NHL Preseason Power Rankings: It's Been A Long Summer

CHICAGO - JUNE 11: Patrick Kane #88 holds up the Stanley Cup trophy during the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory parade and rally on June 11, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

SB Nation's NHL Power Rankings are back. In the preseason edition, we run away from a summer of contract debates and collective bargaining and actually get back to talking about what we all care about: hockey.

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Ahh, hockey season.

We could say that the season has already begun, what with rookie camps opening across the NHL and most veterans already skating around with each other in anticipation of real training camps opening this Friday.

Sure, when the players hit the ice, that means hockey has begun.

But the real clue that the season is finally here is that all that offseason BS comes to a grinding halt. Those annoying, summer-long, business-related, "can we just talk about sticks and pucks, please?" storylines have all but fallen off of our radar.

Maybe it's the Ilya Kovalchuk saga finally, officially coming to a close just over a week ago, or its second conclusion on Monday as the NHL handed out fines to the Devils.

Or maybe it's Bill Guerin finally finding a home (maybe), or perhaps Roberto Luongo handing over the 'C' in Vancouver after a long summer of contemplation. Or maybe it's the Oilers essentially ridding themselves of the Sheldon Souray headache before camp begins.

Perhaps, if you're a Ducks fan, it's that, yes, Bobby Ryan has finally signed with your team. It only took, what, three months? But he's signed. Sealed. Delivered to camp.

Whatever the reason may be with your team, it's finally feeling like hockey season now as summer slowly turns to fall -- at least here in the Northeast. And as hockey season begins, that means only one thing. It's time for some preseason power rankings.

If you're unfamiliar with the way we do things here at SB Nation, our 70-plus team bloggers from around our great hockey network vote each week on our rankings. Since the NHL doesn't put much emphasis on cross-conference play, and since the two conferences are vastly different and usually end up that way come mid-April, we take two polls each week -- one for the East, one for the West.

Bloggers in our network who cover a Western team vote in the Western poll, while bloggers who cover an Eastern team vote in the Eastern poll, so don't try to argue that the opposite coast bias kept your team out of a spot. Bloggers with general, non-team sites are free to select the conference in which they vote.

So, without further adieu, here are SB Nation's NHL Preseason Power Rankings.


15. Florida Panthers

2009-10 record: 32-37-13, 77 pts, 5th in Southeast

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: Litter Box Cats

The Panthers have undergone a serious makeover since hiring Dale Tallon as general manager in May. The shakeup represents a serious overhaul down in Sunrise, and while ultimately the moves will likely put the Panthers on a road toward hockey recovery, for now, there are too many questions and not enough answers to believe the team will be able to put it all together in 2010-11.

14. New York Islanders

2009-10 record: 34-37-11, 79 pts, 5th in Atlantic

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: Lighthouse Hockey

There's progress on Long Island. We swear. It seems that year in, year out since the beginning of the decade, the Islanders have just been idling along at the bottom of the conference. But in reality, the team only really committed to a youth movement very recently, and while they have ambitions to spend money and land guys like Ilya Kovalchuk, the truth is that Mark Eaton is the kind of free agent willing to head to Uniondale.

So, they wait. They wait for John Tavares to reach his potential and for their goalie situation to figure itself out. But if they keep having drafts like the ones they had in 2009 and 2010, the Islanders won't be down for much longer.

13. Atlanta Thrashers

2009-10 record: 35-34-13, 83 pts, 2nd in Southeast

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: Bird Watchers Anonymous

It's hard to believe that the Thrashers almost made the playoffs last season, right? With Ilya Kovalchuk gone at the trade deadline, the team turned up the heat and went on quite the March run, but ultimately, things just fell short. Now, with a new coach and no number 17, there are questions in Atlanta as well.

At the very least, though, they have a lot of very recent Stanley Cup experience.

12. Carolina Hurricanes

2009-10 record: 35-37-10, 80 pts, 3rd in Southeast

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: Canes Country

Who has a handle on the Hurricanes? They go from Conference Finals to the bottom of the East in just a few short months, endure a youth coup on the leadership front, and they've experienced a ton of injuries. Our bloggers at Canes Country don't even know what to think. Could they be a surprising, upstart copy of last year's Avalanche?

11. Toronto Maple Leafs

2009-10 record: 30-38-14, 74 pts, 5th in Northeast

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: Pension Plan Puppets

Ranked 11th?! Are we talking about the same Maple Leafs here?

10. New York Rangers

2009-10 record: 38-33-11, 87 pts, 4th in Atlantic

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: Blueshirt Banter

After just barely missing the playoffs last year (thanks, Olli Jokinen), it's hard to judge where the Rangers will land this season. Alex Frolov could be a nice addition ... maybe. That's still up in the air. Henrik Lundqvist, the one guy who's kept the Rangers in playoff hunts in recent years, has complained this summer about playing time. Perhaps Martin Biron will sufficiently take the load off of Hank.

The biggest question, still, is will Marc Staal sign? He's their best defenseman, and without him, the Rangers need a lot of help.

9. Ottawa Senators

2009-10 record: 44-32-6, 94 pts

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in quarterfinals by Pittsburgh

SBN blog: Silver Seven

The all-star game is coming to Ottawa in 2012. At least that's something to look forward to.

No, seriously, the Sens are another team that's really hard to understand. They were so up-and-down last year and so riddled with injuries that nobody really knows what kind of team they have. Additions like Sergei Gonchar are nice, but you have to remember that Anton Volchenkov is out as well. Take the good with the bad and see what happens, I guess.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning

2009-10 record: 34-36-12, 80 pts, 4th in Southeast

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: Raw Charge

If you're talking about the one team in the NHL that's probably going to make the most progress this season, it's the Lightning. Under new reign from the owner's suite to the GM's office to behind the bench, things are exciting in Tampa these days. Steve Yzerman upgraded up front by adding Simon Gagne for practically nothing, and Dan Ellis added in goal, there's actually some competition between the pipes on this team.

More experience for Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos is only a good thing, too. The Bolts should be fun to watch.

7. Buffalo Sabres

2009-10 record: 45-27-10, 100 pts, 1st in Northeast

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in quarterfinals by Boston

SBN blog: Die By The Blade

We probably should've voted the Sabres in the top spot just for getting rid of the Dreaded Slug.

6. Montreal Canadiens

2009-10 record: 39-33-10, 88 pts, 4th in Northeast

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in East Finals by Philadelphia

SBN blog: Eyes On The Prize

The Canadiens will have to prove they're not a fluke, but even moreso, they have to prove this season that letting go of Jaroslav Halak was the right move. The spotlight is completely on Carey Price now, and well, he hasn't dealt with that well in the past. It should be interesting, to say the least.

5. Boston Bruins

2009-10 record: 39-30-13, 91 pts, 2nd in Northeast

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in semifinals by Philadelphia

SBN blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder

Make fun of their epic collapse in the playoffs all you want, but the Bruins are still a very solid hockey team as we head into the new season. They're healthy and they're good at literally every position. The only question is whether or not Tyler Seguin will be able to live up to the immediate hype.

Just don't make the kids cry again, Bruins.

4. Philadelphia Flyers

2009-10 record: 41-35-6, 88 pts, 3rd in Atlantic

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in Cup Final by Chicago

SBN blog: Broad Street Hockey

The defending Eastern champs have a lot of questions of their own, but fans in Philly hope that the demons that plagued the Flyers a season ago, when they barely snuck into the playoffs, have vanished with their team's remarkable 2010 playoff run.

Perhaps the best defense in the league will try to pull up suspect goaltending as that suspect goaltending tries to prove that last year wasn't a fluke. A full year of Peter Laviolette should help.

3. New Jersey Devils

2009-10 record: 48-27-7, 103 pts, 1st in Atlantic

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in quarterfinals by Philadelphia

SBN blog: In Lou We Trust

The Ilya Kovalchuk signing gives the Devils some questions next year in terms of personnel moves and the salary cap, but with only some minor decisions to make before dropping the puck on this season, things are looking great in Newark. Expect the Devils to be there all the way until the end.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

2009-10 record: 47-28-7, 101 pts, 2nd in Atlantic

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in semifinals by Montreal

SBN blog: Pensburgh

We all know the Penguins are good, and it's scary to think just how much better they got this offseason. Adding Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin on the back end is no joke, although losing Ruslan Fedotenko could hurt a bit up front. Still, if you think the Pens are going to have trouble scoring, you're highly mistaken. Ray Shero has done a great job getting this team prepared for the new year and hockey will be in the forefront in Pittsburgh yet again this winter.

1. Washington Capitals

2009-10 record: 54-15-13, 121 pts, 1st in Southeast

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in quarterfinals by Montreal

SBN blog: Japers' Rink

The Caps won the President's Trophy last year, and despite being bounced from the playoffs in the first round, they actually won the Wales Trophy too, apparently.

Once again, Alex Ovechkin and company are the favorites to actually win that thing ... as long as they can put it together come playoff time.


15. Edmonton Oilers

2009-10 record: 27-47-8, 62 pts, 5th in Northwest

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: The Copper & Blue

Kicking star players off the team. Goalies convicted of DUI. Just another summer in Edmonton.

But hey, Taylor Hall.

14. Columbus Blue Jackets

2009-10 record: 32-35-15, 79 pts, 5th in Central

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: The Cannon

Nikita Filatov is back in the fold in Columbus, but with a new coach and a giant question mark in goal, not much should be expected on the Blue Jackets this season. We wouldn't necessarily be surprised if they made a run and finished better than this projected 14th, though.

13. Dallas Stars

2009-10 record: 37-31-14, 88 pts, 5th in Pacific

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: Defending Big D

Mike Modano is out of the picture after decades with the organization, as is Marty Turco. Yes, things don't quite feel like 1999 anymore in Dallas. And the season likely won't look like 1999, either. They've transitioned into a young team, with Kari Lehtonen in goal and Jamie Benn ready to improve upon a fine rookie campaign. There's a lot to be excited about in Dallas, but it's going to take some time.

12. Anaheim Ducks

2009-10 record: 39-32-11, 89 pts, 4th in Pacific

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blogs: Anaheim Calling, Battle of California

Scoring won't be a problem for the Ducks this season. That top line should strike fear into every team in the Pacific Division next year, and when you add Teemu Selanne again, things look even better. But unfortunately, that's kind of where it stops for the Ducks. The defense is just, well, not good. Jonas Hiller can't do it by himself, bros.

11. Minnesota Wild

2009-10 record: 38-36-8, 84 pts, 4th in Northwest

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: Hockey Wilderness

Defense, defense, defense. There are defensive problems in Minnesota, and it all started with a weak season by usually-strong goalie Niklas Backstrom last year. John Madden and Matt Cullen are nice additions to the Wild, but is it enough to help them improve from a weak 09-10 season?

10. Calgary Flames

2009-10 record: 40-32-10, 90 pts, 3rd in Northwest

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: Matchsticks & Gasoline

Maybe there's something in the water in Alberta, because, yikes, the two hockey teams up there are a mess.

9. Nashville Predators

2009-10 record:47-29-6, 100 pts, 3rd in Central

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in quarterfinals by Chicago

SBN blog: On the Forecheck

We know what you're going to say, Preds fans. Outside looking in on this poll, we get no respect once again. And sure, maybe that's fair. After all, Nashville gave the eventual Cup winners a run for their money in the first round last year. But losing Dan Hamhuis and Denis Grebeshkov doesn't help things, and Sergei Kostitsyn can't be expected to set the world on fire, can he?

8. Colorado Avalanche

2009-10 record: 43-30-9, 95 pts, 2nd in Northwest

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in quarterfinals by San Jose

SBN blog: Mile High Hockey

How much of last year's run was a fluke, and how much of it was the young, exciting Avalanche just living up to their potential a bit early? We'll say it's a little of both and that they'll meet in the middle, right where they finished last year.

7. St. Louis Blues

2009-10 record: 40-32-10, 90 pts, 4th in Central

2009-10 playoff result: did not qualify

SBN blog: St. Louis Game Time

The Blues have been in flux for the past two seasons. An impressive run to the playoffs two years ago was probably just the result of a young team playing a bit over their heads, so when things went south last year, those high expectations crashed down violently. Still, the Blues only missed the playoffs by five points (they would've been in 7th place were they an Eastern team), and with addition of Jaroslav Halak in net, the Blues should make a run at the playoffs this year.

6. Phoenix Coyotes

2009-10 record: 50-25-7, 107 pts, 2nd in Pacific

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in quarterfinals by Detroit

SBN blog: Five For Howling

How the Coyotes have been able to be successful in the environment they occupy has been rather incredible, but really, there's no reason to expect that they won't be successful again this season.

5. Los Angeles Kings

2009-10 record: 46-27-9, 101 pts, 3rd in Pacific

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in quarterfinals by Vancouver

SBN blogs: Jewels From The Crown, Battle of California

The Kings almost knocked off the Canucks in the playoffs last year, and while they didn't land any big name free agents (no, Alexei Ponikarovsky doesn't count), they'll be able to pick up right where they left off a year ago. A playoff berth and even a series win or two shouldn't be out of the question for the Kings.

4. Detroit Red Wings

2009-10 record: 44-24-14, 102 pts, 2nd in Central

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in semifinals by San Jose

SBN blog: Winging It In Motown

The Wings are always going to be around. Just deal with it.

3. Vancouver Canucks

2009-10 record: 49-28-5, 103 pts, 1st in Northwest

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in semifinals by Chicago

SBN blog: Nucks Misconduct

Roberto Luongo isn't the captain anymore. Perhaps it'll take a bit of the mental load off and he'll be able to bear down and lead his team on a meaningful playoff run?

2. San Jose Sharks

2009-10 record: 51-20-11, 113 pts, 1st in Pacific

2009-10 playoff result: eliminated in Conference Finals by Chicago

SBN blogs: Fear The Fin, Battle of California

The biggest question in San Jose has to be goaltending. Evgeni Nabokov is gone and some combination of Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki is in. Beyond that, the team is once again solid across the board and should be one of the best regular season teams in the league.

1. Chicago Blackhawks

2009-10 record: 52-22-8, 112 pts, 1st in Central

2009-10 playoff result: won Stanley Cup

SBN blog: Second City Hockey

Much has been made of the Blackhawks' fire sale this offseason, but they're the reigning Cup champs. You gonna disrespect them like that?

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