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Cullen: NHL Power Rankings Differences Explored

Scott Cullen
4/12/2010 3:44:48 PM
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Picking up on the blog I wrote at the Olympic break, here is a look at where teams finished in the TSN.ca NHL Power Rankings, compared to where they were in the preseason, and some of the reasons for the differences.

Click here for the full TSN.ca NHL Power Rankings.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Final Ranking: 1
Pre-Season Ranking: 5
The Reason: While Jose Theodore hasn't always been the picture of consistency, he's finished well and, overall, has been better than expected in goal and so many complementary players -- from Jeff Schultz to Tomas Fleischmann to Eric Fehr -- had breakthrough seasons.  Additionally, the Caps didn't stand pat at the deadline and made moves to improve their depth, solidifying their hold on top spot.

SAN JOSE SHARKS
Final Ranking: 2
Pre-Season Ranking: 4
The Reason: Patrick Marleau's had a phenomenal season as he prepares for free agency, but it's the role players that have lifted the Sharks above their preseason rank.  Face-off aces Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol (both over 60%) have added valuable depth up front.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Final Ranking: 3
Pre-Season Ranking: 10
The Reason: The preseason ranking took Marian Hossa's injury into account, but the Blackhawks were outperforming that ranking even before Hossa finally joined the team.  Complementary players like Patrick Sharp and Troy Brouwer have had strong season and Antti Niemi has been a welcome relief for Cristbal Huet in net.

DETROIT RED WINGS
Final Ranking: 4
Pre-Season Ranking: 3
The Reason: Now healthy, the Red Wings are ranked closer to what might have been reasonably expected at the start of the year; it just took them some time to get there.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Final Ranking: 5
Pre-Season Ranking: 6
The Reason: Several Canucks have exceeded expectations, including the Sedin Twins, Christian Ehrhoff, Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond, though in some ways that has only offset the uneven play of Roberto Luongo.  Who knew that, going into the playoffs, Luongo would be the Canucks' big question mark?

NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Final Ranking: 6
Pre-Season Ranking: 8
The Reason: Adding Ilya Kovalchuk to an already talented team is good for a few spots and the play of Andy Greene, particularly in the absence of Paul Martin, prevented the Devils from sliding too far in midseason.

BUFFALO SABRES
Final Ranking: 7
Pre-Season Ranking: 19
The Reason: Even with Thomas Vanek underachieving, the Sabres have offset that with stronger-than-expected seasons from Ryan Miller, Tyler Myers and Jochen Hecht.  Late in the season, Tyler Ennis has also been an able fill-in for an injured Tim Connolly.

PHOENIX COYOTES
Final Ranking: 8
Pre-Season Ranking: 30
The Reason: Didn't quite anticipate this one.  Naturally, Ilya Bryzgalov has made a big difference, but the Coyotes have also received strong, yet often underrated, play from D Keith Yandle and C Vernon Fiddler, while the trade deadline additions of LW Wojtek Wolski and RW Lee Stempniak paid off immediately.

LOS ANGELES KINGS
Final Ranking: 9
Pre-Season Ranking: 23
The Reason: It's not necessarily easy figuring out which young team is going to make the leap and which one is still a year away.  This year, the Kings made the leap on the strength of Drew Doughty's vault to Norris Trophy contention, the improvement of No. 1 C Anze Kopitar and strong two-way play of RW Wayne Simmonds.  G Jonathan Quick has been a workhorse, too.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Final Ranking: 10
Pre-Season Ranking: 1
The Reason: A slip in play from G Marc-Andre Fleury, along with questionable play from their scoring wingers has the defending champs looking less than championship-calibre right now.

MONTREAL CANADIENS
Final Ranking: 11
Pre-Season Ranking: 18
The Reason: The emergence of Jaroslav Halak has stabilized a goaltending situation that had been questionable and C Tomas Plekanec rebounded nicely from a down year in 2008-2009.  Add in a good season from Brian Gionta, the contributions of late-signing Marc-Andre Bergeron and minor-league call-up Mathieu Darche and the Habs manage a better-than-anticipated placement.

BOSTON BRUINS
Final Ranking: 12
Pre-Season Ranking: 2
The Reason: Haven't been able to score, with last season's top line -- Marc Savard, Milan Lucic and Phil Kessel -- either injured for the better part of the season or, in Kessel's case, traded.  Patrice Bergeron's been decent and the emergence of rookie G Tuukka Rask prevented the Bruins from fading away altogether.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Final Ranking:
13
Pre-Season Ranking: 20
The Reason: A breakthrough season for Patric Hornqvist and really strong depth up front, provided by the likes of Marcel Goc, Joel Ward and bolstered by the addition of rookie Colin Wilson and the acquisition of Dustin Boyd from Calgary, makes the Preds a playoff team.

COLORADO AVALANCHE
Final Ranking: 14
Pre-Season Ranking: 29
The Reason: Even if the Avalanche collapsed late in the season, they have wildly exceeded expectations, with a roster full of players performing beyond expectations.  I tend to be conservative when looking at rookies, so having Matt Duchene, T.J. Galiardi, Brandon Yip, Ryan O'Reilly and Ryan Wilson all contributing was more than I bargained for, as was the play of Chris Stewart or trade deadline pickup Peter Mueller.

NEW YORK RANGERS
Final Ranking: 15
Pre-Season Ranking: 22
The Reason: They didn't make the playoffs, but the Blueshirts were a better team late in the season, with Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust adding more than Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik had before them.  Strong seasons from Vaclav Prospal, Brandon Dubinsky and rookie D Michael Del Zotto also contributed to the Rangers' rise.

OTTAWA SENATORS
Final Ranking: 16
Pre-Season Ranking: 24
The Reason: While his play was more impactful early in the season, Mike Fisher's performance was above expectations, as was that of rookies Peter Regin and Erik Karlsson.  Add in Brian Elliott's play between the pipes and the Sens go from out of the playoffs expectations to middle of the playoff pack in the Eastern Conference, even with a down season from Alex Kovalev and a lengthy injury to Jason Spezza.

ANAHEIM DUCKS
Final Ranking: 17
Pre-Season Ranking: 11
The Reason: If healthy, the Ducks might have still been a playoff team, but injuries to Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne obviously limited them and Scott Niedermayer's play (particularly early in the season) leaves the Ducks finishing lower than expected.

DALLAS STARS
Final Ranking: 18
Pre-Season Ranking: 21
The Reason: Not enough to get into the playoffs, but good seasons from defencemen Stephane Robidas and Mark Fistric and young wingers James Neal and Jamie Benn made the Stars a little better than the preseason mark.

CALGARY FLAMES
Final Ranking: 19
Pre-Season Ranking: 17
The Reason: Miikka Kiprusoff had his best season since 2005-2006 and it still wasn't enough to get the Flames into the postseason because they couldn't put the puck in the net.  Four Flames topped 15 goals, including trade acquisitions Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman, as Calgary finished 29th in goals scored.  Oh, and that Jay Bouwmeester thing didn't quite go as hoped, either.

ST. LOUIS BLUES
Final Ranking: 20
Pre-Season Ranking: 12
The Reason: While not a disastrous season (just two points behind 2008-2009), there were enough dips for the Blues to finish worse than anticipated.  Even if Alex Steen had a terrific season, it was countered by Brad Boyes and Patrik Berglund, notably, combining for 46 points.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Final Ranking: 21
Pre-Season Ranking: 9
The Reason: The injury-riddled goaltending has been the primary concern, though it's also fair to say that the defensive depth hasn't been as strong as hoped.  Really, from No. 4 blueliner Braydon Coburn on down it's been generally disappointing.

FLORIDA PANTHERS
Final Ranking: 22
Pre-Season Ranking: 15
The Reason: Might be worthy of a middle-of-the-pack ranking when healthy, but no one stepped up when Nathan Horton was injured, with few Panthers producing better than expected.  Dealing away veterans like Dennis Seideberg, Jordan Leopold and Dominic Moore didn't help the final ranking either.

CAROLINA HURRICANES
Final Ranking: 23
Pre-Season Ranking: 7
The Reason: Early injuries to Eric Staal, Cam Ward and Joe Corvo put a final four team from last year to the bottom of the standings early, but they finished strong once healthy and got to see some promise from young players like Brandon Sutter, Jamie McBain and Zach Boychuk.

ATLANTA THRASHERS
Final Ranking: 24
Pre-Season Ranking: 26
The Reason: Not appreciably worse, even after they dealt Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey.  Nik Antropov and Pavel Kubina were two of the surprises and rookie Evander Kane was solid right from the get-go.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Final Ranking: 25
Pre-Season Ranking: 13
The Reason: If the year had gone differently for Steve Mason, Derick Brassard and Nikita Filatov, it most certainly would have gone differently for the Blue Jackets as a whole.  This was a young team that collapsed rather than taking that next step forward.

MINNESOTA WILD
Final Ranking: 26
Pre-Season Ranking: 14
The Reason: A slow start under the new coach, injuries to Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brent Burns and a disappointing season for marquee free agent Martin Havlat left the Wild on the outside looking in at the postseason.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Final Ranking: 27
Pre-Season Ranking: 25
The Reason: Not substantially worse than they were thought to be before the season started, even after unloading veterans before the trade deadline.  The play of Nikolai Kulemin, Tyler Bozak and Carl Gunnarsson has helped offset the departures of more proven veterans and Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been an upgrade over Vesa Toskala in net.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Final Ranking: 28
Pre-Season Ranking: 27
The Reason: Pretty much as expected, even if Steven Stamkos was way better and Alex Tanguay was way worse than thought.  They're still a team lacking depth and a defence corps.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Final Ranking: 29
Pre-Season Ranking: 28
The Reason: On one side, the Islanders got surprisingly solid play from the likes of Matt Moulson, Blake Comeau and Sean Bergenheim, but they're also woefully thin on the blueline and need some time for young players like John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey to mature into leadership roles.

EDMONTON OILERS
Final Ranking: 30
Pre-Season Ranking: 16
The Reason: Injuries certainly played a part, but there was no progress from virtually all the young Oilers, leaving room for a major rebuilding effort in the summer.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.


  




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