Ranking all 30 NHL teams, with a big Patrick Kane asterisk

Ranking all 30 NHL teams, with a big Patrick Kane asterisk

It’s kind of counterintuitive, isn’t it, to hear the preseason raves for 3-on-3 overtime that primarily focus on how quickly it ends?

Anyway, it’s the latest gimmick for the NHL that is going to have one of two seasons this year: the one with Patrick Kane in the defending Cup champion Blackhawks’ lineup, or the one in which this singular talent is suspended.

The decision will be Gary Bettman’s, but the commissioner’s actions surely will be dictated by the western New York criminal justice system’s findings concerning the sexual assault allegations against Kane.

The Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel story moves out of the imagination and onto the ice even if the league’s national TV partner at NBC somehow has the Oilers on the schedule only once all season — March 1 against the Sabres. Pierre McGuire can’t be happy. Presumably the NHL Network, now under MLB’s direction and operation, occasionally will get to Edmonton.

A few words about power rankings, preseason and otherwise: the Blackhawks, who won their second Cup in three years and third in the last six, were never considered the NHL’s best team at any time during the 2014-15 season.

Thus, 2015-16:

Steven Stamkos is the best player on the league’s best team — or trade bait.NHLI via Getty Images

1. Tampa Bay: There are two seasons for the Lightning: the one in which Steven Stamkos signs his eight-year, $80 million (or thereabouts) contract extension by Christmas, or the one in which No. 91 doesn’t sign, is consumed by rumors for weeks, and is traded at the deadline. Door No. 1 leads to the Cup. Door No. 2 to oblivion even with Victor Hedman, The Triplets, Ryan Callahan and Ben Bishop back for more.

2. Chicago (With Kane): The constant cap-enforced roster turnover helps keep a Blackhawks team that has played 65 playoff games the last three years somewhat fresh. The core remains elite, but the addition of wunderkind Teuvo Teravainen doesn’t seem likely to offset the departures of Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Brad Richards and Johnny Oduya. If, however, Kane is suspended for the year, the defending champs will have a difficult time making the playoffs.

3. Washington: Talented, disciplined, very well-coached, with an outstanding goaltender in Braden Holtby, a breakout waiting to happen in Evgeny Kuznetsov and the league’s most irresistible offensive force in Alex Ovechkin. When it comes to playoffs, though, will Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie give the Caps a better chance to win than Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward did?

4. Anaheim: Three consecutive Game 7 losses later, the Ducks have doubled down on this imposing roster that has few weaknesses but probably doesn’t have good enough goaltending to take the final step next spring.

5. St. Louis: And in the category of potential contract extension/trade deadline distractions, add the captain of the Blues, David Backes, who is a first-rounder-in-waiting as the return. (Or two if Glen Sather were still working as a GM).

Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby share the Penguins bench.AP

6. Pittsburgh: Flash and dash with a shiny new toy in Phil Kessel, who should combine with Sidney Crosby to produce around 90 goals, maybe a third of them 3-on-3. How many games for Kris Letang this time around? Very formidable top six, but what about the depth that in and of itself seems like an oxymoronic concept? And does Kessel’s acquisition really make life easier for head coach Mike Johnston, who didn’t wow anyone his first time around?

7. Rangers: Very strong internal fabric to accompany a strong roster that’s been a player away the last two-to-four years.

8. Nashville: Exceptional at the back end, formidable up front, and best of all, Peter Laviolette’s expiration date behind the bench is still a year or two away.

9. Islanders: They come at you hard and with talent, using that fourth line as well as any team in the league, but there’s no head-and-shoulders defenseman on the roster. Question: Will GM Garth Snow move pending free-agent winger Kyle Okposo as quickly (late October) as he dealt Matt Moulson in a similar situation two years ago?

10. Detroit: Red Wings needed to hear a new voice from behind the bench every bit as much as Mike Babcock needed to move. Have won only one playoff round the last four years.

11. Montreal: Carey Price alone — which, come to think of it, he was for way too much of last season — elevates the Habs into a top-third team, and P.K. Subban is among the most compelling players in the league, but they’re pretty pedestrian through most of the lineup.

Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban meets a young patient at the Children’s Hospital in Montreal, to which he pledged $10 million this offseason.The Canadian Press via AP

12. Los Angeles: The long summer after having won two Cups in the preceding three years covering 65 playoff games will rejuvenate the Kings, but the shine is off the working relationship between the team and coach Daryl Sutter.

13. Calgary: Adding Dougie Hamilton, traded by the Bruins under mysterious circumstances, makes an already formidable blue line into an elite one. Fun team to watch.

14. Minnesota: If you’re buying Devan Dubnyk as an elite goaltender, then you’re the Wild front office that gave the netminder $26 million over six years this summer.

15. Columbus: Perpetual champions of the preseason don’t appear formidable enough on the back end to take more than a baby step back to the playoffs.

16. Ottawa: This is the operation that traded Ben Bishop a few years ago in order to keep Robin Lehner and then this summer traded Lehner in order to keep Andrew Hammond.

Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr, still skating at age 43AP

17. Dallas: The Stars would be in a better spot had they gone all-in for Cam Talbot when he was being auctioned at the draft.

18. Florida: Not nearly enough depth to support a passel of fine looking kids who don’t have to look far for a chaperone with Jaromir Jagr standing by … at least until the trade deadline.

19. San Jose: A team replete with young talent (and Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau). Problem is that incoming coach Peter DeBoer wasn’t the guy you wanted coaching young talent in New Jersey.

20. Winnipeg: Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd will be two of the most coveted rental properties on the market.

21. Boston: Where somehow Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton didn’t fit in and where the B’s late season is likely to be consumed by questions concerning Zdeno Chara’s future.

22. Colorado: John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene: Which one of these three is not like the other?

23. Vancouver: Aging at all the wrong spots, including in goal, where the decision was reached in June not to deal Ryan Miller. Mark Brandon Prust down as a deadline rental deal.

24. Edmonton: Rarefied heights for this team with an abundance of young talent up front, but if it can’t sign Talbot to an extension, there’s always the possibility of a trade and late-season push for the lottery.

Sabres center Jack Eichel (above) and the Oilers’ Connor McDavid try to live up to their draft hype.AP

25. Buffalo: A lot to like with Eichel leading the young guns, but maybe not so much the goaltending.

26. Toronto: There will be accountability under Babcock and Lou Lamoriello, which at least is a start to respectability.

27. Philadelphia: You mean Andrew MacDonald couldn’t get a job in the Dept. of Player Safety. By the way? “Mr. Snider” must be slipping. You’re next, Vincent Lecavalier.

28. Arizona: They may not even have to dump this time in order to get the maximum number of ping-pong balls in the quest to select presumptive first-overall Auston Matthews, the Scottsdale native who is playing the season in Switzerland.

29. Devils: Cory Schneider is all that stands between this team and last overall. The NHL’s Most Take it to the Bank prediction: Patrik Elias is traded.

30. Carolina: Even the addition by subtraction of Alexander Semin doesn’t add up to above 30. Question: Will Eric Staal agree to be traded?

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Source : http://nypost.com/2015/10/07/ranking-all-30-nhl-teams-with-a-big-patrick-kane-asterisk/

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