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Ranking the Top Half of the NHL

Ranking the top 16 teams in the NHL.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning: ⬆️3️⃣

The season ended in a brutal sweep by the Columbus Blue Jackets for the Bolts after their Presidents Trophy regular season. It was shocking, but it was not a waste. Tampa is going to come back angry, and looking to prove themselves all over again. There were still so many positives from last season. Nikita Kucherov absolutely exploded for 128 points and took home the MVP, and he is not going to fade, get used to his name atop the NHL leader boards. Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point all had at least 90 points and 40 goals. Point is probably the best second line center in the NHL. The Lightning's defense can help out in the attack, but they are rarely needed to. They are a very solid group. Coach Jon Cooper and his staff cut back on Andrei Vasilevskiy's time during the regular season, and he rewarded them with a Vezina Trophy. Tampa should be very happy that they have him locked up long term. Anton Stralman and Ryan Callahan will barely be missed in Tampa, and because of their depth, J.T. Miller can be replaced. They were not very active in trying to sign new players this off season, but they didn't have to be. This is still a great team, but can they solve their Steven Stamkos era playoff woes?

Additions: Curtis McElhinney, Luke Schenn, Mike Condon

Losses: J.T. Miller, Anton Stralman, Ryan Callahan

2. Boston Bruins: ➡️⬅️

It's a terrible feeling, but the Bruins played their hearts out, and things just did not go their way. They still have a very strong team, built around the best first line in the NHL in Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron. Those three finished sixth, seventh, and eighth in the NHL in points per game. That is unheard of production by one line. They have a ton of depth at the defense position, one of the reasons they made it to the cup final. Torey Krug is a wizard with the puck, and Charlie McAvoy is one of the most fluid skaters in the game. He is going to be, and already is one of the best defenseman in the NHL. Despite what people say about Tuukka Rask, he is still an elite goalie, and was stellar in the Bruins Cup final run. I wouldn't be surprised if GM Don Sweeney is active during the season like he was this past year in acquiring Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson. His main priority should be trying to find someone who can play on David Krejci's wing with Jake DeBrusk, as that is the teams only weak point. This group has experience now, and they are going to come back in search of that one more win.

Additions: Brett Ritchie, Par Lindholm

Losses: Marcus Johansson, Noel Acciari

3. St. Louis Blues: ⬇️2️⃣

Everything went right in the second half of the season for the Blues, and they took complete advantage of that, and won the Stanley Cup. Now, it is their road to repeat. What separates St. Louis, and what lead to their championship, is the depth, and their grit. St. Louis can send out any of their lines against any opposing line that they want to. They set up great mismatches for the firs two lines when they do that. Ryan O'Reilly was by far the teams best player in the playoffs. When teammates went cold, he was always there to carry this team. This defense is really tough, and they have some big bodies. Four out of their six defense are at least 6'3", and every one of them is over 200 lbs. Their forwards play tough too. They make the opposing team think twice every time they touch the puck, because someone is coming to hit them. Jordan Binnington was outstanding last year. Expect him to take a little step back, because that is what young goalies do, but the Blues have that position solved for a while. They have a strsong team, but there is just so much luck that has to go your way to win a Stanley Cup that I don't see them doing it two years in a row.

Additions: Derrick Pouliot, Jake Dotchin

Losses: Jordan Schmaltz,

4. Toronto Maple Leafs: ⬆️4️⃣

I bet that Maple Leaf fans hate the NHL's playoff format almost as much as I do. If they want to go deep into the playoffs they are going to have to go through both the Bruins and Lightning in by far the toughest division in the NHL. Last year Toronto showed us all year long how talented they are, but once again failed to make it out of the first round. Despite all of the transactions, leading the way in 2019-20 will be the same three guys. In my opinion, Mitch Marner is the best player on this team, and his team leading 94 points back that up. John Tavares was a good fit, as he had career highs in both goals and points, but Auston Matthews disappointing me last year. We all know he can score, but he has got to start working on the other parts of his game. He had a -9 plus/minus last year. Their defense once again let them down, so bringing in Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci should help a little. Trading Kadri was a bit of a statement that they were tired of his poorly timed playoff suspensions, but they will miss him up the middle. Toronto has had a few changes, but they are in the exact same boat that they were one year ago, and they still have to prove themselves in the playoffs.

Additions: Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot, Cody Ceci, Jason Spezza

Losses: Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau, Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, Tyler Ennis, Ron Haisey

5. Nashville Predators: ⬆️5️⃣

I'm sorry to say this, but P.K. Subban's game really fell last year. He's just nowhere near the defenseman he used to be. Losing him will hurt, but not as much as many think. The Preds defense is still stacked. Roman Josi, Mattias Eckholm, and Ryan Ellis all had more points than Subban last season, and are all much more sound defensively as well. Matt Duchene's 70 points last year would have lead the Predators. Nashville needed a center, they went out and got one. I love this move by David Poile, Duchene is going to fit in extremely well with this team. I believe that Pekka Rinne still has a few more elite years in him, but am interested to see how the Predators handle young backup Juuse Saros. He's only 24 years old, and is clearly going to become a starting goalie in his career, Nashville might not be able to keep both Rinne and Saros. The Predators dropped 17 points from the 2017-18, and beat out the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis by only one point in the Central division. WHile saying that, they have great depth, arguably the best defensive unit in the NHL, and two trustworthy goalies. They are absolutely a Stanley Cup threat, but they better watch their back in the Central Division.

Additions: Matt Duchene, Steven Santini

Losses: P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds

6. Calgary Flames: ⬇️1️⃣

I like the position that the Flames are in. They won the Western Conference with 107 points in the regular season last year, and are a fast, young team. And yet, for some reason they are not considered a Stanley Cup threat. David Ritchie was good in net last year, not outstanding, but good. He's going to have to keep it up, if not be better for another successful season for the Flames. Johnny Gaudreau is overlooked, and then doubted, and then overlooked again, but he can flat out play. He is living proof that hockey players do not have to be giants. Mark Giordano exploded last year for 74 points and the Norris Trophy. The Flames were criticized for the James Neal for Milan Lucic trade , but here are the facts: last year, Neal had 7 goals and nineteen points, Lucic had 6 goals and 20 points. Neal might be more talented, but he just did not fit with the Flames, sometimes that happens. Lucic provides a needed big body for in Calgary. They need to prove that they can win in the playoffs though.

Additions: Cam Talbot, Milan Lucic

Losses: Mike Smith, James Neal

7. Washington Capitals: ➡️⬅️

The Caps won the 2018 Stanley Cup, and had mostly the same team in 2019, but they just did not have the fire in their game that is required to win in the playoffs. What more does Alex Ovechkin have to prove? He's won eight Maurice Richard Trophies, he's a three time winner of both the Ted Lindsay and Hart Memorial awards, he's won a Calder Trophy, and an Art Ross, and now he has his Stanley Cup, and Conn Smythe. This lineup just is not as scary as it was a year ago. I know that there haven't been many major changes, but the feeling is just different. Richard Panik has the potential to score 20 goals this year, but he is extremely injury prone. Radko Gudas might be a few years younger than Matt Niskanen, but he is certainly a downgrade. Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic should mostly replace the losses of Andre Burakovsky and Brett Connolly. This team is still a threat, especially in a very weak Metropolitan Division, but for me, they are just getting a year older, and a year farther from the Stanley Cup.

Additions: Richard Panik, Radko Gudas, Garnet Hathaway, Brendan Leipsic

Losses: Andre Burakovky, Brett Connolly, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen

8. San Jose Sharks: ⬇️5️⃣

Last year was their year. It's really too bad, as the Sharks had a really strong team last year, but injuries took them down in the Western Conference Finals. It just feels like their window has closed. All those years, their defense let them down, but now it might be the opposite. Burns is playing at the highest level in his career, and his defensive partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic is highly under rated for his shut down play. Erik Karlsson was really rushed back last year, and it's tough to blame anyone for that happening, but his health has been an issue as of late. Tomas Hertl's game really emerged last year. He scored 35 goals, and is going to be the teams most dangerous offensive threat. I'm interested to see whether he or Logan Couture is the teams first line center. San Jose has the kind of team with too many second line players. They are going to have a strong second line no matter what happens, but it's their first line that will be lacking. I just don't think that they have the skills to compete with other elite groups. Martin Jones played really poorly last year in both the regular season and playoffs. He needs to show that he can be trusted on a successful team.

Additions: Dalton Prout,

Losses: Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi, Gustav Nyquist, Justin Braun, Joakim Ryan

9. Winnipeg Jets: ⬆️2️⃣

Something is just not working out with the Jets. They have everything it takes to win a Stanley Cup, yet they keep faltering. I don't know what was happening with Patrick Laine. His slumps were insane. He finished the year with 30 goals, down 14 from last year, and had a -24 plus/minus. The problem with his game is that he doesn't do anything well but score, and when he is not scoring, he is one of the worst forwards in the league and holds his team back. On the other hand, guys like Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor keep this team afloat. Scheifele is one of the most under rated players in the NHL. Their depth at forward is also a strong point. Connor Hellebuyck regressed last year, and maybe that is in part due to a shaky defense in front of him, but he has to prove that he can be consistent game in and game out. He also needs to find the way he was playing during the 2018 season and playoffs again. The Jets defense was not reliable with Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers, but this year they are going to be even worse. There are going to be some high scoring games in Winnipeg. If this team can figure things out, they might be the best team in the West. If they play like they did last year though, it will be another disappointing season in Winnipeg.

Additions: Neal Pionk, Nathan Beaulieu,

Losses: Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, Ben Chiarot, Brandon Tanev

10. Colorado Avalanche: ⬆️5️⃣

There are going to be ups and downs, but that is completely expected from a young team. Going into the offseason we knew that the Avalanche had one of the best first lines in the NHL consisting of team captain Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen. MacKinnon has turned into one of the leagues best centers with seasons of 97 and then 99 points in his last two campaigns. He has blended perfectly with brilliant playmaker Mikko Rantanen. Beyond the first line though, there were many questions. Those have now been answered. Joe Sakic went out and built a whole new second line for the Avs. He traded for Nazem Kadri, a former thirty goal scorer as a second line center with the Maple Leafs, and also added Andre Burakovsky from the Capitals, and Joonas Donskoi from the Sharks. It might not be the most prolific second line, but they will be able to compete with any group in the NHL. The defense is going to miss Tyson Barrie, there are no two ways about it. Cale Makar has a very bright future, but we must remember that he is young, and will have bumps along the road. After letting Semyon Varlamov leave, Colorado is entrusting itself into the hands of Phillip Grubauer in net.

Additions: Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Kevin Connauton, Joonas Donskoi, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Losses: Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot, Carl Soderberg, Semyon Varlamov

11. Dallas Stars: ⬆️3️⃣

The Stars are officially in win now mode. Going out and signing Joe Pavelski was more than just a statement that they are a Cup threat, but it's a really big move for them. Beyond the first line, not one forward on this team had more than 30 points. With Roope Hintz emerging, Dallas could be able to piece together a decent second line around Pavelski. Certainly no one has to worry about their first line. Points wise, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov might not have had their most prolific seasons, but it's that two way play that has greatly improved, and is what contributed to the teams success last season. Miro Heiskanen has an extremely bright future. He needs to work on his defensive game like many young players, but his offensive side abounds with talent. The Stars will have a pretty strong top four on the blue line with Heiskanen, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, and Andrej Sekera. Ben Bishop had an outstanding season last year, and was a Vezina Trophy finalist. If anything holds the Stars back this season it will be their depth, but the plan for the future attitude is over, they want to win now.

Additions: Joe Pavelski, Corey Perry, Andrej Sekera

Losses: Mats Zuccarello, Jason Spezza, Tyler Pitlick, Brett Ritchie, Valeri Nichuskin, Marc Methot

12. Vegas Golden Knights: ⬆️4️⃣

Simply put, Vegas got worse this offseason, not by much, but they did not improve either. Losing Colin Miller will hurt, but remember that Erik Haula only played 15 games last year. Their main goal was re-signing William Karlsson though, and they did that, so there is a positive. Marc-Andre Fleury is the heart and backbone of this franchise, and I can't help but think that his end is coming fast. He plays tons of minutes, and his took a turn for the worse last year. While saying that though, Vegas has a chance to win any game that he is in net. It seemed like a bit of the magic faded off of this team last year. Because they were flirting with the salary cap, and had to re-sign William Karlsson, they couldn't add anyone in the offseason. I appreciate their style, and how they were able to piece together an elite team in the expansion draft was extremely impressive, but they just don't have enough star power. Last year they did not have a 30 goal scorer, they did not have a 60 point scorer, and their powerplay was 25th in the NHL. Now I'm not saying that it is a lost cause, but sometimes you need one line, or one marquee player who will always come through for you. That absence showed in the playoffs last season.

Additions: Garrett Sparks,

Losses: Colin Miller, Erik Haula, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Carpenter,

13. Florida Panthers: ⬆️6️⃣

The Panthers are one of the most improved team from last year. And Anton Stralman, Brett Connolly, and Noel Acciari are nice, but that is because of Sergei Bobrovsky. Imagine a Panthers team that doesn't give up the fourth most goals in the NHL, despite giving up less than the average amount of shots. It was a clear weak spot on this team last year, but Bobrovsky fixes everything. They will finally have stability in between the pipes, and it will lead to a playoff appearance. Alexander Barkov played at a super star level last year, and Jonathan Huberdeau was not far behind. Barkov's 96 points had him tenth in the NHL, and Huberdeau's 92 sat him thirteenth. That is right ahead of guys like Blake Wheeler, Alex Ovechkin, and John Tavares to give some context. With Evgenii Dadonov on their right wing, these three form a top five first line. Their second and third lines have some weak points (third line center, second line right wing), but that is expected from an up and coming team. Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad form a really strong first pair on defense, and Anton Stralman does add some needed depth. This team is not perfect, but if they get hot, they will be extremely dangerous.

Additions: Sergei Bobrovsky, Anton Stralman, Brett Connolly, Noel Acciari, Scott Darling

Losses: James Reimer

14. Pittsburgh Penguins: ⬇️1️⃣

There is no doubt about it, this team has tons of skill. They only added to that in the Phil Kessel for Alex Galchenyuk trade. I know this trade looks bad for them on paper, but they just needed a little change of scenery up front after a dissapointing season last year. Galchenyuk was not at the point production Kessel was at last year, but if he realizes that if he sticks to left wing, he has an opportunity to play alongside Evgeni Malkin, then he might be better than Kessel. This is one of the oldest teams in the NHL, and their window is closing, but it just seems like that extra notch needed to be an elite team in this league is gone. This offense is one of the best in the league, and that is in part due to the offensive nature of their defenseman. It is a blessing and a curse though. Kris Letang is still a liability in his own end, and I worry if he can stay healthy. The defense has a huge drop off after the top three of Letang, Brian Dumoulin, and Justin Schultz as well. There are so many choices for head coach Mike Sullivan to make on offense, but this group is going to be strong as long as they have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin up the middle. I just don't trust their back end, and that includes Matt Murray in net.

Additions: Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Tanev, Dominik Kahun, Pierre-Olivier Joseph

Losses: Phil Kessel, Matt Cullen, Olli Maatta, Chris Wideman, Garrett Wilson

15. Carolina Hurricanes: ⬇️5️⃣

There weren't any huge new names involved with the Hurricanes this season, but they were incredibly active. They accomplished everything that they wanted to, and that leads off with re-signing Sebastian Aho. He has become the face of their franchise, he's their best center, goalscorer, playmaker, and he is their go to guy. Bringing in Erik Haula was a very under rated move. His stock really plummeted because of his injury last year that kept him out of almost 70 games, but he has the potential to score 30 goals with this team, especially if they put him on the first line. I guess the Canes want to continue on this two goalie path. They lossed Curtis McElhinney, but replaced him with James Reimer. In the regular season, Petr Mrazek started 40 games, and McElhinney started 33. In the playoffs, it was eleven and five. I expect Reimer and Mrazek to split time pretty evenly unless one of them really emerges or falls apart. The Eastern Conference final run was a huge surprise last year, but with a weak Metropolitan division, it just could happen again. While saying that though, this team is not a Stanley Cup threat.

Additions: Erik Haula, Ryan Dzingel, Gustav Forsling, Brian Gibbons, James Reimer

Losses: Micheal Ferland, Calvin de Haan, Curtis McElhinney, Scott Darling, Greg McKegg,

16. New Jersey Devils: ⬆️1️⃣3️⃣

The Devils are going to be a new team in 2019-20. First of all, and most importantly, Taylor Hall is back. This man won the MVP in 2018. He is one of the leagues best players. Period. He will do nothing but good in developing first overall pick Jack Hughes. Hughes is projected to start the season as the first line center, with Hall to his left wing. Now the Devils had such an active off season, with many many great additions, but not all were as great as they were made out to be. P.K. Subban will bring a lot of much needed energy to New Jersey, but his game has really taken a turn for the worse. In past seasons, he could control the play with his skating, and was almost always the most important guy on the ice. That ability is gone. He's a good defenseman, but not nearly as dominant as he once was. I am really interested to see how Nikita Gusev does in the NHL. The KHL star will likely fit in alongside Nico Hischier on the second line, and could be a sleeper turned star. The addition of Wayne Simmonds will add some grit to their third line, along with some scoring touch. Their defensive corps will go under the radar, but they have a solid group. This team just needs some experience, and a goalie.

Additions: P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, John Hayden, Nikita Gusev

Losses: Steven Santini, Kenny Agostino, Kurtis Gabriel, John Quenneville, Blake Pietila

Honorable Mentions:

1. New York Islanders

2. Arizona Coyotes

3. New York Rangers

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