Early Preseason NHL Power Rankings for the 2013-14 Season

Chris L@ChristopherML13Contributor IIAugust 17, 2013

The Blackhawks look to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.
The Blackhawks look to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This NHL offseason has definitely caused a major shakeup in the power rankings of the NHL teams. Stars Tyler Seguin, Bobby Ryan, Cory Schneider and Loui Eriksson changed teams via trade this offseason, while others like Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Ribeiro, Vincent Lecavalier, Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton and Ilya Kovalchuk found new teams through free agency.

While the top and bottom teams in the NHL seem to have stayed relatively stable, the middle of the NHL will likely undergo quite a bit of change as many teams made big moves designed to jockey for playoff position. Below is an early projection for how the offseason has changed the power rankings in the NHL for the 2013-14 season.

30. Calgary

As a team that has seemingly refused to move on from the past, Calgary finally will be entering a full-blown rebuilding phase this year.

Calgary lost longtime franchise icons in Jarome Iginla (525 career goals for the Flames) and Miikka Kiprusoff (305 wins) this offseason, and now they will be relying on a very inexperienced roster. Even if young players like Sven Baertschi and Sean Monahan live up to their first-round potential this season, Calgary seems primed to compete for the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft.

29. Florida

After a surprising Southeast Division title in 2011-12, the Panthers returned to the basement of the NHL standings in 2012-13.

Now moving to a considerably tougher Atlantic Division in 2013-14, the Panthers look poised to struggle again. Youngsters like Calder Trophy recipient Jonathan Huberdeau and recent first-round picks Alexander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad will likely experience growing pains, but they should relish the opportunity to play lots of minutes and gain valuable experience for the future.

28. New Jersey

Nothing was more surprising this offseason than Kovalchuk's abrupt "retirement." Along with David Clarkson's decision to leave in free agency, the Devils lost a lot of team speed and scoring. By replacing these players with Ryane Clowe (30 years old), Jaromir Jagr (41 years old), and Michael Ryder (33 years old), the Devils have gotten even older.

Schneider (2.11 GAA last season) and Martin Brodeur (2.22 GAA) will likely form a solid duo in net, but they probably will have a very tall order in keeping the Devils out of the basement of the very solid Metropolitan Division.

27. Buffalo

The Sabres are now officially a team on the decline. Goaltender Ryan Miller looks to rebound to his previous Vezina Trophy form as he hopes to earn a starting position on the U.S. Olympic Squad. He has been reportedly been shopped around this offseason along with the Sabres' leading scorer from last season, Thomas Vanek.

Without these two players, the Sabres will be in for a long season. Even with these two players (with a trade this late in the offseason seeming unlikely), the Sabres would need major bounce-back seasons from players like Tyler Myers (eight points and minus eight) and Drew Stafford (18 points, minus 16) to make any noise this season.

26. Colorado

Colorado has one of the best group of young forwards with Matt Duchene (43 points last season), first overall selection Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny (398 career points at age 27) that will likely make them a very fun team to watch in 2013-14.

The main issue is that their defensemen and goalies (3.12 goals allowed per game) are mediocre and need to improve significantly for the Avalanche to compete for the playoffs. The Avs really need defenseman Erik Johnson (four points and minus-three last season) to finally live up to his first-overall selection talent because the rest of the defensive group is lacking in talent and/or experience.

25. Carolina

The Hurricanes had some great individual performances from players like Eric Staal (53 points), Alexander Semin (44 points), Jiri Tlusty (38 points) and Justin Faulk (a team-leading 24:00 ATOI) last year.

However, they lack any real depth, especially when star players like Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner (a combined minus 39 last year) do not perform up to expectations. Signing Anton Khudobin (.920 SV%) as a backup goalie will help with goaltending depth, but the additions of Elias Lindholm and Mike Komisarek are not likely to make them a team in playoff contention.

24. Winnipeg

The Jets locked up most of their core this offseason, and the addition of Devin Setoguchi (27 points last season) and Michael Frolik (10 playoff points) will help improve team depth. Also, players like Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian (both top-four picks in the NHL draft) seem like prime breakout candidates.

Although the Jets seem to be on the rise, their move from the Southeast Conference to the Central Division will be a significant step up in competition. Look for the Jets to improve as the season progresses and possibly challenge for the playoffs.

23. Edmonton

While forwards Taylor Hall (50 points) and Nail Yakupov (31 points) took major steps forward with their development last year, forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (24 points) and Jordan Eberle (37 points) failed to match their level of play from the season before.

Free agent additions David Perron (25 points) and rugged defenseman Andrew Ference (13 points and plus nine) will help the team, but the Oilers still lack defensemen who seem capable of being able to provide both offense and shutdown defense. This combined with an average starting goalie like Devan Dubnyk (14-16-6, 2.57 GAA) will likely mean the Oilers will be an very inconsistent but entertaining team to watch.

22. Tampa Bay

Losing Lecavalier (874 career points) will be a major loss for the Lightning. Valtteri Filppula (17 points in 2012-13 after 66 in 2011-12) is way too inconsistent to adequately replace Lecavalier, which will put a bunch of pressure on stud forwards Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. First-round pick and likely Calder Trophy candidate Jonathan Drouin (105 points in the QMJHL last season) should be a pleasant surprise if he makes the team and plays with Stamkos.

As with the Oilers, the defense is not very deep, even though Victor Hedman (20 points and plus one) and Matt Carle (22 points and plus one) seem to be further along than any Oiler defensemen. If Ben Bishop or Anders Lindback can emerge next year at goalie, the offense may be able to carry the Lightning into playoff contention. 

21. Nashville

After years of being one of the most consistent teams in the NHL, the Predators finally slipped out of contention last season.

Having a defenseman lead the team in scoring (even if it was Shea Weber) shows just how much the team lacked scoring. Additions like Seth Jones, Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen, Erik Nystrom and Matt Hendricks (69 combined NHL points last season) will make the Predators extremely difficult to play against, but they did not address the needed lack of scoring. Even if Pekka Rinne (2.43 GAA) continues his excellent goaltending, the Predators simply do not score enough to be a top-level team.

20. Dallas

New GM Jim Nill has wasted no time in making the Stars interesting again. Trading for Tyler Seguin (32 points and plus 23) gives the Stars an electric talent to pair with the emerging Jamie Benn (33 points) and will make the Stars relevant again.

Also, Nill added experienced players like Rich Peverly, Shawn Horcoff and Sergei Gonchar to provide leadership. If Seguin matures and plays up to his immense potential, the Stars may be able to make the playoffs this season.

19. Columbus

The Blue Jackets will go as far as Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (2.00 GAA, .932 SV%) takes them. The late-season addition of Marian Gaborik (eight points in 12 games for the Blue Jackets) and free agent addition of Horton (19 playoff points) will help provide Bobrovsky with more offensive support (once he recovers from shoulder surgery).

However, Bobrovsky likely will not be able to match his career year last season, and big contributions from talented, young players like Cam Atkinson, Ryan Murphy and Ryan Johansen will be needed to prevent a regression from last season.

18. Philadelphia

The drama that seemed to follow Ilya Bryzgalov will now be gone, but that does not mean the Flyers have necessarily fixed their leaky defense (2.90 goals allowed per game last season). Both of the contenders for the starting position, Steve Mason and Ray Emery, face significant question marks. Mason struggled for the same team (2.95 GAA) that turned Bobrovsky into the Vezina Trophy winner, while Emery (17-1-0 last season) excelled as a backup for the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks team that may have inflated his stats.

Emery also has not played more than 34 games since 2006-07, so his durability is another question mark.

The addition of defenseman Mark Streit (27 points last season) will help the Flyers with scoring, but his career minus 53 will likely not help solve the Flyers' woes in the defensive zone. While Claude Giroux (48 points) will lead a team that should be able to put up plenty of goals, the Flyers will need a renewed focus on defense to reach the playoffs again.

17. Phoenix

A team led by coach Dave Tippett will always play smart and disciplined hockey. After a surprising run to the Western Conference Finals, the Coyotes missed the playoffs this season as the team struggled with an uncertain future.

With new ownership now in place, the Coyotes will be able to retain stars like Mike Smith (2.21 GAA, .930 SV% in 2011-12), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (24 points and plus five in 2012-13) and Keith Yandle (30 points), while adding other good players like Ribeiro (49 points) to improve the team offense. Look for the Coyotes to once again be a tough team to beat, with a playoff spot certainly not out of the question.

16. Washington

After years of searching for a solid second-line center, the Capitals inexplicably let Ribeiro (49 points last season) leave this offseason. Without a suitable replacement, the Capitals seem poised to take a step back this season. Braden Holtby (2.58 GAA, .920 SV%) is a solid goalie, but the Caps do not have much depth beyond MVP Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom (48 points), John Carlson (22 points, plus 11) and injury-prone Mike Green (26 points in 35 games). Green has missed 96 games over the last three seasons.

After beating up on the weak Southeast Division for years, the Capitals may be in for a rude awakening this year.

15. Montréal

After a last-place Eastern Conference finish in 2011-12, the Canadiens took a huge step forward by finishing second in 2012-13. Usually giant leaps like this are followed by a major regression, and the Canadiens will likely finish somewhere between these two extremes in 2013-14.

Carey Price has been much maligned in Montréal, but he does have the talent of a top NHL goalie. The Canadiens still are one of the smaller teams in the NHL, and the addition of Daniel Briere (listed at 5'10", 179 pounds) does not help that at all.

However, with young stars like Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban and Alex Galchenyuk (27 points, plus 14 as a rookie), the Canadiens will be in position to be a likely contender for a playoff spot.

14. NY Islanders

If it were not for the poor performance by goalie Evgeni Nabokov (4.44 GAA) in last year's playoffs, the Islanders may have been able to beat the heavily favored Penguins in the first round. The Islanders had been so bad for so long, but the one positive is that they were able to stockpile a great amount of young talent. Led by former first overall selection John Tavares (47 points last season), the Islanders seem primed to quickly become a perennial contender.

Rookie centers Brock Nelson (52 points in the AHL) and Ryan Strome (94 points in the OHL) seemed ready to bolster the offensive attack, while defenseman Travis Hamonic looks to take the next step in his development after a 10-point season and invitation to the Canadian Olympic Orientation Camp. While the Islanders may still experience growing pains this season, look for them to challenge for the playoffs and potentially surprise the NHL with a playoff series win this time around.

13. Anaheim

The Ducks were another team that was a pleasant surprise last season with their Pacific Division title. Viktor Fasth (15-6-2, 2.18 GAA) had an outstanding rookie season at age 31, while Francois Beauchemin (24 points, plus 19) had his best season at age 33.

However, these players do seem likely to regress, and along with the trade of Bobby Ryan, the Ducks will likely take a step back this season. The re-signing of Ryan Getzlaf (49 points) and former MVP Corey Perry will help keep the Ducks strong for the present and future, and the addition of promising second-year player Jakob Silfverberg (19 points) is a very solid move. The future is bright in Anaheim, but look for the Ducks to finish lower in the Western Conference and Pacific Division standings than last season. 

12. Detroit

After defeating the Ducks and taking the Blackhawks to the brink of elimination, the Red Wings deserve to move to a higher power ranking than their seventh-place finish in the Western Conference would indicate. Goalie Jimmy Howard (2.13 GAA, .923 SV%) had a great season in net, and Pavel Datsyuk (49 points) and Henrik Zetterberg (48 points) were also excellent.

The Red Wings added Stephen Weiss (four points in 17 games) and Daniel Alfredsson (26 points) in free agency, but the loss of potential star Damien Brunner (26 points as a rookie), Flippula (66 points in 2011-12) and longtime Red Wing Daniel Cleary (15 points) will likely hurt. Considering Zetterberg is 32 years old and Datsyuk is 35, the Red Wings will need big seasons from young players like Gustav Nyquist (six points in 22 games) and Danny DeKeyser (one point in 11 games) to take the next step.

Then again, the Red Wings will likely be safely in the playoffs, and once there, their veteran core could lead a long playoff run.

11. Toronto

The Maple Leafs are one of the hardest teams to predict for the upcoming season. After being a miraculous comeback from the Bruins away from the second round of the playoffs, the Maple Leafs set out to improve their team toughness this offseason.

Trading for former first-round pick and potential star goalie Jonathan Bernier (1.88 GAA last season) who has experienced the rollercoaster emotions of the playoffs (admittedly while as the backup for the Kings) will give Toronto arguably the best one-two punch of goalies in NHL with James Reimer (19-8-5, .924 SV%).

They also traded for gritty center Dave Bolland, a proven grinder and two-time Cup Champion. Also, while signing winger David Clarkson (15 goals, 78 penalty minutes), another tough grinder with scoring ability, to a massive contract will probably be a future burden, he provides the toughness and secondary scoring that is needed in the playoffs. Combined with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, who both scored more than a point per game last season, the Maple Leafs look to be improved and very dangerous this season.

10. Ottawa

Ottawa defied expectations last season as coach and Jack Adams Award recipient Paul MacLean led the surprising Senators to a first-round series win over the Canadiens last season. This happened even though stars Jason Spezza (five games played), Erik Karlsson (17 games played) and Craig Anderson (24 games played) all missed a significant amount of time with major injuries. The loss of captain Daniel Alfredsson will sting Senators fans for a while, but it is hard not to say the addition of four-time 30-goal scorer Bobby Ryan is an upgrade.

With a much healthier team this season and the leadership of MacLean, the Senators should be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and a team nobody wants to play against.

9. Minnesota

The Wild will benefit from the opportunity for a full training camp as much as any team. The additions of Zach Parise (38 points last year), Norris Trophy Finalist Ryan Suter (32 points) and Jason Pominville (nine points in 10 games for the Wild) helped the Wild finally reach the playoffs again, and with the emergence of defenseman Jonas Brodin (11 points) and forward Charlie Coyle (14 points), the Wild has a lot of new faces that could use the extra practice.

The Wild will likely further rely on its promising youth, but with a solid veteran core led by captain Mikko Koivu (37 points), the young players should be able to grow into their roles. The biggest thing holding the Wild back is the health of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding in goal, but the Wild should be significantly improved this season with increased maturation of the youngsters and established chemistry between all the recent additions.

8. Vancouver

Now that the Roberto Luongo trade rumor drama is seemingly over now, the Canucks hope he can finally return to his Vezina Trophy Finalist form after a disappointing year (2.56 GAA, .907 SV%). Along with a hopeful return to form for star two-way center Ryan Kesler, the Canucks are optimistic for the upcoming season.

With the Sedin twins at forward (85 combined points last season) and Dan Hamhuis (24 points) and Alexander Edler (22 points) leading the way on defense, the Canucks will once again have a strong core. If Kesler is injured again or Luongo cannot get over the trade rumors, the Canucks could certainly drop down a few spots on this list.

7. New York Rangers

As long as the Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist (2.05 GAA, .926 SV%), they figured to always be in playoff contention. The midseason trade of Gaborik netted the Rangers center Derick Brassard (11 points in 13 games with the Rangers) and defenseman John Moore (six points in 13 games), and both seemed to fit seamlessly into the Rangers lineup.

Center Derek Stepan (plus 25 last season) took another step towards stardom with 44 points, and when these players are combined with players like forward Ryan Callahan and defensemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers are the deepest they have been in years. Look for them to challenge for a spot in the Cup Finals.

6. Boston

For a team that has been the epitome of stability the last few years, the Bruins sure have a different roster for this upcoming season. The trade of young star Seguin (32 points and plus 24 in 2012-13) and veteran Rich Peverley (18 points), as well as the loss of forwards Horton (19 points and plus 20 in the playoffs), Jagr (10 playoff assists), tough defenseman Andrew Ference (13 points and plus nine in the regular season) and backup goalie Anton Khudobin will cost the Bruins some of their depth.

The addition of Loui Eriksson (29 points) and Iginla (33 points) will help offset some of this loss, but the Bruins will need to reestablish chemistry and find a way to replace the valuable contributions of these losses. However, the Bruins still figure to be one of the league's best this season.

5. San Jose

General manager Doug Wilson's decision to "refresh" the roster of the Sharks at the trade deadline was inspired. Bringing in energy forward Raffi Torres and switching Brent Burns to forward (20 points in 30 games) while shipping out slower players like Clowe, Michal Handzus and Douglas Murray added tons of speed and tenacity to the Sharks' lineup.

With three centers capable of playing first-line minutes in Logan Couture (37 points), Joe Thornton (40 points) and Joe Pavelski (31 points), the Sharks look poised to compete with the Kings for the Pacific Division title.

4. St. Louis

St. Louis has seemed poised to breakout for years now. With Alex Pietrangelo (24 points in 2012-13), Kevin Shattenkirk (23 points) and Jay Bouwmeester (22 points), the Blues have arguably the best defensive group in the NHL. That, combined with three solid goalies in Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott and Jake Allen (all with a GAA of under 2.46 last season), gives the Blues a solid nucleus.

If promising forwards and former first-round picks T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko or Jaden Schwartz can emerge as a bona fide scorer this season, the Blues may be finally ready to advance deep into the playoffs.

3. Pittsburgh

The Penguins unexpectedly were able to keep their core together this offseason. With Sidney Crosby able to turn Chris Kunitz (52 points) and Pascal Dupuis (38 points) into lethal scorers last season, the Penguins seem like an all-star team at times.

Combined with Evgeni Malkin (33 points in 31 games), Kris Letang (38 points) and James Neal (21 goals), the Penguins have the deepest collection of offensive talent in the NHL. The only thing that would seem to hold them back is the question mark in goal after Marc-Andre Fleury's rough postseason (3.52 GAA).

2. Los Angeles

The Kings proved that their Stanley Cup from the previous season was not a fluke as they returned to the Western Conference Finals last season. Jonathan Quick rebounded from an subpar season (for him at least) with an exceptional playoffs (1.86 GAA, .934 SV%).

The Kings lost Dustin Penner and Rob Scuderi, but the hope for full seasons from defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell (five combined games played last season) and the emergence of forwards Tyler Toffoli (five points in 10 regular season games) and Matt Frattin (13 points in 25 games) should make up for these losses. The Kings once again boast a deep team, with stars Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Mike Richards leading the way, that should again challenge for a spot in the Finals.

1. Chicago

As the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, the Blackhawks certainly deserve the first spot in the power rankings. Losing depth players Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg and Michael Frolik will hurt, but the Blackhawks have young players like center Brandon Pirri (75 points last season in the AHL) and winger Jeremy Morin (58 points in the AHL) ready to graduate to bigger roles.

Bryan Bickell (17 playoff points) and Corey Crawford (1.94 GAA) will now be counted on for bigger roles after their breakout years. With Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith leading the way, the Blackhawks look to be an easy choice for the Stanley Cup favorite in the 2012-13 season.