clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The only NHL power rankings that matter

New, comments

Bill Matz drops the puck on his weekly power rankings

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The National Hockey League is set to drop the puck on preseason action in less than two weeks, so this seems like the perfect time to drop Broad Street Hockey’s definitive power rankings.

These rankings have been decided entirely by myself using criteria I made up as I went along. I’m going to be updating the rankings every week during the regular season, but I also want to rank other things, as well.

When you finish this article, if you are so inclined, leave a suggestion for other stuff you want to see me rank. I don’t care what- could be Tarantino movies or episodes of The Wire or songs by bands nobody has ever heard of, whatever. There’s no chance I’m going to keep up with the actual power rankings unless there’s something else to distract me, and I’m asking you, the readers, for those distractions.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s what you’ve all been eagerly awaiting: the most important NHL pre-pre-season power rankings on the whole entire internet!

1) St. Louis Blues

Sure, I wanted to go with Tampa here. But for the very first edition, I have to go with the defending champions. One of the reasons I’m a little more bullish on the Blues is because of my belief in Jordan Binnington, and it has a lot less to do with everything he accomplished in his rookie season, than it does my belief in Carter Hart.

Basically, if I’m going to call the Excellence of Execution the “real deal” then I have to say it about Binnington, too, right? Plus, they signed Mike Vecchione, which puts them a step closer to repeating. A Cup contending team can never have enough Former Flyers.

2) Tampa Bay Lightning

They have to get it done in the postseason, that’s a fact. But that isn’t what we’re talking about right now.

In terms of preseason and regular season power rankings, it’s hard to see another team overtaking them for very long in these rankings, when the games actually start to count.

The Lightning still have to get Brayden Point signed, and they moved J.T. Miller for some picks in June, but TB is still loaded with so much freakin’ firepower.

Tampa boasts both the reigning Hart Trophy winner in Nikita Kucherov, as well as Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Their 128 standings points last season was the highest total since the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, and the fourth highest total in the league’s history.

Their .780 points-percentage was the tenth best ever, and only trailing a few of the 70’s dynasty Habs teams, and those ’96 Wings, in terms of efficiency in a post-expansion, non-lockout-shortened season.

Tampa also made a few depth additions this summer, bringing in everybody’s favorite backup netminder, Curtis McElhinney, as well as playoff person-of-interest Pat Maroon and yet another former Rangers defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk.

My only real question with the Bolts is if we’ll start to see some NBA-style “load management” in preparation for the playoffs after last year’s historic regular season became a playoff disaster?

3) San Jose Sharks

It’s no secret that I love the Sharks roster, but their placement at No. 3 in these initial power rankings was conditional. The most important? Bringing Jumbo back, which they announced they’ll be doing late last week.

Despite having turned 40 on July 2, Jumbo is still integral to what the Sharks do, and his health wasn’t nearly as much of a concern last season as it was the year prior. Thornton played 73 regular season games and averaged 15:33 TOI a night. He’s not the elite player he once was, but 51 points, 53% in the face-off circle, excellent possession metrics and whatever intangibles a first ballot Hall of Famer with 1566 regular season games and another 179 playoff games worth of experience can bring will be huge for a team whose success will only be measured by what they do in the second season.

The other condition is Martin Jones. Through his first three seasons in San Jose, Jones started 190 games and put up a .915 save-percentage to go along with a 2.40 goals against average. 2018-19 was a much different story, however.

Jones had a sub-.900 save-percentage in the regular season and carried that over to the playoffs. From 2016 through 2018, Jones was a legitimate “clutch” goalie, raising his numbers and level of play for the Sharks in the postseason. But last year, San Jose made it to the Conference Final despite Jones. If he can get back to the good starter he was, there’s absolutely no reason the Sharks won’t be a top-five team in the NHL.

4) Toronto Maple Leafs

When they get the Mitch Marner drama taken care of, and the season starts to unfold, Toronto could be a top-two team. The Leafs (I don’t care if it’s a proper noun, it’s still grammatically nonsensical) added Tyson Barrie (good!) and Cody Ceci (ehh...) to their blue line to complement should-be-captain Morgan Reilly, and now SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedman is reporting that Jake Gardiner could very well be back in Toronto, as well.

While it’s hard to believe there was that soft of a market for a 29-year-old, 6-2, 200-lb. defenseman who has averaged 0.44 points/game and posted positive relative Corsi numbers over his eight-year career, it certainly would be a great thing for Toronto if they can fit him under the cap.

UPDATE: Well, looks like they won’t have to figure out how to fit Gardiner in:

Even without Gardiner, this team has some of the best top-end talent in the National Hockey League with John Tavares, Auston Matthews (who badly needs to stay healthy), and 2019-20 Comeback Player of the Year William Nylander all locked up long-term. It feels like this is the year they finally break through that Boston Bruins barrier and make a run.

5) Boston Bruins

The Bruins and Maple Leafs can only be separated by so much.

The Stanley Cup runners-up are ranked as a top-five team in hockey, but the third best team in their own division. Such is the life of the Atlantic.

Boston has talent, grit, experience and, yes, goaltending. Tuukka Rask had a regular season a bit below his normal standards, giving way to a tandem with Jaroslav Halak, but the much-maligned Rask had a huge Stanley Cup Playoffs, posting a .934 save-percentage, and a 2.02 GAA en route to a run that saw his team reach game seven of the Stanley Cup Final.

There’s not much to dislike about the Bruins, Brad Marchand’s face notwithstanding, and when the season has reached the conference final, would it be a shock to anybody if Boston was still in the mix?

Ok, so really, this song is the reason I like the Bruins. Dropkick and Bobby Orr, too. Hard to argue against either.

6) Calgary Flames

All their problems are solved! They got some grit!

Forget Johnny Gaudreau’s electric offense. Forget Elias Lindholm’s breakout season. Forget Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk both scoring 34 goals. Forget Norris Trophy winning defenseman Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin, TJ Brodie and Travis Hamonic making up one of the most complete top-fours in hockey.

The Flames’ success in 2019-20 will come down to the one key addition Brad Treliving made this offseason when he swapped James Neal for Milan Lucic!

The four straight losses Calgary suffered in the first round after taking game one against Colorado are a mere afterthought now, because the Flames got tougher, damnit.

Sure, Cam Talbot and something called David Rittich make up their current one-two punch in the net. Doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that Lucic has playoff experience, and leadership qualities that will allow his new team to reach its potential. Sure, the last time he was in the playoffs he was teammates with the best player in the world and his team blew a 2-0 series lead to Anaheim, and his foray with the Kings lasted all of five games in 2016, but what does that matter? He had 91 penalty minutes last year!

Ok, so I’m a little bitter that Johnny Hockey & Co. couldn’t push their series to a sixth game so I could catch it while I was in Denver in April. Calgary is a highly skilled team that may have just started to scratch the surface last season. Their playoff upset could end up being one of those “learning to win” situations.

7) Vegas Golden Knights

This is the one team in my top ten that I think I’m underrating.

I still don’t understand their blue line, but a top-six featuring Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty is more than enough to keep this team winning games. And don’t forget Cody Eakin and Alex Tuch, each of whom put up 40-plus points despite playing under 17 minutes a game.

Marc-Andre Fleury’s GSAA dropped 15 points from the previous season, and he still finished fourth in Vezina voting. This dude is beloved and still effective, despite pushing 35 years of age.

This is a well put together team that plays with a ton of energy and chemistry, and is fun to watch. As much as I like San Jose and Colorado, it’s hard not to root for Vegas.

8) Washington Capitals

I just hope Alex Ovechkin plays until he’s, like, 57-years-old.

9) Colorado Avalanche

Rocky Mountain High Flying Offense, Baby!

Now, I don’t love the idea of swapping your fourth leading scorer and first pair defenseman Tyson Barrie, plus the team’s sixth leading scorer Alexander Kerfoot, for Nazem Kadri, but when you’ve got Samuel Girard and Cale Makar ready to take a step up, I guess it’s easier to justify such a move.

Colorado focused on improving the depth behind its Nathan MacKinnon - Gabriel Landeskog - Mikko Rantanen first line, adding Kadri, Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky to their lineup (not to mention their combined 125 games worth of playoff experience).

I really want to see this team make a run. How can you not love them? When they kill a penalty at home the arena DJ hits a Super Mario mushroom sound to signify a return to even strength. It’s great stuff.

Plus, like, that top line. Filthy.

10) Nashville Predators

Just get it done, already.

Seriously. Good for you, you got Matt Duchene to take a below-market deal. Cool. Win the Cup or go away.

And screw you for dealing P.K. Subban to the Devils.

Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros, we’re still cool.

11) Carolina Hurricanes

I thought I’d have them higher, honestly.

Losing team captain Justin Williams, at least to start the year, will definitely hurt. I like Micheal Ferland, but replacing him with Ryan Dzingel seems like a fine move. There was never a question the ‘Canes would match that completely reasonable Sebastian Aho offer sheet. And we all know their blue line is dangerous.

But the goaltending, man. Do you really think Petr Mrazek is that good? Not anymore, I don’t. But if he is, do I get credit for saying the Flyers should re-sign him after like two games here? Can I be retroactively correct?

Anyway, he and James Reimer don’t really do much for me as a tandem, but I guess the idea in Carolina is to have the puck so much it really doesn’t matter.

I loved watching the Bunch of Jerks last year, and really hope to see Rod Brind’Amour’s group take another step forward in 2019-20.

And any team/fanbase that makes Don Cherry this mad is A-OK in my book. Keep up the great work, Caniacs.

12) Dallas Stars

My boy Jim Montgomery won a playoff round in his first season in Big D. Not much of a surprise, given his track record.

As a player, Montgomery captained the University of Maine to the 1993 NCAA Championship, and recorded 13 goals and 29 points in 20 playoff games en route to a Calder Cup Championship with the Philadelphia Phantoms in 1998.

As a coach, Montgomery won a pair of USHL championships in three years coaching the Dubuque Fighting Saints before moving to the NCAA and guiding the University of Denver to two Frozen Fours, winning one NCAA Championship, in his five seasons prior to earning a his shot at being an NHL bench boss.

So yeah, I like the Stars.

And they had a pretty decent offseason, adding Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry to a core featuring Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, John Klingberg, Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell (honestly, I had to look him up but the dude seems pretty legit) and backstopped by Ben Bishop.

I don’t think Bishop got enough love (despite finishing second in Vezina Trophy voting) for his incredible 2018-19. While he only made 45 starts, the three-time Vezina finalist did post the NHL’s best save-percentage (.934), and GSAA (32.24), as well as a sub-two goals against average.

I think they made a mistake letting Mats Zuccarello walk, but they still have enough fire power to compete out west.

13) Pittsburgh Penguins

They’re just never going away. No matter how many dumb moves this freakin’ team makes, they still have Sidney f’n Crosby.

14) New Jersey Devils

This kills me.

I once got beaten up by a good friend just for buying a Devils hat, but mark me down as a believer in New Jersey.

They have a nice mix of youngsters and veterans, and I think a Mackenzie Blackwood/Cory Schneider tandem could be pretty damn good.

New Jersey added yet another first overall pick in Jack Hughes to go along with Nico Hischier, they brought in P.K. Subban for some top-of-the-lineup punch on the blue line, and Wayne Simmonds for some leadership, toughness, and to perhaps help improve the league’s 25th ranked offense (219 goals for was tied for sixth worst) and 21st ranked power play. Taylor Hall is in a contract year, and the best way to get yourself paid is once again play like an MVP.

Basically, I think the Devils are the team that accelerated their rebuild and jumped into playoff contention with their offseason moves, not the Rangers.

15) Philadelphia Flyers

Yeah, we’ll see. I think they should go to the playoffs, but I’ve been hurt before.

Please be great, Mr. Hart.

16) Florida Panthers

I’m still pissed at Florida for handing Vegas 23 of their top line at the expansion draft, and I’m really glad they didn’t get both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, but they did end up with Bob as well as Anton Stralman in a fairly decent offseason haul.

Joel Quenneville could very well end up being the most important piece of the puzzle in Sunshine, however. Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov, Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad make a strong starting point for a franchise that has underachieved for the last two seasons, and a coach with a resume reading like Quenneville’s could be what it takes to get the Panthers into the playoffs for the first time since 2016, and only the sixth time in what will be their 26th season of existence.

Holy crap, the Panthers haven’t won a playoff round since they beat the Penguins in game seven of the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals. Since getting swept in that year’s Final by the Avs, they have won a total of six playoff games. SIX.

Florida averaged over 13,000 fans last year, and I’ve decided they are the best fans in hockey.

Congratulations, you people love the game more than anybody in the world. There is no other explanation.

That’s all I’ve got on the Panthers, so...

Hey look, glow puck!

17) Winnipeg Jets

It just feels like they’re going to take a hit this year.

Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor still aren’t signed, and Jacob Trouba got traded to the Rangers. That’s three of their top-five point-producers not on the roster (yet, obviously) while they tout the league’s most cap space (according to CapFriendly.com).

Just doesn’t seem like a recipe for success. At least not in 2019-20. They’ll probably start slow, fire Paul Maurice, replace him with like, I don’t know, Jeff Reese or somebody, and get to at least the final four.

I hate the way this game has made me think.

18) Montreal Canadiens

Dale Weise, Jordan Weal, Nick Cousins, Shea Weber.

This team has long playoff run written all over it with that many former Flyers.

19) Chicago Blackhawks

They’re about due to win another Cup, probably. Bastards.

20) Arizona Coyotes

There’s a lot of hype around the ol’ Desert Dogs this summer, and I get it, sort of.

The internet loves it some Phil Kessel, and The Thrill’s 357 career goals and pair of Stanley Cup championship rings bring legitimacy to a franchise that hasn’t seen postseason play in seven consecutive seasons.

I have them as a borderline playoff team, with nine western conference squads ahead of them.

But Clayton Keller lead ‘Zona in points with 47. Alex Galchenyuk (traded to Pittsburgh), and Brad Richardson (34 years old, hadn’t scored more than 11 goals since 2006-07) lead the team with 19 goals each. Does this sound like a team really ready to make a push?

Sure, Keller and Lawson Crouse and Jakob Chycrun are all probably going to continue to develop, but how much in one year?

21) New York Islanders

I just don’t see lightning striking twice on Long Island.

The Isles were an incredible story last year, and I’m a believer in Barry Trotz, but I just really didn’t understand letting Robin Lehner walk and bringing in Semyon Varlamov. It doesn’t make sense.

The Islanders have a nice veteran group of forwards in Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, and Josh Bailey, but I really just don’t know how they’ll do without Valtteri Filppula.

Matthew Barzal took a step backwards, production-wise, from his Calder Trophy-winning 85-point 2017-18, but still lead the team in assists and points. Anthony Beauvillier also saw his points total drop in 2018-19, and some may say it’s because the team was more dedicated to “structure” than selling out to pile up individual stats, and there’s probably something to that. But I just don’t think this team has enough talent to match the emotional high they were on last year, drawing on Lehner’s personal triumphs while also trying to prove they didn’t need John Tavares after he spurned them for Toronto.

22) New York Rangers

Color me unimpressed with the Blue Shirts. Sure, they added the biggest name of the summer in Artemi Panarin, and yes they definitely made their blue line better by giving up a first round pick for the right to hand Jacob Trouba a big bag of money. But what else do they have?

Kevin Hayes played only 51 games for the Rags in 2018-19 and still ended up as their third-leading scorer with a mere 42 points. He’s a Flyer now. Their fifth and sixth leading scorers, Mats Zuccarello (37 points in 46 games) and Jimmy Vesey (35 points in 81 games), are gone. Absolutely, drafting Kaapo Kakko second overall should be a boost, but what can honestly be expected of a rookie teenager when it comes to contributing to the W/L record of his new team?

Beyond Trouba, do you like Brady Skjei or Marc Staal? Does the still unsigned RFA Anthony DeAngelo really do it for you? The once vaunted Broadway Blue Line isn’t exactly what it once was, nor is their last line of defense, Henrik Lundqvist.

Hank’s 2018-19 save-percentage (.907) is twelve points lower than his previous career average. Alexandar Georgiev made 30 starts for the Rangers last year and performed well. Could the 23-year-old Bulgarian be in line for an even split in the blue paint with the 37-year-old legend in front of him? And even if Georgiev is great and Lundqvist bounces back, does the team in front of them actually look like a contender? Not to me.

23) Vancouver Canucks

Players like Quinn Hughes (7th overall, 2018), Elias Pettersson (5th overall, 2017), Brock Boesser (23rd overall, 2015), and Thatcher Demko (36th overall, 2014) make Vancouver one of the more interesting teams in the league.

But signing Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn, and Micheal Ferland to multi-year deals, and trading for J.T. Miller with four years left on his contract make the Canucks one of the more perplexing teams in the league.

I’m not really sure what to expect from Canada’s western-most NHL team, but they snuck up on some opponents early last year, starting the season 10-6-1 before a rough November set them on a path towards .500.

If Boesser and Pettersson stay healthy this year, they could outscore some teams, especially in the first half. Who knows? Maybe Demko (8 starts, .913 save-percentage) can take on some of Jacob Markstrom’s workload (60 starts, .912 save-percentage) and they’ll be able to keep themselves alive deeper into the season. That could be fun.

24) Buffalo Sabres

Jack Eichel looks like Bill S. Preston, Esq. and for that sole reason I like the Sabres.

I think Buffalo could make a significant jump in terms of standings points this season, but a ten-point improvement from 2018-19 would put them at 86, a total that landed the Panthers fifth place in the Atlantic.

Only three of Buffalo’s forwards (Eichel, 82; Sam Reinhart, 65; Jeff Skinner, 63) topped 35 points last year, and that’s just not nearly enough firepower to compete in that division.

Oh, and their goalies aren’t especially good, either.

25) Detroit Red Wings

Valtteri Filppula got two years and a no-trade clause, in case you were wondering how things were going in Hockeytown.

Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen are both still on the books, albeit stashed on IR. Niklas Kronwall retired. Did you know his career high PIM was 54? I just assumed he’d averaged at least 70.

Anyway, Detroit has some good, young talent. But whatever. They’re just not going to be very good. And they’re not an entertaining tire fire like Edmonton, Minnesota or Ottawa. They’re just kind of there.

26) Edmonton Oilers

I totally missed Sam Gagner ending up with the Oilers last year. And he’s still there? That’s rich.

If not for Connor McDavid and my hatred of Ottawa, this organization would hold the permanent 31st spot. They still probably should. How do you mess up this badly?

27) Minnesota Wild

Zach Parise lead all scorers with 61 points last year. Ryan Suter played nearly 27 minutes per game. So, at least Minnesota’s getting their money’s worth out of those two.

It really looks like they need to rebuild this thing, but they went out and signed 32-year-old Mats Zuccarello to a $30 million deal, a move that should help them finish ahead of nobody in the Central. Again.

But really, the big story surrounding the Wild this summer is their general manager. And no, it’s not even the fact that Craig Leopold fired Paul Fenton about 14 months after hiring him. The real shocker is how the hell this picture of Bill Guerin, Minnesota’s new GM, ever found its way to the team’s official Twitter.

Is he ok?

28) Anaheim Ducks

They’ve got Michael Del Zotto and Anthony Stolarz.

I think that’s all you need to know.

29) Columbus Blue Jackets

There’s a chance Joonas Korpisalo is a suitable replacement for Sergei Bobrovsky. While Korpisalo’s numbers over the last three seasons are less than ideal (.899, 3.06), he hasn’t started more than 21 games in a season since 2015-16 when he was pretty good for the BJs. So maybe there’s something there.

The issue for Columbus will be their offense. Even if/when they get RFA defenseman Zach Werenski under contract (44 points was 6th most for Columbus in 2018-19), they’ve lost leading point-producer Artemi Panarin (87 points), as well as deadline-additions Matt Duchene (22 points in 33 games, including playoffs) and Ryan Dzingel- two players for whom Columbus surrendered some serious draft capital.

Behind Panarin, only two other BJs topped 60 points- Cam Atkinson (69, nice), in what had to be one of the all-time quietest 40-goal seasons ever, and second-year sensation Pierre-Luc Dubois. Both DuBois and Atkinson played a considerable amount of ice time on the top line with Panarin, who is now calling a decrepit train station his home barn.

30) Los Angeles Kings

  • Anze Kopitar (turned 32 on August 24): five more years at $10 million per year.
  • Ilya Kovalchuk (turned 36 in April): two more years at $6.25 million per year.
  • Dustin Brown (will be 35 on November 4): three more years at $5.875 million per year.
  • Jeff Carter (will be 35 on January 1): three more years at $5.273 million per year.
  • Jonathan Quick (will be 34 in January): four more years at $5.8 million.
  • I like Drew Doughty.

Actually, you know what? I like this. It reminds me of the ‘04 Flyers, a bunch of dudes giving it one last shot. (*extreme Eric Cartman voice*) Go Kings Go!

31) Ottawa Senators

This is a tough one for me because despite Ottawa being one of the franchises I hate most in all of sports, they have some players I like to watch.

Thomas Chabot put up 55 points from the blue line in his age 21/22 season. Brady Tkachuk was plenty impressive as a teenage rookie playing for one of the league’s most dysfunctional organizations.

If Tkachuk can harness what he did against the Flyers (4 of his 22 goals and 6 of his 45 points in three games against the orange and black), and apply it to the rest of the league, he could prove to be very much worth his fourth overall selection in 2018, and the foregoing of what ended up being the fourth overall pick in 2019.

With no more Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, or Ryan Dzingel, it’ll be up to Chabot, Tkachuk, and recent draft picks like Colin White (2015 first round; 41 points last season), Logan Brown (2016 first round), Alex Formenton (2017 second round), and Drake Batherson (2017 fourth round) to take ownership of the franchise’s on-ice performance.

Ok, fam. That was it. My initial power rankings for 2019-20. I’ll be updating them weekly, unless I get tired of it and give up in, like, January. We’ll see, I guess.

Remember, if you have something else you want me to power rank, leave your suggestion in the comments. I’m not going to write nearly as many words on the hockey men every week, but when you work from home, you don’t always look busy, and that can result in being asked to do stuff.

Since I want to avoid having to do things, constantly making up ridiculous lists of stuff you all want seems like a fun way to get out of all that. So thanks in advance.