February 2019 Power Rankings
Just went we thought the playoff picture was taking shape, January came around and messed everything up. Things look as crowded as ever, especially in the West, where literally everyone seems without shouting distance of the playoffs. For this month's rankings, we'll not only focus on what transpired last month, but what each club should look to be doing at the trade deadline.
*Stats and records are from NHL.com and accurate as of the beginning of play on February 1, 2019.
31. Ottawa Senators (19-26-5, Last Month: 30)
It doesn't take a genius to realize who's at the bottom of the league right now. A half decent start and my personal rage at the Flyers kept them from here for a while, but they'll likely be here to stay for the rest of the year. The Sens need to maximize the return for Matt Duchene and Mark Stone at the deadline. Anyone with a brain wouldn't re-up long-term with Ottawa, and letting them walk for nothing would be a devastating mistake. Maybe the assets they get back can help offset, you know, not having their first round pick.
30. Detroit Red Wings (19-25-7, Last Month: 27)
Hey remember that time the Red Wings made the playoffs for a quarter of a century consecutively? It seems like a distant memory now. If the Wings are going to have any chance of returning to that state within the next 5 years, Ken Holland needs to embrace the rebuild once and for all. The return for guys like Jimmy Howard, Thomas Vanek, and Gustav Nyquist (assuming the latter two are willing to move their NTCs) could be massive in expediting Detroit's youth movement.
29. New Jersey Devils (19-24-7, Last Month: 23)
The Devils are one of the few teams at the bottom of these rankings whose main porogative shouldn't be to sell everything. While they can ship off a Brian Boyle or a Drew Stafford if they want, the Devils need to focus on building for next season. Having one down year is fine, but two of anything signals a trend, and the Devils cannot afford to have one of those in the wrong direction. That being said, they have to make a decision on Marcus Johansson. They certainly have the cap space and desire to keep him, but if they decide the injury concerns are too much, than moving him is a must.
28. Los Angeles Kings (20-26-4, Last Month: 29)
After debuting on these rankings back in October at 31, the Kings have been slowly moving up not by their own improvements but by the failures of other teams. Because the Western Conference is parody defined, the Kings are somehow within 8 points of a playoff spot. What management needs to do is not let this blind them. The Kings are not a playoff team. Thankfully, the Muzzin trade signals they have not lost sight of who they are. He's a pretty good player, but getting 2 good prospects and a late 1st from Toronto is a solid package.
27. Chicago Blackhawks (18-24-9, Last Month: 28)
I feel the same way about the Hawks as their fellow mid-2010s Western Conference juggernaut, but with one exception. I feel like the Hawks are going to try to convince themselves they aren't done. They can use a return hot streak that has them within 8 points of a Wild Card spot, a potential return of oft-injured Corey Crawford, and Stan Bowman's desperation to save his job as excuses. Granted, they did ask Duncan Keith about waving his NMC, which suggests they might be more of an LA than a Detroit. But I'm not sold yet.
26. Edmonton Oilers (23-24-4, Last Month: 22)
What a nightmare month it's been for Edmoney. They finally fired Peter Chiarelli, but not before he was able to hand them one last albatross in a 3-year, $13.5 million extension for Mikko Koskinen. His firing gives the Oilers the chance to move forward, but they better take their time. The decision of who to hire as their GM is one of the biggest in recent memory, as it may be the final factor in whether or not you become hockey's LA Angels.
25. New York Rangers (22-21-7, Last Month: 26)
In further proof that father time will always be undefeated, the wheels may slowly starting to be coming off Henrik Lundqvist. Dominant peformance at the Skills Competition aside, King Henrik is finally starting to age, and it shows in the Rangers record. Much like Detroit, New York has some great talent (Hayes, Zuccarello) to net a massive haul at the deadline. Although as a hockey fan, the fact that Lundqvist will likely never get a cup makes me a little sad.
24. Florida Panthers (20-20-8, Last Month: 21)
Despite winning 3 straight and (in my opinion) winning the Derick Brassard trade, the Panthers are still nothing special. Roberto Luongo is finding himself in the same category as Henrik Lundqvist and may be witnessing the beginning of the end. And while I did say I like the Brassard trade in terms of value, I'm curious to see what happens next. He's a pending UFA in the offseason, and there's no way Florida is just gonna let him walk. The question is whether he'd be willing to sign an extension in Florida, or if he's just an asset to flip.
23. Anaheim Ducks (21-21-9, Last Month: 18)
If this team somehow squeaks into the playoffs, John Gibson deserves the Hart Trophy 10 times over. The Ducks simply cannot score, and are in a position where the best thing they can do is to fire Randy Carlyle. That's going to be a problem though, considering the recently extended GM Bob Murray already said he'd give him the season. The return of Corey Perry is the last straw - if they're still not scoring in 3 weeks than forget about anything resembling the post season.
22. Arizona Coyotes (23-23-4, Last Month: 24)
I may have overlooked how bad the Coyotes injury situation was last month. Christian Dvorak, Antti Raanta, Michael Grabner, Jason Demers, Nick Schmaltz, and Brad Richardson have all been lost long term. The fact that the Coyotes are still in the race with that injury list is honestly incredible. I'm going to throw out an extremely hot take - the Coyotes should make a push for Panarin or/and Bobrovsky. It would be massive for the state of the organization to make the playoffs, they have the young assets needed, and they would fix their two biggest needs. Just a thought.
21. Colorado Avalanche (22-20-8, Last Month: 15)
What the heck, Colorado? The Avs have literally turned into the 2014-2016 Bruins, wasting away the best line in the NHL behind a squad with no depth that can't keep the puck out of their own net. Philip Grubauer has been anything but the long-term solution in goal the Avs were hoping for when they acquired him on the draft floor. If the Avalanche are going to make it, they could use another defenseman, though so could a lot of teams currently on the bubble.
20. St. Louis Blues (22-22-5, Last Month: 25)
Like most of the Western Conference, the Blues have jumped back into the playoff picture at the last possible minute. Vladimir Tarasenko has rebounded from a nightmare December with 13 points in his last 11 games, while Jordan Binnington have given the Blues the competent goaltending they have been seeking all season. Honestly, if I'm Doug Armstrong, I'd go for the playoffs. So long as the goaltending holds up, the core is good enough to make it, and it's not like they have any notable pending UFAs they need to sell off.
19. Philadelphia Flyers (22-23-6, Last Month: 31)
Speaking of becoming competent thanks to actually having a goaltending, we bring you to the Philadelphia Carter Harts. The Flyers are turning into last year's roller coaster form, turning an 8-game losing streak into 6 wins (up to 7 since I wrote this) like it's nothing. Hart has been right at the forefront, winning Rookie of the Month of January by carrying the Flyers to several undeserved wins. The streak isn't a reflection of how they've been playing, and selling Wayne Simmonds is still in their best interests, but the Flyers are finally fun again.
18. Buffalo Sabres (25-19-6, Last Month: 11)
You were so close to escaping the doldrums, Buffalol. Their record might not show it, but the Sabres have been slumping, and have fallen out of a playoff spot. Carter Hutton's numbers are dipping closer to backup level. Much like Arizona, I feel like taking a shot at the playoffs is critical for the state of the franchise, though they're in much better shape the Yotes. Though they'll have to decide if they want to pay for Jeff Skinner's career year.
17. Vancouver Canucks (23-22-6, Last Month: 20)
If you had Vancouver contending for a playoff spot at February, you should probably just go out and play the Powerball already. Much like Philadelphia, they've called up their golden goose in goal in Thatcher Demko, who put up a .923 SV% in his only start thus far. Elias Petterson has run away with the Calder, but this is the stretch where contenders and pretenders are seperated. If they want to sell Alex Edler, fine. But I a lot of the 2016-17 Maple Leafs in this team - they may be just one small move away from pushing themselves over the edge.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets (28-19-3, Last Month: 12)
The Jackets haven't necessarily fallen because of their play, but because of what's happened off the ice. Sergei Bobrovsky threw a temper tantrum in the Tampa Bay locker room and is now willing to waive his NMC. Artemi Panarin recently said he's not going to discuss an extension until the offseason, which basically means he's as good as gone. Now, Jarmo Kekalainen has to decide whether to deal them off and likely extend their playoff round winless drought. Or, they could do make the all-in push. It's a tough call either day, but what Columbus can't do is straddle the middle. That would be a clear mistake.
15. Carolina Hurricanes (24-20-6, Last Month: 19)
Thanks to a few teams once ahead of them falling apart, the NHL's analytical darlings have moved up a few spots. Right now, they're a few points out of the playoffs, which could be easily fixed with a mid-season move to Houston and being subsequently switched to the Western Conference. Falling that, they need to add a goal-scorer (especially with Jordan Staal out) and pray that Curtis McElhinney's career year has 2 more months left in it (though a 1st round pick would be a good return for Micheal Ferland if they go that route).
14. Dallas Stars (25-21-4, Last Month: 16)
Perhaps Jim Lites should've focused his rant on goal scoring as a whole for the Stars. Dallas ranks 29th in goals scored in the league, which comes as a surprise considering the composition of their roster. Tyler Seguin has broken out of his slump, but the real reason for their relevance is acquiring 2014-15 Ben Bishop. The Stars need to add some depth up front if they have any hopes of going deep in the playoffs, assuming they make it at all.
13. Washington Capitals (27-17-6, Last Month: 8)
Jeez Caps, did the Cup hangover come late? A 7-game losing streak that saw Washington give up 6+ goals in 4 out of 5 games has them on the fall. Braden Holtby has lost elite form but no longer has a strong backup like Grubauer (at least how he played last year) to fall back on. Last year, the Caps got two decent defenseman in Michael Kempny and Jakub Jerabek, the former of which worked out. A similar try at this year's deadline might be best for the Caps, who you have to figure will return to form soon.
12. Minnesota Wild (26-21-3, Last Month: 17)
Thanks to a recent 5-game point streak (4 wins) right at the end of the month, the Wild have jumped back up. A bounce back from Zach Parise and a turn-around from a rough start for Devin Dubnyk have pushed the Wild back into a playoff spot. I didn't like the Nino Niederriter trade much - Victor Rask is on a really down year - but you have to respect their record. Their playoff upside isn't great, but a move or two could certainly change that.
11. Boston Bruins (27-17-7, Last Month: 7)
It appears the Bruins have reverted back to 2016-17 form and are once again a one-line team. The main difference between them and the Avlanche is goaltending. Tuukka Rask is now the all-time winnigest goalie in B's history, and Jaroslav Halak is no slouch either. Expect Boston to be active and add another forward (Simmonds and Ferland fit their model) to address that offensive inconsistency.
10. Montreal Canadiens (28-18-5, Last Month: 14)
Both Peter Chiarelli and Marc Bergevin followed up disappointing 2017-18 with questionable offseasons, and were both on the hot seat to start the year. 50 games in, it's safe to say they have gone two separate ways. Not only is Bergevin still employed, but most of his moves have payed off in spades. Max Domi and Tomas Tatar are leading the Habs offense, which while solid at 5-on-5 is dead last on the power play. Everything I've heard seems to suggest they won't buy, though Carey Price turning things around might be the only improvement the Habs need.
9. New York Islanders (29-19-5, Last Month: 13)
First place New York Islanders. Let that sink in for a moment. It's basically because the Pens struggled early, the Caps struggled lately, Columbus may lose their two best players, and the Flyers have been a total mess, but I'll give them credit. The Isles have turned into the stingiest defensive team in the NHL thanks to the daunting tandem of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss and the successful beginning of Barry Trotz's tenure. Unfortuantely all is not as good as it seems. The Islanders special teams and shot rates are both putrid, and part of me feels they're due for regression sooner rather than later. But they've probably got enough of a cushion to be a lock for the playoffs.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (27-17-6, Last Month: 6)
Yes, the Isles are first in the Metro in the standings but not in these rankings. That's because the Penguins are statistically better across the board, and I still believe they would win in a playoff series. There's too much talent on this team, and I'm also intrigued to see what Nick Bjugstad does potentially playing alongside Phil Kessel. I didn't love the Brassard trade from the Pens perspective, but didn't hate it either. Matt Murray's return to the form is the key for the Penguins if they want to make some noise this spring.
7. Vegas Golden Knights (29-19-4, Last Month: 4)
Vegas has successfully forgotten about their early season slump and is looking more and more like the team that won the West last season. William Karlsson has been ununable to sustain his form from a season ago, but it's been masked by a breakout season from Alex Tuch. They're also home to the feel good story of Brandon Pirri, who has 13 points in 16 games this year. Can the Golden Knights pull off more magic this go round? Only time will tell.
6. Nashville Predators (30-18-4, Last Month: 9)
Smashville is finally getting healthy (Kyle Turris is the only notable player currently injured), and it's starting to show. Other than their 30th ranked power play, it's hard to find much to complain about with the Predators. The Preds are in a position where they can buy if they want, but they still have buyer's remorse from the Ryan Hartman deal last year - he only has 17 points, yet cost the Preds a 1st round pick.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (30-17-2, Last Month: 2)
It's been an up-and-down month for the Leafs, a team that I follow somewhat closely. From booing Jake Gardiner to the struggles of William Nylander, the Leafs stood to be a pretty big faller on this list a week ago. But the acquisition of Jake Muzzin changed how I think about them. His presence solidifes the Leafs top-4, and the fact Toronto got him without subtracting from their NHL roster is huge. The Leafs still haven't fully lived up to their potential - if they can, they could be scary.
4. San Jose Sharks (24-10-4, Last Month: 10)
About time you showed up here, Sharks! San Jose is finally living up to the massive levels of hype, as the duo of Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson is torching defenses like promised. Timo Meier is living up to his top-10 selection with a near point-per-game campaign. The only thing holding them back is goaltending. How does Martin Jones still have a save percentage under .900%?
3. Winnipeg Jets (33-16-2, Last Month: 5)
The True North is in prime form once again. Sure, they'd like a little more consistency from Connor Hellebuyck and Patrik Laine, but Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler have made up for it. I'm surprised the Jets weren't big pursuers for Jake Muzzin, because their left side on defense is perhaps their only weakness. We'll see if they look to address that at some point this month.
2. Calgary Flames (33-16-5, Last Month: 3)
There isn't a lot that the Calgary Flames don't have. Skilled forwards that can score in bunches? Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, and of course, Johnny Gaudreau lead the way. Veterans having breakout seasons out of nowhere? Do you prefer Norris candidate Mark Giordano or the emergence of David Rittich in net? James Neal has been a major disappointment, but other than that, it's been a dream year for Calgary. Perhaps one more forward is the only thing Calgary could use, but a breakthrough from their internal options could suffice.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (37-11-2, Last Month: 1)
When I decided to make these rankings back in Novemeber, I didn't think the same team would remain number 1 the whole season. That's the perfect indicator of how dominant the Lightning have been all season. Stamkos, Point, Kucherov, and company are lighting the lamps at a rate unheard of for the rest of the league (3.96 goals per game - CGY is 2nd at 3.73). Andrei Vasilevskiy has returned from injury at Vezina form. Yet I don't think Tampa is content - they seem determined to make every effort to end their 13-year Cup drought.