Tuesday, February 26, 2013

NHL 2013 Week 5 NHL Power Rankings

Week 5 of the NHL season is now complete. The theme of this week's power rankings is which player on the team has the worst contract. The minimum requirements to qualify for a team's worst contract is that they must be signed beyond next season (the years remaining listed on the below contracts are number of years after this season). I do my power rankings every 2 weeks. I'm willing to predict that Chicago will be atop my unbiased rankings for the rest of the season; unbiased at least from a fan perspective. These rankings are the result of a statistical formula based primarily on points in regulation and goal differential. Personal feelings don't play a factor, otherwise the Maple Leafs would not be in 6th and the Red Wings would not be in 13th.

1. Chicago Blackhawks (last rank 1, worst contract: Marian Hossa 8 more yrs at $5.25M): This is a contract that will one day be terrible, but in the near term has its benefits. They are far and away the best team in the NHL right now, so my guess is that they are not regretting any of their contracts. Kane, Toews, Keith and Crawford are playing fantastic hockey. Marian Hossa is an elite hockey player, a winner, but he's 34 years old. Maybe he's the next Teemu Selanne, but 8 more years? If he is Teemu, then I'm wrong and this is a great contract. Or is he out of the league in 3 years?

2. Boston Bruins (last rank 3, worst contract: Chris Kelly 3 more yrs at $3M): The Bruins have played the fewest games in the league, which would and should put them ahead of Montreal in the standings once those games are played. They are in great shape in terms of their contracts, with the most cumbersome being Chris Kelly. He is a decent support player with a Cup ring, but we'll see how they feel about that contract when the salary cap drops. They have to pay Tukka Rask this summer.

3. Montreal Canadiens (last rank 11, worst contract: Erik Cole 2 more yrs at $4.5M): I've got to admit, I did not predict the Canadiens success this season. Perhaps it is a bit premature to start planning the parade route, but the Habs are virtually locked into a playoff spot. They have balanced scoring, terrific goaltending, and a strong blueline. Cole seems to have allowed his animosity over the lockout to diminish his play this season. Perhaps he wants to make a statement? Perhaps he wants to go back to Carolina? Whatever the case, GM Marc Bergevin is looking really good as a rookie in this role.

4Pittsburgh Penguins (last rank 9, worst contract: Paul Martin 2 more years at $5M): We'll see how long they can last without Evgeni Malkin. Can Sidney Crosby play without Malkin like Geno plays without Sid? We'll see, but the power play will suffer. Nobody on this roster will miss Malkin more than James Neal. They only have 4 non entry level contracts extended beyond next season, so they do have cap flexibility, which they will need to lock-up Letang and Malkin. We will soon find out how this team will perform without Malkin; but win, lose, or draw, I'm already starting to engrave Crosby's name on the Hart Trophy.

5. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (last rank 6, worst contract: Cam Fowler 5 more yrs at $4M): The Ducks are sitting in a very nice place right now, with the team getting the most out of their line-up. Bruce Boudreau is a Coach of the year candidate. They are not locked into many long term contracts, and have more than enough cap space to retain Perry and Getzlaf if they are willing to pay the necessary price. Fowler is their longest contract on the books, and he struggled before running into injury problems.

6Toronto Maple Leafs (last rank 10, worst contract: Mikhail Grabovski 4 more yrs at $5.5M): The team that Burke built is having a decent season. Trading Luke Schenn for James Van Reimsdyk is looking like a great trade. Nazem Kadri has been one of the top 60 players in the league. When they lost James Reimer, then Ben Scrivens stepped into the void and played great, if not above average. I still say Luongo guarantees this team a playoff spot, otherwise that will be a bumpy road. The Grabovski contract was an overpayment and was criticized from the moment it was signed.

7. Tampa Bay Lightning (last rank 5, worst contract: Vincent LeCavalier 7 more yrs at $7.73M): Kudos to Vinny for coming to camp in shape and ready to play this season, but that is still a terrible contract for a 32 year old player. This team has started to slide, and should be higher in the standings given the performance of their roster. Stamkos has been magnificent. The goalie has been decent. They should be better than Ottawa.

8Ottawa Senators (last rank 7, worst contract: Jason Spezza 2 more yrs at $7M): Losing Spezza, Karlsson, and now Anderson have been devastating blows to this team that somehow is finding ways to win hockey games. I have already written them off, so we'll see if they prove me wrong. This is a team without any bad contracts, the closest thing they have to a worst is Spezza. But given that if they tried to sell Spezza this summer they would likely have many eager buyers very quickly, it hardly qualifies as a bad deal. This team eventually has to start falling, and I'm baffled that it hasn't already.

9. New Jersey Devils (last rank 2, worst contract: Travis Zajac 8 more yrs at $5.75M): The surprising Devils were the talk of the league just a week ago, but have now lost 2 in a row and are starting to slide back into reality. Zajac is a good player, but nearly $6M for a player who has 6 points in 19 games is way too much money. Evidently leaving Kovalchuck on the ice for half the game to coast around and pick his spots to turn on the boosters is a winning strategy in the NHL. This is nothing new for Ilya, but forgive me if I question how many more years he can sustain 26 minutes of ice time per game.

10Vancouver Canucks (last rank 8, worst contract: Roberto Luongo 9 more yrs at $5.33M): There's a reason that "lovable Lou" is still wearing a Canucks jersey. The 33 year old goalie is playing well now, but good luck sustaining that for 9 more seasons. GM Mike Gillis can say all he wants to about being happy to have both, but there will be a significant drop in the cap next season. One of them has to go, and there is a 0% chance they buyout Luongo's contract in the summer. Lou looked terrible against the Red Wings. Hopefully that does not trigger a nervous breakdown. There is good Lou, and bad Lou.

11Carolina Hurricanes (last rank 15, worst contract: Tim Gleason 3 more yrs at $4M): Baby steps. They are steadily improving, while other begin to falter. Losing Skinner is going to hurt, but the power of the Staal brothers should propel this team into the playoffs. Tim Gleason has to be their worst contract. He' decent, but not worth the price. Jordan Staal's new $6M deal kicks in next season, but thus far he is earning it. Alex Semin is a very talented hockey player. Jiri Tlusty deserves some kind of award from the reclamation project pile.

12St. Louis Blues (last rank 14, worst contract: Roman Polak 3 more yrs at $2.75M): The closest thing this team has to a bad contract is Polak, and I'm not even sure he qualifies as a bad contract. Lots of talent on this team, and they seem to have stopped the bleeding. Clearly Jaroslav Halak is the future and not Brian Elliot, and perhaps Wade Redden was not a great signing, even if they got him at a cheap price. Alex Steen is emerging as the new team MVP...maybe the Leafs should have hung on to that one.

13Detroit Red Wings (last rank 13, worst contract: Johan Franzen 7 more yrs at $3.95M): Franzen has a fair cap hit, but this guy's body is slowly breaking down. I'm not sure how much he has left. He looks good sometimes, but he's rarely healthy. Detroit has the most man games lost due to injuries thus far this season. My 5 year old nephew said it best this weekend "Detroit is not having a very good season, but Datsyuk has scored some nice goals". Amen. As a Red Wings fan, this season is not about winning a Stanley Cup, it is about enjoying the magic of Pavel Datsyuk while he's still putting on a show. If you are ever bored, go to YouTube, search "Datsyuk highlights", and guaranteed you will be entertained.

14Los Angeles Kings (last rank 27, worst contract: Jeff Carter 9 more yrs at $5.27M): Don't look now, but the LA Kings are quickly turning their fortunes around after an awful start. One of the reasons is the fine play of Jeff Carter, but 9 more years is an eternity for a player with an injury history, who burns the candle at both ends. They will make the playoffs. Emergency over in LA. Doubtful they will win another championship.

15Phoenix Coyotes (last rank 18, worst contract: Zbynek Michalek 2 more yrs at $4M): It was either Michalek or Doan. Needless to say, this team has had serious cash flow problems for several seasons now, so once again the cheapness required of management means there are no truly bad contracts on the roster. Zbynek is at best a 5th or 6th defenseman, not someone you can afford to spend that type of money on. The Penguins have been desperate for defense for over a year now, yet decided it would be prudent to cut that guy loose. That says it all. Mike Smith is starting to regain his form, and this team is winning a few hockey games.

16. San Jose Sharks (last rank 4, worst contract: Martin Havlat 2 more yrs at $5M): The Sharks have 7 contracts extending beyond next season, and only one of them makes me squeamish. The once mighty have fallen back into the pack. Maybe they are who we thought they were, and the Marleau/Thornton combo had early success in a shortened season because they have played together for so long, we only needed to wait for everyone else to catch-up. Havlat has 5 points in 17 games. Not sure that guy has much left. Not sure this team has much left. I would say sell, sell, sell, but then again, I'm not the one in charge.

17Dallas Stars (last rank 17, worst contract: Kari Lehtonen 5 more yrs at $5.9M): He is very valuable to this team, a team without many bad contracts to choose from. The Stars are so cheap that even their worst contracts are good when compared to the comparables. They are holding in the standings and Jamie Benn is incredible. He's making the money Ryan O'Reilly should be making, and doing what Ryan O'Reilly should be doing.

18New York Rangers (last rank 12, worst contract: Brad Richards 7 more yrs at $6.7M): The Rangers only have 3 players signed beyond next season (Richards, Nash, Staal), so the worst contract award was a coin toss between Richards and Rick Nash, with Richards being 4 years older and signed for longer term. They will not buy him out. They owe him too much money, and have a number of expiring contracts this year and next.

19Philadelphia Flyers (last rank 19, worst contract: Ilya Bryzgalov 7 more yrs at $5.66M): The Flyers are sustaining a slightly below mediocre pace, but if Bryzgalov can overcome his quirky personality dysfunctions and play good, they have a chance to make the playoffs, maybe even win a series. What this team needs to elevate to the next tier is a "monster" defenseman. They don't currently have one of those. They are in danger of missing the playoffs.

20Nashville Predators (last rank 20, worst contract: Paul Gaustad 3 more yrs at $3.25M): Congrats, you lost Ryan Suter, got roped into a lifetime contract with Shea Weber before there was a new CBA, but at least you locked up Paul Gaustad to 3 more years at a price more than he's worth. This team is pathetic from an offensive point of view. Weber is still the best player on the team, with Colin Wilson as the leading scorer. They need somebody, anybody, who can put points on the board.

21Winnipeg Jets (last rank 21, worst contract: Andrej Pavelec 4 more yrs at $3.9M): Has there been a bigger disappointment this season than Kyle Wellwood? If he continues his pace of zero points in 15 games, he's stealing that prorated $1.6M from the Jets, and will make it tough to get that much money when he goes UFA again this summer. The Jets are a borderline mediocre team. Doubtful, but possible, for a playoff spot.

22. Calgary Flames (last rank 25, worst contract: Mark Giordano 3 more yrs at $4.02M): Iginla has finally started to play with more spark, but ultimately this team is limited by the fact that they are not very good. Without a hot Mikka Kiprusoff, they are a bad a team. I'm not sure he's even allowed to do so, but GM Jay Feaster should start selling whatever pieces he can find a buyer for. The worst contract award gets passed from Jay Bouwmeester (who is UFA next year) to either Giordano or Wideman. Since Wideman has 10 pts and Gio has 3 pts, the award goes to Mark Giordano.

23. Minnesota Wild (last rank 23, worst contract: Ryan Suter 12 more yrs at $7.54M): It was either Suter or Mikko Koivu, both good players earning way too much for players of their calibre. Mike Yeo might be the next coach to be fired, even though it might be the GM with the most blood on his hands. Heatley and Setoguchi have been far worse than expected, with Heatley being a likely buyout candidate at the end of the season.

24Edmonton Oilers (last rank 16, worst contract: Shawn Horcoff 2 more yrs at $5.5M): The Oilers are slipping, and Mike Keenan ripped them recently for being too soft. Lots of talent, not nearly enough grit. The Horcoff contract was terrible from the day it was signed, but it did help Edmonton bottom out to secure Hall, Yakupov, and Hopkins. Then again, Horcoff's actual salary is $4M less than his cap hit for the remaining two years, so at the very least he's valuable to the Florida Panthers. Trade him before they move to Quebec!

25. NY Islanders (last rank 22, worst contract: Rick DiPietro 8 more yrs at $4.5M): This season has already been a roller coaster ride for NYI, but what's clear is that John Tavares and Matt Moulson is one of the best tandems in the league. The problem for this team is the rest of the roster. Kyle Okposo has just 5 points in 19 games played. Outside of the first line, Grabner and Nielsen have been the only decent forwards. Nabokov had a great start to the season, but has regressed back to normality.

26. Colorado Avalanche (last rank 24, worst contract: David Jones 3 more yrs at $4M): This GM should be fired. Just because you got Matt Duchene to jump on a low ball offer like Kramer in that one episode of Seinfeld, doesn't mean you lock out O'Reilly until he accepts the same deal. Shame on Colorado, especially after paying David Jones way more money than he's worth. Ryan O'Reilly deserves to be making Evander Kane/Jamie Benn money. He's far more valuable than Stastny, whom the Avs are paying $6.6M. Boo Avs. Boo every team that wants to sign him to an offer sheet but are too chicken shit to break "the code" (which if it exists is collusion). The reason the Avs are to be blamed for this atrocity, they are far, far below the salary cap.

27Washington Capitals (last rank 28, worst contract: Alex Ovechkin 8 more yrs at $9.54M): Honorable mention to Nick Backstrom, but Ovie is paid to be the best player in the league, and he's not the best player in the league. Braden Holtby has finally started to play well in the net, but it may be too late for the Caps. Whether they get better or worse, GM George McPhee should be fired before coach Adam Oates. I believe in Adam Oates.

28. Buffalo Sabres (last rank 26, worst contract: Ville Leino 4 more yrs at $4.5M): Lindey Ruff got fired, and my guess is that the GM who fired him will not be employed very much longer. The Leino contract was terrible the moment it was signed. Tyler Myers has been a major disappointment ever since his rookie season. This team will not make the playoffs, and I know of at least one hockey pundit who picked them to win the Stanley Cup.

29Columbus Blue Jackets (last rank 30, worst contract: RJ Umberger 4 more yrs at $4.6M): James Wisniewski was a close 2nd for the team work contract award. Scott Howsen should have been fired last season, and should not have been allowed to make the Nash deal. I believe in John Davidson. This team has no place to go but up, it just might take a couple of seasons. Their new GM is considered to be an elite talent scout, and they have 3 first round picks.

30Florida Panthers (last rank 29, worst contract: Ed Jovanovski 2 more yrs at $4.25M): The Panthers stole back the worst team in the NHL distinction from the Blue Jackets. Jon Huberdeau is currently the best Panther, a kid with a bright future. But the fact that Huberdeau and Tom Fleischmann are the only two players on the team with double digit points, explains why this team clocks in at #30. All the people singing the praises of Dale Tallon last season, it was a fluke, he got lucky, he's not a great selector of talent.

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