Boston Bruins and the NHL's 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Power Rankings

Jordan MatthewsAnalyst IIIJuly 10, 2011

Boston Bruins and the NHL's 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Power Rankings

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    We're a little more than a week through free agency and, with almost all of the big name free agents locked up, we can now begin to speculate on where teams will land in the upcoming season.

    Multiple teams have made big changes. Philadelphia traded their core for youth, Detroit is looking considerably younger, the Rangers signed the biggest unrestricted free agent of the year and Florida's lineup looks half different. Certainly these teams will all have changes in their level of success next year.

    Readers should note that ranking changes are based on last year's regular season standings, and playoff projections will be included for all teams that make the playoffs.

    With that in mind, let's look at the power rankings for the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup hopefuls.

30. Colorado Avalanche

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    Change: Down one spot

    This might come as a surprising move to some, but Colorado hasn't impressed me one bit over the last year.

    After seemingly drawing near the end of their rebuilding stage and becoming a rising team again, the Avalanche decided to trade Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk for Erik Johnson and then dump Craig Anderson for peanuts.

    To follow up on that, the Avs' "big move" of the free agent period was to pick up Semyon Varlamov for a first- and second-round draft pick. I'll bet Caps' general manager George McPhee was dancing in the streets after that trade.

    Overall, Colorado has taken multiple steps back and is giving away their best chances to make progress by trading early draft picks.

29. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Change: Down 10 Spots

    I should preface this by saying that I don't believe the Hurricanes are a horrible team. The reason I've ranked them this low is because they're a team that has made little improvement in a division that has improved across the board.

    The South East Division was undeniably the worst in the league until the 2010-2011 season, when it became nearly the best in the Eastern Conference. Following that season, Florida went on a spending spree, Atlanta was sold to deep-pocketed owners and Washington made the steal of free agency by adding Tomas Vokoun.

    Carolina? They lost Erik Cole and added Tomas Kaberle. Kaberle isn't a bad defenseman by any means, but his Stanley Cup performance left a lot to be desired.

    While the Hurricanes staff can likely say that they did more to improve their team than their division rival the Tampa Bay Lightning have, the Hurricanes needed the improvement 10 times more than Tampa did.

28. New York Islanders

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    Change: Down One Spot

    The Islanders are a team that has a bright future ahead of them. They've got great prospects like Michael Grabner, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. That said, those players don't have what it takes to carry that team yet, and the Islanders don't have the veteran experience elsewhere to fill that hole.

    Combine that with the fact that they play in a division with the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers and Devils, and you can pretty much assume that they wouldn't mind a few less divisional games next season.

    Still, I have to reiterate that the Islanders have a bright future ahead, if they can ever manage to convince a free agent to sign with the team and if they can convince the citizens of Nassau County to approve their $350 million arena proposal to keep the team on Long Island.

    That bright future, however, is not in 2012.

27. Dallas Stars

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    Change: Down 11 Spots

    Talk about a team that's taken more than their fair share of low blows. See that guy in the picture? See the jersey he's wearing? Those two do not go together anymore.

    Dallas' ill fortune started at the trade deadline last season. Being a possible playoff team, they opted not to trade upcoming free agent Brad Richards. A little over a month later, they found themselves in a win-or-go-home situation against the Minnesota Wild. The result? They went home.

    Two months later, the Stars were hard at work trying to move Brad Richards in order to get some sort of compensation out of him, but Richards stuck the proverbial knife in their back by openly stating that he would not waive his no-trade clause for anyone, anywhere.

    After July 1st, Dallas has found itself missing its brightest Star, and has done nothing to replace him.

26. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Change: Down Four Spots

    I apologize ahead of time to the Leafs faithful for the photograph. This is merely a shot at Brian Burke, whom I do not like (and never have liked).

    The Leafs are in an interesting predicament. They have $6 million in cap room but have a full roster and much that they could improve. The main reason for this is likely because they got caught up playing the Brad Richards lottery and missed out on all the other prizes awarded on July 1st.

    Of course, a select few Leafs fans will roar amusing rumors that Steven Stamkos is being traded to the team. I'll respond by asking what the Leafs could possibly have to offer that would be worth Stamkos and could top an offer-sheet compensation of four first-round draft picks.

    I'll give Burke credit though, he did add John Michael Liles. Not really a testament to his managing skills though, considering he dealt with the same man who traded Craig Anderson for Brian Elliot. No, you shouldn't feel bad that you've never heard of Elliot.

    I admire Leafs fans most for their willingness to stick with their team through the bad times, but I can assure you, the bad times aren't over yet.

25. Calgary Flames

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    Change: Down Nine Spots

    Calgary is another team that didn't make much noise in the past season and followed it up by being dead silent in free agency. To make matters worse, there have been rumblings of the Flames trading Jarome Iginla for over a year, and they keep getting louder.

    Obviously, this is a team looking to rebuild. Iginla is getting older and Miikka Kiprusoff isn't the goalie he once was. If Iginla is traded, this team is officially tanked and will take several years to recover. Even if Iginla isn't traded, the team will still require a serious makeover.

    The biggest move made by the Flames this year was giving up defenseman Robyn Regehr. It's not a good sign when you're a bad team giving away your good players, but hey, you've still got Jay Bouwmeester!

24. St. Louis Blues

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    Change: Down Four Spots

    I honestly feel bad for putting St. Louis this low, but I have my reasons for doing so. They've got good players like Chris Stewart, Alex Pietrangelo and Jaroslav Halak, but they're still a little young for me.

    Combine that with the fact that they play in a division with Detroit, Chicago, Nashville and the uprising Columbus Blue Jackets, and their situation sounds eerily similar to that of the Islanders.

    Cheer up Blues fans, at least your team isn't facing the possibility of relocation!

23. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Change: Down Seven Spots

    To borrow a joke from my slide on Dallas, this player and this jersey no longer match.

    Regardless of how you feel about Bryzgalov's most recent playoff performance, he was, without a doubt, Phoenix's best player—and hey, you have to be able to make the playoffs in the first place, right?

    Bryzgalov is a big reason why the Coyotes made it there and, with him gone and not so-suitable replacements, things in Glendale are now looking almost as bad on the ice as they are off.

    But hey, at least all 200 of the Phoenix fans who show up to the "Save the Coyotes" rally will be able to once again use on-ice mediocrity as an excuse for the financial state of the franchise.

    Dear Phoenix fan, (or fans if there is more than one) take a tip from your predecessor—this is how you show your support for a team.

22. Ottawa Senators

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    Change: Up Four Spots

    The good news is, a team finally went up!

    The bad news is, the Senators are still in the bottom 10...

    But I'll give credit where credit's due, the Ottawa front office is showing signs that they want to become a playoff team again. Unfortunately, most of those signs are for the future and not the present, as they did a lot of wheeling and dealing for draft picks.

    But the Senators did add Paul MacLean behind the bench as their head coach. Whether MacLean is a Cup-leading coach or not remains to be seen, but he had every opportunity to learn from one of the best considering he was Mike Babcock's assistant for multiple years.

21. Edmonton Oilers

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    Change: Up Nine Spots

    Oh, Canada...(I say that in more of a groaning tone than anything else). You've got to feel bad when you have six, make that seven (just for you Atlanta), teams and four of them are in the bottom 10.

    But this isn't a bad thing. The Oilers were the worst team in the league last year, so the only place to go is up. The Oilers, like the Islanders, are stacked with good prospects such as Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Linus Omark.

    Unlike the Islanders, however, Edmonton has added veterans like Ryan Smyth, Ryan Whitney and Nikolai Khabibulin (even if he doesn't play much) to lead and mentor the team. They're not getting to the playoffs yet, but they're going to make a leap in the right direction.

20. Florida Panthers

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    Change: Up Eight Spots

    The Florida Panthers, or as I like to call them, "Chicago's Table Scraps," made a series of changes during the offseason.

    If you were wondering about the nickname, it's pretty obvious. They received Brian Campbell's albatross contract from the Blackhawks, which could be poetic justice considering Dale Tallon, the general manager of the Panthers, is the same idiot who signed that contract in the first place.

    In addition, they added former Blackhawk Tomas Kopecky and received former Blackhawk Kris Versteeg from the Flyers. It seems to me as if Campbell is the guy who cooked the dinner for Stan Bowman and is now on the floor scavenging for whatever Bowman decides he doesn't want.

    Regardless, adding players like Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann, Scotty Upshall and Ed Jovanovski should upgrade the Panthers from their previous 28th place overall in the league.

    But hey, if we're going make this dramatic of a change, I'm in favor of the NHL topping it off and changing the name...to the Cyclones.

    I know what you're thinking, "Jordan you're crazy, the Florida Cyclones?!" No, silly, the Kansas City Cyclones.

19. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Change: Up Five Spots

    There's almost no doubt that Rick Nash was grinning from ear to ear when he caught wind of the Jeff Carter trade. Nash finally got some help at center.

    No doubt, Columbus is a team that is improving, but the playoffs are still out of reach due to lack of depth and good defense. Sure, they signed James Wisniewski, but that only fills one of six spots and Wiz came at a hefty price.

    Tie that into the fact that they have to play against hockey powerhouses like Detroit and Chicago multiple times in a season, and the unfortunate truth for Blue Jackets fans is that they're not playoff-ready yet.

18. Winnipeg Jets

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    Change: Up Seven Spots

    For the third time in this article, I get to say that this player and this jersey no longer match. But this time, I get to say it because the player stayed in the same organization and the jersey changed.

    The Thrashers are gone and it's a new beginning for the Winnipeg Jets. With deep pocketed owners, almost everybody expected the Jets to be a big buyer on July 1st—but due to lack of a deep free agent pool, the Jets, among other teams, held on to their money.

    Still, Winnipeg managed to hold on to captain Andrew Ladd and they still have the services of Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane. With those three players and plenty of cap room, they could have a bright future ahead of them, but their time is not now.

17. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Change: Drop 14 Spots

    Yes, you heard it here first, the Flyers will not make the playoffs. You probably think I'm talking out of my a** here, and I very well may be, but I wasn't impressed by the Flyers trading spree at all.

    To be honest, Paul Holmgren reminds me of Valtteri Filppula in the form of a general manager. He made 51 moves in an attempt to score and 48 of them were completely unnecessary. Holmgren obviously had a trade partner in L.A., so my question is: why wouldn't he just trade Carter or Richards for Jonathan Quick or Jonathan Bernier? Both are good, young, cheap goaltenders.

    But no—instead, Holmgren basically gave up both Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in exchange for Jakub Vorachek, Wayne Simmonds, Jaromir Jagr and Ilya Bryzgalov.

    Vorachek and Simmonds certainly aren't All-Stars, Jagr is 39 and hasn't played in the NHL in three years, and Bryzgalov's last playoff performance was nothing to be impressed with.

    Now, in the future, Brayden Schenn will be an outstanding addition to the Flyers roster, but at this point Schenn wont be that big of a help and, if they make the playoffs, it won't be a safe bet by any means.

16. Montreal Canadiens

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    Change: Down Two Spots

    Playoff Projection: First-Round Exit

    That right there is the face of one of many men who has been given a huge contract by Glen Sather. How he got Montreal to take Scott Gomez's contract in the first place is beyond me. Either way, Montreal didn't do much to impress on July 1st, but they also did nothing to make me believe they're heading in a downward spiral either.

    Sure, the Canadiens lost James Wisniewski, but they added the services of Erik Cole. It's a fair offense-for-defense tradeoff, and it probably won't hurt or help the Canadiens much either way.

    That said, other teams below the Canadiens that have improved will end up threatening their positioning in the standings.

    Is this the year for Cup No. 25? Probably not.

15. Anaheim Ducks

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    Change: Drop Six Spots

    Playoff Projection: First-Round Exit

    The Ducks are a little like the Canadiens here. They haven't done much to improve, but they also haven't done anything to make me believe they're taking a turn for the worse.

    The difference here, is that the teams ranked below Anaheim last year have made vast improvements that could help push them past Anaheim in the standings.

    Anaheim will be the West's bubble team this year, playing against difficult divisional opponents in Los Angeles and San Jose.

14. New Jersey Devils

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    Change: Up Nine Spots

    Playoff Projection: First-Round Exit

    The New Jersey Devils were easily the Jekyll and Hyde team of the 2010-2011 season. Halfway through the season, the Devils were only projected to finish the season with 46 points. By the time the season was over, the Devils had 81 points.

    Needless to say, the Devils made a vast improvement after a coaching change, but they will have to endure another coaching change and they still haven't signed Zach Parise, who they filed for arbitration with.

    The Devils are obviously a playoff-caliber team but, as a Cup contender, they simply don't have what it takes at this time.

     

13. Minnesota Wild

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    Change: Up Eight Spots

    Playoff Projection: First-Round Exit

    Barring all trades involving the Philadelphia Flyers, the Minnesota Wild likely had the biggest trade of the summer, acquiring the services of Dany Heatley.

    Heatley's not the only Shark Minnesota acquired, however, as the Wild picked up Devin Setoguchi less than a day after he signed a deal with San Jose.

    The moves made by the Wild certainly didn't make them a Cup contender, but Minnesota is taking strides to become better competitors in the Western Conference; playing in a less-than stellar division helps their case to make the playoffs.

12. New York Rangers

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    Change: Up Six Spots

    Playoff Projection: First-Round Exit

    Yes indeed, the winners of the Brad Richards sweepstakes only moved up two spots in their conference. Unfortunately, signing Richards to a fat contract didn't help Glen Sather add to the depth of his team.

    No doubt, the Rangers have good goaltending and good offensive players, but their lack of depth and role players is what is going to kill them in the end.

    They're also going to have to settle with playing second fiddle to the Pittsburgh Penguins, assuming Sidney Crosby is healthy for the majority of the season.

11. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Change: Down Three Spots

    Playoff Projection: Second-Round Exit

    The Lightning moved up more spots last season than I can count on both my fingers and toes. OK, maybe not, but they were easily the most improved team of the year, thanks mostly to rookie general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Tampa hasn't done nearly as much improvement this season, most likely due to the fact that all of Stevie Y's attention is focused on locking up superstar forward Steven Stamkos.

    The Lightning lost Simon Gagne to the L.A. Kings, and haven't done much to fill the holes that kept them from reaching the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.

    Needless to say, the Bolts will still be a good team, but fans shouldn't expect them to be playing in late May of 2012.

10. San Jose Sharks

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    Change: Down Five Spots

    Playoff Projection: First Round Exit

    Yes, that's right, the Sharks will no longer be champions of the Pacific Division in the 2011-2012 NHL season. San Jose traded both Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi to the Minnesota Wild, and lost Ian White to their playoff rival, the Detroit Red Wings.

    Granted, Heatley wasn't much of a playoff performer, but the Sharks could still definitely use his services, and he at least wasn't called heartless by Jeremy Roenick like his former teammate, Patrick Marleau.

    As it pertains to those who still wear the Sharks uniform, at least Setoguchi didn't leave before passing on his knowledge of the art of diving to Joe Thornton...

9. Nashville Predators

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    Change: Up One Spot

    Playoff Projection: First-Round Exit

    The fact that the predators move up a spot doesn't necessarily mean that they have improved, it just means that certain teams above them have dropped considerably.

    Right now, the Preds' dilemma is re-signing restricted free agent and franchise player Shea Weber. No doubt, every team in the league would like to get their hands on Weber. While Nashville is typically an above-average team, they also don't ever come close to the cap ceiling.

    Aside from Weber and Pekka Rinne, Nashville's most valuable asset is their coach, Barry Trotz. Trotz has been with the Predators since the team was founded in Nashville, and he has almost always made them a competitive team.

    With Trotz and Rinne, and for at least another year, Shea Weber, in Nashville, the Predators will undoubtedly make the playoffs.

8. Boston Bruins

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    Change: Down One Spot

    Playoff Projection: First-Round Exit

    You're probably thinking I'm insane to put the defending Stanley Cup Champions down a spot, and even crazier for saying they will exit in the first round. Regardless, I don't see the Bruins coming close to repeating the success they enjoyed last season.

    Part of that has to do with them, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that another team in their division has made considerable improvements.

    There are certainly many reasons or "excuses" you could give as to why the Bruins made it to the Cup. Luongo is a choker, Pittsburgh was missing their stars, blah blah blah.

    Whether you agree or not, there are valid arguments and scenarios that won't likely repeat themselves for the Bruins—if they want to return to the finals, they'll have to step up their game.

7. Buffalo Sabres

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    Change: Up Eight Spots

    Playoff Projection: Eastern Conference Finals Appearance

    Yes, the Buffalo Sabres will win the North East division and they'll win for a number of reasons. Most of those reasons center around the fact that their new owner has practically written a blank check to make the Sabres a winning franchise.

    And they're already beginning to build that franchise. Already having Tyler Myers on their defense, the Sabres added Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff to bolster their blue line. Put that blue line in front of Olympic MVP Ryan Miller and you might have one of the best teams at keeping the puck out of their net.

    Either way, the Sabres are already beginning to make changes for the better, and a few tweaks to their offensive lineup could push them over the edge.

6. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Change: Up Seven Spots

    Playoff Projection: Second-Round Exit

    The Blackhawks hit a huge speed bump last season after winning the Stanley Cup. They lost vital role players like Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, John Madden and Kris Versteeg, and were unable to replace them.

    Now, Stan Bowman miraculously relieved them of Brian Campbell's albatross contract, freeing up lots of cap space, some of which will certainly go to re-signing Patrick Sharp next season.

    Regardless, dumping Campbell's contract certainly removed a barrier standing between the Blackhawks and future Stanley Cup chances. Now, the Blackhawks have more than the bare minimum to spend on role players to fill out their roster.

5. Detroit Red Wings

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    Change: Up One Spot

    Playoff Projection: Western Conference Finals Appearance

    Despite the typical trend, the Detroit Red Wings have actually gotten quite a bit younger this year. Kris Draper is gone. Mike Modano is gone. Brian Rafalski is gone. Ruslan Salei is gone. And Chris Osgood is likely gone.

    Those players are being replaced with Jan Mursak, Ian White, Mike Commodore/Jakub Kindl and probably former Wings' backup Ty Conklin.

    If that doesn't scare people yet, Detroit still has $7 million in cap space with a full roster, and owner Ken Holland isn't the type to not spend every penny he has.

    Whether it's during the summer or at the trade deadline, you can expect a deal will be made with the Red Wings. That deal will likely involve Jiri Hudler and Corey Emmerton.

4. Washington Capitals

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    Change: Down One Spot

    Playoff Projection: Second-Round Exit

    I said it early in this article and I'm sticking to it. The Washington Capitals had the steal of free agency by acquiring Tomas Vokoun for $1.5 million.

    Regardless, I still don't see the Caps finally getting over the hump and making it to the Eastern Conference Finals, or even the Stanley Cup Finals. I think of them as San Jose East. They're a great offensive team with little defensive talent.

    You need defense to win championships and, until Caps general manager George McPhee learns that concept, he wont receive a Stanley Cup ring.

    By the way Mr. McPhee, regardless of what you may think, Mike Green is not a good defenseman.

3. Vancouver Canucks

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    Change: Down Two Spots

    Playoff Projections: Second-Round Exit

    This man has to receive the most dirty looks of any hockey player from his own fan base. Seriously, I'm surprised Roberto Luongo hasn't hired private security after he lost Game 7 in Vancouver.

    Either way, the Canucks haven't done a whole lot of changing and are still a good hockey team. Playing in the North West division will certainly help their statistics, but I don't see them as a Western Conference Finals team this year.

    On another note, I wonder if Luongo has to wear his mask whenever he goes outside in Vancouver...

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Change: Up Two Spots

    Playoff Projection: Eastern Conference Finals Appearance

    Sidney Crosby might be the biggest question mark in the NHL. If that's not bad enough for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin has his share of medical problems as well. Sure, Malkin is reportedly 100 percent, but knee injuries can still come back to haunt you.

    In Crosby's case, he's already drawing a lot of parallels to Eric Lindros with his most recent concussion. Some suspect that Crosby suffered Second-Impact Syndrome, which is when two concussions are suffered in a short span of time.

    Regardless, if Crosby can come back just nearly as good as he was before he suffered his concussion, the Penguins will be in good shape and will run through the Eastern Conference with the exception of a few teams.

1. Los Angeles Kings

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    Change: Up 11 Spots

    Playoff Projection: Western Conference Finals Appearance

    When you think of nasty teams, think about this. Anze Kopitar. Dustin Brown. Mike Richards. Simon Gagne. Drew Doughty. (Maybe) Jack Johnson.

    The Kings are a team that has vastly improved and has a loaded look reminiscent of the 2009-2010 Chicago Blackhawks. The big question in the Kings organization is whether or not they can get a deal done with superstar defenseman Drew Doughty.

    The other question is whether or not the Kings have enough veteran leadership and playoff experience necessary to make a Cup run.

    Either way, the Kings are definitely going to be a team to watch. Possible without an NBA season next year, the NHL should capitalize on L.A.'s success by pumping out advertisements to their local audience.