NHL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands After Start of Free Agency
The NHL has changed a lot since Alec Martinez scored the double-overtime goal that clinched the 2014 Stanley Cup for the Los Angeles Kings.
We've seen the draft, buyouts, trades, free-agent departures and arrivals as well as shifts both in management and behind the bench.
With all those changes, how do the NHL's 30 clubs match up against each other? To answer that, we've ranked every team in a special offseason edition of the Bleacher Report power rankings.
Read on to see where your favourite club ended up.
30-26: Buffalo Sabres-Ottawa Senators
30. Buffalo Sabres (last season: 30): Ryan Miller played incredibly well for Buffalo last season and the Sabres still posted a goal differential 19 worse than the next team on the list. They should narrow the gap a little, but not enough to move up a slot.
29. Florida Panthers (last season: 29): With the departure of Tom Gilbert, Dmitry Kulikov as a restricted free agent with KHL options and Andy Strickland of the Big 550 KTRS suggesting that Brian Campbell wants to leave, the Panthers could be without their top three defencemen from last season.
28. Toronto Maple Leafs (last season: 23): A lot broke right for Toronto—a high shooting percentage, a red-hot goalie, a 9-4 shootout record—for the team to finish 23rd in the league in 2013-14. With a summer that saw significant losses (David Bolland, Nikolai Kulemin, Jay McClement) to free agency, it's likely the worst is yet to come.
27. Calgary Flames (last season: 27): The loss of Mike Cammalleri is a pretty major blow for an already anemic offence, and the addition of netminder Jonas Hiller likely won't be enough to make up the gap.
26. Ottawa Senators (last season: 21): The Sens may not be willing to admit it, but the age of budget hockey has returned to Ottawa. Shipping out Jason Spezza for futures was a major blow, and failing to retain or replace Ales Hemsky hurts too.
25-21: Carolina Hurricanes-Vancouver Canucks
25. Carolina Hurricanes (last season: 25): A summer of inactivity from new general manager Ron Francis leaves little reason to believe that the 'Canes are suddenly going to take a big step forward.
24. Edmonton Oilers (last season: 28): GM Craig MacTavish has had a busy free agency (adding Benoit Pouliot, Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin) and the team should be better, but it still lacks a top-flight defenceman and has significant problems at centre.
23. Arizona Coyotes (last season: 18): Few teams took the kind of pounding in free agency that the 'Yotes did, with the loss of Radim Vrbata being especially painful. This is a well-run, well-coached team, but it's going to be short on proven NHL talent.
22. Washington Capitals (last season: 17): Matt Niskanen should help, but the Brooks Orpik contract is a millstone and Washington also lost second-line pivot Mikhail Grabovski. The team had only 28 non-shootout wins last season (tied with Calgary) and has not appreciably improved.
21. Vancouver Canucks (last season: 25): Former head coach John Tortorella's gone, which is good, but so are useful NHLers like Ryan Kesler and Jason Garrison, which is significantly less good.
20-16: Nashville Predators-Columbus Blue Jackets
20. Nashville Predators (last season: 15): It's one thing to bring in a new coach with a more offensive perspective on the game, but the Predators still lack offensive weapons. A minus-26 goal differential last season suggests that last year's point totals don't accurately reflect where the team was at.
19. Philadelphia Flyers (last season: 13): Maybe 2014-15 is the year when Steve Mason shuts up his critics by posting two solid seasons in a row. Based on recent history, though, he's likelier to let the Flyers—who could get worse over the summer as they strive to clear cap space—down.
18. Winnipeg Jets (last season: 22): Ondrej Pavelec can't possibly be as bad as he was last season again, right?
17. Colorado Avalanche (last season: 3): A through-the-roof shooting percentage, starting goalie playing well beyond his proven level of ability and NHL-best record in one-goal games all add up to one thing: massive regression in 2014-15. The Avs' mediocre summer moves (losing Paul Stastny and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, adding Jarome Iginla, Brad Stuart and Daniel Briere) didn't help matters.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets (last season: 14): The Jackets remain on the playoff bubble after losing depth pieces in free agency. It's also going to be very interesting to see what happens with Ryan Johansen over the summer. Given Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch's latest report, that's a contract negotiation which could turn into a holdout somewhere down the line.
15-11: Montreal Canadiens-New Jersey Devils
15. Montreal Canadiens (last season: 9): The Habs actually had a reasonably good summer, but the Lightning took major strides and the Red Wings can't possibly be hit as hard by injuries again. Those will make a repeat of last year's results difficult.
14. New York Islanders (last season: 26): With the combination of an emerging core of young players, veteran additions who can make a difference in free agency and for the first time in ages two goaltenders capable of stopping a beach ball, the Islanders are primed for a major rise in the Eastern standings.
13. Detroit Red Wings (last season: 15): The summer wasn't kind to the Red Wings, and many key players are moving further toward their twilight years, but Detroit was hammered by injuries and a goaltending crisis and still managed to make the playoffs last season.
12. Minnesota Wild (last season: 11): The Wild had a modest plus-one goal differential last year. They'll be better this year but may have a slight fall in the standings anyway after racking up 98 points in 2013-14.
11. New Jersey Devils (last season: 20): Dumping Martin Brodeur will prevent head coach Peter DeBoer from frittering away half his team's starts on a guy who has been mediocre or worse for four straight seasons. Plus, this team can't go 0-13 in the shootout again.
10. New York Rangers
Last Season: 45-31-6, 96 points, 12th in the NHL.
Biggest Offseason Move(s): The exodus of key players Anton Stralman, Benoit Pouliot, Brad Richards and Brian Boyle. The Rangers proved their competence in making it to the Stanley Cup Final after a lousy start to the year, but the loss of so much of the supporting cast will hurt.
Why They're Here: The Kings got a lot of attention for their shooting percentage woes during the season, but the Rangers had significant problems, too, converting on just 6.7 percent of their shots at even strength. Even an NHL-average shooting percentage (7.9 percent) would have led to 27 more goals. There's a good chance they rebound in that department.
9. San Jose Sharks
Last Season: 51-22-9, 111 points, fifth in the NHL.
Biggest Offseason Move(s): The loss of Dan Boyle to free agency and subsequent shift of Brent Burns back to defence. The move probably leaves them better on the back end but eliminates a key contributor up front.
Why They're Here: Comments out of San Jose indicate that the team is entering a rebuilding phase after bowing out to LA in seven games in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. Even so, the vast majority of a roster that was very good last year is returning, and it'll take more than dumping Martin Havlat and signing John Scott to trash it.
8. Dallas Stars
Last Season: 40-31-11, 91 points, 16th in the NHL.
Biggest Offseason Move(s): The acquisitions of two-thirds of Ottawa's top line in Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. That's going to be the nucleus of a pretty fearsome second forward unit behind the existing combo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
Why They're Here: The defence is still a little on the sketchy side, but the Stars appear to have one of the best one-two punches in the league up front. It may be enough to put the team in the same class as Central Division powerhouses St. Louis and Chicago.
7. Anaheim Ducks
Last Season: 54-20-8, 116 points, second in the NHL.
Biggest Offseason Move(s): The addition of Ryan Kesler from Vancouver at the cost of Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and a first-round draft pick (third-round picks were also exchanged). He's expected to bolster the second line.
Why They're Here: As much as Anaheim on paper appears to be an improved team, there are two major causes for concern. First, they're riding the NHL's least-experienced goaltending duo in Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. Second, the Ducks scored on 9.7 percent of their shots at even strength last year—a massive jump from 2012-13 and a likely place to expect regression.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Season: 46-27-9, 101 points, eighth in the NHL.
Biggest Offseason Move(s): Trading for Jason Garrison and signing Anton Stralman should make for massive improvement on the Lightning blue line; arguably no team in the league did as much to improve their defence corps.
Why They're Here: With a freshly formidable defence corps, a healthy Ben Bishop in net and one of the youngest groups of forwards in the league, the Lightning look primed to take yet another step forward. They're about to become an elite team in the East, and there is no reason to expect their time at the top to be short.
5. St. Louis Blues
Last Season: 52-23-7, 111 points, fourth in the NHL.
Biggest Offseason Move(s): Signing Paul Stastny to provide offensive punch at centre.
Why They're Here: In a lot of ways this is a great team. It's well-coached, it has a tireless set of impeccable two-way forwards and an exceptional defence corps. However, the goaltending tandem of Brian Elliott and Jake Allen doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Season: 51-24-7, 109 points, sixth in the NHL.
Biggest Offseason Move(s): The dumping of general manager Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma.
Why They're Here: The Pens have the best duo of forwards in the NHL in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but for years the team has had average goaltending and defence and a wretched group of bottom-six forwards. New GM Jim Rutherford has yet to address the former issues, but he's made a nearly complete sweep of Pittsburgh's lousy depth forwards and has made enough headway to project a small step forward.
3. Los Angeles Kings
Last Season: 46-28-8, 100 points, 10th in the NHL (won Stanley Cup).
Biggest Offseason Move(s): Re-signing trade-deadline rental Marian Gaborik, who brings some much-needed finishing ability to the roster.
Why They're Here: The Kings were a significantly better team than their regular-season results last year showed. If not for a massive shooting percentage meltdown, the club would have had a much better starting point. The defending champions are legitimate contenders once again.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
Last Season: 46-21-5, 107 points, seventh in the NHL.
Biggest Offseason Move(s): The bargain contract that Brad Richards signed for gives Chicago the kind of talent in its No. 2 centre slot that the team has lacked for years.
Why They're Here: Chicago went toe-to-toe in the Western Conference Final with LA in a brilliant series that could have gone either way. This group is significantly improved by the swap of Richards for Michal Handzus.
1. Boston Bruins
Last Season: 54-19-9, 117 points, first in the NHL.
Biggest Offseason Move(s): The offseason departure of Jarome Iginla has left a hole in Boston's top six, and the club may not have the cap space to address it.
Why They're Here: This is a great team with no obvious flaws and a wonderful set of players at every position. The Bruins probably aren't better than Los Angeles or Chicago, but they do have the good fortune to play in the East—even with the offseason improvements made by Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay that give the team a big leg up on the top Western contenders, at least in terms of the regular-season points race.
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