Holy shit, the 2019-20 NHL regular season starts tomorrow! Of course, for we Penguins fans, we’ll have to wait another day, but finally, once again, there is meaningful hockey to be played and watched!
In any event, the preseason schedule is complete, and every team has more or less finalized their rosters for the regular season. So, these rankings are how I feel each team is situated heading into the regular season.
- St. Louis Blues (last month: 1st)
- Nashville Predators (last month: 2nd)
- Dallas Stars (last month: 3rd)
- Colorado Avalanche (last month: 4th)
- Chicago Blackhawks (last month: 6th)
- Winnipeg Jets (last month: 5th)
- Minnesota Wild (last month: 7th)
As September drew to a close, I was watching the Jets and Avalanche closely to see what would happen with their respective RFA situations. Winnipeg had two big names yet unsigned (Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor) while Colorado had Mikko Rantanen also still unsigned. Well, all the drama that led into this past offseason with all the big-name RFAs has come to its anti-climactic conclusion, as all three of the aforementioned RFAs came to terms with their respective clubs. Still, the Jets are now facing losing one of their biggest stars for the year in Dustin Byfuglien, who has been suspended indefinitely by Winnipeg for not reporting to camp. The word on the street is that he is considering retirement, which would be some surprise as, despite having an injury-shortened 2018-19, he was still pretty good when he did play. With Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Ben Chiarot all gone, Winnipeg’s defense looks considerably different heading into this season.
Otherwise, not much going on in these rankings. Colorado had a rough preseason, but some circles consider them on the way up in the next few years. It would have been interesting to see them in the Western Conference Finals against the St. Louis Blues instead of getting hosed in their second round series with the San Jose Sharks. Like the Carolina Hurricanes, the Avalanche is a young team with energy, speed, skill, and chemistry. Maybe not personality so much, but at least they’re free of Patrick Roy. (Somehow he’s a bad coach!)
- Vegas Golden Knights (last month: 2nd)
- Calgary Flames (last month: 1st)
- Arizona Coyotes (last month: 4th)
- San Jose Sharks (last month: 3rd)
- Anaheim Ducks (last month: 6th)
- Vancouver Canucks (last month: 5th)
- Los Angeles Kings (last month: 8th)
- Edmonton Oilers (last month: 7th)
Plenty of flip-flopping on the West Coast, though! (Second most important “though” of the last few weeks.) Edmonton finally finds themselves in last place, although San Jose was somehow more terrible than, well, everyone else with just one win in six games. As of this writing, Daniel Sprong is up for grabs, so of course he will probably end up in New Jersey playing for Ray Shero. Vegas was one of seven teams to win five games in the preseason, but they had the best goal differential of any team (+12), so I wonder if they’ll start the season strongly.
- New Jersey Devils (last month: 2nd)
- Washington Capitals (last month: 3rd)
- Carolina Hurricanes (last month: 1st)
- Pittsburgh Penguins (last month: 5th)
- New York Islanders (last month: 6th)
- New York Rangers (last month: 4th)
- Columbus Blue Jackets (last month: 7th)
- Philadelphia Flyers (last month: 8th)
Setbacks for the Hurricanes and particularly the Rangers who were only three points ahead of the Sharks with the worst record in the preseason. That age-old question of whether or not the preseason matters…
I plan to have more to say about the Penguins for Game 1, but for now I’m giving them a pass since they finished their last preseason game without Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust, not to mention Alex Galchenyuk who has been out for a few games already. It’s unfortunate that they had to waive Casey DeSmith to be cap compliant, and (as of this writing) they will be lucky to get him past the waiver wire without being skinked off with by some other team looking for a possible upgrade in goal. With all the talk about trading Rust, I wonder if his untimely injury had anything to do with the goalie move. And, of course, they still have Jack Johnson, which is fucking miserable.
- Boston Bruins (last month: 2nd)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (last month: 1st)
- Toronto Maple Leafs (last month: 4th)
- Buffalo Sabres (last month: 3rd)
- Montreal Canadiens (last month: 7th)
- Detroit Red Wings (last month: 6th)
- Florida Panthers (last month: 5th)
- Ottawa Senators (last month: 8th)
I cut Florida a little bit of slack here despite tying Ottawa for second-worst in the division, if probably only because I cut the Lightning a lot of slack for being last. Still, for a team that needs to start the season off strong, the Panthers disappointed in spite of their +2 goal differential. In reality, the division was the closest of the four in the preseason, but there could be some surprises in store in the Atlantic this year. Or maybe not! Preseason: means something or no?