Are you ready for some motherfucking hockey? October is only ten days away, and I’m almost fed up with NHL’s twitter tweeting out #isitoctoberyet? every day since the 13th of June (WE GET IT NHL, RELAX). But even with Gary Bettman being a better clown than Pennywise, I don’t care; I have been chomping at the bit to get some hockey on and it’s just about time. So here are my NHL 17-18 Start of the Season Power Rankings:
31) COLORADO AVALANCHE
How the hell does a team with Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon finish with 48 points? Joe Sakic. After shopping Duchene around, Duchene himself ceased to care with five points (2 G, 3 A) in his last 25 games, with four of those points coming in the final week of the season. After losing in the Draft lottery, I don’t expect much, really anything from the Avs this season.
30) VANCOUVER CANUCKS
The Sedin sisters and part time brick wall, part time goof Ryan Miller are all 36. The 3 are on a downswing, and with Travis Green coming in from 4 seasons with the Utica Comets, we can’t really expect much from them. But keep an eye out for Bo Hovrat, 21 years old and coming off a 52-point All Star season while signing a $33 million contract extension in early September. He’s a player to build a new team around.
29) BUFFALO SABRES
*Buffalo hate incoming* But potentially holding the title for most inconsistent team in 2016-17 doesn’t bode well. And while yes, Pominville is back, with General Manager Tim Murray and Head Coach Dan Bylsma being shown the axe, it seems as if all their eggs are in the Jack Eichel basket. They need to shore up their D before they can really be something. But keep an eye on Ristolainen.
28) VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Okay, yes, I know expansion teams in their first season historically do awfully. But they have Gerard Gallant, who was unceremoniously fired after a franchise record 47 wins and 103 points 15’-16’ season with the Florida Panthers, and the man with the addicting smile and godly glove, Marc-André Fleury in net. Pair them with a solid depth in defense should lead them to more than 30 points on the season *ahem 72’-73’ New York Islanders ahem*.
27) ARIZONA COYOTES
Down: they lost their best scorer in Radim Vrbata.
Up: acquiring Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta from the New York Rangers. Look to the future, they’re building now with their defense, not so much with their offense. Disappointment ahead, Coyotes fans. Moving on.
26) NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Oh poor Taylor Hall, stuck on a team full of goons and inconsistent displays from guys like Cory Schneider and Kyle Palmieri doesn’t give this team tons of hope. But Nico Hischier looks top, eh? Maybe he’ll pull a McDavid and pull your team out of obscurity in his first season. They face a stacked metropolitan division though so, probably not.
25) DETROIT RED WINGS
Do you hear that, Red Wings fans? That’s the sound of the glorious tank. You thought missing the playoffs for the first time since 1990 was bad? What did your team do in the offseason to fix it? Not much. Relying on guys like Zetterberg and Neilsen means nothing when you’re facing a mess in net. Year two of no playoffs, let the tank roll.
24) FLORIDA PANTHERS
I don’t want to pick on this team but come on. They’re wasting Ekblad and Barkov, with 35 wins and 36 losses in the Atlantic division. Why aren’t they delivering wins? The husk of Roberto Luongo. He’s 38, and plays like it, with the Panthers tied third highest with 237 goals allowed. The departures of Jonathan Marchessault and Jaromir Jagr make this team even more fragile.
23) WINNIPEG JETS
Episode 2: Attack of Patrik Laine. As much as this team with 23-year-old, 82-point man Mark Scheifele, Veteran Blake Wheeler, and the monster that is Dustin Byfuglien look good. They’re still in the early stages of rebuilding, but this season with Steve Mason in goal, it’s too early to say playoffs. Soon, when Connor Hellebuyck takes over probably, but now? Nope.
22) LOS ANGELES KINGS
The Stanley Cup hangover is real. Quick’s injuries are a real nightmare to the way the Kings play. If he’s out they fall to pieces. Their core failed to get into the playoffs last season, and they haven’t done enough to definitively say that they can make it this year.
21) CAROLINA HURRICANES
With the additions of goaltender Scott Darling and depth player Justin Williams, they look alright. But they carryover the same problems as last year and look to do about the same as last year. I’m not convinced about Darlings capabilities either. Close to playoffs, but no cigar this year.
20) PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
What is up with this team, 88 points with their lineup? Claude Giroux is just phoning it in at this point. Solid surface numbers masked decline in his underlying statistics and highlighted Giroux’s struggles in 15’-16’. But 16’-1,’ Giroux posted his worst full-season scoring rate since his first complete NHL season, finishing with just 14 goals and 44 assists for a total of 58 points. While Ivan Provorov and Wayne Simmonds can claim they were held back by struggling teammates, I’d expect the team disappointments to continue into this season.
19) BOSTON BRUINS
There’s something, missing from this Bruins team to be a real threat. Don’t get me wrong when they’re on it they’re on fire but, more often than not, they slump. Marchand gets lazy, Chara looks off a step, and Rask is guilty of just taking some nights off. I expect them even with their up and downs to try and press for a playoff spot. Their youth looks real promising too, look to them in the future.
18) NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Honestly this is hard to peg. A wild card push after hiring Weight and a 24-12-4 record really seem to indicate good things for the Isles. And with John Tavares coming back after a hand injury suffered at the hands (do you get it?) of the previously identified goons of New Jersey and the acquisition of Eberly from Edmonton make this team tricky to place. But if only they’d sort out their goaltending woes. A wild card spot is actually pretty realistic.
17) TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
How does a team with a line consisting of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Vladislav Namestnikov not even make the playoffs? By playing the most earth shattering mind numbing hockey I think I may be fair in saying I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Even with all the talent of top-10 offense if you can’t seal the ship when it comes to goals, you can’t really go anywhere. Defense wins championships.
16) DALLAS STARS
I’m calling it now, a decent playoff run for the Stars. Ken Hitchcock coming in as coach and Ben Bishop coming in to repair the hole in Lehtonen’s glove look like huge moves. Benn and Seguin finally have a solid foundation in back to rely on. This team is just deep in forward depth. Don’t sleep on the Stars this year.
15) CALGARY FLAMES
There is an upward trend in Calgary right now. Johnny Hockey TM had a down year compared to himself where he only had 18 goals, with still 61 points. Yeah the playoff exist was a bit rough, but this team looks scary upcoming. Fear the flames, Gaudreau will dangle your entire team and the playoffs are a priority for them this year so they’re going to come out of the gates swinging, hard.
14) ST. LOUIS BLUES
Tarasenko’s sniping, Jake Allen’s playoff performance. Onward.
13) SAN JOSE SHARKS
I say this is the last year potentially for the Sharks to do anything really meaningful with this crop. Don’t get me wrong Paveleski, Thornton and big burly bear Burns are all still top quality players, but if they don’t produce in the playoffs (Joe Thornton and Logan Couture injuries aside) I think management might look to the future without them. They’ll challenge late season and run out of gas in game 2 of the first round.
12) MINNESOTA WILD
One win, One payoff after the best regular season in Wild franchise history. Disappointing I know but don’t worry Wild fans theirs a lot to look forward to in Mikael Granlund. I’m saying this is his season to break out and not be disappointing. But much like the Sharks and Canucks this team is old, the third oldest in the show actually. Koivu, Parise, and Eric Staal are all over 31. But hey with a dynamic D headed by Suter and Dumba and occasional god Dubnyk in goal this is a team that looks to make a significant run in the playoffs before it’s too late for this core.
11) OTTAWA SENATORS
That Pens series still hurts eh Sens fans? But you know what, as much as Craig Anderson and Erik Karlsson deserved to move onto the final, the rest of your team didn’t. Actually you know what? No, Karlsson didn’t either. He would just take certain games off in the playoffs and any player who does that doesn’t deserve a shot at Lord Stanley’s Cup (Sens fans @ me on twitter to argue @kevinpruntyWTP). But Stone, Ryan and Hoffman look to go back to the Eastern Conference finals again and I expect Karlsson to destroy and pillage the Atlantic Division like his first name was Genghis.
10) NEW YORK RANGERS
Don’t even get me fucking started. I have been shot in the foot so many times with AV hockey it’s just demoralizing. Off-season: We need speed in the D and someone to help McDonagh and young Brady Skjei so we pick up Shattenkirk and aging Gerardi moves elsewhere, but we still have the depth problem. Marc Staal isn’t getting younger and it’s almost depressing to try and see him back skate on a half breakaway. Look for Vesey and Hayes and potentially Kreider to have big years with the emergence of a 1st line center spot after Stepan got shipped to Arizona. Maybe a deep run in the playoffs, but last seasons inconsistent displays and the aging King Hank (and no real back up goaltender) have me worried.
9) MONTREAL CANADIENS
*Habs fans in early April 2017* “Carey Price is the undisputed best goaltender in the league, we’re playing the Rangers in the first round? Against the old man Henrik Lundqvist? Easy. Stanley Cup here we come!” Well get fucked. He got out dueled by The King, and Pacioretty and Galchenyuk forgot that it was playoff hockey. But this season yeah, I have no shame in saying this I think Shea Weber is on par if not better than P.K. Subban (again if you wanna argue @ me on twitter). But building a solid core around him and having Price in goal makes this team a real lock on D. And if the forwards produce like they did last season (but don’t choke in the playoffs) than this is a team I’m tipping for big things. With the pick up of Drouin this team is actually scary.
8) TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Matthews 2: The electric boogaloo. Oh yeah and Mitch Marner and William Nylander, all 3 are under 22. Just let that sink in. Not only look towards this team to rip defences to shred this year, but probably the next 10. The defensive depth worries me, so I’m not saying they have what it takes to win the cup because they don’t. A killer regular season? Absolutely. A deep playoff run? Potentially.
7) CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Swept by Nashville… Damn. But I don’t want to say much. They still have THAT core of Stanley Cup Hat-Trick winners. Yeah it’s a tough loss of Antemi Panarin but still, they will roll as they do.
6) ANAHEIM DUCKS
Last years regular season was a good one for the Ducks, sure over reliance on Corey Perry and Getzlaf could turn into a problem but hey you ran through the Flames and Oilers with only a bit of struggle. And with keeping Patrick Eaves I seriously don’t think a Cup appearance is out of the question.
5) NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Smashville I am so sorry you got evil empire’d by the Pens. It seems as if everyone especially Pekke Rinne ran out of steam halfway through the Stanley Cup. But hey that Subban trade is working out pretty well for y’all. This team just has so much depth it’s amazing. The Bonino pickup was big, and it should give you guys another chance at a playoff run.
4) WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Hear me out. This team has the ability to a Stanley Cup final. Yeah I know last season 118 points and 2 rounds and all that but seriously, even with the losses of Johansson, Williams, Shattenkirk and Alner, Backstroke and Oshie just continue to get better. And whenever Ovi decides to pass the puck in the postseason maybe they could make an appearance.
3) COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
I recently subscribed to a subreddit titled “I fucking hate John Tortorella” because I really do. But god dammit the man made a stellar team out of no really forward stars and the magical wizard that is Sergei Bobrovsky. Early-ish playoff exit aside (to the eventual winners) the addition of Artemi Panarin from Chicago really makes them dangerous. Hell, I like Brandon Dubinsky even though a lot of people don’t. A deep run isn’t a possibility, it’s not even a probability, it’s an expectation.
2) EDMONTON OILERS
IT’S CONNOR MCDAVID’S WORLD AND WE ARE JUST LIVING IN IT, WE ARE NOT WORTHY. The reigning Hart, Art Ross, and Ted Lindsay award winner is aching to improve in one key area, Postseason. Seven games is good, but not good enough. Talbot, McDavid, and Draisaitl smell blood and are hungry for a Cup. Expect them to make at minimum a deep run. I honestly think they’ll make it to the Finals this year. And Milan Lucic is going to continue to be the brunt to McDavid’s grace. Don’t get me wrong both can score and rack up pims but the dynamic between them is the the enforcer-sniper deal.
Watch out league.
1) PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Phil The Thrill Kessel has two Stanley Cups and what is my life right now. But really, the Evil Empire is just that, an empire. What more can you say about Sid, Malkin, Letang etc… I mean depth for days, some of the best forward and defensemen in the show play for them and top 6 net minder Matt Murray in goal. Undisputed greatness, anything less than a 3rd round appearance would be a major disappointment. Do I smell a three-peat?
I can’t wait to look back and see how completely wrong I was about this. As mentioned you wanna agree or argue with me? Wonderful! Find me on twitter @kevinpruntyWTP