Columnists

MORE From TSN'S Hockey COLUMNISTS

Oct 6, 2015

Lightning start on top of NHL Power Rankings

The Tampa Bay Lightning start the season on top of the TSN.ca NHL Power Rankings, ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Tampa Bay Lightning Celebrate

The Tampa Bay Lightning start the season on top of the TSN.ca NHL Power Rankings, ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks.

While the Lightning didn't make many changes in the offseason, they bring back a team that took the Blackhawks to Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final. Improvement from second-year winger Jonathan Drouin might be all the Lightning need to get over the hump.

The Montreal Canadiens, at 12, are the top-ranked Canadian team, followed by the Winnipeg Jets (15) and Ottawa Senators (18). A couple of Canadian playoff teams from last season start lower in the rankings: the Calgary Flames, at 19, and Vancouver Canucks, at 20. The Edmonton Oilers (25) and Toronto Maple Leafs (28) round out the Canadian contingent.

Some non-playoff teams that are ranked higher this season include the Dallas Stars, opening at five (!), the Los Angeles Kings, at 10, and San Jose Sharks, at 14.

Tampa Bay Lightning

This Week: 1 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    3.16
  • GAPG
    2.51
  • S.A. CORSI%
    53.3%
  • PP%
    18.8%
  • PK%
    83.7%

The Lightning effectively bring back the same team that lost in the Stanley Cup Final, adding fourth-line possession ace Erik Condra as a free agent, so they will look for some internal improvement, most notably from second-year LW Jonathan Drouin, who was used very conservatively as a rookie. So long as Steven Stamkos' contract status doesn't become an overriding issue, the Lightning have the pieces in place to go all the way.

Key Injuries: None.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

This Week: 2 Last Week: -

TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.65
  • GAPG
    2.49
  • S.A. CORSI%
    53.8%
  • PP%
    19.3%
  • PK%
    84.8%

While the Penguins eked into the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, don't forget that part of the reason that they limped down the stretch was a defence corps missing three of its top four. The blueline could still stand to be improved this year but, after adding Phil Kessel and Sergei Plotnikov, the Penguins have elite talent and depth up front that could drive them back to contender status.

Key Injuries: RW Pascal Dupuis (undisclosed).

Chicago Blackhawks

This Week: 3 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.68
  • GAPG
    2.27
  • S.A. CORSI%
    54.4%
  • PP%
    17.6%
  • PK%
    83.4%

The defending champs lost some key contributors -- Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Kris Versteeg -- but they've done a fine job reloading, with Artem Anisimov, Artemi Panarin, Kyle Baun and an expanded role for Teuvo Teravainen making the Blackhawks deep enough up front that they could afford to start Marko Dano (picked up in the Saad trade) in the AHL. But, so long as the core remains intact, the Blackhawks have a chance to get right back in the championship mix.

Key Injuries: None..

Anaheim Ducks

This Week: 4 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.78
  • GAPG
    2.70
  • S.A. CORSI%
    51.1%
  • PP%
    15.7%
  • PK%
    81.0%

The Ducks gave the Blackhawks all they could handle in last year's playoffs and while they lost free agent winger Matt Beleskey and traded Emerson Etem, they're faster with the addition of Carl Hagelin, while veterans Shawn Horcoff, Mike Santorelli and Kevin Bieksa all offer upgrades in depth roles, so Anaheim has every right to have championship expectations this year.

Key Injuries: None.

Dallas Stars

This Week: 5 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    3.13
  • GAPG
    3.13
  • S.A. CORSI%
    52.3%
  • PP%
    19.0%
  • PK%
    80.7%

I was high on the Stars going into last season too, not anticipating goaltender Kari Lehtonen's career-worst season. They added a couple of contributors from the Blackhawks -- Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya -- to a team that was second only to Tampa Bay in goals per game. If Lehtonen and Antti Niemi can combine to give the Stars even average goaltending, they could be dangerous.

Key Injuries: None.

 

St. Louis Blues

This Week: 6 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.92
  • GAPG
    2.40
  • S.A. CORSI%
    52.5%
  • PP%
    22.3%
  • PK%
    83.7%

It's hard to have much faith in the Blues after years of postseason disappointment, but they have accumulated at least 109 points in each of the past three full seasons and they'll need some newcomers to help get them over the hump. Power forward Troy Brouwer and rookie winger Robby Fabbri will be needed to contribute in the top nine up front and the blueline gets some fresh blood with rookies Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson making the team.

Key Injuries: LW Patrik Berglund (shoulder).

Minnesota Wild

This Week: 7 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.77
  • GAPG
    2.42
  • S.A. CORSI%
    51.1%
  • PP%
    15.8%
  • PK%
    86.3%

The Wild are going to rely on continuity to be their strength going into this season, with their only offseason acquisitions -- signing college free agent D Mike Reilly, recently adding winger Chris Porter on waivers -- coming around the edges of the roster. So long as G Devan Dubnyk can handle the starter's role, the Wild should be competitive, but that's just a starting point when running the Central Division gauntlet.

Key Injuries: None.

Nashville Predators

This Week: 8 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.76
  • GAPG
    2.46
  • S.A. CORSI%
    52.7%
  • PP%
    16.2%
  • PK%
    80.8%

A new style of play, under new head coach Peter Laviolette, worked wonders for the Predators last season. What can they do for an encore? If G Pekka Rinne could give them a full season like his first half of 2014-2015, that would take them up a notch, and if young forwards like Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok and perhaps rookie Viktor Arvidsson can make an impact, then the Predators will be able to tangle with their Central Division competition.

Key Injuries: None.

New York Rangers

This Week: 9 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    3.02
  • GAPG
    2.28
  • S.A. CORSI%
    50.6%
  • PP%
    16.8%
  • PK%
    84.3%

The Rangers have played 12 playoff rounds over the past four seasons, yet haven't been able to secure a Stanley Cup. As long as Henrik Lundqvist is between the pipes, the Blueshirts have a chance, and they have invested in a veteran defence corps in front of him, but they've lost Martin St. Louis (retirement) and Carl Hagelin (traded to Anaheim), their fourth and eighth--leading scorers from last season, so they'll hope for continued improvement from second-year forward Kevin Hayes along with any contributions they can muster from rookie Oscar Lindberg and free agent pick-up Viktor Stalberg.

Key Injuries: None.

Los Angeles Kings

This Week: 10 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.66
  • GAPG
    2.40
  • S.A. CORSI%
    55.0%
  • PP%
    19.0%
  • PK%
    80.9%

After a down season that saw the Kings surprisingly miss the playoffs, due in some part to a terrible record in overtime and shootout games, they had a tumultuous offseason and while there are reasonable questions to ask about how they managed to get out from under Mike Richards' contract, in the short-term, the Kings gained enough flexibility to trade for power forward Milan Lucic and add a bargain-priced Christian Ehrhoff on the blueline. After a year away, the Kings will be ready for the postseason this year.

Key Injuries: LW Dwight King (undisclosed).

 

New York Islanders

This Week: 11 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.99
  • GAPG
    2.73
  • S.A. CORSI%
    53.4%
  • PP%
    18.7%
  • PK%
    78.0%

After last year's breakthrough season, the Islanders haven't made a lot of changes, bringing in veteran D Marek Zidlicky and backup G Thomas Greiss, yet they're most likely still a playoff team, led by John Tavares, a star player in his prime. If the goaltending holds up, then the Islanders could continue to step forward.

Key Injuries: None.

Montreal Canadiens

This Week: 12 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.61
  • GAPG
    2.24
  • S.A. CORSI%
    48.5%
  • PP%
    16.5%
  • PK%
    83.7%

No team depends on their goaltender quite like the Canadiens do with Carey Price, which is fine because Price is probably the best in the world at the position, but it's a lot to put on one man's shoulders. This year, the Habs need more offence to support Price, yet their money is invested on the blueline, so they need some offensive contribution from bargain free agent forwards Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann. Moving fourth-year forward Alex Galchenyuk to centre could be the move that has the greatest chance to affect Montreal's offensive production, as he has the pedigree to produce more than he has to this point in his career.

Key Injuries: None.

Washington Capitals

This Week: 13 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.89
  • GAPG
    2.43
  • S.A. CORSI%
    52.0%
  • PP%
    25.3%
  • PK%
    81.2%

 

Expectations are high for the Capitals this season, after two sharp off-season acquisitions -- signing free agent Justin Williams and trading for T.J. Oshie -- upgraded their right side. Not only that, but Williams has a reputation for coming up big in the postseason (and Game Sevens, specifically), which has long been a problem for the Capitals. Oh, and they still have the league's only 50-goal scorer from last season, Alex Ovechkin, but it looks like he'll be without his regular centre to start the year, as Nicklas Backstrom works his way back from offseason hip surgery.

Key Injuries: C Nicklas Backstrom (hip).

San Jose Sharks

This Week: 14 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.73
  • GAPG
    2.76
  • S.A. CORSI%
    51.5%
  • PP%
    21.6%
  • PK%
    78.5%

The Sharks took a strange path last summer, with a focus on upgrading grit and toughness, and the result was that they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003. This year, they changed the head coach, bringing in Peter DeBoer, added veteran puck-moving defenceman Paul Martin, new starting goaltender Martin Jones, and have Finnish forward Joonas Donskoi starting the year on the top line with Joe Thornton and new captain Joe Pavelski. All together, it looks like a good enough team to get back to the playoffs.

Key Injuries: None.

 

Winnipeg Jets

This Week: 15 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.72
  • GAPG
    2.49
  • S.A. CORSI%
    53.6%
  • PP%
    17.8%
  • PK%
    81.8%

 

The Jets were notably inactive in the offseason, as luring Alex Burmistrov back from the KHL standing as their big move of the offseason. That means a team counting on internal improvement and the Jets are looking to the future to provide that improvement. Rookies Nikolaj Ehlers, Nic Petan and Andrew Copp are set to start the year in the NHL, and they join other young Jets Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry and Jacob Trouba as the future of the club. With a relatively stable core, the Jets need another strong season from goaltender Ondrej Pavelec if they are going to return to the playoffs.

Key Injuries: None.

Boston Bruins

This Week: 16 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.55
  • GAPG
    2.45
  • S.A. CORSI%
    52.3%
  • PP%
    17.8%
  • PK%
    82.0%

After dropping out of the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Bruins start this season with more questions, especially on the blueline, where there have been big changes and mainstay Zdeno Chara was hurt in the preseason. If the Bruins are going to bounce back, they will need some young defencemen to emerge, but they can also look to skilled promising young forwards David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner and offseason additions Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes to add some offensive punch.

Key Injuries: D Zdeno Chara (upper body), D Dennis Seidenberg (back).

 

Detroit Red Wings

This Week: 17 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.82
  • GAPG
    2.57
  • S.A. CORSI%
    53.5%
  • PP%
    23.8%
  • PK%
    80.9%

 

Jeff Blashill takes over for Mike Babcock behind the Red Wings bench and has the good fortune of having a talented roster, even with Pavel Datsyuk out while he recovers from ankle surgery. The Wings added veterans Brad Richards and Mike Green in free agency, but it's possible that the youth movement could make a difference, as rookie forward Dylan Larkin is a high-end talent and right winger Teemu Pulkkinen showed offensive upside in his stint with the Wings last season. The Wings should still be playoff contenders, especially once Datsyuk returns, but it will be interesting to see how they transition to the new regime.

Key Injuries: C Pavel Datsyuk (ankle).

Ottawa Senators

This Week: 18 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.83
  • GAPG
    2.54
  • S.A. CORSI%
    50.6%
  • PP%
    16.8%
  • PK%
    82.9%

A miracle run to the playoffs last season has the Senators optimistic heading into this season. Without big offseason additions, they need a bounceback season from scoring winger Bobby Ryan and the Senators' chances would be enhanced if Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman, a pair of productive rookies last season, can keep their scoring pace. Centre Mika Zibanejad and second-year winger Curtis Lazar are a couple of other Sens to watch -- if either one breaks through, that could be enough to put Ottawa back in the playoffs.

Key Injuries: LW Clarke MacArthur (head).

Calgary Flames

This Week: 19 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.89
  • GAPG
    2.60
  • S.A. CORSI%
    44.4%
  • PP%
    18.8%
  • PK%
    80.6%

 

The Flames were all set to be prime regression candidates coming into this season, after defying the odds to reach the playoffs (and win a round) last season, but they made some savvy moves -- trading for top-pair defenceman Dougie Hamilton and signing versatile two-way winger Michael Frolik -- that could slow some of that anticipated slide. Goaltending appears to be an area of concern, as Karri Ramo (who has a .911 SV% in two seasons with the Flames) has taken the lead in the battle with Jonas Hiller and Calgary's possession is not yet good enough to survive subpar goaltending.

Key Injuries: D T.J. Brodie (hand), RW Joe Colborne (thumb).

Vancouver Canucks

This Week: 20 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.88
  • GAPG
    2.68
  • S. A. CORSI%
    49.0%
  • PP%
    19.3%
  • PK%
    85.7%

 

The Canucks rely a lot on players in their mid-30s -- top-scoring forwards Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin as well as goaltender Ryan Miller -- so it's no surprise that they are ready to go younger this season. Second-year centre Bo Horvat, winger Sven Baertschi and rookies Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen add youth to the Canucks' forward ranks. If the Canucks fall out of contention, how long before defenceman Dan Hamhuis or winger Radim Vrbata (both pending UFAs with no-trade protection) are moved out in order to accelerate the rebuilding process? 

Key Injuries: LW Chris Higgins (foot).

Columbus Blue Jackets

This Week: 21 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.77
  • GAPG
    3.02
  • S.A. CORSI%
    46.9%
  • PP%
    21.7%
  • PK%
    80.2%

Last season was virtually a write-off for the Blue Jackets, because they had a ridiculous run of injuries early and, while they persisted and were competitive in the second half, the early hole was too big to escape. Adding Brandon Saad from Chicago, to go with a forward group that includes Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno (coming off a career year), Scott Hartnell, Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner allows the Blackhawks to mix skill and physical play at the top of the depth chart. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is a good one, too, so that leaves the defence as Columbus' question mark coming into the season. A healthy Ryan Murray, if there is such a thing, would go a long way to stabilizing the Columbus D.

Key Injuries: None.

 

Carolina Hurricanes

This Week: 22 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.23
  • GAPG
    2.67
  • S.A. CORSI%
    51.5%
  • PP%
    18.8%
  • PK%
    84.7%

While there aren't high expectations on the Hurricanes, they could be a sneaky competitive team this season. They were a Top 10 possession team in 2014-2015 and upgraded their goaltending with a trade for Eddie Lack. Add in veteran winger Kris Versteeg, veteran defenceman James Wisniewski and hope for some development from young forwards Elias Lindholm, Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask, and it's possible that the Hurricanes will turn out better than anticipated.

That was unexpected: None.

Philadelphia Flyers

This Week: 23 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.58
  • GAPG
    2.72
  • S.A. CORSI%
    49.2%
  • PP%
    23.4%
  • PK%
    77.1%

The Flyers have some good talent -- Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn -- on the roster, most of their talent is up front and they still have a complicated situation at the bottom half of the forward depth chart, with Sam Gagner and Vincent Lecavalier looking like high-priced extras to start the year. The defence has undergone an overhaul, which included waiving Andrew MacDonald, but if Yevgeny Medvedev, Radgo Gudas and Brandon Manning can change the look on the blueline, then maybe the Flyers can surprise. 

Key Injuries: None.

Florida Panthers

This Week: 26 Last Week: -

TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.42
  • GAPG
    2.60
  • S.A. CORSI%
    50.8%
  • PP%
    16.3%
  • PK%
    80.0%

While the Panthers were pushing for a playoff spot right to the end last season, they ultimately fell short and then their big offseason move was to re-sign RW Jaromir Jagr. It will be interesting to see if Jagr can continue to produce and help elevate the play of his much younger linemates, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, but the Panthers need to get better internally, which means more from Nick Bjugstad, Brandon Pirri, Vincent Trocheck and if Aaron Ekblad would like to duplicate his phenomenal rookie season, that's okay too.

Key Injuries: None.

 

Colorado Avalanche

This Week: 24 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.55
  • GAPG
    2.72
  • S.A. CORSI%
    43.2%
  • PP%
    15.0%
  • PK%
    84.6%

The Avalanche regressed even harder than expected last season, so they could have been considered a decent bounceback option this year, but the offseason wasn't ideal. For all the trouble that the Avalanche had with Ryan O'Reilly at contract time, he played a big role and that won't simply be replaced, though the Avalanche will try with Mikhail Grigorenko, Carl Soderberg, Blake Comeau and rookie Mikko Rantanen added up front. The blueline brought in experience with Francois Beauchemin and prospect Brandon Gormley, who couldn't fit in Arizona. If everything breaks right and, say, Nathan MacKinnon explodes, the Avs could be back in the playoff mix, but it appears to be an uphill climb.

Key Injuries: None.

Edmonton Oilers

This Week: 25 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.35
  • GAPG
    3.37
  • S.A. CORSI%
    47.3%
  • PP%
    17.7%
  • PK%
    76.7%

Getting franchise centre Connor McDavid is going to raise expectations in Edmonton and the Oilers should be better, but that's a familiar refrain too. McDavid upgrades Edmonton's forwards, but defensive additions Andrej Sekera, Eric Gryba and Griffin Reinhart along with the new goaltending tandem of Cam Talbot and Anders Nilsson will play a big part in how quickly the Oilers improve.

Key Injuries: RW Jordan Eberle (shoulder).

Buffalo Sabres

This Week: 27 Last Week: 30

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    1.87
  • GAPG
    3.28
  • S.A. CORSI%
    36.2%
  • PP%
    13.4%
  • PK%
    75.1%

 

After a miserable 2014-2015 season, the Sabres are starting the long road back to respectability, and made some definite strides in the right direction this summer. Beyond drafting Jack Eichel with the second overall pick, the Sabres traded to acquire Ryan O'Reilly from Colorado and will finally get to see left winger Evander Kane, acquired from Winnipeg last spring. The forward group looks pretty good, as a result, but there are question marks on defence, especially with Zach Bogosian injured to start the year, and Buffalo is counting on unproven Robin Lehner to take charge in goal, so even if the Sabres are more competitive this season, there remains room to improve.

Key Injuries: D Zach Bogosian (undisclosed), D Josh Gorges (lower body).

Toronto Maple Leafs

This Week: 28 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.51
  • GAPG
    3.13
  • S.A. CORSI%
    45.2%
  • PP%
    15.9%
  • PK%
    80.4%

Toronto crashed to the finish last year and that prompted major organizational change, hiring new head coach Mike Babcock, general manager Lou Lamoriello and traded their best player, right winger Phil Kessel. The offseason was spent making low-term investments on free agents like Shawn Matthias, Daniel Winnik, P.A. Parenteau, and, eventually, Brad Boyes. Add in trade acquisitions Nick Spaling and Michael Grabner and the Maple Leafs added a lot of new faces, none of whom is signed beyond next season. They've tried to make some changes on defence, signing Matt Hunwick and acquiring Martin Marincin and Scott Harrington in separate trades, but this looks like a year of growing (with the accompanying pain) for younger Leafs that could be part of the club's long-term future.

Key Injuries: None.

New Jersey Devils

This Week: 29 Last Week: -

2014-2015 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.15
  • GAPG
    2.55
  • S.A. CORSI%
    46.8%
  • PP%
    19.3%
  • PK%
    80.6%

While the Devils have some pieces in place, including a goaltender (Cory Schneider) and promising young defencemen (Adam Larsson, Damon Severson, Jon Merrill, Eric Gelinas), they are woefully thin up front and, barring some big surprises, it appears that they won't be able to score enough to be competitive. Worse, aside from sixth overall pick Pavel Zacha, the Devils don't have great offensive prospects in the pipeline, so this could take some time.

Key Injuries: LW Patrik Elias (knee).

 

Arizona Coyotes

This Week: 30 Last Week: -

TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.01
  • GAPG
    3.26
  • S.A. CORSI%
    47.3%
  • PP%
    20.0%
  • PK%
    76.7%

 

The Coyotes have started their rebuilding in earnest, and should have good opportunities for rookie forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair to learn on the job this year, but Arizona's roster is a patchwork gathering of players with little high-end skill outside of defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The good news? Scottsdale native Auston Matthews is the top prospect in the 2016 NHL Draft and the Coyotes likely wouldn't mind the chance to bring him home.

Key Injuries: None.

Notes: While all injuries are taken into account, those listed as key injuries include top nine forwards, top four defencemen and starting goaltenders.

GPG - Goals Per Game, GAPG - Goals Against Per Game

S.A. CORSI% - Score-Adjusted Corsi Percentage. The percentage of shot attempts, during 5-on-5 play, relative to the opposition, adjusted for game-score. 

PP% - Power Play%

PK% - Penalty Kill%

Much of the data included comes from great modern stats sites www.war-on-ice.com, www.puckalytics.com, and www.naturalstattrick.com

Scott Cullen can be reached at scott.cullen@bellmedia.ca