We’ve already seen a couple of regular season games in Europe and the National Hockey League opens in earnest this week, with the Bruins’ kicking off their quest for one more Cup run on Wednesday in Washington.
That means it’s time for the inaugural Power Rankings for the 2022-23 season. Be sure to save these. A couple of placements no doubt will provide a good chuckle in a month or two.
- Colorado Avalanche – Yes, the Nazem Kadri and Darcy Kuemper defections are not minor losses, but the Cale Makar-Nathan MacKinnon combo is the Orr-Esposito of our day. The easy pick is often the right one.
- Calgary Flames – How do you lose Johnny Gaudreau for nothing and get better? GM Brad Treliving managed it by getting Jonathan Huberdeau and Mackenzie Weegar back for Matthew Tkachuk and then landing Nazem Kadri.
- Toronto Maple Leafs – After the Blue Jays’ collapse, the pressure is off the Leafs. Watch out!
- Tampa Bay Lightning – The gut tells me the Bolts are going to feel the losses of Ryan McDonagh and Ondrej Palat. But the gut told me the same thing when they lost their entire third line, and they still made it to the finals.
- Carolina Hurricanes – Swapping out Tony DeAngelo for Brent Burns is an upgrade for a team that should have taken the next step last year. But will Freddie Andersen ever excel when it matters?
- Edmonton Oilers – Defense and goaltending remain an issue and that will eventually be their undoing. But the talent up front is sublime.
- St. Louis Blues – The Blues gave the Avs as much trouble as the Lightning did. Still a very hard team to play against.
- New York Rangers – The Blueshirts have a punishing defense, explosive offense and the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Still a little green, but they’re coming.
- Minnesota Wild – Kirill Kaprizov is in the top tier of explosive offensive talents and Minny plays with an edge. Matt Boldy is ready to take off and, in Marc-Andre Fleury, the Wild have a goalie who can steal games on off nights.
- Florida Panthers – The acquisition of Matthew Tkachuk will make the Panthers a bigger pain in the tush, but the defense is not a Cup-caliber group.
- Boston Bruins – The Dad car of the NHL – hardly the sexiest heap on the lot, but dependable. Provided they survive the early injuries, they should be in the playoffs with a puncher’s chance once they get there.
- Pittsburgh Penguins – Goaltending issues have submarined the Pens the last couple of years. A sound, if aging, team that will be in the playoffs again.
- Los Angeles Kings – Already back on the rise, the Kings’ addition of Kevin Fiala should keep the trajectory going upward.
- Nashville Predators – The additions of McDonagh and Nino Niederreiter will boost a team that was surprisingly competitive last year.
- Dallas Stars – With enough good young players, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn don’t have to be the best players, despite their big salaries. Jake Oettinger could be the real thing.
- Vegas Golden Knights – It’ll be up to Bruce Cassidy to get the best out of Jack Eichel, but the goaltending is a large question mark.
- Detroit Red Wings – With Mo Seider establishing himself as a beast, Steve Yzerman went hog wild in free agency with quality depth pieces. If there’s a team to make a drastic move in these rankings in the season, it could be the Wings. But let’s see how it all comes together.
- New York Islanders – I’d feel better about by the Isles if they stuck with Barry Trotz after a bad season that had some extenuating circumstances.
- Washington Capitals – The Caps have been showing their age the last couple of seasons and will be starting this season without Tom Wilson.
- Columbus Blue Jackets – The Jackets are used to seeing big-name players going out the door, but they surprised the hockey world by landing Johnny Gaudreau. Elvis Merzlikins is good, but he might need some help.
- Vancouver Canucks – Bruce Boudreau will get a full season with the ‘Nucks. That won’t get them into the post-season in a tough Western Conference.
- Ottawa Senators – GM Pierre Dorion is acquiring some very nice pieces, including Claude Giroux and, more importantly for the long-term future, Alex DeBrincat. But the Sens are still a year away from making their move.
- Winnipeg Jets – This team should have gone farther the last couple of years than it did. Rick Bowness is bringing a needed culture change, but it may be too late for this group.
- Anaheim Ducks – Trevor Zegras will have his share of highlight show appearances, but they won’t be able to hang in the west.
- New Jersey Devils – Some people see a big jump for this team. I’m starting to see what they’re seeing, but the defense has to show me before I jump on the bandwagon.
- Buffalo Sabres – The Sabres have nice pieces up front and they may finally have their No. 1 defenseman in Owen Power, but he’s too young to be relied upon to make a seismic shift in fortunes right now.
- Seattle Kraken – It will be interesting to see if ownership can maintain the patience to build the team properly.
- San Jose Sharks – Mike Grier and David Quinn will have their work cut out for them to turn this ship around.
- Philadelphia Flyers – John Tortorella will make the Flyers a tougher team. They’ll still lose a lot of games. The uncertainty of Sean Couturier’s availability is huge.
- Montreal Canadiens – Given the track record of Jeff Gorton, the Habs will be back. Their time is definitely not now.
- Chicago Blackhawks – The ‘Hawks’ googly eyes for Connor Bedard are clear with their offseason offloading.
- Arizona Coyotes – The ‘Yotes are a college team. Literally.