NHL Power Rankings: Week 19

Another week, another dose of the NHL analysis and assorted randominity known as the NHL Power Rankings. Once again, there’s a new team atop the rankings but it’s a familiar face that we should be used to see on top of the Power Rankings. Not surprisingly, the Senators, who haven’t won a game in their last ten, are on bottom.

#1 Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week #2)
Having the Flyers near the top of the league is a good thing. After their Cup finals run last year, it shows you don’t have to have a giant sell-off the year after winning the Cup (see Blackhawks, Chicago). Also, a team near the top consistently makes the team more appealing to the casual fan. Think about it, who are the big draws in the NFL? The teams usually near the top. If teams can establish themselves the same way in the NHL, it can only help attract more casual fans to Versus national games.

#2 Tampa Bay Lightning (LW #1)
They’re a good team but they’re still young for the most part. Just look at Tuesday night’s game against Buffalo as an example. Roloson gets tripped up by some incidental contact with Stafford and the whole team comes unglued. (I actually do think it was incidental contact.) Yes, we all saw Rollie the Goalie explode but the whole team went with him. How else do you explain going from 3-3 to losing 7-4? That’s a total team effort.

#3 Pittsburgh Penguins (LW #6)
Let’s throw the Pens a bone here. Malkin is gone for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. The latest report on Crosby is that the Pens think March is most likely for Sid’s return from that mild concussion of his. The only good news from all this is that they must be saving scads of cap space by keeping the pair (and Staal) on LTIR. They have a projected $8 million in full-season cap hits that they can take on right now and that number will grow in the run up to the deadline. Small victories, I guess.

#4 Vancouver Canucks (LW #9)
And look who else is up there is the standings. I’m still not nearly as sold on the Canucks as the rest of the hockey media, especially those at TSN. Hell, they went so far as to say that Vancouver is a Cup contender right now and can stand pat at the trade deadline. I’m assuming TSN has already signed up for Canucks playoff broadcasting coverage. Otherwise, what interest would they have in promoting the Canucks so much?

#5 Boston Bruins (LW #5)
The Versus/NBC contract with the NHL expires at the end of the season. There have been rumours that ESPN wants back in on the national cable broadcast deal with Friday night games of the week. However, the latest rumour is that the newly merged NBC/Comcast entity is hell-bent on owning the NHL broadcasting package. They’re supposed to be offering 50% on top of what they already pay for the Versus cable package and some rights fees for the NBC broadcast package. With the potential NFL and NBA lockouts, the NHL is in pretty good shape right now.

#6 Montreal Canadiens (LW #10)
I only watched the second period between the Habs and Bruins last night but it was nothing short of epic. If every game was played with the amount of skill and passion those two teams displayed last night, the NHL would own America. There was scoring, pretty plays, big hits, a line brawl and a goalie fight. There was something for everyone in that game. The fans at the TD Garden loved every minute of the game, even the several minute delay while they figured out where to put all the players that ended up in the penalty box. Just great hockey.

#7 San Jose Sharks (LW #19)
I don’t believe I’m about to say this but Kyle Wellwood might actually have been the player the Sharks have needed all season. Okay, I’m just kidding. Kyle Wellwood… The guy washed out of Toronto of all places. Why on earth would the Sharks think he could turn around their season? No, the real star for San Jose has been Antti Niemi. He was never the best goalie in the league during his short run in Chicago but is playing out of his mind right now. Mind you, that seems typical in San Jose. Now about the playoffs…

#8 Anaheim Ducks (LW #7)
Jackie’s got two reasons to be happy today. First, I’ve ranked his Ducks ahead of my Wings for the first time this season. Don’t let the fact that Scott’s Flyers have been ahead of both teams for most of the season get in the way of the celebration. Second, his Ducks got Beauchemin back. If memory serves, Jackie is a huge fan of Frank so this has to be a welcome addition to the team. They’ve really been hurting on the back-end since Burke left town so every little bit helps.

#9 Detroit Red Wings (LW #4)
It’s been a rough stretch for my Wings. Over the last week and change, they barely beat Ottawa in a poorly goaltended game. Then there were the back to back 3-0 shutouts at the hands of Columbus and Nashville with another game against Nashville last night. They did at least beat the Rangers in their nationally televised game on Versus. Even then, it wasn’t terribly convincing. Detroit needs to make a move by the deadline. I’m not sure where the first move must be made, though.

#10 Calgary Flames (LW #22)
The Flames are en fuego in the run up to the Heritage Classic on the 20th. Yup, we’re only a week and change away from the return of the NHL’s original outdoor game. The first time was the Habs and Oilers in 2003. This time, the Flames host the Habs in an outdoor game held at a CFL stadium. This might actually make for a good game. On a blog related note, next week’s Power Rankings will feature all vintage team logos. Well, for most teams anyway.

#11 Nashville Predators (LW #8)
In the case of Nashville, there really won’t be a vintage logo. There’ll be the original log but that’ll be about it. That’s the problem with those expansion teams. They really haven’t done the whole brand revamp thing yet. Granted, Phoenix when from the Picasso logo to the maroon one but I’m still running a Jets logo for them. And Columbus dropped their bug for… whatever the new thing is. The Preds, however, haven’t changed their primary logo yet. Mind you, it’s not like they’ve come up with a good alternate logo either.

#12 Dallas Stars (LW #3)
I love the Western Conference. The gap between the third place Dallas Stars and the 14th place Colorado Avalanche is nine points. Okay, that’s actually a sizeable gap when you consider that there are fewer than 30 games left in the season and the difference is the equivalent to five more wins over that stretch. But based strictly on the number of points, it looks like a case of anything can happen. Isn’t hockey exciting?

#13 Washington Capitals (LW #13)
I know I have the Caps all the way down in 13th in the Power Rankings when they are 6th overall in the league. However, they are only 5th in the Eastern Conference. Alright, I know that has to do with the division winners seeding but they still aren’t even in the top half of their conference. Well, that all and I still am not buying what the Caps are selling. They’ve got three competent but not #1 quality goalies. Scoring has been hit and miss all year. A little consistency and more points than the Crosby and Malkin-less Pens and then we can talk.

#14 Los Angeles Kings (LW #21)
The youth movement in LA was supposed to give them a division title and a shot at the Stanley Cup. The problem with a youth movement is that they’re a bit inconsistent and still developing. So much was expected out of this group and they seem to shrink from the limelight. But when the pressure is off, they start coming back. They’re probably putting too much pressure on themselves and it’s hurting the team’s growth. This is the sort of team that needs a motivational coach instead of a systems coach.

#15 Chicago Blackhawks (LW #14)
I don’t understand how they’re planning on making this work but the Blackhawks traded Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman and David Pacan to Florida for Michael Frolik and Alex Salak. The Hawks get some more scoring and stay under the cap. This doesn’t solve their long-term cap issues. If the cap remains the same, Chicago has only $16 million in cap space to sign 12 players to get to a 23 man roster. Somehow, I don’t think that the math really works in Chicago’s favour.

#16 Minnesota Wild (LW #16)
It took me all the way to #16 to mention the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.  I love the irony of talking about Brett Favre’s former team in the spot where I used to talk about his current team. But I wouldn’t say that Green Bay won the game so much as Pittsburgh lost it. Of the Packers’ 31 points, 21 of them came off the Steelers’ three turnovers. If Pittsburgh could have protected the ball, they probably would have won the game. But that’s what happens when you spend more time running up to the Super Bowl taking about Big Ben’s bathroom company in a bar in Georgia than talking football.

#17 Phoenix Coyotes (LW #11)
So what was worse about the Super Bowl? Was it Christina Aguilera forgetting the words to the national anthem or the Black Eyed Peas? At least Aguilera was able to cover for her mistake so well that people weren’t really sure at first if she flubbed a line. Gamblers did because they had money on the over/under. BEP was just plain atrocious. I have never envied deaf people as much as I did during the halftime show. I haven’t missed a halftime show since Janet Jackson but I walked out part way though. It was still better than having to watch Lea Michele, though.

#18 New York Rangers (LW #12)
Anyone remember that guy Wade Redden? He was a big star in Ottawa then Glen Slather scooped him up for $6 million a season and he’s never been heard from since. Sure, the Rangers are in playoff contention but I wouldn’t call them a contending team by any stretch of the imagination. How Sather has held that job for so long, I’ll never know. Just because he won several Cups with the Oilers dynasty of the 80s doesn’t mean he was responsible for their success. If I had that group of players, I’d be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

#19 Columbus Blue Jackets (LW #25)
Can we all agree that the dirtiest player in the game right now is Matt Cooke? He makes Chris Simon look like a saint. However, Simon never played with Crosby so he didn’t get Bettman’s hall pass for Penguins players. Cooke basically gets carte blanche to do whatever he wants to whoever he wants. Sure, he got four games for railing Fedor Tyutin from behind but he’s a repeat offender. His track record should get him at least a double-digit suspension. That’s the hall pass for you.

#20 Carolina Hurricanes (LW #15)
This week’s Power Rankings was really a last-minute effort. I’ve been very backed up with work and my course that I haven’t had much time for NHL Power Rankings. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, they get left out of funny and insightful analysis this week. It’s too bad for the Canes because they were just able to pass the Thrashers for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Apart from a charge by the Sabres, I think we might have found our eight playoff teams in the East.

#21 Buffalo Sabres (LW #18)
I know that the NHLPA/CBC survey said that the Predators were the most underrated team in the league but I think I have a new contender for that crown. I think most of the players and media (and bloggers) know that the Preds are good. The Sabres are lost in all that shuffle. They’re one of the NHL’s hottest teams over their last ten games. Really, they’ve just completely come alive since Miller came back from injury early in the season. A healthy Ryan Miller makes this a very dangerous team.

#22 New Jersey Devils (LW #23)
Just because they were the league’s hottest team for the month of January doesn’t mean that they are anywhere close to playoff contention. Lou Lamoriello is probably looking at jettisoning some of his big money veteran players to free up cap space for Kovi’s cap hit and to re-sign Zach Parise. I’m guessing picks are Lou’s top priority at the deadline but he should look at finding a goalie. Marty Brodeur isn’t getting any younger and is now starting to fall apart. They desperately need to come up with a succession plan quickly.

#23 Colorado Avalanche (LW #17)
Carmelo Anthony is turning out to be almost as bad as LeBron when it comes to leaving the team that drafted him. He’s just not as big a dick about it as King James. LeBron turned himself into a spectacle. Melo is just turning the trade rumours about him into a spectacle. I don’t think Melo is going to hold an hour-long ode to himself like LeBron has but he has commandeered the basketball media in a similar way to LeBron. And all this because he, like LeBron, refuses to go to anyone but a winner. I guess no superstars want to have to work for their paycheck in the NBA anymore.

#24 Florida Panthers (LW #24)
And the team with the worst local TV viewership is the Florida Panthers. They have amassed a whopping average viewership of 4,000. I know that hockey isn’t a big deal in Florida but you’d think that a former Eastern Conference champion, even if they were 15 years removed from their greatest triumph, would get a bit more attention than that. Just another sign that hockey in the tropics doesn’t work.

#25 Atlanta Thrashers (LW #20)
Remember when it looked like the Thrashers might contend for a division title in the Southeast Division? Granted, that was never going to last all season but you thought that they could at least make the playoffs. They’ve finally slumped their way to 9th in the East. Between their recent cold streak and a -21 goal differential, I think they’ll be hard pressed to stay even that high in the standings.

#26 New York Islanders (LW #29)
It happened too late last week for me to squeeze it into my Power Rankings so I am obligate to mention that glass jawed goalie formerly known as Rick DiPietro. If memory serves, before he signed that obscenely long contract, DiPietro had a reputation for being injury-prone. However, that was usually hip-related ailments that kept him out of the lineup. And one Brent Johnson punch changed DiPietro’s reputation forever. He will no longer be known as an overpaid, injury-prone goalie. He’ll be that guy whose face was broken by one punch from a goalie.

#27 St. Louis Blues (LW #26)
Remember when the Blues were at the top of the Power Rankings during the early part of the season? Now they’ve dropped all the way to 27th. This team just banked too much on Jaro Halak to be able to play a whole season. They’re still in playoff contention but they needed to platoon Halak with Conklin like Detroit did with Ozzy and Conks. Halak can be a stellar goalie but he just isn’t consistent enough to do that for upto 60 games a year. Splitting time with Conklin would have made both more effective between the pipes. I guess there’s always next year.

#28 Toronto Maple Leafs (LW #27)
The Leafs get a proper logo back because I like yesterday’s Beauchemin trade. Jake Gardiner is an “all-world skater” according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. The 17th overall pick in the 2008 entry draft was considered the second best prospect in the Ducks’ farm system prior to the trade. I’d imagine that he vaults right to the top of the Leafs list now. Say what you will about the rest of Burke’s tenure but this definitely looks like a smart move.

#29 Edmonton Oilers (LW #28)
Despite getting Jordan Eberle back, the Oil have slumped their way back near the bottom of the Power Rankings. Neither they nor the Sens have anything to be proud of at this point in time. Between the two teams, they’ve combined for seven points over their last 20 games combined. That’s seven from a potential 40. I really tire of having to write about the Sens and Oilers. There’s just no effort in the front office of either franchise. It’s like they’re both content to languish rather than make any effort to rebuild.

#30 Ottawa Senators (LW #30)
I know I usually sound like a hypocrite during these power rankings and I’m about to again. I know I’ve said that Bryan Murray has been the problem with Ottawa over the last couple of years but Clouston has to go too. Murray’s gone through two quality coaches (Hartsburgh and Clouston) but the players didn’t respect them. Now Clouston has called out his goalies for not making saves. This was after Lehner showed some fight and passion against the Isles. He’s the only one that still wants to play for this team. I’d sign him in a heartbeat but Clouston wants rid of him. Fuck Clouston, fuck Murray and fuck Melnyk. Blow the team up and send it to Quebec.

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