Power Ranking Every NHL Team's 3-Year Window

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2021

Power Ranking Every NHL Team's 3-Year Window

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    Three years is a long time. Don't believe it? Here's a test.

    Think back about what the sports world—and the world in general, for that matter—looked like on Aug. 6, 2018.

    Tom Brady was still a Patriot. Patrick Mahomes was still a prospect.

    COVID-19 was still, well, not a thing.

    The point: A lot can happen—and change—in three years.

    In NHL terms, that means each of the league's 32 fanbases should have some measure of optimism.

    But some, naturally, ought to have more than others.

    Exactly how much depends on the talent on the roster, the talent in the pipeline, the team's relationship with the salary cap and the myriad intangibles that can make or break an organization.

    The B/R hockey writing types took a look at those factors and came up with a simple query: How likely is it that each team will win a championship by Aug. 6, 2024? The better the chances, the higher the ranking.

    Take a look at what we came up with, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Nos. 32-26: Sabres, Coyotes, Kraken, Sharks, Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Senators

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    32. Buffalo Sabres

    The bad optics of the Jack Eichel situation make it hard to see any optimism on the horizon in Western New York. Getting Owen Power at No. 1 in July's draft helps, but it won't yield a parade soon.

               

    31. Arizona Coyotes

    Lots of bloated salaries for players in their 30s. A steady flow of talent heading to the exits. Tumult in the front office. Good thing fans in Phoenix still have the Suns.

               

    30. Seattle Kraken

    You can make a case for kicking the Kraken up a few spots, but it's highly unlikely they will be replicating the Vegas Golden Knights' initial success. On the plus side, though, they will be far from an embarrassment.

               

    29. San Jose Sharks

    Logan Couture is a consistent and underrated player leaguewide, but $8 million a year for the next six seasons is steep. There's also not a lot around him that will help through 2024.

              

    28. Columbus Blue Jackets

    Three first-round picks in this summer's draft will help turn things around at some point, so they will be incrementally better in these rankings each season. But a Cup in three years would be a shock.

              

    27. Detroit Red Wings

    The biggest asset the Red Wings have is the guy running their front office. Steve Yzerman has built a title-worthy team before and he may do it again. It's a good time to buy low on Detroit stock.

               

    26. Ottawa Senators

    The Senators weren't just bad, they were dreadful to start the 2020-21 season. But they played as well as any team in the North Division over the final few months. The rise is underway.

Nos. 25-21: Ducks, Devils, Flames, Kings, Predators

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    25. Anaheim Ducks

    Let's face it, the Ducks aren't likely to add another Cup to their 2007 title within three years. But they are building a foundation with a lot of nice offensive pieces, so the postseason in that window is possible.

                

    24. New Jersey Devils

    The Devils added a top-shelf free-agent talent in Dougie Hamilton as they continue to build a core with high draft picks. If the new D-man is still producing in a few years, these guys will be fun to watch.

                

    23. Calgary Flames

    They are not irrelevant, but they are not exactly on the verge of big things, either. Any team with Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau has positives, but it feels like a housecleaning is in order.

                

    22. Los Angeles Kings

    Even more so than the Ducks, the Kings have assembled a collection of young talent that's among the league's best. If they can wangle a trade for Eichel, they would rise a few spots.

                

    21. Nashville Predators

    Their window may have closed without the title parade. There's some talent but not enough to expect deep playoff runs—or even guaranteed postseason qualification—in the imminent future.

Nos. 20-16: Canucks, Flyers, Stars, Canadiens, Blackhawks

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    20. Vancouver Canucks

    The sooner they forget their disaster of a 2020-21 season, the sooner they can ponder a future with the likes of Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson. It'll be worth watching.

                

    19. Philadelphia Flyers

    Hard to believe the Flyers were the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed in the playoffs in 2019-20, huh? To his credit, though, GM Chuck Fletcher did get busy with reshaping the roster this offseason.

              

    18. Dallas Stars

    The Stars are just a season removed from being a Cup finalist, but many of the guys who made that happen are either in their 30s or coming off long-term injury issues.

               

    17. Montreal Canadiens

    Is it fair to have this season's beaten finalists this far down on the list? Maybe not. But they were 18th overall in the regular season for a reason, and goalie Carey Price is another year older.

                

    16. Chicago Blackhawks

    Love them or hate them, you can't say the Blackhawks haven't shaken things up this summer. They traded for Seth Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury. And they still have Patrick Kane too.

Nos. 15-11: Blues, Rangers, Jets, Oilers, Penguins

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    15. St. Louis Blues

    All of a sudden, the celebratory laps with the Cup after the 2018-19 season feel a long time gone. Alex Pietrangelo is in Las Vegas. Jaden Schwartz is in Seattle. The Blues are still good, but not elite.

                  

    14. New York Rangers

    Maybe the first team on the list for whom a title by 2024 wouldn't be an earth-shattering surprise. The Rangers have established talent and top-end emerging talent too. They'll be in the mix within three years.

              

    13. Winnipeg Jets

    Winnipeg's front office moved to plug holes on the blue line with the additions of Brenden Dillon and Nate Schmidt. Add an excellent goalie and depth up front, and they will be a threat each year.

               

    12. Edmonton Oilers

    Maybe Ken Holland's a genius. Maybe he's running on fumes. Next season will be a litmus test for the myriad moves he's made this summer. As long as Connor McDavid is healthy, though, there's a chance.

                 

    11. Pittsburgh Penguins

    It looked like the Penguins were primed for a deep run in 2020-21. Then, before you knew it, they were bounced in six games. Sidney Crosby will be a vital piece for as long as he plays, but it won't be forever.

Nos. 10-6: Wild, Capitals, Islanders, Panthers, Golden Knights

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    10. Minnesota Wild

    Call this a conditional ranking, with the condition being whether GM Bill Guerin can get Kirill Kaprizov to sign a contract. If he does, the trajectory continues up. If he doesn't, brace for fallout.

                     

    9. Washington Capitals

    The Capitals were only five points off the pace of the Presidents' Trophy winners this season, so they are certainly in the mix and will remain there. But they won't be an odds-on favorite.

                                             

    8. New York Islanders

    The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, but reality is reality. The Islanders have been in the final four for two successive seasons and pushed the champs to a one-goal verdict in Game 7.

              

    7. Florida Panthers

    Was there a more surprising team in the NHL in 2020-21 than the Panthers? And now that they have added former No. 2 pick Sam Reinhart and his 25 goals, they will probably be as good or better next season.

                

    6. Vegas Golden Knights

    They are in the mix because they have been in the mix. That shouldn't change in 2021-22, and they will be favored to win the Pacific Division, but it's getting to be a trend to see them fall short in the playoffs. 

Nos. 5-1: Maple Leafs, Bruins, Hurricanes, Lightning, Avalanche

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    5. Toronto Maple Leafs

    Yes, we know the drought has reached 54 years. Yes, we know the first-round lead turned into a first-round disaster. But the core is still elite, and the goaltending may be better. They will be a compelling watch.

                

    4. Boston Bruins

    This time last year, the question was whether the window was still open. This time this year, the answer is yes. Keeping Taylor Hall and adding elite goaltender Linus Ullmark in Tuukka Rask's absence was a boost.

              

    3. Carolina Hurricanes

    The Hurricanes were first in their division in 2020-21 ahead of the eventual Stanley Cup champions. And even though they lost Hamilton, there's a lot of high-end young talent left over in the forms of Sebastian Aho (24), Teuvo Teravainen (26) and Vincent Trocheck (28).

                 

    2. Tampa Bay Lightning

    Can't argue with success. A two-time defending champion that retained its top-six forwards and a Norris Trophy defenseman, not to mention a Conn Smythe goalie. You tell them they can't win another.

                

    1. Colorado Avalanche

    If you are choosing a team based on in-house talent that's at or near its peak, there's none you would choose before the Avalanche. Loaded at forward. Loaded on defense. Stable in goal. They're due for a parade.

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