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Cullen: Looking Back at Preseason NHL Power Rankings

Scott Cullen
4/4/2011 5:17:56 PM
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As we enter the final week of the NHL regular season, the Vancouver Canucks remain in top spot in the TSN.ca NHL Power Rankings.

Before the final week of the season, it's a good time to look back and see where teams were ranked in TSN.ca's 30 Teams in 30 Days preview and what has happened to reach the ranking they have now.

It's important to note that the pre-season rankings are not predictions, because they are based on current value of the team, with the understanding that there will be factors throughout the season (trades, injuries, unexpected performances -- both good and bad -- that affect results).

Taking a look back at the preseason rankings for each team, here are some of the reasons for differences in rankings between then and now.

ANAHEIM DUCKS
Pre-Season Rank: 17
Current Rank: 8
Average Rank: 14.88
What's the Difference?: The glaring concern with the Ducks in September was a defence corps that wasn't nearly playoff calibre, but with a strong season from rookie Cam Fowler and a trade for Francois Beauchemin, that concern has been alleviated. Strong seasons from G Jonas Hiller (and now Ray Emery), RW Corey Perry and D Lubomir Visnovsky have all helped the Ducks finish higher than their projection.

ATLANTA THRASHERS
Pre-Season Rank: 26
Current Rank: 23
Average Rank: 16.56
What's the Difference?: Unexpected production from their Chicago contingent -- LW Andrew Ladd and D Dustin Byfuglien, most notably -- helped the Thrashers to a lofty early-season ranking, but the results haven't been nearly as kind in the second half of the season, leaving the Thrashers only a little bit ahead of pre-season expectations.

BOSTON BRUINS
Pre-Season Rank: 10
Current Rank: 2
Average Rank: 3.92
What's the Difference?: Tim Thomas' historically great season in net sure helps, as does a breakthrough year for LW Milan Lucic, a strong showing for rookie LW Brad Marchand and the defence was upgraded with the acquisition of Tomas Kaberle from Toronto.

BUFFALO SABRES
Pre-Season Rank: 9
Current Rank: 16
Average Rank: 22.76
What's the Difference?: Ryan Miller has gone from outstanding in 2009-2010 to above average this season, an injury to top scorer C Derek Roy, combined with an underachieving season from C Tim Connolly had the Sabres battling for playoff position for much of the year. A strong finish, led by unheralded types like D Andrej Sekera and LW Nathan Gerbe, along with a breakout season for RW Drew Stafford has lifted the Sabres to their highest ranking after spending most of the last five months ranked in the 20s.

CALGARY FLAMES
Pre-Season Rank: 22
Current Rank: 18
Average Rank: 20.72
What's the Difference?: A tad pessimistic on the Flames, though it actually looked optimistic before their bizarre turnaround after changing general managers. The contributions of LW Alex Tanguay, C Brendan Morrison and LW Curtis Glencross were the most notable to be beyond expectations, but RW Tim Jackman, D Cory Sarich and RW/C David Moss would qualify as well.

CAROLINA HURRICANES
Pre-Season Rank: 23
Current Rank: 20
Average Rank: 19.64
What's the Difference?: The Hurricanes are slightly better than expected, thanks in large measure to rookie RW Jeff Skinner; a bounceback season from veteran winger Erik Cole has helped too.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Pre-Season Rank: 3
Current Rank: 5
Average Rank: 7.44
What's the Difference?: It's been a tough season for the defending champs, with injuries to RW Marian Hossa and D Brian Campbell making for an uphill battle early in the season, but even though their place in the standings is eighth in the Western Conference, Chicago still has the third-best goal differential in the conference (+32). On one hand, a down season for defending Norris Trophy D Duncan Keith hurts, but strong play from Calder Candidate G Corey Crawford and LW Bryan Bickell has helped the Hawks remain ranked higher than their place in the standings.

COLORADO AVALANCHE
Pre-Season Rank: 18
Current Rank: 29
Average Rank: 20.08
What's the Difference?: Early in the year, it seemed reasonable to have the young Avalanche fighting for a playoff spot, but a number of injuries along with subpar goaltending from last year's saviour, Craig Anderson, sent the Avalanche season spinning out of control and they've been locked into the 25-30 range for the last two months.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Pre-Season Rank: 28
Current Rank: 24
Average Rank: 20.60
What's the Difference?: Competitive early, but eventually faded down the stretch, to produce a familiar result. Perhaps a little better than forecasted, thanks to contributions of journeyman C Derek MacKenzie (+15 in 60 GP) and rookies LW Matt Calvert (11 goals in 39 GP) and D Grant Clitsome (18 points in 28 GP).

DALLAS STARS
Pre-Season Rank: 21
Current Rank: 15
Average Rank: 12.44
What's the Difference?: While strong goaltending from Kari Lehtonen wasn't a complete shock, it's surprising that he's played 65 games, allowing him to have a more significant impact on the Stars' fortunes. As expected, the top forwards have been producted -- LW Jamie Benn's breakthrough has helped the Stars' elevate their ranking -- even if they are unlikely to secure a playoff spot.

DETROIT RED WINGS
Pre-Season Rank: 4
Current Rank: 3
Average Rank: 2.88
What's the Difference?: Not a lot of difference; they were expected to be good and they've been good. G Jimmy Howard hasn't performed as well as expected, but he's been better over the last couple of months.

EDMONTON OILERS
Pre-Season Rank: 30
Current Rank: 30
Average Rank: 27.84
What's the Difference?: While the Oilers have no shortage of exciting and promising rookies, subpar defence and goaltending were concerns going into the season and remain concerns now, only now the Oilers have been hit by a brutal run of injuries to significant forwards, leaving RW Jordan Eberle as the only active Oiler with at least 35 points this season.

FLORIDA PANTHERS
Pre-Season Rank: 27
Current Rank: 27
Average Rank: 21.96
What's the Difference?: The Panthers were exceeding expectations, at least by a little bit for a little while, with good goaltending, but once the deadline came and went and Florida had shipped out defencemen Bryan Allen, Bryan McCabe and Dennis Wideman, along with veteran LW Cory Stillman (along with an earlier deal of underachieiving RW Michael Frolik) and it's no surprise that the Panthers are, once again, at the low end of the rankings spectrum.

LOS ANGELES KINGS
Pre-Season Rank: 5
Current Rank: 14
Average Rank: 7.52
What's the Difference?: Maybe Drew Doughty isn't quite having the kind of dominant season that was anticipated, but the Kings have been a Top 10 team for the vast majority of the season (even when outside the playoffs a few months ago), but the loss of their top two scorers, C Anze Kopitar and RW Justin Williams, resulted in a sizeable drop last week.

MINNESOTA WILD
Pre-Season Rank: 25
Current Rank: 26
Average Rank: 18.48
What's the Difference?: The end result isn't far off the beginning, as the posities and minuses tended to cancel each other out. LW Pierre-Marc Bouchard returns from missing more than a year with post-concussion symptoms, but LW Guillaume Latendresse plays a total of 11 games. D Brent Burns stays healthy, playing 77 games; D Marek Zidlicky does not, playing 46. Even surprises like RW Cal Clutterbuck (19 goals) and C Kyle Brodziak (16 goals, 36 points) were countered by an injury to the team's best player, C Mikko Koivu and, currently, to top scorer RW Martin Havlat.

MONTREAL CANADIENS
Pre-Season Rank: 15
Current Rank: 13
Average Rank: 11.00
What's the Difference?: Carey Price's emergence, or re-emergence, as a premier goaltender has helped cover for a lot of ills, including an injury-depleted defence. LW Max Pacioretty provided a jolt for a largely underperforming group of forwards, most notably C Scott Gomez (37 points, -14), but Habs have also been helped by the addition of D James Wisniewski and call-up C David Desharnais.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Pre-Season Rank: 19
Current Rank: 7
Average Rank: 14.20
What's the Difference?: G Pekka Rinne was good in his first two seasons, but he's been undeniably great this year and will likely be a Vezina finalist. LW Sergei Kostitsyn and C David Legwand have been more productive than might have been expected, and the addition of C Mike Fisher doesn't hurt, the Predators have manufactured just enough offence.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Pre-Season Rank: 6
Current Rank: 21
Average Rank: 25.36
What's the Difference?: It's fair to say the Devils might have expected more than 29 goals and 56 points from LW Ilya Kovalchuk, but the early season was a total mess before they brought Jacques Lemaire back behind the bench. Losing Zach Parise for 64 games, due to a knee injury and underwhelming seasons from most on the roster made the Devils' 2010-11 season as surprising as the Colorado Avalanche or Phoenix Coyotes in 2009-2010.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Pre-Season Rank: 29
Current Rank: 25
Average Rank: 25.00
What's the Difference?: Going into the season, the Islanders' goaltending was a major issue and their defence, without Mark Streit, was a problem. The goaltending concern was valid, though Al Montoya has been a strong addition, and the defence was heading in the right direction thanks to Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic, at least until MacDonald got hurt. Up front, P.A. Parenteau had a late-blooming season for the ages and Michael Grabner was a pretty sweet waiver pick-up.

NEW YORK RANGERS
Pre-Season Rank: 16
Current Rank: 9
Average Rank: 12.24
What's the Difference?: While the Rangers are still battling for a playoff spot, they are ranked higher than that due to some significant injuries earlier in the season, including right wingers Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan, who have both missed 20 games, and LW Vaclav Prospal, who missed 53. LW Alexander Frolov was a disappointment, but there have been some pleasant surprises, including C Brian Boyle (21 goals), and rookies C Derek Stepan, D Ryan McDonagh and D Michael Sauer.

OTTAWA SENATORS
Pre-Season Rank: 14
Current Rank: 28
Average Rank: 27.08
What's the Difference?: Disappointment? Let me count the ways. C Jason Spezza missing 20 games, RW Daniel Alfredsson missing 25, D Sergei Gonchar flopping in the first half (-28 in first 39 games), terrible goaltending from Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclaire, rough seasons for D Filip Kuba (-27) and Chris Phillips (-35) and then gutting the roster with trades of RW Alex Kovalev, C Mike Fisher, C Chris Kelly, LW Jarkko Ruutu and D Chris Campoli. Sadly, as poorly as the veterans were playing, the Sens are at least as good now, with call-ups like Colin Greening, Erik Condra and Bobby Butler getting a chance. Oh, and LW Peter Regin (three goals), much more was expected of you too.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Pre-Season Rank: 11
Current Rank: 6
Average Rank: 6.96
What's the Difference?: That the Flyers have good scoring depth is hardly a surprise, so the real difference in their favour this year has been the play of rookie G Sergei Bobrovsky, who has performed better than I expected out of Michael Leighton.

PHOENIX COYOTES
Pre-Season Rank: 8
Current Rank: 10
Average Rank: 15.16
What's the Difference?: Their pre-season ranking ruffled feathers (trust me), but I was banking on their shutdown defensive style, which didn't appear for a while, but G Ilya Bryzgalov has improved as the season has progressed and the defence was upgraded with the additions of veterans Michal Rozsival, Rostislav Klesla and the general brilliance of rising star Keith Yandle. It's still fair to question their goal-scoring, but getting 18 from Lauri Korpikoski and 17 from Taylor Pyatt exceeded expectations too.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Pre-Season Rank: 13
Current Rank: 12
Average Rank: 9.12
What's the Difference?: Easily the most contention pre-season ranking and the Penguins reached No. 2 overall before injuries got the best of them. So, while their current value is not that different from their preseason ranking (which was accounting for Jordan Staal's absence), a big season for the Penguins' exceeding expectations was a strong year from G Marc-Andre Fleury, whose .918 save percentage is his best since 2007-2008. Of course, C Sidney Crosby (66 points, +20 in 41 GP) was having the best season of his illustrious career before his concussion cost him more than three months.

ST. LOUIS BLUES
Pre-Season Rank: 12
Current Rank: 19
Average Rank: 18.20
What's the Difference?: Getting a .908 save percentage from G Jaroslav Halak (.924 in Montreal in 2009-2010) hasn't helped any, but the season went awry early, as injuries piled up among the top six forwards. LW David Perron, RW T.J. Oshie and LW Andy McDonald have all missed significant time and, like most teams, the Blues couldn't handle the loss of three top six forwards. On the up side, RW Matt D'Agostini and D Alex Pietrangelo have been strong and the additions from Colorado -- RW Chris Stewart and D Kevin Shattenkirk -- have been effective too.

SAN JOSE SHARKS
Pre-Season Rank: 7
Current Rank: 4
Average Rank: 11.20
What's the Difference?: Early in the year, the Sharks weren't getting the goaltending from their tandem of Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki, but Niemi has taken the job and run with it. Even though the Sharks' big guns, most notably C Joe Thornton and RW Dany Heatley, haven't been as productive as expected, that has been offset by the emergence of rookie C Logan Couture and strong years from LW Ryane Clowe and RW Joe Pavelski. Defence was a question mark, after the retirement of Rob Blake, but seems to be more stable since the trade for Ian White.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Pre-Season Rank: 20
Current Rank: 17
Average Rank: 15.08
What's the Difference?: After disastrous goaltending early in the year from Dan Ellis and Mike Smith, Dwayne Roloson has tightened up that part of the game and the Lightning have been better than anticipated largely because of depth players, because C Vincent Lecavalier, LW Simon Gagne, LW Ryan Malone and RW Steve Downie have all missed time with injuries and, for the most part, haven't scored as much as hoped. On the other hand, RW Teddy Purcell (48 pooints), Nate Thompson and Sean Bergenheim have been more significant contributors than might have been expected.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Pre-Season Rank: 24
Current Rank: 22
Average Rank: 22.08
What's the Difference?: There have been several overachievers among the Maple Leafs this year -- most notably the line of LW Clarke MacArthur, C Mikhail Grabovski and RW Nikolia Kulemin -- and the arrival of G James Reimer (and his .922 save percentage) has given the team a much more competitive outlook, but early struggles forced the hand of GM Brian Burke, and he also had to deal capable veterans like D Tomas Kaberle, LW Kris Versteeg and D Francois Beauchemin.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Pre-Season Rank: 2
Current Rank: 1
Average Rank: 3.44
What's the Difference?: That the Canucks have held the number one spot as much as they have this season is a credit to their depth because they have gone through a lot -- A LOT -- of injuries on the blueline. Alexander Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Sami Salo, Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome have all missed at least 15 games, leaving Christian Ehrhoff as the only one to play close to a full schedule. Great years from goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider has helped cover those deficiencies on the back end.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Pre-Season Rank: 1
Current Rank: 11
Average Rank: 9.16
What's the Difference?: Last year's scoring juggernaut is no more, it seems, and even with LW Alexander Ovechkin's second-half surge, C Nicklas Backstrom and RW Alexander Semin haven't been nearly as productive as they were in 2009-2010 and injuries have decimated the defence, as Mike Green and Tom Poti have missed large chunks of the season and newcomer Dennis Wideman has joined them on the shelf. The goaltending hasn't been bad, but best of luck guessing which one will be starting from one week to the next.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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