-play basement again this season. In 2013, Gabriel Landeskog didn't score a single power-play goal. Ditto for Erik Johnson and Stefan Elliott.
That won't be the case again this year.
Matt Duchene should also improve greatly upon his two-goal 2013, and Nathan MacKinnon could be an impact guy with the extra man. Patrick Roy will install some new and effective schemes and will shake the dust off of a power play that should be better than it has been.
2013 Final Ranking: 10th (19.9%)
Key Players: Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards
Why It's Here: Like the Toronto Maple Leafs, we don't have the Los Angles Kings sliding back a bit because of an anticipated regression in effectiveness. We just think that teams such as the Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks will improve, which pushes L.A. back in the standings.
The trio of Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown and Mike Richards will continue to victimize the opposition for retaliating to the rough-and-tumble play of the Kings. Those three combined for 22 power-play goals in 2013 and will be every bit as effective during the upcoming season.
2013 Final Ranking: 12th (19.5%)
Key Players: Chris Stewart, Patrik Berglund, Kevin Shattenkirk
Why It's Here: The apparent holdout of Alex Pietrangelo could hold this power play back. While it's unlikely he ends up anywhere else, if he misses 15 or 20 games, then the overall power-play percentage could suffer a touch.
Chris Stewart and David Backes will still raise hell in front of the net while the defense bombs away—we just don't like the odds of them pushing 20 percent again until Pietrangelo is back in the lineup.
2013 Final Ranking: 23rd (15.7%)
Key Players: Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards, Rick Nash
Why It's Here: The New York Rangers won't have a bottom-tier power play again this season. Alain Vigneault will take the muzzles off of the offensive forces on this team, which will lead to increased confidence overall.
A confident top group featuring Rick Nash and Brad Richards will be enough for this team to jump up at least a few spots. Another strong year from Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard and the Rangers could improve even more on the power play.
Consider this a conservative guess as to how much they'll outpace their atrocious 15.7 percent effectiveness last season.
2013 Final Ranking: 15th (18.4%)
Key Players: Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg
Why It's Here: Barring an unforeseen push from Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss, the power play of the Detroit Red Wings should remain in this mid-range. There's a drop-off in production after Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, and Valtteri Filppula, Damien Brunner and Daniel Cleary have all been let go.
That's three of Detroit's top-six power play performers from 2013. Young players like Gustav Nyquist should be able to fill in nicely, though, and the Wings will remain a top-half power-play team.
2013 Final Ranking: 18th (17.0%)
Key Players: Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Erik Cole
Why It's Here: The Dallas Stars had the 18th-best power play in the NHL last season with Jaromir Jagr running the show. Tyler Seguin is a rock solid power-play center and will shred some defenses with Jamie Benn at his side.
Put another strong-arm on that line—our guess is Erik Cole—and the Stars could actually improve a bit despite the loss of Jagr and Michael Ryder. Valeri Nichushkin could also end up playing an important role for Dallas on the power play. He's another big, north-south player that can get the puck to the net in a hurry.
Factor in Sergei Gonchar for at least 60 games and the Stars are headed in the right direction with the extra man.
2013 Final Ranking: 11th (19.9%)
Key Players: John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo
Why It's Here: If anyone besides John Tavares and Matt Moulson can get going on the power play this year, the New York Islanders could jump into the top 10. Tavares scored nine goals with the man advantage in 2013, and Moulson scored eight.
The next closest scorer was Mark Streit, who had three.
We've heard the same refrain about Kyle Okposo for the last two seasons, but this could actually be the year he emerges as a consistent scoring threat. Seriously this time.
The addition of Ryan Strome could be a boon, and Griffin Reinhart could make the roster and make a different on the power play as well.
2013 Final Ranking: 16th (17.9%)
Key Players: Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu
Why It's Here: Half of the Minnesota Wild's power play did what it was supposed to last season and the other half didn't. While Zach Parise scored seven times with the extra man, none of the other offensive heavy lifters really got the job done.
That won't be the case again in 2013-14.
Expect Mikko Koivu to score a few on the power play—something he failed to do last season—while youngsters like Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle take on bigger roles after adjusting to life as a pro in 2013.
2013 Final Ranking: 19th (16.7%)
Key Players: Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews
Why It's Here: Great teams don't always lead to great power plays, yet the Chicago Blackhawks strike us as a team that is just too explosive in the offensive zone to continue to suck it up on the power play.
Patrick Kane dominated with the extra man and put up eight goals last year. Marian Hossa also put up some solid production, but out of Chicago's stars, only these two got it done.
Jonathan Toews has more to offer than two power-play markers. The same goes for Patrick Sharp, who only posted a single tally on the power play last season.
There's a lot of room for improvement here, and Chicago has the guns in place to make it happen. The 'Hawks have penalty killing down to an art. Now it's time to focus on the power play.
2013 Final Ranking: Sixth (20.4%)
Key Players: Brian Campbell, Jonathan Huberdeau, Tomas Fleischmann
Why It's Here: The Florida Panthers iced an AHL-caliber team for the majority of 2013 due to injury and still managed to have the sixth-best power play in the league. Bumping them down a few notches may seem counterintuitive, but this is still a strong group capable of clicking along at 20 percent for 82 games.
Jonathan Huberdeau will be a bigger factor after only scoring twice on the power play last season, and the emergence of several other impressive young players—including Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Erik Gudbranson—will keep Florida's power play healthy and in the top 10.
2013 Final Ranking: Seventh (20.1%)
Key Players: Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Dan Boyle
Why It's Here: The San Jose Sharks did exactly what they were supposed to on the power play in 2013. Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski continued to evolve as the faces of this franchise, leading the way for a strong power-play unit.
Patrick Marleau might not have six markers with the extra man this season, but he's still a strong offensive facilitator. The same goes for Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle, who will also be important parts of the special teams puzzle for San Jose this year.
Expect the same level of output overall, even if Marleau doesn't shoot off into outer space for the first 10 games of the season again.
2013 Final Ranking: 13th (19.0%)
Key Players: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell
Why It's Here: If anyone besides Steven Stamkos starts to score goals on the power play, then Tampa Bay could see a big improvement to its overall standing. Surprisingly, Martin St. Louis only had three power-play goals last season and is capable of putting up more offense with that extra space.
The emergence of even a mildly competent power-play quarterback from the blue line would put this group over the top. While losing Vincent Lecavalier hurts a bit, the overall offensive capabilities of the Lightning should prove enough to offset that loss.
2013 Final Ranking: Fifth (20.7%)
Key Players: Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty
Why It's Here: P.K. Subban seems to have found the secret to winning the Norris Trophy. Just score seven goals with the extra man and help facilitate a top-five power play from the blue line and whammy, you're the best defenseman in the league.
Andrei Markov is still one of the most effective power-play defensemen in the NHL, and when paired with Subban, the result is deadly. Max Pacioretty will double his output with the extra man this season (from four goals to eight, at least), and Brian Gionta will continue doing his thing: appear very, very small when standing next to Subban.
2013 Final Ranking: Fourth (21.5%)
Key Players: Corey Perry, Saku Koivu, Ryan Getzlaf
Why It's Here: You'd think that the loss of Bobby Ryan would hurt this group overall, but the jettisoned and jilted winger only scored twice on the power play last season. Emerson Etem will be more than capable of filling that gap while Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf continue to pile up points with the extra man.
All told, the Anaheim Ducks had 13 players score at least one power play goal last season. Etem wasn't part of that group as he didn't notch a tally, and Devante Smith-Pelly was held goalless through his seven games with the team.
This is a squad heading in the right direction offensively, and the return of Teemu Selanne coupled with the emergence of a few young players should help the Ducks maintain the status quo with the extra man.
2013 Final Ranking: Third (21.6%)
Key Players: Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds
Why It's Here: There wasn't a lot for fans of the Philadelphia Flyers to cheer about in 2013. The team suffered through a down year and missed the playoffs while watching Philly-West (the Los Angeles Kings) storm to the conference finals for the second consecutive season.
The power play was a bright spot, though. Jakub Voracek established himself as a premier player while on the man advantage, and Claude Giroux worked his magic on the power play as well.
Danny Briere is no longer a Flyer, but his two goals will be easily replaced by the likes of Matt Read and Brayden Schenn. Mark Streit could also become a big factor on the power play, and a strong campaign from him could push this unit even higher.
2013 Final Ranking: 20th (15.9%)
Key Players: Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan
Why It's Here: By far the biggest mover on this list, we believe the Ottawa Senators have what it takes to be a top-five power-play team when healthy. Erik Karlsson only played in 17 regular-season games last season before ending up on the IR.
No. 1 center Jason Spezza went down only five games into the season as well, leaving the Senators to lean on unproven power-play guys to get the job done. While Kyle Turris and Patrick Wiercioch performed admirably in place of their fallen All-Star teammates, Ottawa is poised to take a massive leap forward with a clean bill of health now.
2013 Final Ranking: First (26.8%)
Key Players: Alex Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer, Mike Green
Why It's Here: There wasn't a more dangerous power-play performer in the NHL in 2013 than Alex Ovechkin. He pumped home a ridiculous 16 goals while on the man advantage—six more than the second-place Steven Stamkos.
At this point it doesn't matter who the Washington Capitals want to put out there to feed Ovechkin the puck. Adam Oates could suit back up to feed No. 8 pucks and he'd still be every bit as effective. His one-timer is lethal, and this will continue to be a lights-out power play as long as Ovechkin keeps cranking from the circles.
2013 Final Ranking: Second (24.7%)
Key Players: Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin
Why It's Here: Fans who think the Pittsburgh Penguins revolve around Sidney Crosby didn't watch the team perform on the power play last season. Chris Kunitz and James Neal were the team's top scorers with the extra man by a wide margin, potting nine goals each.
Crosby, on the other hand, finished tied with Brandon Sutter with three power-play tallies.
The chemistry and hockey IQ that hits the ice when the Penguins go on the man advantage is brutal and very tough to stop. That was the case in 2013, and that won't change this year.
2013 Final Ranking: Eighth (20.1%)
Key Players: Nail Yakupov, Taylor Hall, Justin Schultz
Why It's Here: During the lockout, the kids from the Edmonton Oilers annihilated all comers with the extra man while playing for the Oklahoma City Barons. Most pundits assumed they'd be able to bring their chemistry and magic to the ice in the NHL once the work stoppage was through, but that wasn't quite the case.
The group came down to earth a bit, finishing just over 20 percent on the year.
The likes of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz are all a year older and a year better now, and the time seems right for them to assert their collective dominance with the extra man. They've shown the ability before, and there's no reason to think that this group can't have the best power play in the NHL this year.