January 19, 2013

From NEHJ: The top contenders for the Stanley Cup

By Jesse Connolly

A little over a year ago, we were pondering the biggest threats to dethrone the Stanley Cup champion Bruins. This time around, the Black and Gold are part of the pack looking to take the Cup away from the reigning Los Angeles Kings (who weren’t even on our radar).

Here, NEHJ staff writer Jesse Connolly ranks all 30 NHL teams based on their chances of winning the Stanley Cup in 2013.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets haven’t come within fewer than 16 points of a playoff spot three years running. Sans Nash, that probably won’t change in 2012-13.

29. Calgary Flames
Got the feeling the perennial bubblers finally blow it up, deal away Kiprusoff and Iginla, sink to the bottom of the standings and begin a rebuild.

28. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets are a team rife with talented, complementary players, but void of a true game-changer. Until one emerges, they’ll be stuck in neutral.

27. Montreal Canadiens
Price is great, and Pacioretty and Cole both topped 30 goals last season, but this team has no secondary scorers and likely will miss the playoffs again.

26. New York Islanders
This Tavares-led core may one day do great things, but playing the Pens, Rangers and Flyers a total of 18 times a year will kill their playoff hopes.

25. Edmonton Oilers
Armed with three consecutive No. 1 picks (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov), if the Oilers cut down their goals against, they’ll finally escape the basement.

24. Anaheim Ducks
Last season was abysmal for the Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry trio. With little proven talent otherwise, unless they’re all back in top form, Anaheim’s going nowhere.

23. Toronto Maple Leafs
Swapping Schenn for van Riemsdyk was a solid deal, but until the Leafs have a bona fide No. 1 goalie, the playoffs will remain out of reach.

22. New Jersey Devils
The conference champs didn’t replace Parise’s offense, have ownership issues and a legendary but aging goalie in Brodeur. That’s not a recipe for success.

21. Colorado Avalanche
Solid offseason acquisitions, especially P.A. Parenteau, should complement Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and the budding core in Denver nicely.

20. Phoenix Coyotes
After reaching the West finals, the Coyotes’ underwhelming offense will miss departed top scorer Ray Whitney. The scrappy Desert Dogs seem due to dip.

19. Detroit Red Wings
Captain Nick Lidstrom retired. Brad Stuart was dealt away. An old core got a year older. Detroit might miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990.

18. Florida Panthers
Everyone’s pegged last season as a fluke, but if youngsters Huberdeau and Gudbranson can have an impact, another trip to the playoffs is possible.

17. Dallas Stars
Derek Roy can replace Mike Ribeiro, but banking on veteran newcomers Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney to help end their playoff drought is a gamble.

16. Carolina Hurricanes
The ’Canes made big splashes, reeling in Alex Semin and Jordan Staal, but their ‘D’ is still iffy and goalie Cam Ward is prone to being inconsistent.

15. Ottawa Senators
A boost on ‘D’ (Methot), the strong tandem of Anderson-Bishop and promising young guns (Turris, Silfverberg) should spell a return to the playoffs.

14. Minnesota Wild
Parise and Suter will inject a lot of life into this club, but how high can they lift a team that missed the playoffs by 14 points last season?

13. Tampa Bay Lightning
After going from conference finalists to playoff outsiders, Tampa addressed its needs on ‘D’ (Carle, Salo) and in net (Lindback) effectively.

12. Nashville Predators
Losing Suter on ‘D’ stings, but the pesky Preds still have a superb coach (Trotz), the Vezina-worthy Rinne and Norris-worthy Weber.

11. Buffalo Sabres
They should atone for last season based on some solid stretch runs (Miller, Myers), added grit (Ott, Scott) and potential breakouts for Hodgson, Ennis.

10. San Jose Sharks
This might be the last crack at the Cup that Thornton and Marleau get together. San Jose has all the pieces, but getting out of the West will be tough.

9. Philadelphia Flyers
Philly has a puncher’s chance thanks to Giroux and Briere, but a Pronger-less ‘D’ and the ever-unpredictable Bryzgalov are cause for concern.

8. Chicago Blackhawks
Toews missed 23 games, Kane slumped offensively, Crawford stunk in net and the Hawks still had 101 points last season. They’ll be better this season.

7. Washington Capitals
Holtby’s heroics and better team ‘D’ yielded playoff success, but scoring is their bread and butter. Offensive-minded Adam Oates is the perfect new coach.

6. Boston Bruins
Rask is a wild card, but any team with Chara has a chance every night. Led by Bergeron and a rising star such as Seguin, the B’s should be in the hunt.

5. St. Louis Blues
The Blues are stacked on the blue line (Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk) and have two No. 1 goalies (Halak, Elliott). Good luck scoring on these guys.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins
A full, healthy season from Crosby obviously is vital, but a dependable 1B goalie such as Tomas Vokoun could be the X factor in the Steel City.

3. Vancouver Canucks
With their offensive depth intact (Sedins, Kesler), the addition of defenseman Jason Garrison and Schneider now the No. 1, I like the Canucks’ chances.

2. Los Angeles Kings
Conn Smythe winner Jon Quick, captain Dustin Brown and a core of players in or entering their primes have many believing a repeat is highly possible.

1. New York Rangers
With Lundqvist in net, dynamite ‘D,’ a new sniper in Nash and a Calder favorite in Kreider, the Blueshirts have to be considered Cup favorites.

This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com