NHLNumbers Season Preview: Power Rankings No. 20-16

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.  

The middle of the pack. These are the teams who have some good things going for themselves, but aren’t quite at the top of the class in their divisions. These are teams 20-16 on the NHLN power rankings. 

20. Carolina Hurricanes

By Christiaan Conradie (@iamchristiaanc)

Last year’s stats:

5v5 GF%: 45.3 (25th)   

5v5 CF%: 51.5 (11th)

5v5 PDO: 98.3 (30th)

GF: 195 (27th) 

GA: 220 (18th)

86 points (18th overall, 6th Metropolitan)

Last season:

The Canes missed the playoffs for the 8th straight season. Also missing is Eric Staal, who has been carrying the team since their unlikely cup win in 2006. Their goal differential was a cringeworthy -28, yet their underlying numbers suggest there is hope. They had the 7th best shot differential in the league, 11th best CF%. They also finished 29th in shooting percentage and 28th in save percentage.

The offseason:

Nothing earth shattering. Victor Rask signed a six-year, $24 million contract ($4 AAV). This is a solid bet for the Canes as Rask was tied for 2nd place in points with 48 and let the team with 18 PPP. They also acquired Brian Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen from the Blackhawks for a couple of picks. Teravainen is a promising player, but he was another casualty of the cap for the Blackhawks. He’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Reasons for optimism:

Despite having a -28 goal differential, the underlying numbers suggest things could look a lot better next season. They had the 7th best shot differential last season and could very well have finished with a positive goal differential as well. If they can keep outshooting their opponents (which they have over the past 2 seasons), they should make a big jump up the standings. They are also one of the youngest teams in the league with an average age of 27. 

Reasons for negativity:

Jeff Skinner had the most points on the team with 51. That is one more point than Ovechkin had goals. Someone will have to step up. They are also in the same division as Washington and Pittsburgh, who are both powerhouses right now. They also lack identity. With Eric Staal gone the team has no captain and seems somewhat rudderless. 

X-Factor: Goaltending

Eddie Lack had a miserable first season with the Hurricanes. He sported a .901 SV% and 2.81 GAA. Those are significantly worse than his personal averages. He should be highly motivated to post better numbers, and with an ageing Cam Ward he should be able to usurp the starting job.

19. Winnipeg Jets

By Cam Lewis (@cooom)

Last year’s stats:

5v5 CF%: 51.3 CF% (12th)

5v5 GF%: 50.3 (15th)

5v5 PDO: 99.7 (16th)

GF: 211 (22nd) 

GA: 236 (22nd)

78 points (7th in Central)  

Last season:

After making the playoffs for the first time since returning to Winnipeg in 2011, the Jets had a disappointing season last year, finishing dead last in the loaded Central Division with 78 points. Their underlying numbers suggested they were a much, much better team than their record indicates, but terrible goaltending, some rough luck, and poor discipline coupled with having to play in easily the strongest division in the league led to their downfall. 

The offseason: 

For their troubles, the Jets were able to nab Finnish sensation Patrik Laine with the second overall pick at the draft after having life go their way in the lottery. They didn’t make any major additions over the summer, but Laine and a handful of other prospects will be looking to break into the league this year, which compensates for their lack of activity. 

Reasons for optimism: 

The Jets really shouldn’t have done as poorly as they did this season. As I’ve mentioned multiple times, playing in the Central is tough, and their goaltending really let them down. This year, things could easily turn around if they opt to give Connor Hellebuyck more action in net. 

Reasons for negativity: 

Again, the division. Nobody got worse. Well, the Hawks, Blues and Stars took a bit of a hit in free agency, but not one big enough to gutter them down from a contender to a basement team. The Predators got better, the Wild added a coach who’s known to make his teams much stronger, and even the Avs had themselves a nice offseason. Even if the Jets turn things around, it might not be enough. 

X-Factor: Goaltending

Their team save percentage last season was a very forgettable 0.909, largely because of yet another poor season from Ondrej Pavelic. Such as I mentioned earlier, their underlying numbers were solid last season, and their moving into this year with a very similar roster to the one they left last season with plus an influx of young talent, so there’s not much reason to suggest the team won’t pull its weight. As it has for the past few years, Winnipeg’s success will come down to goaltending, and whether or not the team is ready to accept Pavelic isn’t the one. 

18. Calgary Flames 

By Dan Carter (@PuckenOath)

Last years’ stats:

5v5 GF%: 475 (24th) 

5v5 CF%: 47.99 (22nd)

5v5 PDO: 99.33 (24th)

GF: 152 (8th)

GA: 168 (29th)

77 points (26th overall, 5th Pacific)  

Last season:

The PDO darlings of the 2014/2015 season had predictable regression last year. Despite a bolstered blue line for the year and talent up front, it was their netminding that proved to be their biggest downfall. Superstar years by Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan led the team offensively but they couldn’t keep the puck out of their net (8th in goals for and 29th in goals against 5v5). Between the pipes, Jonas Hiller, Kari Ramo and Joni Ortio had seasons they would like to forget. The 26th place finish doesn’t accurately reflect the talent on this team, they will take the 5th overall draft pick and be happy to look forward to 2015/2016.

The offseason:

To address the major problems in net, the Flames acquired Brian Elliot from the Blues for a 2nd and conditional 3rd round draft pick. This is a solid upgrade in net but there is always caution when acquiring goaltenders that have impressive stats on incredibly reliable defensive teams. If the Flames can be more responsible in their end and lower shot counts, moving forward this is a fantastic piece. A minor trade that only seems good because of Senators pre-season camp sent Patrick Sieloff to Ottawa in exchange for Alex Chiasson, Chiasson is a big body winger who could help the bottom six.

Sean Monahan was inked up long term on a very team friendly deal (7 years 6.375mil AAV) while Troy Brouwer was a free agent signing (4years 4.5mil AAV) looking to solidify their top 6 to address their weakness at RW, get some size and veteran leadership to go on a playoff run.

There is one very notable RFA still to sign (at the time of writing no contract) in Johnny Gaudreau who will be looking for a long-term deal with a handsome sum, don’t be surprised if this is 8 years and pushing 7.5mil AAV.

Reasons for optimism:

There is a lot of depth up front with quality scores on multiple lines; Gaudreau and Monahan showed last year they were among the top offensive players in the league. Sam Bennet continues to prove he is worthy of top minutes and plays with a very nice edge for the Western Conference. The back end is a quality unit and if they can get all the players signed under the cap Dennis Wideman’s contract won’t look as terrible, it is only for one more year. With a coaching change there should be a change of playing style too, if they can tighten up defensively they have all the tools to be great.

Reasons for negativity:

Brian Elliot might not be as good as the stats suggest, St. Louis is a juggernaut defensively and they make goalies look good, granted he might be equally as good as the stats or even better. Will Glen Gulutzan be a better coach than Bob Hartley (former Jack Adams/PDO leading coach of the year)? His history with the Stars and Canucks suggest not, but the talent on the Flames is far greater than the Canucks. Their penalty kill (75.5% 30th place) was a disaster last year and 5v5 they lacked defensively.

Troy Brouwers contract could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, by itself, it is not massive, but it pushes the Flames against the cap and historically he has been a negative Corsi player, another position of weakness on the flames. If he remains a 45% Corsi player bringing his linemates down, that will be a burden for 4 years for the Flames.

X-Factor: Goaltending and Coaching

The Flames addressed a weak year of goaltending by bringing in the Blues’ starter, this should solidify the net for them. However, as mentioned above, goalies from strong defensive teams can struggle with teams that play an open style. If Elliot can lock down the net and Gulutzan can create a more defensive approach the Flames have the potential for a very successful season.

17. Boston Bruins

By Judy Cohen (@judylee_c)

Last year’s stats:

5v5 GF%: 51.1 (12th)

5v5 CF%: 49.6 (17th)

5v5 PDO: 100.1 (13th)

GF: 240 (5th)

GA: 230 (20th)

93 points (16th overall, 4th Atlantic)  

Last season:

It was another round of just barely missing the playoffs for the Bruins in 2015-16. Although they were tied with the Detroit Red Wings with 93 points, the B’s were edged out for the final Atlantic spot in the postseason, having one fewer ROW win (38) than the Wings (39).

A struggling defense that hung Tuukka Rask and Jonas Gustavsson out to dry night to night resulted in a bottom-third rank in goals against and a roughly league-average .914 save percentage for the netminding duo.

Boston was the only team in the NHL with a positive goal differential that failed to make the playoffs, likely due to its issues on the blue line.

The offseason:

The Bruins’ first real move of the offseason was signing defenseman Kevan Miller to a four-year contract extension in May because apparently you can never have enough Kevan Miller. About a month later, they made some more tweaks to the D corps, buying out Dennis Seidenberg and extending Torey Krug for four years as well.

After being unable to agree to terms with Loui Eriksson by July 1, Boston let him walk and instead ended up signing St. Louis Blues captain David Backes to a five-year, $30 million deal. If you’ve seen Backes play a game, you know why the Bruins’ sandpaper-loving front office was so intent on having the 32-year-old in the spoked B.

That same day, the B’s also reintroduced goaltender Anton Khudobin, who backed up Rask during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, to their roster on a two-year contract as well as giving two years to Riley Nash. In addition, they signed Dominic Moore and John-Michael Liles to one-year deals and tied up some loose ends with a handful of two-way contracts.

But arguably the most notable move the Bruins made in the offseason was locking up Brad Marchand to an eight-year, $49 million extension at the end of September. The winger is coming off a 37-goal season and an impressive World Cup performance for Team Canada with five goals and three assists in six games, including the tournament-clinching, shorthanded tally with just 44 seconds remaining in the game.

And though they may be on the books for Marchand until he’s around 36 years old, the Bruins now have him and linemate Patrice Bergeron for a combined cap hit of $13 million per year. Not bad.

Reasons for optimism:

Though they missed the playoffs, the Bruins still cracked the top five in scoring last season and could continue to do so with their returning talent and prolonged additions to the big club like Austin Czarnik and Danton Heinen. Czarnik was a key component in the Providence Bruins’ 2015-16 campaign, finishing his first AHL regular season seventh overall in scoring with 61 points in 68 games. Meanwhile, Heinen spent the season as a sophomore with the University of Denver, ranking 12th in all of college hockey with 48 points.

Also, it almost goes without saying, but Tuukka Rask is Tuukka Rask, and he’s going to be fine and great as usual even if the D corps isn’t. Which brings us to…

Reasons for negativity:

Defense is still an issue.

Even with extensions and a buy out, the Bruins back end remains largely the same as it was last year, only now Zdeno Chara is another year older. There’s a bevy of young defensemen in Boston’s system that could have an impact at one point or another (Brandon Carlo comes to mind), but it’s not immediately clear that enough improvements have been made.

X-Factor: Management

It might not directly affect the upcoming season, but general manager Don Sweeney’s penchant for making at least one questionable decision for every good one continues to loom over this team. The first round of the draft this year showcased that tendency. 

The Bruins selected a talented, puck-moving defenseman in Charlie McAvoy at No. 14 before spending the 29th overall pick on Trent Frederic, a physical center who Bruins scouts themselves pegged as a bottom-six forward (http://boston.cbslocal.com/2016/06/27/bruins-draft-trent-frederic-first-round-admit-third-line-grinder), instead of opting for more of a point producer.

16. Montreal Canadiens 

By Megan Kim (@meggo1532)

Last year’s stats: 

5v5 GF%: 49% (19th) 

5v5 CF%: 51.53% (10th)

5v5 PDO: 99.27 (25th) 

GF: 216 (16th)

GA: 233 (21st)

82 points (22nd overall, 6th Atlantic)

Last season:

Oh, boy. Where to start with last year? Carey Price once again showed how integral he is to the Canadiens’ success, but this time, instead of winning all the awards, he helped us answer the hypothetical question of “How would the Habs do without Price in net?” (The answer: Poorly. They would do poorly.)

Despite getting off to a flying start and actually posting better underlying numbers than in 2014-15, the Canadiens finished the 2014-16 season with a dismal 82 points, barely good enough for 22nd in the NHL. That’s a pretty big step down from 110 points and winning the Atlantic the previous year. 

The offseason:

You know, as bad as the Canadiens were last year, you would think that hitting the offseason would be a welcome break from suffering for fans and players alike. Alas, Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien were in their foxhole, thinking about how best to fix what went wrong last season.

Somehow, they came up with “not enough grit, too much personality” and pulled off the blockbuster trade of the summer, sending PK Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber and stealing Peter Chiarelli’s “Hall for Larsson” thunder in the process. The Habs also basically exchanged Lars Eller for Andrew Shaw in an effort to be harder to play against, or something.

In happier news, Montreal also signed Alex Radulov to a one-year contract. He should slot in nicely to their top six.

Reasons for optimism:

Carey Price is back, and he looked comfortable by the end of the World Cup of Hockey tournament. That’s the best possible news for the Canadiens, as we’ve all seen what happens to the Habs sans Price. Also, Alex Galchenyuk is poised for a terrific offensive performance, as it appears he’ll be getting the opportunity to center the top line with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher at left wing and right wing respectively. 

In terms of newcomers, the aforementioned Alex Radulov should prove to be very fun to watch, and has been during the preseason, and rookies Artturi Lehkonen and Mikhail Sergachev will start the year with the team, bringing some fresh blood to a team that probably needs it. Also, Shea Weber is still good! Not as good as Subban, and he won’t be good in a few years, but for now, he’ll be pretty good!

Reasons for negativity: 

PK Subban is gone and Michel Therrien is still here. What better reason for pessimism is there? 

In all honesty, though, the biggest cause for concern is that the folks making up the Habs’ braintrust seem to be eschewing logic and reason, and have instead come to the conclusion that what this team needs is “character” and “grit.” Yikes. 

Also, because the Habs will definitely win more this year (largely due to the return of their world-class goaltender, partially due to more top six offense, and not at all due to “character” and “grit”), Bergevin and Co. will think that their plan is working and continue down this road. Double yikes.

X-Factor: Coaching

I know, I know. There’s no “x-factor” to Therrien’s coaching, unless it’s “how many bottom six forwards will receive more ice time than Alex Galchenyuk?” 

But wait! You forgot something. Or rather, someone. Kirk Muller, newly minted Associate Coach of the Montreal Canadiens, will probably be running some special teams. He’ll hopefully be helping out with personnel decisions and interpersonal relationships with the team, because one gets the feeling Therrien isn’t too great at those things. 

Muller will probably improve the power play (which shouldn’t be difficult, as the Canadiens converted on only 16.2% of their chances last year). And if he can also influence Therrien to deploy his players properly, we can chalk this hiring up as a massive win. 


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

No. 25-20: Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers. 



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