With everything starting to take shape for this season, here are my power rankings:
1. Detroit Red Wings
I can’t see any reason why the Wings shouldn’t be at the top of the list. The champs have added superstar Marian Hossa, and solid backup Ty Conklin. Dominik Hasek is really the only player Detroit has lost.
2. Montreal Canadiens
The Habs have a really good looking team with the additions of Alex Tanguay and Georges Laraque. They’ll miss Mark Streit on the power play, but someone will step up like Streit did in the absence of Souray. I think Montreal is the odds-on favorite in the east right now.
3. Dallas Stars
I believe the Stars may be the only team that can challenge the Wings for the west. They are solid in every phase of the game, and the addition of Avery will certainly help.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
Yes, they lost Malone and Hossa, but the Pens have recovered nicely with the signings of Cooke, Fedotenko, and Satan. Sid and Geno have enough tools around them to make another run for the Cup.
5. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have re-structured that blue line nicely. Rob Blake and Dan Boyle will bring some well-needed leadership in front of Nabokov. If Todd McClellan can get the minds right in the locker room, they could be the best team in the league… but I still have my doubts.
6. Philadelphia Flyers
Philly has been strapped by the cap this summer, having to trade away playoff star R.J. Umberger. They still have three good scoring lines along with good depth on the blue line. This is a team that could easily take the east this season.
7. Washington Capitals
I think the Caps are well on their way to another division title. Bringing back Sergei Fedorov was huge. Jose Theodore isn’t Cristobal Huet, but he’s enough between the pipes with the dynamite offense. Washington is a sleeper to lift the Cup next year.
8. New York Rangers
The Blueshirts have great depth on both sides of the puck with arguably the best goalie in the world – Henrik Lundqvist. It will be tough to breakthrough, though, with the top of the east being so good.
9. Calgary Flames
I think they’re playoff mainstays as long as they have Iginla, Phaneuf, and Kiprusoff. Cammalleri is a very good addition… he and Iginla will be a great 1-2 punch. They also have great grit to go along with the top line.
10. New Jersey Devils
I think the Rolston signing will pay off in the end, but I still think Lamoriello overpaid for him. New Jersey is still very capable of winning the crapshoot that is the Atlantic Division.
11. Chicago Blackhawks
Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet make the ‘Hawks a very formidable team. Fans in the Windy City should be very excited for this upcoming season. If Martin Havlat can stay healthy, Chicago could come away with home ice in the first round.
12. Boston Bruins
I love this team. Tim Thomas became a big-time goaltender last season. Their top six forwards are very good as a group. Boston could very well sneak up and take the division if the Canadiens take a step back.
13. Edmonton Oilers
This is another team that I really like. It’ll be fun to see Edmonton and Calgary duke it out this winter for the division. The trades they made improved their team, and have a lot of momentum coming off the finish of last year.
14. Anaheim Ducks
I think Anaheim could be a question mark for the postseason. Brendan Morrison was a nice signing, but they haven’t improved from last year. And with so little depth up front, any injury to Getzlaf or Perry could really set this team back.
15. Nashville Predators
The Predators did a nice job locking up the core for years to come. The blue line is very underrated, and the locker room has tremendous chemistry. If Dan Ellis can repeat last year’s excellence, the Preds could fit into the playoffs as a 6 or 7 seed.
16. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bolts have made some significant changes this summer. I like their offense… they have three lines that could score at any time. But I have my doubts about their defense and goaltending. They still have some work to do back there to become a Cup contender.
17. Minnesota Wild
They are among the losers of this offseason. Jacques Lemaire’s bunch will need win a lot of 2-1games to make the playoffs. Could this be the last season that Backstrom and Gaborik suit up in green and red??
18. Ottawa Senators
I don’t know what Bryan Murray’s doing up there. At this moment, Ottawa’s not a playoff team. Gerber and Auld just do not cut it between the pipes. Murray needs to add another defenseman and offensive depth this summer.
19. Carolina Hurricanes
I don’t know what to make of these ‘Canes. A part of me says they could compete with the Caps for the Southeast, and the other says they will disappoint once again. I’ll settle for somewhere in-between, and they’ll compete for one of the last spots for the playoffs.
20. Colorado Avalanche
They’ve taken a hit this offseason. Joe Sakic needs to return for Colorado to taste the playoffs again. There’s a big question mark in net with Budaj and Raycroft taking over the reigns.
21. Phoenix Coyotes
Sleeper team for the playoffs, no doubt. Olli Jokinen is a great fit in the desert, and the youth movement continues as Kyle Turris will likely make the club this fall. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a serious run at the postseason.
22. Buffalo Sabres
Darcy Regier and company are having a tough time bringing in players to play in Buffalo. With the potential loss of Ryan Miller after next season, this could be the last chance this core group has to thrill the Sabres fans in April.
23. Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver will be a playoff team if they could land Mats Sundin. But right now, the Canucks just don’t have enough firepower to make it in the west.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus is still a year or two away from making the playoffs. Time is running out on them as Rick Nash is due to become a free agent after the 09-10 season. To win in the west, you have to have a solid defense. The additions of Huselius and Umberger are a step in the right direction, but they need to boost the blue line before the state of Ohio starts talking playoffs.
25. St. Louis Blues
I’m surprised the Blues haven’t made any big moves this summer. I would’ve thought they would make a run at some second tier free agents after last year’s disappointment.
26. Florida Panthers
I have a hard time believing that the ‘Cats will compete this season. Peter DeBoer won’t last long in South Florida, and basically have no offense left after the Jokinen trade. Horton and Booth have some great upside, but the playoff drought will certainly continue for the Panthers.
27. Toronto Maple Leafs
This is easily one of the worst teams in the NHL, talent wise. If it weren’t for Ron Wilson, the Leafs could be at the bottom of this list.
28. New York Islanders
The Islanders are very capable of being the bottom-feeders in the east. Until they build a new arena on the island, New York’s second team will never compete for the Cup in this new era of the NHL.
29. Atlanta Thrashers
Ilya Kovalchuk gives Atlanta its only ray of hope. Kari Lehtonen isn’t living up to expectations, and the Thrashers have very little depth on both sides of the puck.
30. Los Angeles Kings
They still don’t have a coach, and they’ve been very quiet this offseason. Phenoms Jonathan Bernier and Drew Doughty is the Kings’ only hope of reviving the fan base in LA. Barring a miracle, I don’t see the Queens making the playoffs in the next few seasons.
It's the best time of year!
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