The Calgary Flames exceeded expectations in 2018-19, earning the top seed in the Western Conference. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
Hey everyone, we here at Yahoo! Sports are doing real power rankings for teams Nos. 1-31. Here they are, based on only how I am feeling about these teams and their chances to win the Cup, meaning you can’t tell me I’m wrong because these are my feelings and feelings can’t be wrong. Please enjoy the Power Feelings.
31. Ottawa Senators (Start of the season: 7)
I want to give everyone a peek behind the curtain this week and talk about my process on the Power Feelings, since these are the last ones of the season. We can use that look at how I put this stuff together to assess the full-season performance of these teams.
So: At the beginning of every season I group everyone in the league on a scale of 1-7 and color code that with 1 being dark green, 2 medium green, 3 light green, 4 yellow, 5 orange, 6 light red, and 7 dark red. As you might imagine, these groups are roughly where I thought teams would end up in the standings, with the understanding that of course some will over or underperform.
The farther you get from dark green, the worse you’re likely to be. For the record, I had four teams in dark green, two in medium green, and five in light green. Those were all teams I thought could be legit contenders. Five more were yellow, meaning I could see things going either way but that they would likely be mediocre. Six were orange, mediocre verging on bad. Three were red, likely to be bad. And five were deep red, just abjectly terrible.
Put another way, I was projecting dark greens to finish in the top four, medium greens fifth or sixth, 3s between spots 7-11, yellows 13-16. That’s basically the playoff group. Then there were oranges in the 17-22 range, light reds 23-25, and dark reds 26-31.
It’s always good to look at old takes and see what you got wrong or right, so here goes. Four interlopers came from teams initially ranked yellow or worse to make the playoffs.
Guess what color the Sens were.
30. Los Angeles Kings (SoS: 7)
Despite that playoff appearance last season, they always struck me as quite bad and so here we are. Jonathan Quick’s horrible year probably facilitated this more than I thought but the ship for sure came in.
29. New Jersey Devils (SoS: 4)
This was my first big miss. They just didn’t get goaltending for most of the year and I thought they’d at least be fine there. League-average goaltending helps even bad teams stay competitive but they ended the year 10 points below the league average. They just never had enough talent, but I thought Taylor Hall could keep it up.
28. Detroit Red Wings (SoS: 7)
No explanation necessary.
27. Buffalo Sabres (SoS: 4)
I thought they’d be mediocre and maybe ultimately make a futile push for a playoff spot, but the defense was just so bad and Phil Housley seemingly didn’t have any answer for that. Nor did he ever figure out how to put together forward lines. Another miss, but like I said last week, at least I wasn’t one of those people who thought they’d make the playoffs.
26. New York Rangers (SoS: 6)
This, too, was a very easy call from Day 1.
25. Edmonton Oilers (SoS: 5)
Figured they’d get better goaltending than they did, but they finished nine points below the league average at just .896 and that’ll do it to you even if you do have two 100-point guys making it look a little better at the other end.
24. Anaheim Ducks (SoS: 6)
John Gibson almost got me on this one but Randy Carlyle and Father Time had my back.
23. Vancouver Canucks (SoS: 7)
I don’t think anyone saw Elias Pettersson being quite as good as he was, especially early on, and there’s definitely something about this youth movement, but the team isn’t well-managed enough to ride the positives past the deficiencies.
I thought they’d be worse but they’ve got more young talent than I think I initially gave them credit for.
22. Philadelphia Flyers (SoS: 7)
I was kind of figuring they’d keep Carter Hart in the AHL all season, then necessity both forced him to come up early and stay with the big club for the long haul. That’s basically what pulled them out of the basement as far as I’m concerned.
21. Minnesota Wild (SoS: 4)
They never had enough talent for me, but I figured, “Hey, Bruce Boudreau got worse teams than this into the playoffs,” but he fell short. That’s life when your franchise’s long-term goal has been to just make the playoffs and see what happens.
20. Chicago (SoS: 5)
This was about right. Nominally competitive for a while and then ultimately collapse because the roster isn’t good enough.
19. Florida Panthers (SoS: 5)
I know for sure I was trying to talk myself into them being a potential playoff team, but the strength of that division and the question marks in net (mainly due to Roberto Luongo’s age and James Reimer’s James Reimerness) held me back. I’m glad they did, because this team also didn’t have the depth or coaching to overcome its obvious obstacles.
Quenneville might make a difference, though.
18. Arizona Coyotes (SoS: 4)
I thought they could be fine and maybe make the playoffs if they got the same kind of goaltending as last year. They didn’t quite get there but the offense was the real problem. There just aren’t enough guys who can put the puck in the net. But hey, isn’t that everybody who missed the playoffs?
17. Colorado Avalanche (SoS: 4)
I had ‘em as a fringe playoff team and here they are. Very intelligent.
16. Vegas Golden Knights (SoS: 3)
A few spots worse than I thought, but they ended the year way up there in the Power Feelings because man that Mark Stone acquisition made a big difference. I have ‘em coming out of the West now. What a weird year.
15. Dallas Stars (SoS: 5)
This is going to be a common theme with low-expectations teams that made the playoffs but I didn’t see Ben Bishop leading the league in save percentage at 32 years old. Good enough group otherwise but that was definitely the difference from where I saw things in September.
14. Montreal Canadiens (SoS: 5)
Didn’t really think they had the talent throughout the lineup to make a difference but a big bounce-back year from Carey Price and some unexpected performances from Max Domi, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Tomas Tatar kinda derailed that.
Not really sure what happens with them next year but I’m not super-optimistic there’s a ton of room for growth with this group.
13. Columbus Blue Jackets (SoS: 3)
I thought they’d be better but the goaltending had a rough start and the coaching was never really where it needed to be. Should have probably seen that second part coming.
12. St. Louis Blues (SoS: 6)
This was a tough call to make in September because I liked their summer but I hated their coaching and goaltending.
I figured they might fire Mike Yeo but I didn’t see his replacement being enough to fix what was wrong with Jake Allen. Instead, Craig Berube didn’t need to, because Jordan Binnington of all the people on earth became the best goalie in the league for three months instead.
11. Carolina Hurricanes (SoS: 3)
This one feels like a big ol’ swish to me, folks. I did it. Congratulations to me.
10. Winnipeg Jets (SoS: 3)
Same here. Never been a big Paul Maurice guy and didn’t like some of their depth. That said, I did have them probably at the higher end of the light greens, closer to No. 7 at the end of the year than No. 11. Connor Hellebuyck taking a bit of a step back — though not as big as some would have you believe — didn’t help.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (SoS: 1)
This is a miss because I was overly optimistic. As I said yesterday, injuries to key players and a stronger-than-expected division definitely played a role, but so too did Matt Murray having a crap start to the year. They were sixth in the league in points after Dec. 1, which feels more correct.
8. Nashville Predators (SoS: 1)
Another miss, and this time I think it might be a coaching issue. This team never lived up to the promise of its talent at all, though it did miss some guys who were expected to be big needle-movers for long stretches (Subban was out 19 games, Arvidsson missed 24, Forsberg missed 18, Turris missed 25).
But even when healthy, which admittedly wasn’t often, there was just something off.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (SoS: 2)
They came in a spot below expected and if we want to blame something other than variance, let’s say it was Garret Sparks, a known scoundrel.
6. San Jose Sharks (SoS: 1)
The fact that they finished sixth in the league with that goaltending and the fact that an All-World defenseman missed 24 games should be worth, like, one-third of a Presidents’ Trophy.
5. New York Islanders (SoS: 6)
This was one of two obviously big misses for me and, as stated above, I think goaltending had a lot to do with it. There was little doubt that Barry Trotz would be an upgrade as coach, though I likely underrated just how positive he would be in terms of limiting chances. This team outperformed its expected offense by six goals, which is doable just about any time, but its expected defense by 20.
So if you want me to apologize for not thinking two goalies I thought were just pretty good — maybe even underrated “1b” types — becoming 25 points better than the league average overnight, well then I’m sorry. But for reference, Trotz’s influence has typically only been worth about 10 points above the league average.
4. Washington Capitals (SoS: 3)
Thought they might take a small step back with Todd Rierden, but they didn’t miss a beat. Plus Holtby got back to being an above-average goalie. And that, as I’ve said, helps.
3. Boston Bruins (SoS: 2)
Yeah this team just got more offense than I thought it would. You wanna say that’s down to David Krejci, that’s fine with me. Great season, fun group, all that stuff. I missed by a couple of spots despite all the injuries.
2. Calgary Flames (SoS: 5)
I figured Bill Peters would make them into a better possession team, which he did. I figured the talent would keep them in a lot of games, which it more than did. I figured they’d miss Dougie Hamilton a ton, which they did not.
But what I thought would reallllllly sink this club was definitely the goaltending. Peters had a track record of not getting much from his netminders, and Mike Smith had a track record of not giving much to the team in front of him. David Rittich had no real track record at all.
But goalies came in league-average thanks to a fair bit of early luck (and despite that, still went way over their expected-goals allowed, by as much as the Islanders beat theirs, in fact). But if you can be league-average with this much scoring and forward depth, most of the other stuff doesn’t matter much.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (SoS: 1)
It didn’t take a genius to know this was the best on-paper team in the league, so there ya go.
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