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Oct 7, 2014

NHL Power Rankings - October 7, 2014

The usual suspects lead in the preseason edition of the TSN.ca NHL Power Rankings.

Jonathan Toews

They lost in the Western Conference Final to the Los Angeles Kings last season, but the Chicago Blackhawks open the season on top of the TSN.ca NHL Power Rankings, ahead of three others from the Western Conference, including the defending-champion Kings, St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks.

There's not a lot to choose between the Blackhawks and Kings, the two premier franchises in the league over the past five seasons, but the Blackhawks' addition of Brad Richards is enough of an upgrade in their second-line centre spot to give Chicago the slight edge.

The top-ranked team from the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins, come in at five, one ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While those are familiar contenders, the East does appear wide open for challengers to bring down those perennial top teams.

The Dallas Stars are a team on the rise, opening this season at seven, after adding Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky in the offseason.

Going the other way, the Colorado Avalanche sit at 13, despite finishing third in the league standings last year, as their statistical profile -- which includes poor possession numbers and inflated percentages -- suggests they are prime regression candidates.

Among Canadian clubs, the Montreal Canadiens, at nine, are ranked highest. There's a large group just outside the forecasted playoff picture. The Vancouver Canucks at 17, Winnipeg Jets at 19, Calgary Flames at 20, Ottawa Senators at 21 and Toronto Maple Leafs at 23 are all within striking distance with good breaks or favourable percentages.

The Edmonton Oilers, at 27, are again the lowest-ranked Canadian team, ahead of Florida, Carolina and Buffalo at the bottom of the chart.

 

 

Chicago Blackhawks

46-21-15 | This Week: 1 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    3.18
  • GAPG
    2.58
  • FENCLOSE
    55.2%
  • PP%
    19.5%
  • PK%
    81.4%

A lot of roster continuity for these perennial contenders, but the Blackhawks have upgraded their attack, adding Brad Richards to centre the second line. That's enough to give them the slight edge coming into the 2014-2015 season.

Key Injuries: None

Los Angeles Kings

46-28-8 | This Week: 2 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.42
  • GAPG
    2.05
  • FENCLOSE%
    56.7%
  • PP%
    15.1%
  • PK%
    83.1%

They were good enough to win the Cup with virtually the same roster last season, so the group that opens this year comes with the challenge of defending the crown, but there is perhaps reason for more optimism, as having young forwards Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli on hand right from the start could increase the Kings' offensive production.

Key Injuries: None.

St. Louis Blues

52-23-7 | This Week: 3 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.92
  • GAPG
    2.29
  • FENCLOSE%
    53.1%
  • PP%
    19.8%
  • PK%
    85.7%

The Blues have been close in recent seasons, but haven't been able to overcome the Blackhawks and Kings, so they went out and made some changes in the offseason, signing marquee free agent centre Paul Stastny, but also bringing 2008 third-round pick Jori Lehtera over from the KHL. If the goaltending tandem of Brian Elliott and Jake Allen can do their part, the Blues will be in position to challenge again. Maybe this is the year they break through. 

Key Injuries: None.

San Jose Sharks

51-22-9 | This Week: 4 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.92
  • GAPG
    2.35
  • FENCLOSE%
    54.6%
  • PP%
    17.2%
  • PK%
    84.9%

After years of coming up short in the postseason, the Sharks coughed up a 3-0 series lead against the eventual Cup champs and then spent the offseason reportedly trying to get rid of their two best players, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. When neither was willing to waive their no-trade clause, the approach was to change the team's focus, towards the likes of Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl; good players all, but if these Sharks are going to challenge, they won't be able to do it without Thornton and Marleau in prominent roles.

Key Injuries: Raffi Torres (knee).

Boston Bruins

54-19-9 | This Week: 5 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    3.15
  • GAPG
    2.08
  • FENCLOSE%
    54.1%
  • PP%
    21.7%
  • PK%
    83.6%

Moved out veteran defenceman Johnny Boychuk to meet salary cap requirements, and that might have some impact on the defence, but a healthy Dennis Seidenberg should provide the Bruins with enough to remain strong defensively and while their forward group should miss Jarome Iginla's finish, there is still enough talent on hand for the Bruins to remain among the best the Eastern Conference has to offer.

Key Injuries: None.

Pittsburgh Penguins

51-24-7 | This Week: 6 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.95
  • GAPG
    2.49
  • FENCLOSE%
    50.2%
  • PP%
    23.4%
  • PK%
    85.0%

Any team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin has the potential to do great things, but the Penguins cleaned house when they didn't achieve great things last season, so there is a new supporting cast, from the GM on down. On the ice, Patrick Hornqvist, Nick Spaling, Steve Downie and Blake Comeau are veteran forwards joining the Penguins and rookie Kasperi Kapanen is pushing for a spot too. Adding Christian Ehrhoff to the blueline is another upgrade that ought to help the Penguins play with the contenders when the playoffs arrive.

Key Injuries: RW Beau Bennett (leg).

Dallas Stars

40-31-11 | This Week: 7 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.82
  • GAPG
    2.72
  • FENCLOSE%
    51.9%
  • PP%
    15.9%
  • PK%
    81.4%

Ready to play with the big boys, or at least hope that's the case after adding Jason Spezza via trade and Ales Hemsky in free agency.The Stars had a balanced attack beyond their first line last season and now it might not be as balanced, but the ceiling has been raised.

Key Injuries: None.

Anaheim Ducks

54-20-8 | This Week: 8 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    3.21
  • GAPG
    2.48
  • FENCLOSE%
    50.2%
  • PP%
    16.0%
  • PK%
    82.2%

Adding Ryan Kesler raises expectations for the Ducks, a team that has loads of young talent to complement their top-end stars, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Perhaps the most important of the young players will be the goaltending duo of Frederik Andersen and John Gibson, both of whom have played great in limited NHL duty, but are going to battle for playing time with a group that expects to be a playoff team.

Key Injuries: None.

Montreal Canadiens

46-28-8 | This Week: 9 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.55
  • GAPG
    2.45
  • FENCLOSE%
    48.4%
  • PP%
    17.2%
  • PK%
    85.1%

Despite a good playoff run, the Canadiens were not a great possession team a year ago, but made some moves in the offseason to improve in that regard, with veterans P.A. Parenteau and Tom Gilbert both relatively strong in that aspect and have a wildcard option in Jiri Sekac, the Czech winger who was signed as a free agent. Ultimately, though, two of the biggest reasons for the Habs' success have been G Carey Price and D P.K. Subban and they will need to do the heavy lifting again. 

Key Injuries: None.

Tampa Bay Lightning

46-27-9 | This Week: 10 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.83
  • GAPG
    2.55
  • FENCLOSE%
    51.7%
  • PP%
    18.5%
  • PK%
    80.7%

Managed to do pretty well last season, even with Steven Stamkos injured long term and Martin St. Louis traded, so hope are reasonably high coming into this season, with Stamkos healthy and a talented cast of young forwards including Jonathan Drouin, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, J.T. Brown and Brett Connolly. Even better, the Lightning upgraded their blueline, adding Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman, so they have the makings of a potential contender.

Key Injuries: LW Jonathan Drouin (hand).

Minnesota Wild

43-27-12 | This Week: 11 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.43
  • GAPG
    2.42
  • FENCLOSE%
    48.6%
  • PP%
    17.9%
  • PK%
    78.8%

A promising team with young talent augmented by the addition of free agent winger Thomas Vanek, the Wild will need strong goaltending -- from whomever gets the nod in the Minnesota crease -- if they are going to close the gap on the best in the West, but if young players like Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter continue to develop, then maybe there won't be so much of a gap to overcome.

Key Injuries: None.

New York Rangers

45-31-6 | This Week: 12 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.61
  • GAPG
    2.32
  • FENCLOSE%
    53.6%
  • PP%
    18.2%
  • PK%
    85.3%

After a run to the Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers open this year missing their No. 1 centre, due to a broken leg, and had to make some changes up front. If young forwards like Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, and rookies Anthony Duclair, Jesper Fast and Kevin Hayes can contribute, then maybe the Rangers can climb right back to the top of what appears to be a relatively wide open Eastern Conference. 

Key Injuries: C Derek Stepan (leg).

Colorado Avalanche

52-22-8 | This Week: 13 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.99
  • GAPG
    2.63
  • FENCLOSE%
    46.7%
  • PP%
    19.8%
  • PK%
    80.7%

A poor puck-possession team that finished high in the standings, then lost its two best possession forwards, the Avalanche are prime candidates for regression this year, but they are an interesting case study because they have some high-end forwards that could help offset that anticipated decline. Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and Gabe Landeskog are really good, but first and foremost among the Avs' difference-makers is second-year C Nathan MacKinnon. If MacKinnon makes a leap to stardom in his second year, that could mitigate the effects of team-wide percentages coming back to more realistic levels.

Key Injuries: None.

New York Islanders

34-37-11 | This Week: 14 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.63
  • GAPG
    3.18
  • FENCLOSE%
    49.6%
  • PP%
    17.8%
  • PK%
    78.1%

No team made moves to address shortcomings as aggressively as the Islanders, who shored up their goaltending with Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson, bolstered their defence with Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy and added depth to their attack with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. It's no guarantee that the Islanders will be successful, because there is some track record here that suggests they won't be, but expectations ought to be there for a playoff spot.

Key Injuries: None.

New Jersey Devils

35-29-18 | This Week: 15 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.40
  • GAPG
    2.38
  • FENCLOSE%
    53.9%
  • PP%
    19.5%
  • PK%
    86.4%

So long as the Devils don't manage to go winless in the shootout again, they should have a decent shot at the playoffs, and the addition of Mike Cammalleri should help but, given the age/injury history of many of their most important forwards (Cammalleri, Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, Martin Havlat, Ryane Clowe, Tuomo Ruutu) there is perhaps a greater element of risk. If G Cory Schneider can handle the starter's workload, then he could be the difference compared to the past couple seasons.

Key Injuries: None.

Detroit Red Wings

39-28-15 | This Week: 16 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.65
  • GAPG
    2.70
  • FENCLOSE%
    51.2%
  • PP%
    17.7%
  • PK%
    83.0%

Considering how much time Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg missed last season, the Red Wings should be better if they can simply keep their veteran leaders healthy (not off to a great start in Datsyuk's case), but those injuries last season also allowed the Wings to develop their young talent and the likes of Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco can play a big role in keeping Detroit competitive this season

Key Injuries: C Pavel Datsyuk (shoulder).

Vancouver Canucks

36-35-11 | This Week: 17 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.33
  • GAPG
    2.63
  • FENCLOSE%
    52.2%
  • PP%
    15.2%
  • PK%
    83.2%

There's a pretty good chance that the Canucks aren't as bad as they looked in the second half of last season. It starts with a bounce back from the Sedins, and their new winger Radim Vrbata, but newcomers Nick Bonino and Linden Vey will have to contribute too. It's probably enough for the Canucks to compete for a playoff spot, but they will need a strong season from G Ryan Miller to get in.

Key Injuries: None.

Columbus Blue Jackets

43-32-7 | This Week: 18 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.76
  • GAPG
    2.61
  • FENCLOSE%
    50.8%
  • PP%
    19.3%
  • PK%
    82.1%

Getting C Ryan Johansen signed at least gives hope that the Blue Jackets won't be missing their complete first line to start the year, but those injuries are still a factor to consider early. If Johansen can handle missing camp, then he'll be a big part of a Blue Jackets team that was awfully lively in their playoff series against Pittsburgh last year. Veteran forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Scott Hartnell and Nick Foligno can score and agitate, and they will play big roles too.

Key Injuries: LW Boone Jenner (hand), RW Nathan Horton (back), D Ryan Murray (knee).

Winnipeg Jets

37-35-10 | This Week: 19 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.67
  • GAPG
    2.82
  • FENCLOSE%
    49.6%
  • PP%
    15.4%
  • PK%
    83.2%

The Jets have a decent roster, really, but it's been undone all too often by G Ondrej Pavelec, and the Jets run that risk again this year. If Pavelec falters, Michael Hutchinson or Peter Budaj will have to step in, because average goaltending could give the Jets a shot at a playoff spot. What could push them close to that goal is continued development of LW Evander Kane, C Mark Scheifele and D Jacob Trouba, young players who are playing big roles already.

Key Injuries: None.

Calgary Flames

35-40-7 | This Week: 20 Last Week: -

TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.46
  • GAPG
    2.90
  • FENCLOSE%
    47.3%
  • PP%
    15.7%
  • PK%
    81.7%

Don't appear to have the high-end talent necessary to compete for a playoff spot, but rookie LW Johnny Gaudreau adds skill and creativity and it's a big year for the development of second-year C Sean Monahan, but they need more help. Looking for optimism, consider that the trio of C Mikael Backlund, D Mark Giordano and D T.J. Brodie are possession stars, a small part of a core around which the Flames can build, and G Jonas Hiller has a chance to upgrade last season's goaltending.

Key Injuries: None.

Ottawa Senators

37-31-14 | This Week: 21 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.79
  • GAPG
    3.15
  • FENCLOSE%
    50.8%
  • PP%
    18.4%
  • PK%
    80.9%

It's not easy to recover from losing a pair of high-scoring forwards, Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, and the Senators are trying to do it on the cheap, but they have some talented young players -- Mika Zibanejad and Alex Chiasson among them -- that could make them competitive. The defence needs to be better and if the goaltending bounces back, at least a little, then maybe the playoffs could be a feasible outcome.

Key Injuries: C Marc Methot (back).

Washington Capitals

38-30-14 | This Week: 22 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.74
  • GAPG
    2.79
  • FENCLOSE%
    47.5%
  • PP%
    23.4%
  • PK%
    82.0%

It will be fascinating to see how new head coach Barry Trotz, known for a no-nonsense defensive style in Nashville, meshes with Alex Ovechkin, the freewheeling goal-scorer, but Trotz probably likes having the option of elite talent at his disposal. Also interesting will be to see what the ex-Pens, Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, can do on the Washington defence. There's plenty of reason to be skeptical, but the Capitals are paying big money with the expectation that they can handle big minutes on the blueline.

Key Injuries: None.

Toronto Maple Leafs

38-36-8 | This Week: 23 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.71
  • GAPG
    3.07
  • FENCLOSE%
    41.5%
  • PP%
    19.8%
  • PK%
    78.4%

There is reason to be hopeful for the Maple Leafs' future, and they might have enough talent to squeeze into a playoff spot this season, but it's hard to be immediately optimistic about a team with such disastrous puck possession numbers. One reason for hope is that it appears the Maple Leafs are making decisions geared towards improving that, jettisoning their face-punchers to the AHL, which improves forward depth, and if young defencemen Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly can handle bigger roles, then maybe the Leafs can stay close enough to have a chance at the postseason. 

Key Injuries: LW David Booth (foot), D Cody Franson (knee).

Nashville Predators

38-32-12 | This Week: 24 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.61
  • GAPG
    2.84
  • FENCLOSE%
    50.7%
  • PP%
    19.2%
  • PK%
    80.2%

Peter Laviolette takes over behind the bench, but his challenge is going to be a familiar one, trying to find reliable sources of scoring. Incoming centres Mike Ribeiro, Olli Jokinen and Derek Roy will be part of that, but therein lies the challenge, and RW James Neal is going to have a lot of pressure to produce after some big seasons in Pittsburgh. If the Predators can score and G Pekka Rinne is healthy and bounces back from a lost 2013-2014 season, then maybe the Predators can challenge for a playoff spot, but that likely requires some good fortune.

Key Injuries: C Matt Cullen (upper body).

Philadelphia Flyers

42-30-10 | This Week: 25 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.84
  • GAPG
    2.77
  • FENCLOSE%
    48.2%
  • PP%
    19.7%
  • PK%
    84.8%

No team is going to fare particularly well without their best defenceman and that's the prospect the Flyers face, which makes it all the more vital that G Steve Mason continue to play at the level he has since joining the Flyers. If he reverts to previous form, and the likes of Andrew MacDonald and Michael Del Zotto don't shore up the back end, then the Flyers are going to have to outgun the opposition to win and that's a tough game to play. It would put a lot of pressure on Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, the high-end forwards who might help the Flyers outscore their shortcomings.

Key Injuries: D Kimmo Timonen (blood clots)

Arizona Coyotes

37-30-15 | This Week: 26 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.56
  • GAPG
    2.73
  • FENCLOSE%
    50.0%
  • PP%
    19.9%
  • PK%
    79.0%

Even though they added C Sam Gagner, it's fair to wonder if the Coyotes are going to be able to score enough to keep up. They will need LW Mikkel Boedker to keep improving and could really use a bounceback year from RW Martin Erat, who has fallen on hard times the past couple years. Otherwise, the Coyotes will need G Mike Smith to be the backbone of the club and it worked in 2011-2012, when he had a .930 save percentage, but not so effectively since.

Key Injuries: None.

Edmonton Oilers

29-44-9 | This Week: 27 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.43
  • GAPG
    3.26
  • FENCLOSE%
    43.6%
  • PP%
    17.0%
  • PK%
    82.1%

Can the Oilers pull it together this year? They still have the skilled group of young forward, boosted by the additions of rookie C Leon Draisaitl and veteran wingers Benoit Pouliot and Teddy Purcell and the defence has a different look, with Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin and rookie Darnell Nurse added to the mix. Maybe more important than all those additions are the goaltenders. If Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth can provide solid work between the pipes, that could give the Oilers the lift they need to be competitive.

Key Injuries: D Nikita Nikitin (ankle).

Florida Panthers

29-45-8 | This Week: 28 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.29
  • GAPG
    3.20
  • FENCLOSE%
    49.5%
  • PP%
    10.0%
  • PK%
    76.0%

It's a process for the Panthers and one that will take some time, for young talent to develop and while they added a number of veteran free agents -- LW Jussi Jokinen, C David Bolland, D Wilie Mitchell -- that's not likely enough to take them from the bottom to the top in short order. But, if C Aleksander Barkov, C Nick Bjugstad, LW Jonathan Huberdeau and top pick Aaron Ekblad can develop this year, then that's a positive for the long term.

Key Injuries: None.

Carolina Hurricanes

36-35-11 | This Week: 29 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    2.50
  • GAPG
    2.76
  • FENCLOSE%
    48.2%
  • PP%
    14.6%
  • PK%
    81.7%

It was already looking like a rough year ahead for the Hurricanes, but preseason injuries to Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner leave them in a really tough spot. There aren't enough proven scorers on the roster and if goalies Anton Khudobin or Cam Ward aren't great, then the Hurricanes are looking at a top draft pick. Not the worst fate in the world, given the talent in the 2015 Draft, but still a difficult way to start the year.

Key Injuries: C Jordan Staal (fibula), LW Jeff Skinner (concussion).

Buffalo Sabres

21-51-10 | This Week: 30 Last Week: -

2013-14 TEAM STATS

  • GPG
    1.83
  • GAPG
    2.96
  • FENCLOSE%
    41.0%
  • PP%
    14.1%
  • PK%
    81.4%

Whether No. 2 pick Sam Reinhart makes a big impact or not, the Sabres should be better, with the additions of RW Brian Gionta and D Josh Gorges, as well as luring LW Matt Moulson back into the fold, but those improvements aren't going to be dramatic enough to take the Sabres out of the running for a top pick in the draft and that's probably part of the long-term plan anyway. It's going to take time, but the Sabres are accumulating lots of assets as they build for the future.

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

FENCLOSE% - Fenwick Close Percentage. The number of unblocked shot attempts, during 5-on-5 play, relative to the opposition. 

PP% - Power Play %

PK% - Penalty Kill%

Follow Scott Cullen on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen and e-mail him at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca.