The All-Star game is over a week behind us and now begins the drive to the playoffs. The rankings below are not subjective to my personal opinions, but rather the result of a mathematical equation whose only bias is margin of error. The list never deviates from the formula, which this week was modified to include success in the last 10 games, where PTS per game (minus shootouts and overtime loss points) and goal differential still carry the most weight.
1. Boston Bruins (last rank #1): Simply the best, better than all the rest.
2. NY Rangers (last rank #2): It's too bad that Wade Redden would not clear re-entry waivers if called up, because the Rangers would be a better team if they could. Though I'm not sure how kind the AHL experience has been to his game.
3. Detroit Red Wings (last rank #4): The next two weeks without Howard will be a challenge. No team should ever have Ty Conklin as their starting goaltender, which helps make the case that perhaps nobody should have him as a back-up goaltender. Joey MacDonald lost to Phoenix tonight, so the team will be counting the days until Howard's return.
4. Vancouver Canucks (last rank #3): To listen to Vancouver Sportstalk radio you'd think the team was mired in a terrible slump, but really it has just been a streak of mediocrity. Nothing to worry about. Jannik Hansen has fallen off the map and the team really misses Sami Salo.
5. St. Louis Blues (last rank #5): When I added TJ Oshie to my fantasy team a few weeks ago, he arrived with significant expectations that he has fallen far short of. That being said, their goaltending has been so ridiculously spectacular that any scoring they get is just gravy.
6. Nashville Predators (last rank #11): This is a playoff team. There is no doubt. One of the hottest teams in hockey with one of the best goaltenders in hockey. They have a 50-50 chance of winning their first playoff series.
7. Philadelphia Flyers (last rank #6): Still holding despite key injuries all season. Like Pittsburgh, their support staff has made key contributions to winning hockey games.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (last rank #9): Evgeni Malkin is my Hart Trophy favourite at this point in the season. Letang is back, Fleury is playing outstanding, and there are rumblings Crosby could be back soon. Stay tuned, they could be a contender.
9. San Jose Sharks (last rank #7): They are a strong team with a great chance at going 2 rounds in the postseason. Marleau and Clowe are clicking right now. It seems like somebody on that roster is always producing. They are deep enough to endure multiple cold streaks at any given moment in time.
10. Chicago Blackhawks (last rank #8): When you make Sam Gagner look like the best player the league has seen in 30 years, there's a problem. Their goaltending is struggling as this starts to feel like a team who will coast into the playoffs and lose in the first round. Tough to say of a team led by Toews, but it is what it is.
11. New Jersey Devils (last rank #16): They're hot, and they are a playoff team. If Parise goes anywhere, it will be on July 31st. Ilya Kovalchuck has 9 PTS in 3 GP already this month. This is a team that I would not be enthusiastic to play in the first round. Capable of producing an upset.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs (last rank #15): Back to back shutouts by James Reimer has the Leafs rolling again, as they start to cement their hold on a playoff spot. If they play New York or Boston in the first round, they will lose. If they play Florida or Washington, maybe there's a chance.
13. Washington Capitals (last rank #10): The best team not currently sitting in a playoff spot, these guys should make it to the big show and lose in the first round. Some rumours have Semin heading to Detroit to play with Datsyuk, but I'm not convinced the Wings want him. Besides, Bertuzzi and Franzen have been playing great with Pavel this year.
14. Los Angeles Kings (last rank #13): This team has way too much talent to have this much trouble scoring. Perhaps Mike Richards was not a bright idea, as his 26 PTS in 45 GP has to be considered a significant disappointment, but not quite as catastrophic as Penner's 12 PTS in 41 GP. Do they miss Ryan Smyth that much?
15. Dallas Stars (last rank #12): Jamie Benn is working his way into the NHL's elite tier. If this team makes the playoffs, it will be on the shoulders of Benn and goaltender Kari Lehtonen. They don't have a lot of pending UFA's of significant value, but they might consider shipping out a Souray or Grossman at the right price. They'll try to make the playoffs though. They need the money.
16. Florida Panthers (last rank #17): The worst team currently leading a division in points. They've got Brian Campbell playing 27-30 minutes most nights, really making him work for that $7M. Still two of Florida, Washington, and Ottawa will make the playoffs in my estimation.
17. Minnesota Wild (last rank #18): Marek Zidlicky the healthy scratch, though you can make the argument that this is a better team without him in the line-up. Regardless of their fast start, they are who we thought they were, a bubble playoff team.
18. Calgary Flames (last rank #22): Sarich, Jokinen, Stempniak, Moss, Hannan, and Jackman could all fetch a price if Calgary decides to be sellers. Right now they are 4 PTS out of a playoff spot, and surely they will fight with the Wild until the bitter end.
19. Phoenix Coyotes (last rank #19): This teams has a lot of assets to sell if they decide to sell; Doan, Whitney, Pyatt, Rosizval, Aucoin, Sauer, but they are struggling to stay alive as a franchise so there will be pressure to fight until the end. It doesn't do the team short term good to have a fire sale, and right now they have a short term outlook.
20. Montreal Canadiens (last rank #23): They are slowly getting better, but this is not a playoff team. Any team who actually trades for Scott Gomez at that price and that term is doomed to future failure. That's a team killing contract.
21. Tampa Bay Lightning (last rank #27): Don't look now but the Lightning are heating up and finally playing good hockey. Matt Garon has taken over the goaltending duties, and they are getting the most out of his skill set. Still, Garon is not the future. If Luongo flames out in the playoffs again, look for a possible trade on draft day.
22. Ottawa Senators (last rank #14): Currently rated as the worst team holding down a playoff spot. They are currently on a league high 6 game losing streak, as they fortunes seem to have completely collapsed leading into and following their city hosting all-star weekend.
23. Edmonton Oilers (last rank #25): Now that Sam Gagner has established himself as an elite player in this league, this team should be ready to rumble. With a player the calibre of Sam Gagner, this team can't lose, ever. He should fetch 3 first round picks on the open market. Of course, this is a sarcastic rendition of what the pundits were saying after is 8 point night.
24. Winnipeg Jets (last rank #21): They'll fight for the playoffs until the bitter end, but this is not the year. It might be useful to sell some assets and build for the future. They have some quality assets in place, like Evander Kane, who will be a star in this league.
25. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (last rank #28): They are slowly climbing out of the basement, but still the playoffs is an unlikely scenario. Getzlaf, Perry, and Ryan will all likely stay where they are. That trade talk was most likely the team trying to light a fire under their asses. Nobody wants to leave Anaheim. It's Cali baby!
26. NY Islanders (last rank #29): Showing some improvement and perhaps providing Islanders fans with some hope for next season. If DiPietro is a write-off, then they need Al Montoya to have a future, but it's not looking all that good. I can't remember a goalie as devastated by injuries over a longer period of time than Rick.D. Maybe he needs to change his style of play?
27. Carolina Hurricanes (last rank #26): I don't know how much this team expects to get for Tuomo Ruutu. The most I'd trade is a 2nd round pick and a C+ prospect.
28. Colorado Avalanche (last rank #20): They had been on a roll entering 2012, but the bottom has fallen out and they suck again. The hot and cold streaks of this team have been remarkable. If I were the GM, every player on this roster would be available, except maybe Landeskog and E.Johnson. I'm not sure I'd want to pay Matt Duchesne's asking price because I'm not sure he's worth that much.
29. Buffalo Sabres (last rank #24): Do you think that owner is pleased that he decided to fork out all that money in the off-season and bump the team budget right to the cap? The GM should probably be afraid for his job. That Leino contract was a bad idea.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets (last rank #30): The first pick will do this team some good, with any luck.