NHL Power Rankings: All-Star break roll call

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NHL Power Rankings: All-Star break roll call

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

The All-Star break is normally a time to take stock of the landscape around the NHL, and its pretty clear how things are breaking down. With slightly more than 30 games remaining for every team, the Eastern Conference is close to locked in while there are still plenty of questions out in the West.

The Carolina Hurricanes look like the only team that can potentially break into the top eight and catch an invite to the Stanley Cup dance with a strong second half and thats been Carolinas calling card for the last few seasons. So dont doubt their ability to do so.

In the West, both the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks are loitering around the playoff bubble and havent shown any inclination to grab a spot. Its time for those two talented units to provide a finishing kick down the stretch run, or possibly find themselves watching from the outside when things matter most.

Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:
1. Philadelphia Flyers (33-12-5, last week: 1) The Flyers have not held the top spot in the NHL standings this late into the season since the 1984-85 campaign. Pretty sure everybody on the team aside from Chris Pronger doesnt remember any of that.

2. Vancouver Canucks (31-10-9, last week: 2) The Canucks went into the All-Star break smoking hot, but theyve also lost top defenseman Alex Edler for the next two months to injury. Hard times could be ahead, and the Canucks will be looking for blueline help.

3. Detroit Red Wings (30-13-6, last week: 4) Here come Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom from injury. Here come the Red Wings right back to the top, even if the Islanders were able to keep Evgeni Nabokov away from them.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (31-15-4, last week: 6) The Penguins have turned into the NHLs best defensegoaltending team outside of the Bruins, and Sidney Crosby is skating again. Things are looking up for the Pens.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (31-15-5, last week: 5) Tampa Bay unveiled its new sweaters on Monday, and they make me want to say the word Shazam for some reason. Maybe its because of the Guardian Project.

6. Dallas Stars (30-15-5, last week: 6) Its not you, Dallas. Its me. No matter what I do, I cant take you seriously as an NHL contender. Maybe I should start seeing other teams

7. Boston Bruins (28-15-7, last week: 7) Its time for Tyler Seguin to start stepping up and filling in while Marc Savard is on the sidelines. The training wheels are off at this point.
8. Washington Capitals (27-15-9, last week: 9) There is no good reason for the Capitals to sit 19th in the NHL in power-play effectiveness. Alex Ovechkin and Co. need to wake up for the most important stretch of the season.
9. Nashville Predators (27-14-8, last week: 8) The Predators have 21 of their remaining 32 games in the Music City, and that should put Barry Trotz into the playoffs with his team once again. The Preds truly are a small-market marvel.
10. Montreal Canadiens (27-18-5, last week: 10) The loss of Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov leave the Habs as a marginal playoff team despite plenty of talent at other positions. Where would they be without the deal for James Wisniewski?

11. Anaheim Ducks (28-20-4, last week: 13) Cam Fowler leads all rookie defensemen with 26 points at the All-Star break. Hed look pretty good in a Bruins uniform, wouldnt he?

12. New York Rangers (29-20-3, last week: 14) Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Vinny Prospal look like theyll all be making a return to the Rangers fold in short order. Time for the Blueshirts to go on a run.
13. Phoenix Coyotes (25-17-9, last week: 11) The Coyotes have been inconsistent all season, but it bodes well for them that Kyle Turris is finally looking like hes going to be somebody NHL-wise.
14. San Jose Sharks (25-19-6, last week: 15) The Sharks were on a 4-0-1 run headed into the All-Star break and find themselves clinging to the eighth spot in the Western Conference. Put up or shut up time for a bunch of skaters that have been vastly overrated the last few years.

15. Chicago Blackhawks (26-20-4, last week: 12) Fifty games in and the Blackhawks still have no real idea of who they are this season. Its beginning to look like they miss Dustin Byfuglien more than they thought. The lack of Buff appeal will really show up come playoff time.

16. Colorado Avalanche (25-19-6, last week: 16) The Avs are the fourth-best offense in the NHL, but theyre allowing more goals than theyre scoring. Thats a problem.

17. Minnesota Wild (25-19-5, 17) Martin Havlat finally woke up, and the Wild have hopped into the playoff picture. This is not a coincidence.
18. Los Angeles Kings (27-22-1, last week: 21) The Kings play 10 straight games on the road to start their All-Star break, and wont play another home game until Feb. 24. This could be where the dream dies if they cant keep it together.

19. Atlanta Thrashers (24-19-9, last week: 18) Life without Toby Enstrom is going to be really challenging coming out of the All-Star break for the Thrashers.
20. Carolina Hurricanes (25-19-6, last week: 20) The Hurricanes are the most dangerous second half team in the Eastern Conference, and doubly so with a young talent like Jeff Skinner there. My prediction: theyll be one of the eight playoff teams.

21. Calgary Flames (24-21-6, last week: 22) The Flames are 10-3-3 since just before Christmas and appear to have played themselves back into things. Still need a strong stretch run for Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen to become a bona fide success story.
22. Buffalo Sabres (23-21-5, last week: 23) The pending approval of Terry Pegulas ownership bid for the Sabres appears to be a done deal. That should mean very good things for Buffalo, and a legit opponent for the Bruins in the Northeast Division for the future.

23. Columbus Blue Jackets (23-21-5, last week: 24) Looks like things arent working out for Columbus GM Scott Howson. Perhaps he should have made a move or two last summer to improve things?

24. St. Louis Blues (22-20-7, last week: 19) The Blues looked great early on, but it looks like injuries are going to be the ultimate downfall of a talented young team. Too bad.

25. Florida Panthers (22-22-5, last week: 24) All those interested in goaltending, please step to the right to start the bidding for Tomas Vokoun.

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (19-25-5, last week: 26) Loved how Brian Burke came to the defense of Phil Kessel like a parent chastising the bullies in the schoolyard. Pretty sure that just made it worse.

27. New Jersey Devils (16-30-3, last week: 27) Where on earth were these Devils to start the season? Their alarm clocks went off about three months too late

28. Ottawa Senators (17-25-8, last week: 30) The Senators are 9-14-4 at Scotiabank Place and in danger of putting together their worst home record since moving into the building in 1996. A housecleaning is coming.

29. New York Islanders (15-27-7, last week: 29) The Isles resigned Matt Moulson, so theyve got that going for them. Which is nice.

30. Edmonton Oilers (15-26-8, last week: 28) A lot of young, raw talent on the Oil, but they need some other pieces to get things headed in the right direction. Way too raw right now.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 
 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.