The long and sweltering summer is over. With September comes cooler weather, NFL football and most importantly, NHL training camps open and preseason is finally upon us.
Players start dreaming again of replacing Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane in the picture you see to your left, fulfilling childhood fantasies that started when they first strapped on their skates and picked up a piece of lumber called a hockey stick.
It is also the time of year when every team has an equal chance of becoming the next great squad to grace the ice. All 30 National Hockey League clubs are 0-0-0 and begin camp with a roster that is littered with rookies and veterans alike along with a couple on PTOs (player tryout offer).
General managers did their work over the off-season, attempting to find the right mix of quality and character that often leads to success while coaches began preparing and fine tuning their game-plans to offset the influx of quality talent on the teams they will be facing over the course of an 82 game season.
Tom Ballantyne is one of the founding members of the 329 Blue and Orange Army, the Islanders outstanding seventh man at each home game. You can often hear their original songs being belted around the old barn, serenading their hero’s while at the same time, sticking it to the visitors.
Tom has agreed to become a contributor here at Eyes On Isles and we are happy and proud to have him aboard. His assignment will be a monthly power ranking column of all 30 teams. I urged him, knowing how deep his devotion to the Isles runs, to be objective, fair and honest in these rankings.
So, without further adieu, we present to you the 2013-14 NHL preseason power rankings. Be sure to leave your comments in the section below and let Tom know what you think of his placement and commentary.
NHL Preseason Power Rankings
By Tom Ballantyne
The teams have gotten back together and training camp is now underway, which means preseason is close and the league is almost back in action.
When we last saw the most competitive league in sports, we watched two heavyweight teams do battle for the Stanley Cup at the end of the truncated season caused by the lockout, where the Chicago Blackhawks bested the Boston Bruins in six thrilling games that put the league back on the map in a good way.
So, keeping in mind that I have to be unbiased in this, which is hard to do since sipping the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid has been so good, it’s time to give my pre-season power rankings as we prepare to drop the puck for real…..
#1 Chicago Blackhawks
As if this needs any further explaining, the defending champs are easily number one as they head into their title defense.
#2 Boston Bruins
The defending Eastern Conference champs are looking to continue their feisty run, despite falling short in the Final to the Blackhawks. Loui Eriksson takes the place of Tyler Seguin, adding more veteran leadership to a team that already seems to have a lot.
The Pens are still looking strong and are the only lock in the newly designed Metropolitan division.
Despite falling to the Red Wings early in the playoffs, the Ducks are still one of the stronger teams in the West and look to continue their dominant run from last regular season. Teemu Selanne doing his farewell tour around the league.
For the second year in a row, the Blues were knocked out of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings. However, the Blues are poised to continue their recent run and reach the playoffs for the third straight season. Alex Pietrangelo is a must sign heading into training camp.
#6 Los Angeles Kings
Though the Kings ousted the Blues in the playoffs last year, they aren’t quite the same, consistent, dominant team they are in the postseason. They will be looking to finally figure it out for the entire season.
Coming off a solid season in which the Sharks made the playoffs but fell to the Kings in seven games in the second round, San Jose is slowly becoming a regular contender in the playoffs and getting over their playoff ‘yips’.
The Red Wings are now in the Eastern Conference, breaking up one of the best rivalries in the league, but they are looking forward to making an impact after having last season end at the hands of their former old-time hockey rival in the Windy City.
The Senators are the most complete team out of the three Canadian teams that made the playoffs from the East last year. With Craig Anderson in goal and the team looking for vengeance after being spurned by Daniel Alfredsson, the Sens are set for another successful season.
#10 New York Rangers
The Rangers, despite undergoing a coaching change, are always a threat because of Henrik Lundqvist.
The Capitals look to send a statement to fans believing that they have been a gracious beneficiary of the now-defunct Southeast Division. Does Mikhail Grabovski replace Mike Ribero or does the offense suffer from inconsistency?
#12 Minnesota Wild
After a disappointing season in spite of luring Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the previous offseason, the Wild look to bounce back and achieve their goal that was set with the big additions of making some noise in the playoffs.
The Canadiens are a team that overachieved last year and just barely outlasted the Bruins to win the Northeast Division, only to fall to the Sens in the first round. The addition of the Red Wings to the division doesn’t help their chances, either. Still very small.
#14 New York Islanders
The Isles are on the upswing after making the playoffs for the first time in six years, and it’s obvious that last year was just the beginning. The additions of Cal Clutterbuck and Pierre-Marc Bouchard will help the Isles’ quest for a playoff berth for the second straight year and prove to the world that this was no fluke.
Backed by the reigning Vezina winner, Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets look to make an impact in their new home, the Metropolitan Division. With the former Rangers’ offense, the Blue Jackets look to build on their successful season, despite falling short of a playoff spot.
The Leafs look to build off of a surprising season in which they made the playoffs, adding Jonathan Bernier will help but at what cost to James Reimer, whose solid play guided them to the playoff last year.
The Hurricanes look to bounce back after a disappointing season, in which Cam Ward was lost early on due to injury. With Ward healthy again, the question is whether or not the Hurricanes can keep up with the other powerhouses of the Metropolitan Division.
The Canucks’ season ended far too early for their liking as they fell to the Sharks in four games in the first round of the playoffs, which led to the exchange of head coaches with the Rangers as John Tortorella takes over the team for Alain Vigneault, who’s now in NY. After stunning Roberto Luongo by not trading him, instead dealing Cory Schneider at the draft, do the Canucks have what it takes to make the playoffs under Torts?
#19 Winnipeg Jets
The Jets look to take over out West as they join the Western Conference. Home-ice advantage will help, as usual, but the team’s still a few pieces short of actually contending.
#20 Phoenix Coyotes
The Coyotes are “Here to Stay” in Phoenix, but can they get back to the playoffs after a disappointing season?
#21 Dallas Stars
Hideous jerseys, yes, but the team has talent to compete with the addition of Tyler Seguin. The only question is if they can.
Clearly, losing Ryan Suter affected the Predators this past season. Pekka Rinne looks to lead them back to the playoffs this year but is coming off summer back surgery.
As the second-worst team in the league last year, the Avs look to make up for a tumultuous season. Patrick Roy makes his return as he takes over behind the bench, but is it enough?
After trading their captain, Vinny Lecavalier, to the Flyers this past offseason, the Bolts still have enough talent up front to make them a tough team to beat, but will the young goaltending tandem of Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback be up for the task?
#25 Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers had one of their better seasons and look to build off of it as their young core continues to grow together. Stacked offense still needs to be complimented on defense.
#26 Buffalo Sabres
#27 Calgary Flames
Another team essentially in rebuild mode, hard to compete in a deep Western Conference.
Great goaltending between Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider, but not enough offensive weapons since Illya Kovalchuk “retired”. Could be slowest team in the entire league.
The offense will be there, but the defense and goaltending is questionable at best, if not just plain awful. Mark Streit just does not help that……..at all.
#30 Florida Panthers
The Panthers will be a victim of the rest of the Atlantic Division, thus burying them into the bottom of the league for the second straight year.