NHLNumbers Season Preview: Power Rankings No. 25-21

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 1:36 am by Cam Lewis

Through an algorithm known as “surveying a select number of our staff”, we determined the following power rankings. Over the next six days, we’ll be counting down the worst teams all the way to the best teams heading into the 2016-17 season. 

They’re a step out of the basement, but it’s easier to imagine these teams down there than in the playoffs. The teams with star players but gaping holes. The teams who either really struggle to either keep the puck out of the net or score, but probably not both. The teams who, if everything goes right, could surprise you. These are teams 25-21 on the NHLN power rankings. 

25. Ottawa Senators 

By Scott Maxwell (@scottmaxw)

Last year’s stats: 

236 (T-7th), 247 (28th), 85 points (19th overall, 5th in Atlantic)

5v5 GF%: 50.17% (15th)

5v5 CF%: 47.45% (25th)

5v5 PDO: 101.2 (4th)

GF: 236 (7th)

GA: 247 (28th)

85 points (19th overall, 5th in Atlantic)

Last season:

Early on, the Ottawa Senators were the Calgary Flames of 2015-16: having terrible possession numbers, and relying a lot on luck to push them through the season. However, as the season dragged on, they began their fall, and just missed out on the playoffs.

Despite a Norris-worthy season from Erik Karlsson, and a career high in goals from Zack Smith, the Sens couldn’t squeak in to the postseason after a miracle run in 2014-15.

The offseason: 

The Senators come into this season with literally the same team as last year, with the exception of the Derrick Brassard – Mika Zibanejad trade and signing Chris Kelly. The biggest difference is the coaching staff, as Dave Cameron was fired, and in comes Guy Boucher and Marc Crawford. That’s it. This is what happens when you’re poor. You can’t make any upgrades via free agency.

Reasons for optimism:

The new coaching staff is probably the Sens biggest reason for optimism. Boucher and Crawford are both solid coaches who did excellent overseas, and have a decent history in the NHL. If they can make the Senators even a little bit better, that could mean a playoff spot considering the strength of the Atlantic division.

Also, Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman are all a big part of the team’s core for the future, and are all really good players who are fun to watch. They’ll be a big part of the team’s turn around if that happens.

Reasons for negativity: 

This is almost the exact same team as last year. Even considering the Brassard – Zibanejad trade, both players are very similar in skill and style, so there were almost no changes. If this was a Cup winning team, that’s not a bad team, but if you were a team on the outside looking in last season, and you aren’t in a rebuild, that’s not a good thing.

X-Factor: Coaching

This drum has been beaten several times already, but the coaching is going to be the biggest difference, mainly because it is the only difference. Most times when you see coaching as an x-factor, it’s because the factor is their player deployment. In the case of the Sens, it’s the only difference from last season, so it’s the only factor that could make the difference between a playoff and a non-playoff team this year.

24. Detroit Red Wings 

By Adam Laskaris (@watchthegamepodcast) 

Last year’s stats:

5v5 GF%: 48.3% (23rd)

5v5 CF%: 51.7% (8th)

5v5 PDO: 99.6 (20th)

GF: 211 (24th)

GA: 224 (14th)

93 points (16th overall, 3rd in Atlantic) 

Last season:

Though they still squeaked into the playoffs, the Wings looked nothing like the 2000’s juggernaut they’d been come to be known as. A -13 goal differential in the regular season was fuelled by a mostly stagnant offence, a struggling Jimmy Howard and a mis-mash of occasionally solid but mostly struggling defenders.

In the first round, the Wings were heavily overmatched by the Tampa Bay Lightning, winning just one of five playoff games to be the league’s first team to exit the playoffs.

The offseason:

The Red Wings had, to say the least, a very up-and-down offseason. The biggest move begins with the loss of Pavel Datsyuk, who moved on draft day to Arizona before signing a contract in the KHL. Joakim Andersson left for Sweden, Brad Richards retired, and Kyle Quincey ended up signing in New Jersey on a one-year deal earlier this week.

The Wings combatted their losses by bringing in a trio of UFA forwards: Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott.

Oh, and they re-signed just about everyone on the planet.  

Riley Sheahan, Drew Miller, Alexey Marchenko, Darren Helm, Teemu Pulkkinen, Luke Glendening, Petr Mrazek, Danny DeKeyser were all either RFAs or UFAs, but all found themselves with a new contract to play on the Red Wings for this upcoming year.

Reasons for optimism:

There is definitely some offensive talent on this roster which has likely yet to reach its full potential. Dylan Larkin, Tomas Tatar, and Teemu Pulkkinen can all work themselves into larger roles this season, while newcomers Vanek and Nielsen have both been reliable top-six options in the past few seasons.

Additionally, Nielsen’s two-way game has been lauded by many, and though he might not be a replacement for Datsyuk, he’ll definitely ease the blow of losing a Hall-of-Fame talent.

Reasons for negativity: 

Despite the new acquisitions, the Wings are still likely a worse roster without Pavel Datsyuk manning their top line. This is a team that barely squeaked into the playoffs last year, had just a single player hit 50 points last year, and continues to give out confusing contracts when better, short-term replacements are almost always available.

Until the team’s management mindset changes, it’s tough to be overly positive about the Red Wings coming into this season, or any season in the near future.

X-Factor: Coaching

Deployment of both the Wings forwards and defencemen has been questioned by many in the Jeff Blashill era (if you can call one season an era), and can likely be the difference-maker between a playoff berth and finally ending the 25-year playoff streak. In a relatively volatile Atlantic Division, Detroit needs to maximize every ounce of talent they can get out of this roster.

That means sitting players like Ott and Luke Glendenning in favour of more skilled options like Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou. It means using “gritty” players like Justin Abdelkader in a third-line role where they should be, and giving preference over current performance than a few years past, (aka, the past three years of Petr Mrazek compared to the past three years of Jimmy Howard).

The Wings might not have the world’s best tools to work with, but if they’re not even correctly using what they’ve got, it’s going to be a long season in Hockeytown.

23. New Jersey Devils 

By Megan Kim (@meggo1532)

Last year’s stats:

5v5 GF% 45.2% (26th)

5v5 CF% 46.2% (29th)

5v5 PDO: 99.7 (18th) 

GF: 182 (30th) 

GA: 202 (8th)

84 points (20th overall, 7th Atlantic)

Last season:

Frankly, the Devils are in a no-win scenario. They aren’t a very good team, and in fact, save for one key factor, should probably have been in the running for a very high pick in the draft. That key factor, though, is Cory Schneider, who, regardless of what John Tortorella and Hockey USA might think, is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. So basically what they had was a team that wasn’t good enough to contend for a playoff spot, but not bad enough to contend for the Auston Matthews Sweepstakes. 

The bright spots last year (besides Schneider) were Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri, who each turned in 30-goal seasons on a team that seriously struggled offensively. No small feat! Also, highly-touted prospect Pavel Zacha played in the last game of the year and racked up two assists! That’s nifty.

The offseason:

This section really only needs to be two words long, and those two words are “Taylor Hall.” GM Ray Shero pulled off arguably the most lopsided one-for-one trade in recent history when he sent shutdown defenseman Adam Larsson to Edmonton in return for Hall, and that’s no knock on Larsson, who’s a perfectly good player. He’s not Taylor Hall, though. 

Hall’s ability to create goals should go a long way in helping the Devils score a bit more than they did last year, and it’ll be fun to see him play with former Windsor Spitfires teammate Adam Henrique again. 

As far as the rest of the offseason goes, New Jersey also re-signed Palmieri, traded a 2016 third round pick to the Penguins for the talented but injury-plagued Beau Bennett, and made a few minor signings that should hopefully help them out in the short term. 

Reasons for optimism:

Well, the offense should absolutely improve with the addition of Hall, and if Bennett stays healthy, he has the potential to make an impact as well. Also, there are some exciting prospects in the Devils pipeline, most notably Pavel Zacha, who we should be seeing this season. 

They’re in a pretty favorable cap situation, too, which gives Ray Shero plenty of room to make things happen.

Also, Cory Schneider is still going to be Cory Schneider. With the firepower they’ve added up front, it’s fair to say that the Devils will be a better team in 2016-17 than they were at the close of last season. 

Reasons for negativity:

Perhaps you noticed that not much was said about the Devils’ blue line in the “Reasons for optimism” section. There was a reason for that! Andy Greene is a pretty good defenseman, but there is only so much a pretty good defenseman can do, especially when his regular d-partner has just been sent to Edmonton. 

One of New Jersey’s clear weaknesses is that their defensemen aren’t particularly adept at moving the puck, and it doesn’t particularly look like the Devils have fixed that problem. The addition of Ben Lovejoy should help a little, but this team needs to figure out a way to get their offensively-gifted forwards the puck. 

X-Factor: Ray Shero

It’s been a year and a few months since Shero took over the reins in New Jersey, and you get the feeling that he’s just getting started. The Devils are in a weird no-man’s land right now — they’re not particularly good, but they also aren’t in a full-on rebuild. 

It’s Shero’s job to maneuver past this period of soft rebuilding and into competitiveness. 

He took a major step by acquiring Taylor Hall, but there’s still an awful lot to be done. It’ll be very interesting to see how Shero handles this season, especially if the improved offense pushes the Devils to the brink of playoff contention. 

22. Colorado Avalanche 

By Paul Berthelot (@PaulBerthelot)

Last Year’s Stats:

5v5 GF%: 47.75% (23rd)

5v5 CF%: 44.2% (30th)      

5v5 PDO: 100.5(10th)     

GF: 212 (21st)           

GA: 240 (25th)

82 points (21st overall, 6th Central)

Last season: 

The Avs were coming off a 112 point season in which they finished first in the Central and a 90 point season in which they just missed the playoffs. Expectations were high as they expected themselves to get back to that 90 point mark and be in the hunt for the playoffs. 

Unfortunately the things the Avalanche does well did not result in a 106 PDO and their last place Corsi sunk them all the way to 82 points and a sixth place finish in the Central. 

The offseason: 

The biggest and most impactful move made by the Avalanche this off-season was getting rid of their Head Coach Patrick Roy, and replacing him with Jared Bednar. Roy was infamous for his stance on analytics, believing his team had found the secret to shot quality, in spite of their terrible possession stats. 

On the ice the biggest moves were re-signing core players Nathan MacKinnon (7yrs, $6.3M per) and Tyson Barrie (4yrs, $5.5M per) to long term deals, with very team friendly cap hits. 

They needed help on defence and went out and brought in Patrick Wiercioch and Fedor Tyutin. Neither brings much offense to the table in terms of points, but both players have strong underlying numbers. Wiercioch during his time in Ottawa made everyone he played significant minutes a better player, including Erik Karlsson. Tyutin didn’t have that same success in Columbus but he does well at suppression shots and limiting offensive chances. Those two will help improve a team that finished last in 5 on 5 Corsi and 25th in goals against. 

Reasons for optimism: 

Between MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, and Carl Soderberg the Avs have three strong offensive centres. Gabriel Landeskog continues to be one of the strongest two-wingers in the game and is fresh off of his fourth 50 point season. Tyson Barrie is one of the best offensive defencemen in the league. Jarome Iginla maybe isn’t the fleetest of foot anymore but has been able to keep up with the Avs speedy forwards with his smarts. At 39 years old he’s declining but still had a 47 point season last year. Don’t expect him to fall off a cliff just yet. The Avs have a very strong group of top six forwards. If the World Cup was any indication, MacKinnon looks like he’s about to breakout and become one of the best players in the NHL. 

The Avs have a strong goalie in Semyon Varlamov, and a good group of youngsters, led by Mikko Rantanen. Rantanen was unstoppable in his first season in North America. He lit up the American Hockey League with 60 points in just 52 games. This as one of the youngest players in the league. He will push for a top six role right away and give the Avs another highly skilled young player. The Avalacnhe have plenty of good players at the top of their roster…

Reasons for negativity: 

…but they lack depth, particularly on defence. This team is still going to roll out Erik Johnson, Francois Beauchemin, Nikita Zadorov and Chris Bigras on the backend. Johnson isn’t a terrible defencemen he just like most of the Avs bleeds shots. Beauchemin at 36 has slowed down to the point where he is barely passable on an NHL blue line. Zadorov and Bigras are both young and have potential but neither have impressed in the NHL yet. They still have a long ways to go. 

The backend of their forward group needs work as well. They have some solid players in Soderberg and Joe Colborne, but after that its players like John Mitchell, Cody McLeod, Blake Comeau and Rene Bourque. Ideally Mikhail Grigorenko develops and reaches somewhere close to his potential that made him the 12th overall pick in 2012, and pushes some of those veterans out. But as of now that has yet to happen. 

The Avalanche also play in the strongest division in hockey in the Central. The Central had five teams make the playoffs last season and all expect to back again this season. These teams have some of the fastest forward groups in the NHL and will be able to take advantage of Colorado’s defence.  

X-Factor: Goaltending 

We have seen plenty of poor teams have very strong runs due to some tremendous goaltending. The Avs saw this first hand in 2013-14 when Semyon Varlamov and his .927 save percentage carried them to a division championship.  He was also quite good the following season with a .921 sv% carrying the Avs to a respectable 90 points. Last season though he fell apart with only an average .914 sv% and the Avs predictability fell in the standings. 

If Varlomov does falter again the Avs do have a respectable back-up in Calvin Pickard. Pickard is 24 years old and in 36 career NHL games has a very strong .927 sv%. 

The Avs are likely going to be a poor possession team again. They are going to give up a high number of shots against and will need their goalies to be sharp all season if they are to contend for a playoff spot. 

21. Edmonton Oilers

By Curtis LeBlanc (@curtiswleblanc)

Last year’s stats:
5v5 GF%: 44.08 (29th)

5v5 CF%: 48.9 (19th) 

5v5 PDO: 98.59 (28th) 

GF: 199 (25th) 

GA: 242 (27th) 

70 points (29th overall, 7th Pacific)  

Last season:

For the tenth season in a row, the Edmonton Oilers failed to make the post-season, while simultaneously failing to improve in the overall standings in any meaningful way. You all know this—but it wasn’t what the hockey world was necessarily expecting. Rookie phenom Connor McDavid joined the team for his first NHL season in 2015-2016 and was heralded as a harbinger of progress for the Oilers organization. But then the most Oilers thing that could have possibly happened did, in fact, happen. McDavid broke his collarbone and missed nearly half the season. Couple that stroke of misfortune with top blue liner Oscar Klefbom succumbing to a string of ailments, including a post-surgery staph infection in his foot, and the Oilers ended up where they have for so many seasons: in the league basement.

The offseason:

And what an offseason it was. Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers played a feature role in the day that shook the hockey world, dealing one of the very best left wingers in the league in Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Adam Larsson. It’s a move that has been almost unanimously criticized as bad asset management, but one the organization deemed necessary in order to achieve the roster balance they’ve so desperately needed. The team went on to receive a gift from Columbus, drafting Jesse Puljujarvi at 4th overall (one spot below where everybody predicted he would go), and then signed Milan Lucic to a rich seven year deal. They also signed undrafted college standout Drake Caggiula to an entry level deal, but it’s the players who remain on the roster that are maybe most interesting of all: Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov* all remain Edmonton Oilers despite a summer of trade rumours surrounding each of them.

*whoops! So much for that! Yakupov was dealt yesterday to the St. Louis Blues, confirming the suspicion that his time in Edmonton was likely soon to be finished  

Reasons for optimism:

One need not look any further than Connor McDavid to get excited about this team in 2016-2017. Recently named the youngest captain in NHL history, Connor McDavid should greatly improve the team’s 25th-ranked goals-for should he stay healthy for the entirety of the season. Fans will also, hopefully, get to witness a full season of Oscar Klefbom who has looked fast and fully healed in the preseason. He’ll play with new addition Adam Larsson to form the best top defensive pairing Edmonton has seen since the Chris Pronger days. There’s also reason to believe Milan Lucic’s puck retrieval abilities and positive influence on possession will compliment McDavid and expected linemate Jordan Eberle. The more the Oilers have the puck with McDavid on the ice, the better they will be.

Reasons for negativity:

The Oilers defensive group is still without a strong right-handed option for their second pairing to move the puck and run the power play. It’s a player many hoped they would acquire during the offseason, and though they never did, the slim possibility remains for an early season deal. Jonas Gustavsson’s career .902 save percentage doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, so the team will have to rely heavily on starter Cam Talbot to take on the brunt of the work. If he falters, there isn’t much of a barrier behind him to hold back the flood.

X-Factor: Injuries and the power play

This first point is obvious and highly relevant as the preseason has seen Matt Hendricks and Iiro Pakarinen both injured long-term, along with Brandon Davidson and Oscar Klefbom at least a little battered and bruised. The Oilers can’t afford any long-term injuries to any key roster players—especially in their top defensive pairing, as there just isn’t enough organizational depth to fill a large hole there.

The second point was one that Todd McLellan was supposed to address last year when he joined the organization, but they only managed an 18th-ranked 18.1% success rate with the man-advantage in 2015-2016. It’s an area of the game they should excel in considering the number of high-end offensive options they have on hand. The bad news is that they’ve continued to struggle on the PP in the preseason.

Previously in this series:

No. 30-26: Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres




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