By: Rossy Pasternak
Here on SportsNak, we will be doing weekly updated power rankings, with features about three teams each week. The stretch run is upon us, with most teams having only 10 or less games remaining. The playoffs are fast approaching, and teams are looking to make their final push, either for a playoff spot, or for the #1 overall pick. These rankings are not only based on the standings, but also the level of team play. All stats are taken from ESPN.go.com. (GD stands for goal differential, the difference between goals scored and goals against)
The Bottom Feeders (30-21):
30. Vancouver Canucks (27-33-13, 67 pts, -41 GD)
29. Edmonton Oilers (30-40-7, 67 pts, -37 GD)
28. Toronto Maple Leafs (27-35-11, 65 pts, -34 GD)
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (30-36-8, 68 pts, -35 GD)
26. Winnipeg Jets (31-37-6, 68 pts, -27 GD)
25. Calgary Flames (31-37-6, 68 pts, -30 GD)
24. Buffalo Sabres (30-34-10, 70 pts, -24 GD)
23. Montreal Canadiens (34-35-6, 74 pts, -17 GD)
22. Ottawa Senators (34-33-8, 76 pts, -16 GD)
21. Arizona Coyotes (33-34-7, 73 pts, -25 GD)
Tanking has been an issue forever, except in the old ages, there was a sense of pride about it. Rarely, if ever, did a team value future picks over current success. With the exception of the Penguins tanking for Mario Lemieux, we had never seen outright tank-jobs. Buffalo executed this strategy to near perfection last season, but came up short in the lottery. Toronto this season has done the same, but because of the new lottery rules, have a lesser chance to obtain the 1st overall pick if they finish last. Also, the rule that made it so the last place team could draft no lower than 2nd overall is now gone. These rule changes make it far less attractive to tank for last place.
However, there is sensible logic for tanking. In no other position will you have a higher chance of picking 1st. If a team is going to be really bad, why not try to finish last? The team will most likely improve immensely the following year due to the franchise cornerstone they draft, and a horrible season will not have gone to waste. Instead of constantly being a bubble playoff team that always comes up short, why not build a brighter future. Much like the Ottawa Senators this season. With a diminishing chance to squeak into the playoffs at the deadline, they added Dion Phaneuf. Although he isn’t a rental, and they didn’t give up too much for him, Phaneuf contributed to a few extra wins – meaning they are going to pick higher in the draft than they would have without him. For a team that didn’t necissarily have the best odds of making the playoffs, it would have made more sense to sell expiring assets and hope for the best draft position possible.
Imagine if the Oilers win the lottery this season, will a core of Matthews, McDavid, Hall, and Eberle – well as RNH, Nail Yakupov and more supporting them – not be a scary forward group? Tanking definitely has its negatives – fans cheering for their team to lose being a major one – but it has so many positives as well. Teams can position themselves for a bright future, they give their fans something to cheer for (even if that something is a negative), and most importantly, give the fans hope.
The Middle of the Pack (20-11):
20. Carolina Hurricanes (32-28-15, 79 pts, -21 GD)
19. New Jersey Devils (36-31-8, 80 pts, -21 GD)
18. Detroit Red Wings (37-27-11, 85 pts, -14 GD)
17. Colorado Avalanche (38-33-4, 80 pts, -12 GD)
16. Philadelphia Flyers (36-25-13, 85 pts, -4 GD)
15. Minnesota Wild (37-28-11, 85 pts, +17 GD)
14. Boston Bruins (40-28-8, 88 pts, +15 GD)
13. New York Islanders (40-25-9, 89 pts, +16 GD)
12. San Jose Sharks (41-28-6, 88 pts, +23 GD)
11. Chicago Blackhawks (43-25-7, 93 pts, +23 GD)
The Blackhawks seem to be coasting into the playoffs at this point, and who can blame them? The regular season must just be a very long practice for these guys at this point. A team that has gone deep into the playoffs for the past seven years. The core is still very much intact. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith are all still playing unbelievable hockey. Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa and Corey Crawford are still playing vital roles on the team. Andrew Ladd is back for a second run at the cup with the ‘Hawks. Things are generally looking up for Chicago once again. The one thing playing against them is the stiff competition they will face in the first two rounds. The ‘Hawks will most likely have to go through the Stars and Blues before even getting to the Conference finals. That is really troubling, considering that those two teams are among the top 5 in the NHL. Chicago is among those teams as well, and is always a force to be reckoned with come April and May. I’m looking forward to watching the first two rounds on the Central side of the Western Conference playoff bracket, as those series will likely be the best ones all playoffs. The teams all play similar styles – tough to play against, but also with an abundance of skill to work with. I can’t wait to see these teams fight it out in a best of 7.
The Best of the Best (10-1):
10. Tampa Bay Lightning (43-27-5, 91 pts, +29 GD)
9. Anaheim Ducks (41-23-10, 92 pts, +17 GD)
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (41-25-80, 90 pts, +27 GD)
7. Nashville Predators (39-23-13, 91 pts, +20 GD)
6. New York Rangers (43-24-8, 94 pts, +21 GD)
5. Florida Panthers (42-24-9, 93 pts, +32 GD)
4. Los Angeles Kings (45-25-5, 95 pts, +31 GD)
3. Dallas Stars (45-22-9, 99 pts, +29 GD)
2. St. Louis Blues (45-22-9, 99 pts, +18 GD)
1. Washington Capitals (53-16-5, 111 pts, +58 GD)
The path to the Western Conference Finals for the Kings is set. They will have to beat the Minnesota Wild in the first round, and then face off against either the Ducks or the Sharks in the second. In my opinion, the Kings are lucky they are in the Pacific. Not only will they avoid playing the Stars, Blues, or Blackhawks in the first two rounds, but when they do play one of those teams, – or the Predators – that team will be beat up from two intense series. The Kings can take advantage of that by being their usual bruising selves. Milan Lucic and Luke Schenn are just two of the many hard-hitters the Kings have on their roster. Add that to the scoring prowess of a team stocked with stars, and the Kings will be a tough out in the playoffs. I haven’t even mentioned Jonathan Quick yet, and already this is already a team most will want to avoid. At full health, this Kings team could be better than the previous Stanley Cup winning teams. The only difference? The competition in the West is much tougher than it was in those years.
I cannot wait for these playoffs to begin. All spots but one are set already, with Detroit and Philadelphia vying for the final Wild-Card spot in the East. With all of the parity in the West, and the star power in the East, this is shaping up to be one of the most exciting playoffs in recent memory.
That concludes this week’s rankings. Check back next Saturday for the updated rankings and stories.
Do you agree, or disagree with our picks? Comment below!
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