NHL Power Rankings: Flyers tough at the top

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NHL Power Rankings: Flyers tough at the top

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

With the NHL trade deadline little more than a month away, the time has come for plenty of moves to take place. Which teams will stand pat with their teams confident in their roster building at the beginning of the season, and which teams will make an epic splash with an Ilya Kovalchuk-level move this season.

As weve seen, those kind of major deals can either pull a team apart or push them together. Thats always the ultimate chance when altering the chemistry of any hockey team.

There are plenty of rumors out there about Ottawa defenseman Sergei Gonchar with some even suggesting that Boston might be interested and that kind of player could be the one missing link for many teams to become Stanley Cup contenders.

Tomas Kaberle is also going to be available in the coming weeks with Toronto once again on the ropes, and it really likes itll be a healthy market for puck-moving defensemen for the first time in recent memory.

Teams have already evaluated what they have, and now its time to get bold with a move or two and get busy winning or get busy losing. Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:

1. Philadelphia Flyers (32-12-5, last week: 1) The Flyers are the biggest, baddest hockey team in the land and now they have Chris Pronger back. They also beat down the defending champs on national television Sunday.
2. Vancouver Canucks (29-10-9, last week: 2) It wasnt a banner week for the Canucks with three overtimeshootout losses, but you cant fault them too much for that in the socialist NHL, right?

3. Dallas Stars (29-14-5, last week: 4) The Red Wings finally whooped up on the Stars last weekend and handed them their first loss in January, but hats off to a Dallas team that has been good all season.

4. Detroit Red Wings (29-13-6, last week: 4) The Red Wings have hung in there admirably, and will be getting Daniel Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk back after the All-Star break. Watch out for the Winged Wheels.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (30-15-5, last week: 8) Hats off to the classy Marty St. Louis, who has topped 20 goals in a season eight consecutive years. The Bolts have won four in a row, and look like theyre legit.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (30-15-4, last week: 6) The Penguins are fighting valiantly, but life without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin isnt going to be easy.

7. Boston Bruins (27-14-7, last week: 5) Who would have ever thought that Brad Marchand would be the rookie that everybody is talking about? He leads all NHL rookies with a plus-21.
8. Nashville Predators (27-15-6, last week: 11) The Preds are streaking, and much it is all about Pekka Rinne. The rangy Nashville goalie is 9-1 in his last 10 starts and has allowed one goal or fewer in six of those games.

9. Washington Capitals (27-14-8, last week: 7) Alex Ovechkin snapped out of a goal-scoring funk with a hat trick last weekend, and the competition with Tampa Bay will end up being a very good thing for the Caps.

10. Montreal Canadiens (27-17-5, last week: 10) Apparently, the Habs are taking umbrage with all this talk that only one Northeast Division team will make the playoffs.

11. Phoenix Coyotes (24-16-9, last week: 9) The Desert Dogs are 10-8-5 at home this season. That just isnt going to get it done.

12. Chicago Blackhawks (26-19-4, last week: 12) The one-sided loss to the Flyers was a pretty indicator of how much lesser the Blackhawks are as a team this season.
13. Anaheim Ducks (27-20-4, last week: 15) Saku Koivu wins in his return to Montreal and the Ducks are making due without Ryan Getzlaf in an impressively gutty showing.

14. New York Rangers (28-19-3, last week: 16) The Rangers havent been the best in their last seven games, but its going to do nothing but help with Marian Gaborik on track offensively.

15. San Jose Sharks (25-19-5, last week: 21) You would think that the Sharks would get angry or embarrassed given the way theyre underachieving this season. Youd be wrong.
16. Colorado Avalanche (24-18-6, last week: 14) The good: the Avs have Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny. The bad: the Avs are brutal defensively and got blown out in two straight games.
17. Minnesota Wild (24-19-5, 20) The Wild are in the periphery of the playoffs, but its going to be tough to stay there for Minnesotas Wild Bunch.

18. Atlanta Thrashers (23-19-9, last week: 17) The Thrashers lose Toby Enstrom to injury and get spanked by the Lightning by a 7-1. Guess hes kind of important, eh?

19. St. Louis Blues (22-18-7, last week: 19) The Blues seem to really be stuck in neutral right now, and have won two of their last 10 games. They cant even get Kyle Wellwood on waivers for cripes sakes.

20. Carolina Hurricanes (23-19-6, last week: 16) The Hurricanes arent exactly burying their chances to catch up to a Thrashers team thats struggling. For a team with a strong young leader like Eric Staal, the Canes seem to take too many shifts off.
21. Los Angeles Kings (25-22-1, last week: 18) I love Dean Lombardi, but it might be time to lay low in a safe house for a while.

22. Calgary Flames (22-21-6, last week: 22) The Flames have pulled themselves to within a handful of points of a playoff spot out west, but methinks theres a better chance of Jarome Iginla getting dealt than Calgary making the playoffs.

23. Buffalo Sabres (22-21-5, last week: 25) Ryan Miller will be playing until either A) his limbs fall off or B) the Sabres are eliminated from the playoffs.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets (23-20-5, last week: 27) The Blue Jackets have taken points in five straight games, but really need to turn it on.
25. Florida Panthers (21-21-5, last week: 24) The latest four game losing streak for the Panthers should be taken as their official white flag of surrender for this season.

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (19-23-5, last week: 26) Brian Burke needs to trade Tomas Kaberle or get off the pot. The Leafs are going nowhere but inviting the Bruins to the lottery once again.
27. New Jersey Devils (16-29-3, last week: 30) The Devils are 6-0-1 in their last seven games and Ilya Kovalchuk is finally starting to look as advertised. Wonder if Lou Lamoriello is muttering Its about time in the Devils management box.
28. Edmonton Oilers (14-25-8, last week: 29) The young Oilers are struggling big time, but at least GM Steve Tambellini didnt have any goaltenders hang up the phone on him.
29. New York Islanders (15-25-7, last week: 28) Would love to have been a fly on the well for that ever so brief chat between Evgeni Nabokov and Garth Snow.

30. Ottawa Senators (17-25-7, last week: 27) Looks like theres a full Ottawa housecleaning set to take place with the Senators beginning soon. Its about time that dirty room was cleaned up.

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

Morning skate: Devils win NHL Draft Lottery

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Morning skate: Devils win NHL Draft Lottery

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while continuing to marvel at the strength and character of Isaiah Thomas. 

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals doing major damage control after going down 0-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their series. 

*Dion Phaneuf is finding exactly what he needed with the Ottawa Senators and is going past where he’d been before in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

*The New Jersey Devils won the NHL Draft Lottery, and will get the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s draft with a team badly in need of some star power. 

*On the other hand, the Colorado Avalanche were the big losers dropping all the way to the fourth overall pick after being a dumpster fire all season. I guess there is some hockey justice left in the world. 

*Larry Brooks says that the word on the street is that the Lightning are going to shop Jonathan Drouin this summer for a stud top-4 D-man. They should be getting the pick of the litter by making the skilled forward available. 

*Ron MacLean and Don Cherry talk Big, Bad Oilers and the decline of Corey Perry during Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada. 

*For something completely different: Manny Ramirez hitting home runs in Taiwan is a beauty and a joy forever

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

While the Bruins technically operated, and operated well, short one coach once assistant coach Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien behind the Boston bench, that’s not expected to continue for the upcoming season.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed this week that the B’s will be retaining the current assistant coach group of Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo and Bob Essensa to work under Cassidy as full-time head coach, and that they’ll be looking to add one more person to his staff.

“I think our staff did a very good job jumping in and picking up, because we didn’t add to it at the time [of Cassidy’s promotion] when we subtracted from the group. It will stay as is,” said Sweeney. “We will also be looking to add to it to complement that group. Bruce and I have already spoken briefly about it, but we haven’t identified yet and we’ve already received some people that would have some interest. We’ll pursue that accordingly.”

Sacco handled the defensemen and the penalty kill in the final few months of the season, and Pandolfo worked with the forwards in his very first season as an NHL assistant coach following a stint in player development. Essensa, of course, worked with the goaltenders and as the “eye in the sky” from the press box once Pandolfo moved to the bench following the coaching change. So the natural assumption would be that the Bruins would hire another former defenseman to work with the D-men given the backgrounds of Sacco and Pandolfo as forwards.

“We haven’t gotten too far out in front of it. But, Joe Sacco moved from the front of the bench to the D, and did a terrific job [while playing a] big part of the penalty kill all year. Jay [Pandolfo] came down from the press box, worked with the forwards, which he had worked with all year. But now he’s in the heat of the battle. They were terrific. We were a true staff,” said Cassidy. “Goalie Bob [Essensa] became a little bit more of an eye in the sky for us up there. We had Kim [Brandvold], who was our skating coach, helped a lot with the practices, with the pace we were trying to establish. I can’t thank them enough.

“Going forward, we’re going to meet and decide what’s the best fit for us [as an assistant hire]. Obviously those two have a forward background, I have a defense background, so maybe that’s an area we have to look at, what’s the best complement. But we’d be getting ahead of ourselves if I said today that we’re pinpointing an exact thing. We’ve got to look at it and say, ‘OK, who’s the best fit. What makes us the most successful?’ We’ll go from there with the candidates we get.”

The situation automatically leads one to wonder if P-Bruins head coach Kevin Dean would be a possible candidate as a longtime Cassidy assistant at the AHL level, or if Dean wants to continue on his track as a head coach. If not Dean then perhaps Providence Bruins assistant coach and former Bruins D-man Jay Leach might also be a strong candidate after his first season working with the young P-Bruins at the AHL level.

While it’s clear the Bruins still have some discussions before potentially making a move on hiring an NHL assistant for Cassidy’s staff, they have made a determination about their scouting staff. The B’s never replaced the head of amateur scouting position when Keith Gretzky was hired as an assistant general manager with the Edmonton Oilers, and it will instead be Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley that will run Boston’s draft board in June.

“Scotty Bradley has stepped back into that role, which he’s very comfortable doing. He holds the title of Assistant General Manager and he’ll oversee the draft. We’re very comfortable with the people he’s worked with in recent years that have been a big, big part of our recent drafts. Our meetings went well,” said Sweeney. “They were just at the U-18s and had other subsequent meetings, so there will be some banter in the upcoming [scouting] meetings, in terms of where we end up finalizing our list. Scotty will oversee that.”

It’s not exactly foreign territory for Bradley, who previously held the head scouting position with the Black and Gold and played an instrumental role in drafting players like Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But there’s also some question as to how big a role Gretzky played in drafting the massive wave of talented prospects now pushing their way through Boston’s system, and how much his presence will be missed at NHL Draft weekend moving forward.