February 2020 Power Rankings
The NHL season is starting to heat up. February is always an exciting month, as teams have to decide whether they see themselves as pretenders or contenders and make a decision whether to buy, sell, or stand pat at the trade deadline, which is just two weeks away from Monday, if you can believe it. Every team has less than 30 games remaining in their season, and this is the last chance they'll have to fix their problems with external solutions. Here's where everyone stands as the stretch starts to take shape.
31. Detroit Red Wings (13-39-4, Last Month: 31)
The Red Wings season has hit the fan and then some. Since the last rankings, Detroit is just 1-9-1. They're rivaling the 16-17 Avalanche for worst team in the salary cap era. And they don't have much to sell, either - Mike Green is just about the only noteworthy UFA.
30. Ottawa Senators (18-26-11, Last Month: 26)
They're being pulled up by their loser points, which in part distracts from the fact that only Detroit has fewer. Center JG Pageau is one of the biggest names on the trade market. He has 34 points in 53 games, was a beast in Ottawa's 2017 playoff run, and has a nice influx of skill that would sure up any forward core.
29. Anaheim Ducks (22-26-7, Last Month: 30)
Everyone not named John Gibson is struggling, but that's about what we expected. The Ducks made a surprising move to deal young defenseman Brandon Montour for a first and a prospect at last year's deadline; we'll see if GM Bob Murray decides to spice it up again.
28. San Jose Sharks (24-27-4, Last Month: 28)
Ok, maybe now I'm ready to count the Sharks out. They are only eight points out of a playoff spot, but everything seems to be trending in the wrong direction. Logan Couture is still on the shelf and budding star Tomas Hertl is done for the year. I wonder if Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will be shipped out to pursue their first Stanley Cup.
27. New Jersey Devils (20-24-10, Last Month: 29)
MacKenzie Blackwood is trending up as of late with shutouts in each of his last two starts. That would be good for the Devils, who have been searching for consistent goaltending each of the last three seasons. Wayne Simmonds and Sami Vatanen could both fetch a nice haul at the trade deadline, but it might be preferable if the Devils could extend them instead, steering away from another rebuild.
26. Los Angeles Kings (19-32-5, Last Month: 25)
I know they're the second worst team in the league, but they're still good by analytics (4th in Corsi, 5th in xGF% at 5-on-5, per Natural Stat Trick). I also liked the Jack Campbell trade they made with Toronto - Trevor Moore has some skill, and if the conditions are met, they'd get a 2nd and 3rd for a backup goalie and a gritty 4th liner. Alec Martinez and Tyler Toffoli remain on the block - the former has another year on his deal while the latter is a pending UFA. Both could help contending teams - expect the Kings to sell high.
25. Buffalo Sabres (24-23-8, Last Month: 20)
This is as high as I could rank the only team that Detroit beat. The biggest news in Sabres country is that ownership gave their alumni Chinese knockoff jerseys to wear on the ice and the radio rant of a sad Sabres fan named Duane. Those shouldn't be the main stories of a contending team, and (spoiler alert) the Sabres aren't that. It's a shame they aren't, because Jack Eichel should be a legit Hart contender.
24. New York Rangers (26-23-4, Last Month: 22)
With the trade market looking pretty thin this year, Chris Kreider may be the best forward on the block, allowing the Rangers to maximize a potential return. I still think the Rags should make a serious run at resigning him - NY's winger depth isn't great, and they could use a guy like him going forward. Maybe they'll trade one of their three goalies (hello, surplus) instead.
23. Minnesota Wild (26-22-6, Last Month: 23)
The Wild are back on the uptick (slightly) with a 3-game winning streak that has them right on the bubble. However, among the clubs in the NHL's mushy middle, the Wild are one of the worst on paper thanks to a lack of star-power and goaltending with the stability of wet cardboard. There are just too many teams in their way for me to see them as serious playoff contenders.
22. Nashville Predators (26-21-7, Last Month: 21)
They're a pretty average 7-6-0 under John Hynes, so it's fair to doubt whether having a new coach is going to give them a boom. Ryan Ellis hasn't played a game since the Winter Classic, hurting their usual reliable blue-line. Unless Pekka Rinne and Jusse Saros can return to form, the Preds odds of returning to the playoffs are about as good as the smell of dead catfish. Will Smashville be sellers?
21. Arizona Coyotes (27-23-7, Last Month: 13)
It's fair to note that I think the Coyotes are a better true-talent team then where I have them ranked. But only the Wings and Kings have fewer wins in their last 10 games than the Yotes (2), as the Coyotes have slipped from contending for first in the Pacific to praying for their first playoff bid since 2012. They need Darcy Kuemper to return to the pipes and their two big acquisitions, Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall, to start taking over like we've seen them do before.
20. Calgary Flames (28-22-6, Last Month: 8)
It's not just the humiliation that Edmonton poured on them that have them all the way down here. The Flames are tied for 24th in the league in goal differential, Milan Lucic is wasting a roster spot, and Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski might be getting shipped out of town. With Mark Giordano going down, the Flames once tight grip on a playoff spot is starting to weaken. Geoff Ward's honeymoon phase is officially in the rearview mirror.
19. Chicago Blackhawks (25-21-8, Last Month: 27)
"I'm officially going to say it - the dynasty is dead" - me, January 2020. This is why you don't count your chickens before they hatch. The Hawks have rattled off an impressive hot streak, with at least a point in eight of their last ten. They've been good on the road and the tandem of Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner has been dynamite between the pipes. A different market may consider selling, but Stan Bowman's job could be dependent on this team playing past the first weekend of April. I'm expecting the Hawks the bold, even if it might not be in their best interest long-term.
18. Montreal Canadiens (27-23-7, Last Month: 24)
I've never seen a change of scenery do more for a player than Ilya Kovalchuk. The guy has been a star for the Habs, scoring 12 points in 15 games, including a pair of overtime winners. However, with Carey Price not transcending into beast mode often enough and Shea Weber hitting IR, it's still an uphill battle for Bergevin's boys to avoid a third straight season that ends too early for Habs fans to approve.
17. Winnipeg Jets (28-23-5, Last Month: 15)
These guys remind me a lot of last year's Ducks. They've got a much better forward core, yes, but Connor Hellebuyck can't carry them forever. Dustin Byfuglien appears likely to never play another game in Winnipeg, leaving their defense in desperate need of reinforcements. Kevin Cheveldayoff has always been a conservative GM, but he likely needs to make a move if the Jets will return to the playoffs for the third straight year.
16. Vegas Golden Knights (28-21-8, Last Month: 15)
For the love, Vegas, just because your goal song is by Panic! at the Disco doesn't mean you should panic the second your team goes cold. The Knights made a knee-jerk decision by firing the only coach they've ever known (2018 Jack Adams Winner Gerard Gallant), bringing in the well-respected Peter DeBoer. No offense to DeBoer, but I don't see how a coaching change helps Vegas. Their underlying numbers were great under Gallant; it's goaltending that's been the main culprit for their underachieving. GM Kelly McCrimmon should be actively pursuing an upgrade for the blue-line.
15. Edmonton Oilers (29-20-6, Last Month: 19)
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continue to lead the charge in Oil Country. Edmonton has been better lately, turning this around after a midseason swoon. Ken Holland needs to give those two stars a little more help upfront - Kalier Yamamoto has been great as a call-up, but a more established winger would be preferable. Whatever happens, just find a way to give us seven playoff games against the Flames. The hockey world and NHL's TV ratings will thank you.
14. Florida Panthers (29-19-6, Last Month: 18)
Things are finally starting to click down in Sunrise. The Panthers core is taking over games at will, just like how Jonathan Huberdeau overtook Olli Jokinen as the team's all-time leading scorer. Sergei Bobrovsky still needs to step up, but this is right around when he picked up the slack last season in Columbus. This franchise is usually "wrong place, wrong time," but in a competitive Eastern Conference, they've got as good a shot as anybody.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (29-19-8, Last Month: 7)
Much like in Calgary, the honeymoon phase for Sheldon Keefe is beginning to wear off. The Leafs have dealt with huge losses to their backend, with Morgan Reilly still out and Jake Muzzin missing extended time to boot. Freddie Andersen is also hurt, leading to a trade for LA net-minder Jack Campbell. The price was somewhat steep, but it was a move the Leafs had to make. The question is will it be enough?
12. New York Islanders (31-16-6, Last Month: 11)
Remember when the Islanders were one of the best teams in the NHL? That's now firmly in the rearview mirror. Ever since their 16-game point streak ended, the Isles have been pretty mediocre, allowing the rest of the Eastern Conference to catch up to them. Instead of lying comfortably in a divisional spot, they find themselves fighting for their playoff lives. At 20th in goals per game, a scoring forward would be a huge add for this group.
11. Vancouver Canucks (30-21-5, Last Month: 14)
Hockey's version of the Atlanta Braves appears to be a year ahead of schedule. Despite battling injuries, the Canucks have opened up just a little breathing room between them and the rest of the Pacific. Their first line continues to dominate and Jacob Markstrom has been amazing in goal all year. How they move forward in goal remains to be determined, but that's June's problem. Markstrom will stick around as a pending UFA, hoping to lead Vancouver back to the promised land for the first time since 2015.
10. Philadelphia Flyers (30-18-7, Last Month: 17)
After a disappointing start to the 2020s, the Flyers are beginning to find form more often than not, even if they remain one of the most inconsistent teams in the sport. Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov have been carrying the load all year long, and goaltending surprisingly hasn't been a major issue even with Carter Hart out for the last few weeks. If Nolan Patrick comes back, the Flyers depth looks scary again, but that's a big if. It's a shame that they're a good team stuck in such a stacked division.
9. Dallas Stars (31-19-5, Last Month: 10)
Remember when this team started the year 1-7-1? They're 30-12-4 since, and are proving a legitimate threat to the Avalanche for home ice advantage in the first round. Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin are the my pick for best tandem in the league, and the big boys up front like Benn and Seguin appear to be picking up the pace. Last year, they dealt for Mats Zuccarello at the deadline, and he was a big help for them in the playoffs. Does Jim Nill opt for an encore?
8. Carolina Hurricanes (32-20-3, Last Month: 9)
Justin Williams has returned to give a shot in the arm to everyone's favorite Bunch of Jerks. They need it, considering how stacked the Metro is. Losing Norris contender Dougie Hamilton stinks and might put the Canes in the market for a defenseman, but I think they've got enough depth on the backend to remain strong.
7. Columbus Blue Jackets (30-17-9, Last Month: 16)
Where did these guys come from? Elvis (Merzlinkins) has entered the crease, and he has been an amazing act to follow. The rookie has been playing out of his mind lately with five shutouts in his last nine starts. He hasn't a save percentage below .900 in a game since January 4th. Zach Werenski and Seth Jones continue to be the most underrated pairing in hockey as the Jackets defeat all who face them with a mix of depth and resilience. There's probably some regression to the mean coming, but even still, this team is a legit contender to make the playoffs.
6. St. Louis Blues (32-15-9, Last Month: 3)
A recent slump has the gap between them and the Avalanche is starting to fade - Colorado is five points back with three games in hand. A blip of Jordan Binnington's radar is a big reason for this. Assuming he turns it around, the Blues should be fine. The question is, with Vladimir Tarasenko's status still a question, will Doug Armstrong make a move to bolster the offense?
5. Colorado Avalanche (31-16-6, Last Month: 6)
The beat goes on in Denver, as the Avs turned a potential skid into a three game winning streak. Nathan MacKinnon is a superstar, no doubt about it, and if the Oilers and the Sabres miss the playoffs, he's my pick for the Hart. Oh, and you give Cale Makar the Calder now (and a couple Norris votes while you're at it).
4. Washington Capitals (36-14-5, Last Month: 1)
February hasn't treated the Caps fine so far; they were defeated by the Penguins, who are challenging them for first in the Metro, then run out of their own building yesterday by the Flyers. It's time to give Ilya Samsonov the keys to the crease; his save percentage is 30 points better than Braden Holtby, who just isn't getting it done. Finally, a premature congratulations to Alex Ovechkin, who, barring injury, will hit 700 goals by the time the next set of these come out.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (34-15-5, Last Month: 4)
Don't look now, but the Penguins are slowly but surely starting to regain health. Considering how good they've been even with key players on the shelf, that's a scary statement to think about. It's Tristan Jarry's crease now; Matt Murray's just living in it. Jim Rutherford has promised to be a player at the deadline. What a season these guys have had.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (35-15-5, Last Month: 2)
I honestly expected the Bolts to have caught the Bruins by now. It's not their fault that hasn't happen yet; the team has won six straight and is 8-1-1 in their last ten. Everyone not named the now injured Ryan McDonagh is firing at all cylinders as the Lightning push for a season that ends well after six days in April.
1. Boston Bruins (34-10-12, Last Month: 5)
After an absence, the B's are back in the top spot. The Perfection Line remains just that and their goaltending is some of the best in the league (maybe declaring Dallas' tandem the best in the league was too soon). Their depth remains solid, even if another addition up front couldn't hurt.