Preseason Rankings

Where does your favorite team stack up against the rest of the NHL?  Take a look after the jump.  Feel free to discuss/complain/laud/nod your head in knowing approval of the Senators’ rank below.  JD and I have gone through and ranked the league from 1-30 as we saw fit, and added a bit of commentary about our choices.  Enjoy


Rank E Fowle JD
1 It’s tough not to put the defending champs up here.  Not much change during the offseason and, based on his playoffs performance, it seems Bergeron is past his concussion problems
Add Vokoun to an astonishingly talented group that “underachieved” at 107 points last year, mostly without a now healthy Mike Green, and what do you get?  Your 2011-2012 President’s Trophy Winner
2 Call me a homer, but adding speed to their top six forwards (Havlat) and someone to help eat into Dan Boyle’s ice time (Burns) and there’s reason to believe this is the best Sharks roster.  Ever The loss of Ehrhoff will sting a bit, but not enough to cost Vancouver the top spot in the West
3 Losing their most productive D man in Erhoff will hurt, but their defensive depth was a strong suit last year.  Hopefully Mason Raymond makes a full recovery.  A difficult pick since no one knows exactly when Crosby will return, but Malkin, Staal and company should be enough to keep Pittsburgh strong up the middle even without the captain.  If James Neal can return to playing like he did in Dallas and Sid can get himself well in time for the playoffs, Dan Blysma’s Penguins are my pick to represent the east in June
4 King Henrik put up solid numbers behind a blue-collar team that scored just under 3 goals a game last year.  Add Brad Richards to the mix and you have a serious contender. The addition of Burns is a huge one, not just for this year but for the future.  The window is still wide open for this core led by Thornton, Boyle and Marleau, especially now that they’re backed by one of the best D-corps the Silicon Valley has ever seen.
5 That they didn’t make the playoffs last year under their own power was a bit of a fluke.  They showed the still have fight left after taking Vancouver to seven games Last year’s Stanley Cup champs will return with a bit of a hangover and without Marc Savard for (likely) the entire season.  But with the best 1-2 goalie tandem in the league, they’ll scratch and claw their way to another Northeast title
6 Perennial playoff “underachievers” with a goalie problem, meet Tomas Vokoun Ian White will fill in admirably as a poor man’s Brian Rafalski, Nick Lidstrom will be a Norris finalist yet again, and Detroit will once again silence those who wonder if they have finally aged out of their stranglehold over the Central division.
7 The Sabres gave Tyler Myers a lot of help with Regher and Erhoff in front of Miller.  If Leino builds on his breakout season these guys could do some serious Eastern Conference playoff damage Last year’s chic pick to win the west didn’t quite live up to expectations, but assuming Doughty and GM Dean Lombardi end this embarrassing millionaire chicken-fight by around the start of the regular season, the addition of Mike Richards will have LA vying for the top spot in a very competitive Pacific division.  If Kopitar puts this team on his back, LA has a real shot at taking their long-awaited first drink from Lord Stanley’s cup
8 Losing Rafalski is going to make life harder for the aging Lidstrom, but the Red Wings always seem to rally around their system, around each other.  They’ll be back to the playoffs Goaltending is the only question mark, but deadline acquisition Dwayne Roloson played admirably for Steve Yzerman’s Lightning last year and I’ll wager he’s got one more solid year in him.  Lecavalier, St. Louis and Hedman will all need to be good, but the fate of this Cup contender rests squarely on the shoulders of newly extended 21-year-old Steven Stamkos.
9 It’ll be interesting to see if a team that got rid of nearly 1/3 of its scoring can still put up points.  Can Danny Briere  and Claude Giroux pave the way for Brayden Schenn? New owner Terry Pegula showed a willingness to spend a lot of money this offseason, and if if there was a faint odor of desperation about Buffalo’s summer, there is no doubt that Ryan Miller and co are a much better team today than they were when they put up 96 points last year.
10 The addition of Mike Richards at center will help give Kopitar help down the middle.  They will challenge the Sharks for Pacific Division supremacy this year The Sharks and Kings are the favorites in the Pacific, but don’t go to sleep on Anaheim.  Boasting one of the NHL’s best top lines in Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan, along with the return of a reportedly healthy Jonas Hiller (who suffered from vertigo and missed a chunk of last season) and a solid D-corps including 68-point getter Lubomir Visnovski and promising up-and-comer Cam Folwer, the Ducks have what it takes to hang with the big boys in the West
11 Their season rides on Jonas Hiller’s health.  Corey Perry and co will help, but they’ll need their goaltender for an extended run Now a year clear of the Stanley Cup hangover and salary cap sell-off of last off-season, Chicago has done a nice job hanging onto its young core and even regained some breathing room under the cap by shipping off Brian Campbell.  Another year of growth for Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith and Seabrook will be more than enough to keep the Hawks competitive in the West.
12 Losing Gange isn’t great, but isn’t awful.  Back to the playoffs for last year’s Cinderella story At best, the summer saw the Habs running in place, losing James Wisniewski and Roman Hamrlik while signing oft-injured Erik Cole to a risky four-year deal.  Still, the Canadiens should be able to maintain a playoff spot in the east.
13 Without Sidney Crosby, this is a good team.  With a health Crosby (and Malkin, for that matter) this is a great team.  We’ll see I really like the veteran depth that the Blues added to their promising young forward group, with the likes of Scott Nichol, Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner joining emerging studs like TJ Oshie, Chris Stewart, and newly named captain David Backes.  How St. Louis managed to pry Chris Stewart and Kevin Stattenkirk away from Colorado still boggles my mind.  Look for the Blues to sneak back into a playoff spot this season.
14  Carey Price surely can’t continue the pace he set for himself last year, can he? The Rangers probably deserved a bit better than scrambling for the last spot in the east last season, as they had a +35 goal differential (good for 4th best in the East) and have a shot to win every night with Henrik Lundqvist in net.  They lost a bit of depth while picking off prized free-agent Brad Richards this offseason, but I like New York to make the post-season a hair more comfortably than they did last year.
15 Shea Weber might only have one year left in Nashville but while he, Suter and Pekka Rinne are still around, these guys have a shot at getting past the first round in the playoffs for the second year in a row This is as much a hunch as anything, but I was befuddled by New Jersey’s play at the beginning of last year and still believe they have too much talent to be playing golf in April.  Kovalchuk will bounce back, Parise is healthy again, and the Devils will hope talented young forward Jacob Josefson can fill Zajac’s shoes until he returns in a few months.  I like the Devils to eek their way back into the playoff picture.
16 Parise is back, and ready to go.  Brodeur must still have a liiiiittle bit of gas left in the tank The Flames didn’t do anything sexy over the summer whatsoever to improve on the roster that earned 94 points and a 10th place finish in the West.  But if they can avoid last year’s slow start, the status quo should be enough for a return to playoffs, especially given the steps backwards that Phoenix, Nashville and Dallas took.
17 Halak and a healthy start to a new season could be all the difference they need It’s been an eventful offseason for Philly, who traded away two franchise centers on draft day for a somewhat unremarkable return.  Much of the attention will now turn to youngsters Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, who will now attract much more attention from opposing shutdown lines.  Philly could still manage to hang on to a playoff spot behind newly acquired goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, but they’ll have to scratch and claw to do it.
18 The ex-Sharks (Setoguchi and Heatley) have been flying alongside Mikko Koivu this preseason If Tim Connolly can stay healthy, Toronto will have finally found the #1 center they’ve been after and should take a nice step forward.
19 Jeff Carter should help take some attention away from Rick Nash, but making the playoffs through their tough division is going to be difficult At this point, you would think I would have learned my lesson regarding Barry Trotz’s Preds, who seem to always be in the playoff picture whether the team on paper seems to support that success or not.  Still, the loss of Joel Ward, Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont this season would seem too much for even Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne to overcome.
20 Maybe, just maybe Tim Connolly stays healthy.  If that happens and Reimer is for real, maybe these guys will finally pull themselves out of mediocrity I feel like I’ve been waiting for this club to take its big step forward behind captain Rick Nash for years now.  But, after getting swept out of the 2009 playoffs by Detroit, the Jackets have failed to make their second trip to the postseason as a franchise each of the last two years.  I like the additions of Carter and Wisniewski, but am going to go with my head rather than my heart on this one and say that they won’t be enough.
21 Everyone’s favorite dark horse.  The Streit-led defense will have to bunker down in front of the goalie carousel for it to work I think Carolina will stay competitive in the East all the way up to the end of the season, but in the end I don’t think they’ll have quite enough to contend with Washington and Tampa Bay in the Southeast.  However, if the Canes can stay in the hunt and GM Jim Rutherford decides to use any of the $14 million in cap space the franchise currently possesses, it could be a different story.
22 Brian Campbell will provide a big boost to the blue line.  Will the rest of the team follow suit? It’s hard not to like this great young group of forwards led by Taylor Hall, but big questions in net and a mediocre defense will be enough of a stumbling block to keep this club out of the playoff picture.  Next year or the year after on the other hand…
23 Calder winner Jeff Skinner better show up for an encore The loss of Bryzgolov will loom large in the desert, and uncertainty about the team’s future will be enough to keep them from making any big deadline deals even if they are in contention.  Even with Dave Tippett’s shut-down system, the Desert Dogs will be hard pressed to win low scoring games without the elite goaltending they’ve been enjoying.
24 Erik Johnson didn’t do so well after the trade.  If he has the year he’s capable of having, it’ll help With a fairly tight internal cap and a roster that lacks top end talent, hockey’s return to Winnipeg will not be a triumphant one this season.
25 Tell Buff to get on the treadmill The loss of Brad Richards and an even more competitive Pacific division will simply be too much for Loui Eriksson and co to overcome.
26 Shane Doan needs some help.  The absence of Bryzgalov isn’t trending in the right direction First and foremost, this team has to get its goalie situation figured out.  If GM Garth Snow can manage to give Nabokov some starts early and then trade him for some help on D, maybe this rebuilding team becomes relevant again a year or two ahead of schedule.  As it is, even a healthy Mark Streit probably won’t be enough for the Islanders to have a real shot this season.
27 Brad Richards’ skates will be hard to fill.  Even for Ribiero and Benn Florida spent all summer giving lots of mediocre players too much money in order to get to the cap floor.  Not a great recipe for success
28 Promising young forwards.  Still a lot of obstacles to overcome As I mentioned, I can’ quite figure out what Colorado was thinking when they traded away Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk for EriK Johnson.  Johnson is a fine defenseman, but the Avalanche must have a lot more hope that the former first overall pick finally starts delivering on all his potential than I do.  As it stands, despite a stellar 1-2 punch up the middle with Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene, this team just isn’t ready to compete in the West.
29 Iginla and Kiprusoff will have to ignite a flame under their Calgary teammates Many people are focusing on the pieces that Minnesota added this offseason (young scoring winger Devin Setoguchi and sniper Dany Heatley, acquired in separate deals from San Jose), but those who predict a big push up the standings this season seem to be forgetting what the Wild lost in those deals.  Gone are franchise defenseman Brent Burns and talented forward Martin Havlat, both of whom will leave big holes behind.  Minnesota gained some picks and prospects, and probably made themselves better in the long-term.  But this season might look a little more like two steps back to take that first step forward
30 This will be a season of growing pains in Canada’s capital. Ottawa started poorly last year, had a fire sale around last year’s trading deadline, and ended the year poorly.  Over the summer, the most impressive thing GM Bryan Murray did was hang onto his own job.  Beyond that accomplishment, he failed to upgrade his club in any meaningful way.  This will likely be a tough season to be a Sens fan.

Tags: NHL Rankings San Jose Sharks

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