Power rankings: Chasing the summer blahs
With NHL training camps set to open in roughly one month, it’s a natural time to shake up the 30 clubs and see what order they take. Every team has been busy trying to reshape its roster one way or another, with budget constraints and the salary cap figuring into the equation most of all.
This mid-summer, offseason power rankings is a rather unscientific look at where teams sit long before a puck is set to be dropped.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins – Here’s a shocker: The Pens have sold out all 66 suites for the inaugural 2010-11 season in their new building across the street from The Igloo.
2. Chicago Blackhawks – Look at the Marian Hossa(notes) situation this way: He’s played as far into the postseason as a player can in consecutive years, and he’s no spring chicken. So is it really so bad that he’s not going to be available to Chicago until midseason? The forced rest might rejuvenate him.
3. Boston Bruins – The Bruins have taken care of most of their own – Tim Thomas(notes), David Krejci(notes) and Mark Recchi(notes) – but the jury is still out on Phil Kessel(notes). And Boston did a nice job of adding role players to the mix with Derek Morris(notes), Steve Begin(notes) and Shane Hnidy(notes).
4. Vancouver Canucks – You want an early Calder Trophy candidate? Remember the name Cody Hodgson(notes), the 19-year-old center the Canucks drafted 10th overall in 2008. He’s got a great chance not only to make Vancouver’s opening-night roster, but to excel right off the bat. Oh, and don’t be surprised if Mats Sundin(notes) returns to Vancouver once he decides he’s not done yet.
6. Detroit Red Wings – Far more departures here than arrivals, but that’s probably bad news for the league since it gives the Wings room to promote deserving prospects from the minors. Gone are Hossa, Mikael Samuelsson(notes), Tomas Kopecky(notes) and Ty Conklin(notes). And Jiri Hudler(notes) … we think.
7. Washington Capitals – Not that the Caps are lacking for young leaders, but the dynamics of the locker room along with the average age of the team will change with grizzled veterans Sergei Fedorov(notes), Victor Kozlov and Donald Brashear(notes) all departed.
9. Anaheim Ducks – Maybe the most significant departure here is highly respected goaltending coach Francois Allaire, who exited for Toronto. Allaire was credited for helping Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes), Ilya Bryzgalov(notes) and Jonas Hiller(notes) all blossom during his time in Anaheim. Ex-NHL goalie Pete Peeters has been hired to replace Allaire.
10. San Jose Sharks – No big moves yet. Rob Blake(notes) is back for another year and restricted free agent Ryane Clowe(notes) gets a new contract. Fourth-line center Scott Nichol(notes) comes over from Nashville, but the rest of the moves are all departures – Marcel Goc(notes), Mike Grier(notes), Brian Boucher(notes), Claude Lemieux and Jeremy Roenick(notes). More moves must be coming.
11. New Jersey Devils – Losing Brian Gionta(notes) and John Madden(notes) doesn’t help. The Devils also said goodbye to Michael Rupp(notes) and Scott Clemmensen(notes). Yann Danis(notes) is the only outsider to arrive, and he doesn’t figure to see much action if Martin Brodeur(notes) remains healthy. Travis Zajac(notes), Andy Greene(notes), Brendan Shanahan(notes) and Johnny Oduya(notes) were re-signed.
12. New York Rangers – Rumor has it Chris Chelios(notes) wants to play on Broadway. OK, he probably doesn’t have a lot left, but he is a coach on the ice and mentor in the dressing room a la Jeremy Roenick the last two years in San Jose.
13. Carolina Hurricanes – Here’s something random: Can we please change the team logo and maybe spiff up that uniform? How about a throwback to the look of the Whalers? New colors. Anything but black. Thank you.
15. St. Louis Blues – The Blues, who open the regular season early in Sweden, heard plenty about injuries last year but now are learning that Eric Brewer(notes) is hitting some resistance in his rehabilitation from early-spring back surgery. The team is not ruling out the defenseman’s return by the start of the season, but it’s questionable at best.
16. Montreal Canadiens – If the Habs don’t have enough new faces already – Scott Gomez(notes), Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Travis Moen(notes), Paul Mara(notes), Hal Gill(notes) and Jaroslav Spacek(notes) – word is GM Bob Gainey wants to add a big center to his revamped lineup and has interest in San Jose’s Patrick Marleau(notes).
17. Columbus Blue Jackets – We’re not sure what to make of this, but the Blue Jackets have never needed salary arbitration to decide what negotiations between player and management could not. Defenseman Marc Methot(notes) agreed to a two-year deal to avoid a hearing this summer.
18. Los Angeles Kings – The Kings finished last season having to play 10 of their final 13 games on the road, but they’re going to be in much better shape this season if they’re still in the playoff chase. Eleven of their 21 post-Olympic break games are at home.
19. Minnesota Wild – The big question: What kind of system will new coach Todd Richards run? The Wild have known nothing beyond what Jacques Lemaire favored, but with the first change behind the bench in franchise history comes plenty of speculation that the team will be more offensive-minded going forward if they have the right personnel.
20. Buffalo Sabres – It’s good to see a team that missed out on the playoffs for consecutive seasons not make longtime GM Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff scapegoats.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs – Normally one might worry about Luke Schenn(notes) falling victim to the sophomore slump, but he’s going to find a blue line that now includes Mike Komisarek(notes), Francois Beauchemin(notes) and Garnet Exelby(notes) far more helpful than the one he helped patrol during his rookie season last year.
22. Ottawa Senators – If one thing is for sure, it’s that Dany Heatley isn’t going to be elected team captain here.
23. Florida Panthers – You want to hear something funny? Acting general manager Randy Sexton said the team doesn’t really need to make any more changes before camp begins. The team, which is for sale, doesn’t have a permanent GM and doesn’t exactly resemble a power on the ice.
24. Dallas Stars – There’s a new general manager (Joe Nieuwendyk(notes)), a new coach (Marc Crawford), no Sergei Zubov(notes), team owner Tom Hicks is having financial difficulties, and the team is coming off a non-playoff season. Does anyone have any idea what to expect from the Stars?
26. New York Islanders – Manny Fernandez(notes), Manny Legace(notes), Curtis Joseph(notes) and Olaf Kolzig(notes) still are available if the Isles want to add a fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh goalie.
27. Atlanta Thrashers – Has Kari Lehtonen(notes) been hanging out with Rick DiPietro(notes)? The oft-injured Finnish goalie needed surgery to repair a herniated disk after complaining of back pain in early summer, and the team hopes he can get back on the ice before training camp.
29. Nashville Predators – The Preds were a non-playoff team last year and it doesn’t look like they’re going to get any help before the season starts. Between the budget and the fact that it’s pretty hard to recruit players here, Nashville is in danger of sinking to the basement in the division and perhaps even the conference.
30. Phoenix Coyotes – That the team lost Darren Pang because the television analyst didn’t know with whom to negotiate a new contract tells you all you need to know about how upside-down things are in the desert.