Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mid March 2012 NHL Power Rankings

It has been 2 weeks now since the trade deadline and my last power rankings, making it time for an update. The previous rankings were done shortly after TD-day based on a formula of PTS per game, goal differential, and PTS in the last 10 games. Personal bias is not a factor, this is a mathematical equation. The "last rank" was right after the trade deadline, which does serve as a barometer for winners and losers.

1. St. Louis Blues (last rank #4): By my formula, this is now the best team in hockey. They have a gifted group of young hockey players. Makes you wonder if Hitchcock is that good, or if the coach he replaced a few months ago was that bad. Perhaps this should have been a top team right from day 1?

2. NY Rangers (last rank #1): They are maintaining, but their chances of winning the East diminish significantly with a healthy Sidney Crosby. Lundqvist has a 3.15 GAA in March, but Gaborik and Richards are putting the puck in the other team's net.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (last rank #6): It should be noted that Pit climbed to the #3 spot based largely on performance without Crosby. Put the best player in the game back in the line-up, and this could be your Stanley Cup champion.

4. Vancouver Canucks (last rank #2): Chris Higgins and Kevin Bieksa are leading the team in scoring in March, Sedins have 0 PTS this month, Luongo has an .889 SV% and Schneider is at .939. This team is ripe for a playoff upset. My big question, how many playoff games does Cory Schneider play? If I were taking bets, I'd set the over/under at 4. If they play Chicago in the first round, all bets are off.

5. Philadelphia Flyers (last rank #9): Ilya Bryzgalov has been playing out of this Universe in the month of March. Can it continue? Claude Giroux now has to be considered one of the top 5 forwards in the NHL. This kid is the real deal, enough to build a franchise around (which is what the Flyers did when they shipped Carter and Richards out of town).

6. Nashville Predators (last rank #7): Adding Radulov makes the #6 team all the scarier, not a team I'd want to play in the playoffs, sadly that is the team my Red Wings are most likely to play first. Needless to say, I'm concerned. The Kostitsyn brothers together again have been producing goals.

7. Detroit Red Wings (last rank #3): Life without Howard, Lidstrom, and Datsyuk have seen the Wings slip in the last 2 weeks. I'd prefer to think of it as those guys getting a rest before a playoff run. If they can knock off the Predators, look out. Their toughest match might be in the first round.

8. Boston Bruins (last rank #5): They have been coasting into a playoff spot, slowly falling from their earlier ranking as the best team in the league. Despite mediocre play the last 6 weeks, this is a team that can it turn up a level when it needs to in the playoffs.

9. Dallas Stars (last rank #12): Kari Lehtonen has been one of the NHL's best goalies in the last couple of weeks, and this team just keeps winning hockey games. I doubt this leads to playoff success, so long as it leads to fantasy playoff success in my hockey pool (where I own Benn and Lehtonen).

10. New Jersey Devils (last rank #11): I did not expect to say that Ilya Kovalchuck would be earning his paycheque this season, but the man has been incredible for a few months now. Parise has been playing great, Brodeur is in the zone, and this team has at least a 50/50 chance of winning a playoff series, if not better.

11. Ottawa Senators (last rank #10): Ben Bishop might have quietly been one of the best trade deadline acquisitions. Spezza and Alfredsson however, important producers in this offense, have been quiet in March.

12. Washington Capitals (last rank #16): The outlook is improving, Ovechkin looks excited again, and suddenly this is a team that could produce an upset in the first round of the playoffs.

13. Chicago Blackhawks (last rank #15): Life without Toews ain't easy, but they are getting by. To me they are not a legit contender, but a team that could win a playoff series if a goalie gets hot. I still remember Sam Gagne making them look like a Pee Wee team...

14. Los Angeles Kings (last rank #19): Since arriving on the team, Jeff Carter is their leading goal scorer, and Dustin Brown has turned things around. That being said, Quick's numbers have fallen in March, so it is tough to say if this is a playoff team or not. They have the talent.

15. Phoenix Coyotes (last rank #8): They went on a fine roll, but since have fallen back to reality and could fall out of the playoffs. I'd have trouble believing that Antoine Vermette made this team worse. Fact is Raffi Torres is their leading goal scorer in March, and Mike Smith has returned to earth, where I always believed he belonged.

16. Colorado Avalanche (last rank #14): It will be tough for them to make the playoffs without Duchene, but this is a good young team that will be competitive for a few more years. Landeskog was a great draft pick.

17. Calgary Flames (last rank #21): Not sure if they will make the playoffs, but this roster is good enough to make it and lose in the first round.

18. Florida Panthers (last rank #17): If they make the playoffs, so be it, but I have never believed in this team and still don't.

19. San Jose Sharks (last rank #13): This team is drifting out of the playoffs and it is hard to figure out why, given all the talent on that roster. Anti Niemi has been playing like s**t. That's a good place to start your investigation.

20. Winnipeg Jets (last rank #20): Blake Wheeler is the professional equivalent of Luis Mendozza from the Mighty Ducks movie. Sadly for the Jets, it looks like their bid to make the playoffs has fallen flat on its face. The playoff race in the East might now be set, and Washington winning 4 straight might have been the nail in the coffin.

21. Buffalo Sabres (last rank #25): Nice little hot streak for Miller to finish the season, but too little, too late. They aren't eliminated, but Washington seems to be stepping up and getting it done at just the right time to secure a playoff spot. Buf has a 30% chance or less.

22. Tampa Bay Lightning (last rank #26): Despite a valiant effort from Steve Stamkos, it is unlikely this team will make the playoffs. That could cost Stamkos the Hart, but he's got a good shot at the Art Ross. This team has needed a goalie for the entire season and Steve Yzerman never addressed that need. Stevie Y might have been my favourite player of all time, but his recommending ringuette rules be introduced into hockey is absurd and I've lost some respect for him.

23. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (last rank #18): Please Corey Perry, return quickly, my fantasy hockey team needs you back. It is never a good sign when a player misses a game for the first time in the last 270. Any chance Anaheim has of sneaking into the playoffs rests on Perry's shoulders...err shoulder...

24. Montreal Canadiens (last rank #24): The best thing for this team's long term success is if Scott Gomez stays down and remains injured for the rest of his career. The insurance company wouldn't be happy, but this team would love nothing more than to write off that contract.

25. Carolina Hurricanes (last rank #23): It is hard to recommend that a team lose the rest of their games, but you have virtually no chance at the playoffs, so at this point you are playing for draft lottery ping pong balls, just like Leaf fans. If those two teams played, fans would (or should) be cheering when the other team scores.

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (last rank #22): And so ends the 4th year of Brian Burke, with yet another missed opportunity at making the playoffs. They had it in their grasp, they had a chance to pull away, and fell flat on their faces. Leaf fans are now cheering for a lottery pick in the draft.

27. Edmonton Oilers (last rank #28): The biggest question mark for this franchise is who is their goalie of the future. They seem to be missing a vital building block in their rebuilding process, a good goalie. Maybe that turns out to be Devin Dubnyk? I doubt it, but maybe...

28. NY Islanders (last rank #29): Similar to Edmonton with a solid young core but lacking a goaltender of the future. Even if they resign Nabokov, his days as a pro hockey player are numbered. Is Al Montoya the future? I won't hold my breath, and same goes for DiPietro.

29. Minnesota Wild (last rank #27): How the mighty have fallen. 6 weeks into the season this team was 1st place in the NHL. Everyone, myself included, was ready to give Yeo the Jack Adams. Since that time, the team has been remarkably pathetic, one of the worst in the league. They are who we thought they were.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets (last rank #30): This franchise is going to suck for years to come.

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