NHL Power Rankings: Top storylines for 2021-22 season (Part 1)

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we begin counting down the 30 biggest storylines to watch across the league for the 2021-22 season.

We will look at 10 storylines over the next three Mondays, counting down toward the NHL’s biggest storylines.

We begin today with Nos. 30-21 including the Devils, Elvis Merzlikins, the Stars, divisional alignments, and the return of fans.

What stories make the list this week?

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30. Devils taking another shot. Say this for the Devils: They are not afraid to try. A couple of years ago they were one of the NHL’s busiest teams and attempted to load up with big acquisitions like P.K. Subban, Nikita Gusev, and Wayne Simmonds coming into join Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and top pick Jack Hughes. It did not really work. At all. And a lot of the players from that team are now gone. But armed with a ton of salary cap space this offseason the Devils were again fairly busy, making one of the biggest free agent splashes of the summer with Dougie Hamilton while also adding Tomas Tatar, Ryan Graves, and Jonathan Bernier to the roster.

Will that be enough to make a difference in a tough Metropolitan Division? A lot will depend on how big of a jump they can get from Hughes, Hischier, and Mackenzie Blackwood in goal.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

29. Elvis Merzlikins wants to win Vezina. The Blue Jackets were rocked by tragedy this summer when goalie Matiss Kivlenieks died in a fireworks accident on July 4. Goaltender Elvis Merzlikins credited Kivlenieks for saving his life during the incident and has made it his goal to win a Vezina Trophy in his friend’s honor.

“I don’t want to make any promises, but I can tell you … my plan is to win a Vezina Trophy,” Merzlikins told The Athletic earlier this offseason. “I’m gonna win a … Vezina for him. We can’t make promises because this is hockey and we don’t know how the season can go, but this is my goal. I believe I’m going to reach it.”

Merzlikins is also honoring Kivlenieks with a new mask design.

28. Old division alignments and playoff format. After a one-year break the NHL is returning to its normal divisional alignments and playoff format for the 2021-22 season. That means no more all-Canadian division, the return of the wild cards, and no more play-in rounds.

The 2019-20 playoff format and the 2020-21 season produced some wildly unexpected results that almost certainly would have never taken place in a normal season, from the Blackhawks’ appearance in the 2020 postseason to the Canadiens’ stunning run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. The only major change taking place this season is the Coyotes shifting from the Pacific to the Central Division and being replaced out west by Seattle. That is bad news for Arizona (the Central is far tougher) and good news for a Kraken team trying to make an immediate impact in the NHL.

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27. What direction are the Canucks going? One of the more confusing teams in the NHL right now. They have a sensational young core to build around and they did make some intriguing additions this offseason with Jason Dickinson and Conor Garland, as well as the arrival of Vasili Podkolzin. But the defense still has some major questions, and the depth is still a question. They play in the weakest division in the NHL which should give them a shot at the playoffs, but their ceiling still seems to be a mystery as does their overall plan.

26. Can Dallas rebound? The Stars were knocking on the door of the Stanley Cup during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 postseasons, even reaching the Cup Final in 2020. And then things fell apart this past season with a fifth place finish in the modified Central Division, keeping them out of the playoffs entirely. Injuries played a huge role in that as Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov both missed almost the entire season, completely robbing them of a significant portion of their offense. They lost 14 games in overtime or shootout (most in the NHL) and missed the playoffs by four points.

The defense is there, they have the goaltending, and they are getting back a healthy Seguin and Radulov. The playoffs should be the expectation at a minimum. 

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25. Hurricanes goalie swap. The biggest question with the Hurricanes always seems to be their goaltending situation. Last year they had one of the top team save percentages in the league and a Calder Trophy finalist in Alex Nedeljkovic. They responded this offseason by completely swapping their goalies, trading Nedeljkovic, letting Petr Mrazek walk, and bringing in Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta.

It was not that long ago that Andersen and Raanta would have been one of the NHL’s best goalie duos. But are they still capable of that level of play? The Hurricanes are a Cup contender, and the play of Andersen and Raanta will play a big role in what they are capable of. 

24. Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith in Pittsburgh. With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang another year older the Penguins window for contention is inching shut. They are not in a position to waste any of their remaining seasons. The 2020-21 season has the feeling of a missed opportunity given the way they lost in the playoffs with Jarry completely melting down in the playoffs. Instead of making changes to the position, or bringing in somebody to push Jarry, they are sticking with the same goalie duo that was not good enough a year ago. The good news is Jarry can not possibly play as poorly as he did in the playoffs over a full season. He will be better. He is capable of being better. But how much better will he be, and will it be good enough?

23. Robin Lehner takes over as No. 1 in Vegas. It seems this is the result the Golden Knights have wanted since acquiring him at the 2020 trade deadline. They made him the starting goalie that postseason, re-signed him to a massive contract that offseason, and seemed prepared to move on from Marc-Andre Fleury right then and there. Even though Fleury came back and reclaimed his starting job and won his first ever Vezina the Golden Knights still dumped him in a salary cap clearing trade, leaving Lehner is the unquestioned starter in Vegas. The Fleury-Lehner duo was the league’s best, and now it all falls on Lehner as he takes over for the most popular player on the team. On a Cup contender that is a lot of pressure and attention.

22. What is the future of the Wild? The Wild emerged as one of the league’s most exciting teams during the 2020-21 season, due in large part to the arrival of Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov. But contract talks with him have been slow, while the Wild are set to begin a three-year stretch where buyouts leave them with a significantly reduced salary cap number compared to the rest of the league. Can they get Kaprizov signed? Can they build a competitive around him? Are they positioned to be contenders for the long-term, and how does the front office juggle the salary cap situation?

21. Fans back in most buildings. While some buildings had fans for a portion of the 2020-21 season, and some even at full capacity, that should be more of the norm across the league this season. It will be a drastic change after having no fans in the bubble and no fans (especially in Canada) around the league for most of the 2020-21 season.

NHL Power Rankings: 2021-22 Calder Trophy candidates

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we are going to take a look at some of the top contenders for the NHL’s 2021-22 Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

When we talk rookies here, we are not just necessarily talking first year players. We are looking at anybody that still has Calder eligibility.

A reminder, to be eligible for the Calder “a player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season, nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons, in any major professional league.”

Normally the top pick in the draft (in this case Sabres defenseman Owen Power) would very much be in the discussion, but Power has decided to return to the University of Michigan for one more season. Even without him in the mix this has the look of an extremely strong rookie class.

Who all makes the initial list?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens. We were able to get our first look at Caufield at the end of last season and throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs and he looks like he has a chance to be special. An electrifying talent with natural finishing ability, Caufield’s initial cup of coffee in the NHL as well as his talent level has to make him the leading 2022 Calder favorite. The development of him and Nick Suzuki will go a long way toward determining what the Canadiens’ long-term future looks like.

2. Spencer Knight, Florida Panthers. The NHL’s top goalie prospect, Knight figures to get significant playing time this season and will soon be the main guy in Florida’s crease. Playing behind what should be a playoff team and maybe a sneaky contender could really boost him in the race, especially if he builds on what he showed at the end of this past season.

3. Moritz Seider, Detroit Red Wings. It is amazing how quickly the perception of this pick has changed for the Red Wings. When they took Seider with the No. 6 overall pick in 2019 it was not a popular choice. But in just two years he has quickly developed into one of the top defense prospects in the league and is coming off an incredible 2020-21 season in Sweden.

4. Quinton Byfield, Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have the best farm system in hockey and Byfield is the best prospect in it. With Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault leading the way, Byfield won’t have to take on a top role, so hopefully the Kings can get him into positions to succeed early on.

5. Vasili Podkolzin, Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks always seem to have a Calder candidate on their roster, from Brock Boeser, to Elias Pettersson, to Quinn Hughes, to Thatcher Demko, and now Podkolzin. They have patiently waited a couple of years for him to make his debut and he has the potential to be another core building block.

6. Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks need something positive and a young cornerstone building block. Zegras and Jamie Drysdale (more on him in a minute) are the two best chances for that. He was great in the AHL last season and showed some really positive signs in his brief NHL action.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

7. Alex Newhook, Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche roster is an embarrassment of riches, and it is almost unfair to have a prospect like Newhook ready to crack the lineup when they already have so many stars.

8. Marco Rossi, Minnesota Wild. Rossi’s entire 2020-21 season was wiped out due to some serious COVID-19 complications but he seems to be healthy now and should have a chance to make an impact for the Wild. The fact the Wild have major weaknesses at center and will be counting on young players to step forward the next few years should give him plenty of opportunity this season.

9. Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche. We just mentioned the embarrassment of riches the Avs have at forward with Newhook arriving, and the same thing is true on defense with the arrival of Byram. They selected him in 2019 with the No. 4 overall pick they received from Ottawa as a result of the Matt Duchene trade, and he is ready to join an already stacked defense that features Cale Makar, Sam Girard, and Devon Toews.

10. Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers. Kravtsov is one of the many young prospects that gives the Rangers such a promising future. He appeared in 20 games a year ago and now that he has some North American hockey experience under his belt should be poised to take a step forward.

11. Jamie Drysdale, Anaheim Ducks. One of the Ducks’ other key young building blocks, Drysdale just barely qualifies for Calder eligibility this season (he played in 24 games this past season; if he played in 25 he would not be eligible) but figures to play a big role for a Ducks team that has to at some point start looking toward the future.

12. Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red Wings. Even though he finished in third place in the Calder voting last season with the Hurricanes he is still technically Calder eligible this season. But can he repeat his 2020-21 performance? Especially when playing behind a weaker team?

13. Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins. A lot of this could depend on what happens with Tuukka Rask. If Rask is back, Swayman’s role obviously gets dramatically reduced. But if Rask does not return the Bruins are going to rely on him along with Linus Ullmark to handle the goaltending spot. Swayman was very impressive a year ago when the Bruins needed him.

14. Connor McMichael, Washington Capitals. The Capitals have one of the oldest rosters in the league and at some point need to start working in some fresh talent. McMichael is their best hope for that in the short-term and he is a great prospect. He had a strong 2020-21 season in the AHL, but how much of a chance will he get to make an impact on a Cup contender?

15. Peyton Krebs, Vegas Golden Knights. Like McMichael in Washington, Krebs is an excellent prospect with a bright future but is going to struggle to get playing time on a stacked roster that is looking to win right now.

NHL Power Rankings: General manager ranking tiers

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the league’s general manager rankings, from the best of the best, to the people that might be on the hot seat by the end of the season.

General managers are the polar opposite when it comes to head coaches in terms of job security, with 15 of them having been in their current position since before 2016. By comparison, only four head coaches have been employed with their teams for that long, and only two of them preceded 2014. While general managers overall tend to have more job security, some have been way more successful than others. We explore that a little bit here.

Where does your team’s general manager rank?

To this weeks NHL Power Rankings!

The Elites

1. Julien BriseBois, Tampa Bay Lightning. When you build a back-to-back Stanley Cup winner in the salary cap era and have had a hand in building the best team in the league over the past seven years, you get the top spot. No questions asked.

2. Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche still need to get through the Second Round hurdle, but they should get there. Sakic has built a powerhouse team that is set up to compete for years.

3. Lou Lamoriello, New York Islanders. Yes, a lot of the Islanders’ core was already in place when he arrived, but he has made a lot of strong complementary moves and brought credibility and consistency to an organization that badly lacked both. They have had more playoff success in his three years than they did in the previous 25 years.

The Rest Of The Best

4. Don Sweeney, Boston Bruins. The Bruins’ farm system is weak, but the NHL roster is still very strong and has been one of the league’s best for years. Getting Taylor Hall for nothing at the deadline and then re-signing him to a team-friendly multi-year deal is a big series of wins.

5. Brian MacLellan, Washington Capitals. The Capitals have an aging roster that is probably going to need a rebuild soon, but MacLellan has helped build a consistent Stanley Cup contender, a team that is always in contention to win its division (and usually does) and has his name on the Stanley Cup.

6. Bill Zito, Florida Panthers. Maybe this is high for a general manager that has been on the job for less than two years, but he has done a magnificent job in that time and quickly turned the Panthers into a serious contender.

7. Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings. A lot of this ranking is admittedly based on his work in Tampa Bay. The Red Wings rebuild is taking some time, but everybody knew that was going to be the case.

8. Kelly McCrimmon, Vegas Golden Knights. There is not a blockbuster move that this team does not love. The Golden Knights have one of the best rosters in the league and have been in the semifinals in three of their first four years.

9. Don Waddell, Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes roster is stacked with high level players in the prime of their careers and should be a Stanley Cup contender. Waddell has made a lot of the right moves in recent years, but did make some head-scratching moves this summer (the goalie situation; the Tony DeAngelo blunder) that could slide him back a bit.

10. Doug Armstrong, St. Louis Blues. The Ryan O’Reilly trade turned the Blues into a Stanley Cup champion and is one of the most one-sided trades in recent memory. He has had a couple of missteps since then, but he has still built a consistent contender in St. Louis.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

The middle ground

11. Jim Nill, Dallas Stars. The Stars did regress significantly this past season, but injuries played a major role in that. When healthy this was a team that had won five playoff series over a two-year stretch and was knocking on the door of a Stanley Cup. There is also something to like about a general manager that swings for the fences in his roster moves.

12. Kevin Cheveldayoff, Winnipeg Jets. For the longest time he was one of the most inactive and patience general managers in the league. He has been a little busier in recent years and made some strong moves to improve the roster. The Jacob Trouba trade is an underrated win.

13. Rob Blake, Los Angeles Kings. There is a lot of projection here, but the Kings have a great future ahead of them thanks to the farm system Blake has built. Adding Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson this offseason really help in the short-term.

14. Chuck Fletcher, Philadelphia Flyers. Carter Hart will determine what ultimately happens with the Flyers. Hated the Rasmus Ristolainen trade this offseason, but there is a lot to like about the Ryan Ellis and Cam Atkinson moves.

15. Marc Bergevin, Montreal Canadiens. He makes a lot of trades that end up working out, but the on-ice results do not always match up. The Stanley Cup Final appearance was the perfect storm of a bizarre schedule, an unbalanced schedule, the right division, and a hot goalie. Drafting Logan Mallioux was a black eye after such a storybook season.

16. Bill Guerin, Minnesota Wild. He has done a solid job so far, but wow does he have his work cut out for him over the next couple of seasons with that salary cap situation.

17. Ron Hextall, Pittsburgh Penguins. Hextall takes patience to an entirely new level. Getting Jeff Carter was great. His handling of the expansion draft situation? Not ideal. The Penguins, as of now, have a slightly weaker roster than they did a year ago.

18. Tom Fitzgerald, New Jersey Devils. I like a lot of the moves that Fitzgerald has made, especially this offseason, but there is still a lot of unknown here and where the Devils go.

The fading star tier

19. Doug Wilson, San Jose Sharks. A few years ago he would have been in the top-10, but the Sharks’ long-term outlook is one of the bleakest in the league right now.

20. Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs. It seems that a lot of his moves the past couple of years have run counter to what made the Maple Leafs such a promising team and him such a rising star general manager. At some point his roster has to do something — like win a playoff series — to justify all of the hype.

21. Ken Holland, Edmonton Oilers. Those Stanley Cup years in Detroit are starting to be a distant memory. Holland has not really done a lot to maximize the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl prime years.

22. David Poile, Nashville Predators. There are some bad contracts here and now the Predators are going to try one of those competitive rebuilds that never work. The longest tenured general manager in hockey, his job still seems secure.

Too soon to know Tier

23. Ron Francis, Seattle Kraken. He has some track record with Carolina but that was a few years ago. The initial Seattle roster seems like some missed opportunities.

24. Chris Drury, New York Rangers. He is inheriting what should be a good situation, a young team with a proven superstar (Artemi Panarin) and great young talent. Let’s see what he does with this roster.

25. Bill Armstrong, Arizona Coyotes. Right now his job is about tearing down the roster and starting a true full scale rebuild. Lot of draft picks to work with. What they do with them will obviously determine everything.

26. Kevyn Adams, Buffalo Sabres. He can not miss on a Jack Eichel trade. That will set the franchise back even further than it already is.

The Hot seat tier

27. Brad Treliving, Calgary Flames. He has been running for the Flames for seven years with mixed results. There have been some playoff appearances, but no playoff success. Not a bad team, not a contender. Just mediocre.

28. Jarmo Kekalainen, Columbus Blue Jackets. The only real success of his time in Columbus came when they went all in at the trade deadline to win a single playoff round.

29. Bob Murray, Anaheim Ducks. Honestly it seems crazy to even put him in this tier because no matter what happens with the Ducks his spot seems secure. The Ducks just seem like a directionless team right now without much of a plan.

30. Pierre Dorion, Ottawa Senators. There are some good pieces here, but there have been some mistakes. The Mark Stone trade looks questionable, and the Matt Murray contract is a problem.

31. Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks haven’t been good in four years and a lot of that is the result of some major missteps by Bowman. I am not sure all of the money they spent this offseason is going to fix that because even those moves are questionable. And that is just the hockey related reasons for why he should be on the hot seat. There is still the questions of his handling of the sexual assault allegations the team is facing. Put all of that together and it is kind of surprising he is still with the team.

32. Jim Benning, Vancouver Canucks. After all of this time the Canucks are still a middle of the pack team at best, and a disappointment at worst. They have a great young core, but the supporting cast has been weak. They operate like they are one player away from being a Stanley Cup contender, but they are never close to that.

NHL Power Rankings: Coaching hot seat tiers for 2021-22 season

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the 32 head coaches around the league and how comfortable they should be feeling in their position for the 2021-22 season.

In other words: The hot seat rankings. We placed the head coaches in different tiers ranging from the safest and more secure jobs, to the coaches that might be feeling some heat for one reason or another.

Where does each coach sit this week?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

Tier 1A: Not going anywhere. New guys (Everybody gets a season)

1. Dave Hakstol, Seattle Kraken. Whether or not you like the decision to go with Hakstol is irrelevant. He is a first-year coach for a first-year expansion team. Expectations for this season are low and that makes him probably the safest coach in the league.

2. Andre Tourigny, Arizona Coyotes. Similar to Hakstol in the sense that he is a first-year coach on a team that is actively gutting its roster and reducing expectations for this season. Is he the right coach long-term? We will find out. But he is safe this year.

3. Brad Larsen, Columbus Blue Jackets. The big challenge here is what can he get out of Patrik Laine.

4. Gerard Gallant, New York Rangers. He has the most pressure on him among the new coaches because the Rangers have such high expectations this season, but he is also the most proven and best coach of the bunch. 

Tier 1B: Not going anywhere. Top coaches, performance related

5. Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning. In his eight seasons with the Lightning the team has reached the Eastern Conference Finals/Semifinals five times, played for the Stanley Cup Final three times, and has won the Cup in each of the past two seasons. As safe as you can get for an established coach.

6. Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are one of the best teams in the league under Brind’Amour and he just signed a new contract extension. He is safe.

7. Barry Trotz, New York Islanders. He is, quite honestly, the face of the Islanders right now and has helped completely change the culture of the team. He is going nowhere no matter what happens this season.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

8. Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche. If Colorado fizzles out in the First or Second Round maybe the Avs consider a change after the season, but I can not envision an in-season change.

9. Joel Quenneville, Florida Panthers. The Panthers have real expectations this season and a roster that can compete, and that can be dangerous for a coach if the team underachieves. But Quenneville’s resume and track record keeps him safe.

10. Dean Evason, Minnesota Wild. It would take a massive regression and absolutely disastrous season for a change here.

Tier 2: Extremely safe, probably not going anywhere

11. Dominique Ducharme, Montreal Canadiens. That Cup Final run is going to buy him a lot of time even if the Canadiens struggle to repeat that success this season. And they probably will.

12. Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins. Cassidy has been great for the Bruins and the team should still be a contender. Are you going to get a better coach than him right now?

13. Peter Laviolette, Washington Capitals. The Capitals are still a Cup contender and they do not really make knee-jerk reactions with their coaches.

14. Peter DeBoer, Vegas Golden Knights. The results should be good enough to keep him secure but the Golden Knights have proven to be the most ruthless, cutthroat organization in the league when it comes to making changes.

15. Darryl Sutter, Calgary Flames. Sutter is a giant in the Flames organization and they just brought him back. I am not ready to say he is completely safe, but it would be a shock if he went anywhere anytime soon.

Tier 3: Getting a little warmer

16. Craig Berube, St. Louis Blues. Not that Berube has done a bad job, but every year a coach gets away from their championship the shorter the leash gets. The Blues have lost in the first-round two years in a row. Maybe he is not in danger yet, but he could be getting close.

17. Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins. He has been a wildly successful coach in Pittsburgh, but their past three playoff performances have been disappointing and the current front office did not hire him. They have no loyalty to him.

18. Lindy Ruff, New Jersey Devils. It would be a major shock if Ruff got fired within his first two years, but the Devils spent major money this offseason and have an emerging superstar in Jack Hughes. They need to show some real progress this season.

19. Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets. He is one of the longest tenured coaches in the league with a mixed bag of results. He always seems to be on the hot seat, but the Jets winning a round in the playoffs probably bought him some time.

20. Rick Bowness, Dallas Stars. There should be reasonably high expectations in Dallas this season, and if they fall short early in the season a change seems at least like it could be something that is discussed.

21. John Hynes, Nashville Predators. The Predators’ roster is weaker than it was a year ago and they needed Juuse Saros turning into superman to get into the playoffs.

22. Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs. It feels like everybody’s seat in Toronto is getting warmer. The coach. The general manager. Star players. Time to do something.

23. Dan Granato, Buffalo Sabres. He is entering his first full season, but the Sabres seem like they are set to embark on a disastrous season. I am not sure he will be the fall guy for it. But you never know.

24. Travis Green, Vancouver Canucks. He just signed a multi-year extension this offseason. They like him and think they are closer to competing than they might actually be. This seems like an “after the season” change if one happens.

25. Todd McLellan, Los Angeles Kings. The Kings should not have any delusions about competing this season, but they should expect some progress.

Tier 4: Danger zone

26. Dave Tippett, Edmonton Oilers. He is highly regarded, yes. But the Oilers have two MVPs in the primes of their careers and could not even win a single playoff game against the Jets. Nobody’s job in this organization is — or should be — totally secure.

27. Alain Vigneault, Philadelphia Flyers. To be honest, this probably depends on which version of Carter Hart the Flyers get this season.

28. D.J. Smith, Ottawa Senators. I really have no idea what sort of coach Smith is and neither do you, mostly because he has been given the task of leading a young, rebuilding team that is starting from scratch. Tough situation to win in, and the losing will almost certainly continue this season.

29. Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings. Like Smith it is impossible to accurately evaluate Blashill because of the rosters he has had to work with. Still, in six years the Red Wings have one playoff appearance with him and have missed the playoffs five years in a row and almost certainly going on six years. Not many coaches get to keep coaching a team that long.

30. Dallas Eakins, Anaheim Ducks. The problem in Anaheim is probably more centered on the front office, but GM Bob Murray seems invincible. That is probably bad news for the coach.

31. Bob Boughner, San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are trending in the wrong direction, have a lot of problems on the roster, some bad contracts, and have missed the playoffs two years in a row. Recipe for a change if things start slow.

32. Jeremy Colliton, Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks’ only playoff appearance the past four years (including three with Colliton) was the bubble season where they had the NHL’s 23rd-best record. They spent a ton of money this offseason, increased expectations, and still have a thin roster that looks nothing like a contender. Classic case of a team that might “disappoint” and make an early change.

NHL Power Rankings: Teams with the best 5-year window

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we are looking big picture and examining the teams with the best five-year outlook. Also the teams where things are looking bleak with some leaner years ahead.

What are we looking for here in terms of the window? Simply put, the chances of a team making a Stanley Cup Final and remaining a serious contender over the next few years.

Where does your team sit?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

Stanley Cup Final should be reasonable expectation

1. Colorado Avalanche. The most talented roster in the NHL on paper and it keeps looking better with players like Alex Newhook and Bowen Byram on the horizon. They have a couple of second round exits that might look disappointing now, but they will get there.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning. They have been in the Conference Finals/Semifinals five times in the past seven years, including three Stanley Cup Finals. They have also won it all two years in a row. And with their core and farm system and pipeline of talent they are not even close to finished yet.

3. Carolina Hurricanes. Losing Dougie Hamilton is going to be tough, but this is still an incredibly talented roster that has sky high potential (as long as the goaltending works).

4. Vegas Golden Knights. Probably the oldest team on this tier, but also one of the best teams in the league that should still have a nice window for contention. They need somebody else to emerge at center (Nolan Patrick, perhaps? Maybe Peyton Krebs? Or both ideally) but it is still a loaded roster.

5. Florida Panthers. Expectations should be at an all-time high for the Panthers right now. Hall of Fame coach, two superstar players at the top of the lineup, a strong supporting cast, and perhaps a franchise goalie waiting to take over.

Still a Contender but a lot needs to go right

6. New York Islanders. I get the reason people are skeptical of them. But they have been in the final four two years in a row (and advanced in the playoffs three years in a row). You do not do that by accident.

7. Boston Bruins. The core is getting older but it is still great. Losing David Krejci is a short-term setback, but there is still a lot of reason to buy into them making another deep run.

8. Washington Capitals. They have one of the oldest rosters in the league, but it is still a good roster for now. The window is still open at least for a little bit.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins. They are going to need a massive rebuild when Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang retire but all three are still really good right now and there is still a good supporting cast.

Major potential, but need to prove it

10. Toronto Maple Leafs. Yeah there is a ton of talent here but this group is 0-for-4 when it comes to advancing in the playoffs, this roster is weaker than last year’s roster, they are back in a tough division, and if they lose again this season that core is going to get broken up to some degree. It is time to do something.

11. New York Rangers. Absolutely loaded with young, high-end talent that they need to take a big step this season. Adam Fox has already taken his step. Now all eyes turn to Igor Shesterkin, Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, and Vitali Kravtsov. If they can reach their potential, that is a championship core.

12. Los Angeles Kings. Similar story as the Rangers only a year or two behind. Great farm system, but it needs to prove it can play at the NHL level.

Could go either way

13. St. Louis Blues. Team is getting a little older, has already lost Jaden Schwartz, seen some significant departures on defense, and who knows what Vladimir Tarasenko‘s future is.

14. Winnipeg Jets. They have a great goalie, some high-end forwards, and what should be an improved defense this season. The goalie is what really gives them a chance every year.

15. Edmonton Oilers. The fact this team has two MVP winners in the prime of their careers, the two best offensive players in the NHL right now, and they are only in the middle of the pack here as far as a five-year window goes is a damning indictment on the job of the past two front offices.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

16. Philadelphia Flyers. Carter Hart will make or break what happens here in the short-term and the long-term.

17. Dallas Stars. They have a great defense and outstanding goaltending, but Joe Pavelski, Alexander Radulov, and John Klingberg are all unrestricted free agents after this season (can they keep all three?) while Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are both another year older.

 18. Montreal Canadiens. They stunned the hockey world this past season and they do have some really intriguing young players. But they also have some real flaws while the two highest paid players (Shea Weber and Carey Price) are getting older and starting to show signs of breaking down physically.

19. New Jersey Devils. Jack Hughes should be a superstar, Nico Hischier is fantastic, and Dougie Hamilton is a huge addition. But they play in the wrong division in the short-term and depth is a major concern throughout the lineup.

20. Minnesota Wild. A lot depends on if they can get Kirill Kaprizov signed long-term and how well their farm system produces because that salary cap situation is going to be a major problem for the next few years.

21. Calgary Flames. Not a great situation, not an awful situation. Just kinda average. That usually means long-term sustained mediocrity.

Mystery Teams

22. Vancouver Canucks. Ton of potential at forward, a really good young goalie, but that defense and salary cap situation is messy. They should be higher, but they have been mismanaged.

23. Detroit Red Wings. The rebuild is well underway and they do have a great general manager that has assembled some intriguing talent, but things seem to be progressing slowly here. Still a few years away from really making some noise.

24. Ottawa Senators. There is a lot of young talent here but they seem to be lacking the potential superstar talent that rebuilding teams like New York and Los Angeles have. Ownership worries me.

25. Seattle Kraken. The fact they seemed to leave a lot of talent and miss some opportunities in the expansion draft is not an encouraging sign for the long-term outlook here.

Trending in wrong direction

26. Nashville Predators. Competitive rebuilds do not work. They just lead to sustained mediocrity.

27. Chicago Blackhawks. They made a lot of moves this offseason, but a lot of them carry some risk (Seth Jones, Jake McCabe) or are short-term band-aids on larger problems (Marc-Andre Fleury) that still carry some risk. Still a lot of problems here.

28. Columbus Blue Jackets. They always seem to overachieve a little, but they are lacking a lot of high end talent. Patrik Laine should help with that, but who knows what sort of season is ahead for him or what his long-term future with the team even is.

29. Arizona Coyotes. The rebuild is well underway and it is going to take a lot of time.

30. San Jose Sharks. An aging team with a lot of bad contracts, no goalie, and little in the way of young impact talent.

31. Buffalo Sabres. They need a rebuild from their latest rebuild that was a rebuild from the previous rebuild. When Jack Eichel gets traded it really will be starting over from scratch.

32. Anaheim Ducks. What is the plan here again? They keep putting off an actual rebuild and just keep pushing back the timeline for contention again.

NHL Power Rankings: Potential breakout players for 2021-22 season

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we look at 10 players on the verge of a breakout season in 2021-22.

There are a lot of recent high draft picks on the list, but also a couple of young players that are getting a fresh start on new teams and a clean slate to build from.

Who all makes the list this week?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils. Hughes showed significant improvement in year two for the Devils and at times looked like an emerging superstar. When I picture a “breakout” year for him, I am envisioning a massive jump from “good young player” to “NHL mega-star.” Like, perhaps even a top-10 or-15 season offensively. His possession numbers were dominant a year ago, his point production increased (21 points to 31), and his playmaking was at times magnificent. He just needs some players with finishing ability around him.

2. Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are one of the best young teams in the league, and while their defense gets a lot of attention they have a magnificent group of forwards. Necas is one of their best young players and has really taken some big steps the past two seasons. Do not be surprised if he does again this season, especially as he starts to enter what should be his peak production years.

3. Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders. Barry Trotz is still going to use both Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov, but Sorokin is the future of the position and he might start to take more playing time just based on the way he performs. His long-awaited rookie season was mostly a success with flashes of brilliance, and he might have been one of the biggest reasons the Islanders got through the First Round to start another deep postseason run.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

4. Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers. The Rangers have a couple of potential breakout players on their roster, including Alexis Lafreniere and Igor Shesterkin. Kakko has been a little bit of a disappointment through his first two seasons (23 points to 17), but there are a lot of signs that a breakout could on the horizon. He has been a dominant possession driver and is still loaded with skill. He can put it all together and with a little puck luck could be in line for a huge offensive season.

5. Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim desperately needs a superstar to build around and Zegras might be the player in the system that has the most potential to be that type of player. His rookie season was very promising with strong possession numbers and 13 points in 24 games as a 19-year-old. All of his points came at even-strength while he also averaged close to two-and-a-half shots on goal per game. He repeats that process this season the results should be even better.

6. Nolan Patrick, Vegas Golden Knights. Things did not work for Patrick in Philadelphia, and Vegas needs a potential impact center. Maybe the fresh start for Patrick while playing on a Stanley Cup contender is what he needs to jumpstart his career. Maybe both the team and player can get what they need to take the next step here.

[Related: Expectations should be at all-time high for Florida Panthers]

7. Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres. He has been pretty good so far in his career. But now is the time for him to become what the Sabres hoped they were getting when they selected him No. 1 overall in 2018. After a slow start last season he looked like a different player following the coaching change and is still oozing with talent and potential. He could be a game-changer for the Sabres’ rebuild if he pans out like originally hoped.

8. Vince Dunn, Seattle Kraken. This one just seems obvious. Dunn has performed extremely well when given the opportunity in St. Louis, and now he is going to a situation in Seattle where he is going to be counted on to be one of their top players on defense. Do not be surprised if he turns out to be Seattle’s version of Shea Theodore.

9. Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers. This is a necessity for the Flyers to be good this season. Hart showed all of the promise the Flyers had hoped for in his first two seasons before just self destructing during the 2020-21 season. Think we will see this season how that performance was the outlier.

10. Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers. It has taken Puljujarvi some time, but he really is becoming a very good NHL player and he was very quietly one of the Oilers’ most effective players last season. He is still young enough and talented enough to become the star player the Oilers hoped he could be when they selected him with the fourth overall pick. Great possession numbers, improved his shot volume, and extremely talented. There is still a potential breakout here.