NHL Postponement Power Rankings
The NHL's regular season is probably over. With the NHL on hold likely for at least a few months due to the coronavirus, there probably won't be enough time for the regular season to conclude. Their might be a few play-in games to ensure the teams barely on the wrong side of the bubble get a fair(er) shake, but beyond that, if/when the NHL resumes, we're probably jumping straight to the playoffs.
That combined with the fact that I don't have anything to do right now makes it the perfect time to do the final set of power rankings for the 2019-20 regular season. Granted, not a lot has changed since the March power rankings, which I published just 10 days before the NHL shutdown. So, these rankings are going to be a little bit different.
This set of rankings will be more long-term than usual. Normally, I try to balance short-term and long-term, combining recent winning and losing streaks and injuries with the team's makeup on paper, recent trades, and place in the standings. That's why the Lightning never dropped outside the top 16 despite not being in a playoff spot for most of the first half, and I gave the Sharks every opportunity to right the ship after making the Western Conference Finals last year before they ran out of time.
Consider these rankings my overall view on each team's 2019-20 season, plus how they would probably fair in the playoffs. And rather than be totally subjective, I'll be objective about my subjectivity and rank teams by their average ranking in these lists during the season.
31. Detroit Red Wings (17-49-5, Average Rank: 30.8)
The Red Wings were last in the rankings every month except the first one, where they ranked 30th. They are right up there with the 16-17 Avalanche for the worst team of the salary cap era, emphasized by their laughable -122 goal differential. Detroit does have a solid prospect pool, a few good NHLers right now (Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi), and the best odds at the #1 pick. But Steve Yzerman has his work cut out for him.
30. Ottawa Senators (25-34-12, Average Rank: 28.6)
This year was nearly best case scenario. Save for a controversial firing of their CEO just two months into his tenure, the Senators were not as terrible as most of us fought. Anthony Duclair had an incredible bounce-back season, Bobby Ryan gave us the feel-good moment of the year, and they got a nice haul of futures at the trade deadline. The icing on the cake is they have two top-five picks (theirs and the Sharks, via the Erik Karlsson trade) that could give their rebuild an extra shot in the arm.
29. Anaheim Ducks (29-33-9, Average Rank: 27.8)
John Gibson is good, but most of the Ducks are not. Anaheim's best days are truly behind them. Trading Ondrej Kase is a gamble, but the Ducks did get a nice return for him, plus an extra pick for Derek Grant. The Ducks do still have a nice sum of picks and prospects, but they lack a game-changer in their pipeline, although they might change that this summer.
28. New Jersey Devils (28-29-12, Average Rank: 27.6)
This was a make it or break it year for the Devils. Needless to say, they broke it. A nightmare start led to trading superstar Taylor Hall and head coach John Hynes getting pink slipped. They're a ping pong ball's bounce away from having their third #1 pick in four years, but failing that, the Devils have to decide how close they are to contention. Having MacKenzie Blackwood's strong second-half continue would be a nice start.
27. Los Angeles Kings (29-35-6, Average Rank: 25.6)
Kind of a weird year for the Kings. Despite stellar underlying metrics and a seven-game winning streak when the NHL hit the pause button, the Kings find themselves still in the basement. Granted, that's where LA was expected to be considering how little talent is on the roster right now. The hope is that LA's stacked prospect pool is able to combine with the old guard for more playoff runs in the near future, but the Kings cap situation remains ugly.
26. San Jose Sharks (29-36-5, Average Rank: 24.8)
No team had a quicker or deeper fall from grace than the Sharks. San Jose was the third-last team standing last season; this year, they're third worse. Losing a lot of their forward depth to free agency and injuries, major decline from their three big defensemen (Burns, Karlsson, Vlasic), and terrible goaltending has the Sharks drowning. The worst part? Their first round pick, which has an 11.5% percent chance of being #1, is Ottawa property.
25. Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8, Average Rank: 24.4)
Despite a few stretches where it looked like the Hawks upside was better than eight-seed/first-round elimination, it appears the dynasty's best days are behind them. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have lost a step or five, most of their depth is unimpressive (save for an underrated rookie season by Dominik Kubalik), and their stellar goaltending took a hit when Robin Lehner was rented to Vegas at the deadline. Their chances of making the playoffs weren't great, and even if they did squeak in, they weren't going far.
24. Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, Average Rank: 22.8)
The Wild faced an uphill battle all season long. Twenty of their first thirty games were on the road, there was a new GM to impress after the old lasted just over a year in the gig, and head coach Bruce Boudreau was given the ax in February. Despite all of that and lacking any game-changing talent, the Wild were able to claw their way to the cusp of a playoff birth. The good news for Minnesota going forward is they had an excellent blue-line, and Kirill Kaprisov could be an impact forward assuming he finally comes over from Russia. The bad news is they likely don't have the players, assets, or cap space to find a forward that will get them over the hump.
23. New York Rangers (37-28-5, Average Rank: 22)
I was a little surprised to see the Rangers this low, considering how close they are to a playoff spot. But this was a pretty unspectacular team for most of the season, save for a nine-game winning streak in February that catapulted them to the edge of the bubble. Artemi Panarin is a game-changer up front, and both Igor Shesterykin and Alex Georgiev look like they could be the real-deal in goal. Keeping Chris Kreider solidifies their forward group, and if they can find another top-four defenseman to replace Brady Skjei in the offseason, the Rangers already accelerated rebuild might truly be a thing of the past.
22. Buffalo Sabres (30-31-8, Average Rank: 21.6)
We'll call Buffalo averaging a higher ranking than the Rangers a glitch in the matrix. In fairness, the Sabres started the year red hot with a 9-2-2 record. Since then, they're challenging the Red Wings for worst team in the league. Nothing is gelling, the goaltending is weak, and their depth up front is nonexistent. Jason Botterill could be on his way out, and even head coach Ralph Krueger isn't a lock to come back considering how many big names there are on the coaching market. They're either going to panic buy or strip it to the ground (again) over the summer. Neither is a good option, but the fan reaction to standing pat would probably be worse.
21. Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9, Average Rank: 21.4)
Turns out an Ilya-Kovalchuk-sparked hot streak was just a flash in the pan. Carey Price was good not great in goal, and considering the roster in front of him, that just isn't enough. Jesperi Kotkaniemi's sophomore slump was massive, necessitating a move to the AHL, although Nick Suzuki took his spot just fine. Montreal has a handful of nice pieces, but they're either not getting enough out of them or need something else, like that elusive first-line center Bergevin's been chasing for over half a decade, to put them over the top.
20. Florida Panthers (35-26-8, Average Rank: 18)
A year that was supposed to be full of promise and potential has turned into a sparsely attend shop of horrors. In fairness to Panthers fans, I'm not sure if I would attend games to see a forward line with two defensemen or the new $10 million goalie letting in soft goals at will. Bobrovsky's nightmare year should be alarming for Florida, especially since his regular season last year wasn't great either. This management group needs an overhaul, stat.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, Average Rank: 17.8)
Credit to Columbus for hanging in. Despite being a popular pick for last in the Metro, the Jackets fought through a plague of injuries to impact players, riding two rookie goalies to an impressive win streak in January and somehow staying in the hunt down the stretch. You'd have to think they would have worn out during the last month, but being here after all the talent and futures they lost last year is impressive. The Jackets will be back soon enough.
18. Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6, Average Rank: 16.8)
Here's another team that everyone thought was going to fall off hanging around. After losing three of their top four defensemen in the offseason, Connor Hellebuyck picked up the slack, all but running away with the Vezina. The Jets still have a ton of talent up front and should be able to begin patching up the blue-line during the summer. It may a take a year or two to be the juggernaut they were in 2017-18, but the Jets seem to have avoided a massive decline.
17. Nashville Predators (35-26-8, Average Rank: 16.4)
There were plenty of moments where the Predators looked like a shell of their former glory, but Nashville was trending in the right direction with a 6-3-1 record in their last 10. Pekka Rinne's days as an elite goalie are likely over, but Jusse Saros appears ready to pick up where he left off. They have a lot of talent up front, but nobody is producing at an elite level - it's very much offense by committee. That can work, but you'd like a little more from your highest paid forwards like Ryan Johansen and Kyle Turris.
16. Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8, Average Rank: 16.2)
Yikes, Arizona. Two months into the season, the Coyotes looked like a playoff lock thanks to stellar goaltending and lock down defense. The Taylor Hall was supposed to bring the offense to a similar level, but instead it (and an injury to Darcy Kuemper) coincided with a massive down-swing that leaves the Coyotes barely even on the bubble. I wonder how much leeway John Chayka has after two big moves for star wingers have fallen flat on their faces. There's a still a good core here, but how many times can the Coyotes keep beating their head against the preverbal brick wall?
15. Calgary Flames (36-27-7, Average Rank: 15.2)
Calgary had a weird season. Their head coach Bill Peters resigned after racist remarks from a previous job were unearthed. The team was in a big losing streak at the time of his dismissal, too. After an initial return to 18-19 form under Geoff Ward, the Flames settled as an inconsistent team that could make some noise in the playoffs, but is equally likely to flame out early (no pun intended). Johnny Gaudreau had a disappointing season, but the key to the Flames future is finding a goalie they can trust.
14. Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8, Average Rank: 12.8)
The Golden Knights were a strong team by underlying numbers all season long. They just weren't getting good enough goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban to be a top tier team. Many will see the Peter DeBoer hiring as a genius move that changed the team for the better, but if you gave Gerrard Gallant Robin Lehner, the Golden Knights would probably be just as good. Vegas has most of their core locked up long-term and they're starting to accumulate prospects. So long as the Fleury deal doesn't become an albatross (two more years at $7 million), they should be good going forward.
13. Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, Average Rank: 12.6)
Injuries to star goalie Jacob Markstrom and sniper Brock Boeser down the stretch faded the Canucks playoff chances. Still, the club took a strong step forward this year and should be ready for the next era of being playoff contenders. Boeser, Pettersson, Horvat, Hughes, and more could easily be enough to put them over the top at some point in the near future. So long as Jim Benning doesn't sabotage them by hunting for more veteran presence.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs (36-25-9, Average Rank: 12.4)
The Leafs were my preseason Cup winners, and I did everything I could to regard them highly during the season. Twelve is probably a little high considering how frustrating and inconsistent the Leafs were. One night they were putting an eight spot and Freddie Andersen was making a case for the Vezina. The next, their goalies couldn't stop a beach ball and the team couldn't buy a shot, much less a goal, against their AHL affiliate's Zamboni driver. With a tight cap crunch and Tyson Barrie a pending UFA, it will be interesting to see how much Kyle Dubas shakes up this group. Winning their first playoff round since 2004 would soften a tough year for the Leafs, and an even tougher one for their fans.
11. Philadelphia Flyers (41-21-7, Average Rank: 12)
This is a tough one to write. When the NHL closed their doors, the Flyers were arguably the best team in the league. They recently had a 9-game winning streak snapped by an outstanding performance from Tuukka Rask. The Flyers had one of the deepest lineups in the league all season despite losing Oskar Lindblom to a cancer diagnosis and never having Nolan Patrick due to migraine disorder. Every move Chuck Fletcher made during the summer paid off in spades. The Flyers will have plenty of contenders for individual awards, but if their best team in since 2012 doesn't get a chance to break an eight-year drought of not getting past round 1, it will be a tough pill to swallow.
10. Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9, Average Rank: 11.6)
Finally, after years of yelling at Peter Chiarelli and whatever grinder was playing alongside of McDavid, Ken Holland of all people brought the Oilers to the bare minimum of a team with two stars as good as McDavid and Draisaitl could be. The Oilers are finally starting to assemble a competent forward group. Mikko Koskinen (.917 save percentage) was quietly having a good year in goal. A fully rested and healthy McDavid could wreak havoc on any opponent in the playoffs - hopefully, we get to see what that looks like.
9. Dallas Stars (37-24-8, Average Rank: 11)
If the Oilers are a flashy team built around speed and scoring, Dallas is the exact opposite. Structure and saves is the name of the game for the Stars, whose outstanding goalie tandem has them poised to make consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 2003-08. However, with Jamie Benn having another tough year and Denis Gurianov as their only twenty-goal scorer, the Stars might not have enough offense to get them nearly as far as they went last year.
8. New York Islanders (35-23-10, Average Rank: 8.8)
A sixteen-game point streak early in the year left the Islanders comfortably in a playoff spot into the season's second half. But the cold truth is since it ended, the Islanders have not been a very good team. The addition of JG Pageau helps, but like Dallas, Barry Trotz's system is sacrificing a lot of their offensive potential. Losing Adam Pelech for the season to a torn ACL was a devastating blow for a team that relies so much on preventing goals. It will be fascinating to see where the Isles go from here.
7. Carolina Hurricanes (38-25-5, Average Rank: 8.8)
Carolina gets the tie-breaker over the Islanders by having the higher ranking in a single month (3rd in October, compared to 4th in November for the Isles). Truthfully, I think a fully healthy Carolina team is one of the best in the East, as long as their goaltending holds up. However, losing two top defensemen and their two goalies was a devastating blow. I wasn't a fan of their deadline moves, and had the season continued, they might've missed the playoffs if Anton Forsberg and Alex Nedeljokvic had to start the majority of their brutal schedule. At least their forward core is still great.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (40-23-6, Average Rank: 7.6)
A major miss on my preseason prediction was having the Pens miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The Pens fought through a plethora of injuries early in the season, somehow winning even with key contributors like Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on the shelf for extended periods. They had their down swings where they looked like the playoff fodder they were last year, but overall, the Penguins had a pretty typical year and would have been sneaky underdogs to go deep once again.
5. Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8, Average Rank: 6.2)
The Avs took the step forward we were all waiting for this year. They proved they were ready for as much with their deep playoff run last year, and now their regular season results match it. Nathan MacKinnon is a star, and he is challenging Crosby for the second best player in the league. Once Bowen Byram is ready, Colorado's defense will be just as stacked as their forwards. It will be interesting to see what Joe Sakic does with all his cap space this offseason.
4. St. Louis Blues (42-19-10, Average Rank: 4.8)
The defending champs came out of the gates strong and never really let up. Even with Vladimir Tarasenko out for almost the whole season and just starting to come close to returning. Everyone on St. Louis' roster fired at all cylinders basically the entire year, led by a career year from David Perron and perennial Selke contender Ryan O'Reilly. Captain Alex Pietrangelo is a pending UFA, and GM Doug Armstrong let his predecessor David Backes walk. Could lightning strike twice?
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6, Average Rank: 4.8)
Speaking of Lightning, as recently as just t̶h̶o̶u̶s̶a̶n̶d̶s̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶y̶e̶a̶r̶s̶ ̶a̶g̶o̶ December, it looked something was seriously wrong with the Bolts. They were massively struggling and out of a playoff spot (although they did have a game in hand). Tampa inevitably turned it around and was once again looking strong heading towards the playoffs. It will be intriguing to see if Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow prove themselves worthy of their high trade values. At least the layoff means Stamkos will be back for the playoffs? Hooray for the rest of us.
2. Washington Capitals (41-20-8, Average Rank: 3.4)
Another year, another great regular season for the Capitals. Alex Ovechkin is a machine, hitting 700 goals this year after scoring hat-tricks in consecutive games. Braden Holtby declined, however, and the emergence of top prospect Ilya Samsonov, he might have played his last game as a Cap. Washington wasn't playing all that great when the season paused, but the Capitals are still a formidable team capable of winning their second Cup in three years when/if the season resumes.
1. Boston Bruins (44-14-12, Average Rank: 1.8)
This is hardly a surprise; the Bruins were first every month except January (5th) and lead the NHL with 44 wins and 100 points, making them heavy favorites to win their second President's Trophy in the last seven seasons. The well-oiled Bruin machine showed no signs of slowing down, with just about every key contributor putting up another great year. The good news is their two deadline acquisitions are under team control going forward; the bad news is that Zdeno Chara (42) might be at the end. Hopefully he gets a better end to his illustrious career than this.