It took multiple Red Bulls and numerous gnawed pencils, but Philabright’s first ever NHL power rankings have finally been completed. All teams were ranked by a mix of where Philabright believes they will finish and their potential to succeed this upcoming season
1. Detroit Red Wings
The dominant Stanley Cup champions lost no one in the offseason, but add Marian Hossa. Are you kidding me?
2. Dallas Stars
Having a healthy Sergei Zubov and Philippe Boucher and a full season with Brad Richards instantly makes an already good Stars team a contender. Add Sean Avery and Swedish wildcard Fabian Brunnstrom to the recipe and suddenly they have the character and swagger of a potential Stanley Cup champion.
3. San Jose Sharks
With all their forward talent still in place, the Sharks got more experienced on the blue line, adding Rob Blake, Brad Lukowich and Dan Boyle, while also replacing stagnant coach Ron Wilson with former Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Todd McLellen, in hopes that some of that magic Detroit Stanley Cup dust comes with him.
4. Philadelphia Flyers
In the 2007-08 post-season, the Flyers took down the hottest team in the league, the Washington Capitals, and dominated the Eastern Conference champion Montreal Canadians, all without top scorer Simon Gagne. The incredible run should give buckets of confidence to the young Flyers, who return 16 full time players, including a healthy Gagne.
5. Montreal Canadians
The addition of Alex Tanguay should help with some added offensive depth. But the real question is which Carey Price will show up? And can 35-year old Alex Kovalev provide an encore of his incredible performance last season?
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last season, the Pens had a nice balance of grittiness and finesse. The grit provided by Gary Roberts, Georges Laraque and Ryan Malone and the finesse of Evgeni Malkin, Marian Hossa and Sidney Crosby. But now that Roberts, Malone, Laraque and Hossa have parted ways with the organization, and softer depth players Ruslan Fedontenko and Miroslav Satan step in, one wonders if the magic that carried the Pens to the finals still remains.
7. Calgary Flames
Simply having Miikka Kiprusoff and Jerome Iginla on their roster, keeps the Flames in the upper echelon of the league. Mike Cammalleri is brought in to add some spark and finish the job that Alex Tanguay failed to.
8. Edmonton Oilers
The skilled, young Oilers finished the 2007-08 season strong, prompting excitement and optimism for the 2008-09 season. Added vets Lubomir Visnovsky and Erik Cole give Edmonton an extra gear and make its already good power play, even better.
9. Chicago Blackhawks
The offseason additions of goalie Cristobal Huet and defenseman Brian Campbell give the Hawks a zesty playoff team feel. But it will be ultimately up to the play of their young defense corps that will decide how far the Hawks really do go.
10. Washington Capitals
Chris Clark’s return from injury and the debut of rookie defenseman Karl Alzner, should give the young Capitals a boost. But banking the season’s success on Jose Theodore in goal still leaves the door open for a clunker of a season. Good thing for the Caps that the Southeast division is the bad news bears of hockey.
11. New Jersey Devils
Last season, the Devils surprised everyone by being good, thanks to a certain Hall of Fame goaltender. With the addition of Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik, the Devils have the character and leadership to stay in the playoff picture, despite being the second oldest team in the league.
12. Phoenix Coyotes
The budding Coyotes appear to be heading in the direction of the playoffs. With a legit number-one goalie in Ilya Bryzgalov and a legit number-one center in Olli Jokinen, the Coyotes suddenly seem … well, legit. With youngster Peter Mueller and rookie Kyle Turris leading the youth charge, Phoenix will be in the mix all season.
13. New York Rangers
The Rangers went under the knife in the offseason, taking on a completely different look but not adding much substance. Swapping out long time Rangers Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka for Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev, is more of a lateral move than one that puts the Rangers over the top. Henrik Lundqvist keeps the Blue Shirts competitive, but Wade Redden as the team’s number-one defenseman just won’t cut it.
14. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks, once a power house, have slowly drifted into mediocrity. Still loaded with young talent like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks will need much more from some of their veterans if they want to go anywhere this season.
15. Minnesota wild
Forward Antti Miettinen is a suitable replacement for aging Pavel Demitra, but the Wild still don’t have that knockout offensive player to carry them to elite status. Marian Gaborik could be considered that player, if he didn’t miss 60 games a year due to injury.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus decided to go quantity instead of quality in the offseason market, and don’t get much better because of it. R.J Umberger as a number-one center probably won’t work. Raffi Torres and Kristian Huselius give the Jackets some depth but not much else. Fedor Tyutin and Mike Commodore won’t replace the points, or the power play quarterback duties done by the departed Ron Hainsey. What Columbus gets now is the typical boring system created by coach Ken Hitchcock – low scoring, solid defense and terrible on special teams.
17. Nashville Predators
The loss of Alexander Radulov hurts, but won’t be the deciding factor on Nashville’s season. The Preds will live and die by their defense, which is one of the youngest and most talented in the league. The real question is whether Dan Ellis is a legit number-one goalie.
18. Boston Bruins
Much to the chagrin of Bruins fans, the organization did not add anyone of significance in the offseason, meaning the Bruins will do what they did last year, run hot and cold all season. But can Tim Thomas save them again this year?
19. Ottawa Senators
Still possessing two of the filthier forwards in the league in Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, the Sens continue to have no goaltending and that hurts them deeply in the long run.
20. Carolina Hurricanes
The plus side is that the Canes begin the season healthy, something they haven’t been since early late 2007. The down side is that goalie Cam Ward hasn’t been the same since he won the Stanley Cup in 2006. If Ward can sure up his position, and the Canes get something out of newly acquired Joni Pitkanen, they are in a bad enough division to be in playoff position as a slightly above average team.
21. Colorado Avalanche
With Captain Joe Sakic leaning toward retirement and the team relying on Peter Budaj to be the full time backstop, rough days could be ahead for the Avs.
22. Tampa Bay Lightning
In the offseason, the Lightning were committed to climbing out of the basement. A new coach, new owners and seven new forwards under contract, including Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Radim Vrbata and Mark Recchi – means a lot has changed in Tampa. Stamkos gives the Bolts legitimate depth at center and Kolzig sures up the goaltending spot. With two of the best forwards in the Eastern Conference in Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, Tampa will show that it can score, but can a Matt Carle-led defense keep teams at bay?
23. St Louis Blues
Even with a question mark at goalie, the Blues are still climbing very slowly into the playoff picture. It will be up to the youngsters on defense to drive the Blues into respectability.
24. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks bring in some new blood, shipping Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison out, and bringing Pavol Demitra and Steve Bernier in. The ‘Nucks are still in the running for Mats Sundin, and they would need the help to be more than just average this season.
25. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres have all the talent in the world, but they seem to be lacking something. Maybe it’s a top-line power forward to smash home rebounds, or maybe it’s just some gritty leadership. Either way, it looks like another average season for Buffalo.
26. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs did next to nothing in the offseason and it could be due to their love affair with selecting top prospect John Tavares in the 2009 NHL entry draft. But that still might be a mistake, as Tavares’ stock has dropped in the past year from being a ‘can’t miss’ number-one overall selection, to potential top-5 pick.
27. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are $27 million under the cap, with only four NHL defensemen under contract. That means there will be a major youth movement at the blue line, featuring Thomas Hickey and Drew Doughty . Losing Mike Cammalleri will hurt the overall offense and young goalie Jonathan Bernier will take his licks. Overall, the Kings face a promising future, but this upcoming season may not be pretty.
28. Atlanta thrashers
Free agent pick up Ron Hainsey will help solidify an atrocious defense corps, and the debut of Zach Bogosian and Angelo Esposito will give Atlanta fans a peek at the future. But other than that this team stinks. Atlanta has $18 million under the salary cap and was willing to spend, but no one wanted to come there. Kind of makes you feel bad about the wasted talent of one of the league’s most exciting players in Ilya Kovalchuk.
29. Florida Panthers
When Cory Stillman is your best offensive weapon, your team is screwed.
30. New York Islanders
The media is bustling about the Islanders youth movement. But what Long Island has actually become is where old players go to die. The Islanders have three players in Bill Guerin, Doug Weight and Mike Sillinger that would make the team a contender if it were 1997. Add Trent Hunter, Mike Comrie and Jon Sim and voila, you get a really depressing/boring year for the Isles. Hey, at least rookies Blake Comeau and Kyle Okposo will be interesting to watch.