The starting gun has gone off, and the race has begun with newly aligned divisions and a new playoff format. There will clearly be a feeling out process as there is every season in the NHL, but it will be a little bit extra this year with change being tossed into so many areas for all 30 hockey clubs. The Bruins are clearly viewing things just as they always have, but experiencing the Red Wings, Panthers and Lightning in their division absolutely changes things.
“I tell the players that every year [our first goal is] to make the playoffs. We’re sitting here, we’re talking about what we expect from our team and we do expect that. But my job can’t be to go in the dressing room and say, ‘Hey guys, we have to win this year.’ We have to make the playoffs,” said Claude Julien. “After you make the playoffs, you play whoever you have to play…but you have to go through all the teams.
“So I guess in my role it’s more about minimizing the big goal into smaller portions, and we talk about having good starts to season – like by Thanksgiving we need to make sure we’re in a playoff spot. We’re working to getting into the best spot possible and so on so forth. After that, whatever they’ve decided, I just have to kind of abide by that and worry about making sure my team is in the right place.”
Only time and the 82 game schedule will make sure which teams are in the “right place”, but the NHL Power Rankings are a good place to start:
30. Buffalo Sabres (0-2-0) – Ryan Miller has allowed 3 goals in two games and is 0-2 on the season under new coach Ron Rolston. It looks like it’s going to be a long, difficult year in the Buff.
29. Calgary Flames (1-0-1) – Calgary is going the right way with the rebuilding plan, but it could be another tough year for the Flames after watching Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff and Jay Bouwmeester go away last year.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning (0-1-0) – They may win some games with Marty St. Louis and Steve Stamkos, but this is a hockey team without much defense or goaltending in a tough division. .
27. New Jersey Devils (0-1-1) – Switching out Ilya Kovalchuk for Jaromir Jagr is going to leave a Tommy Boy-style mark.
26. Dallas Stars (0-1-0) – As you can tell, I’m not a big believer that Tyler Seguin is going to help turn things around in the Lone Star State.
25. Nashville Predators (0-2-0) – Could this be the season where the bottom really falls out for Barry Trotz and the rest of the Predators? Probably just a bad start, but we’ll see what happens. .
24. Anaheim Ducks (0-1-0) – The Ducks were the Cinderella team last year, but one has to wonder if they’ll be as hungry now that Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have their big contracts.
23. Carolina Hurricanes (0-0-1) – Kirk Muller finally gets his full season with his hockey club, but he’s got a tough road ahead of him in the new division with some of the best teams in the East.
22. Winnipeg Jets (2-0-0) – Winnipeg is giving one of the best home crowds in the NHL something to cheer about, but it remains to be seen if they can sustain…maybe so with the easier travel schedule.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets (0-1-0) – The Blue Jackets have brought in hired guns like Marian Gaborik and Nathan Horton, but it remains to be seen if it can all gel together.
20. Colorado Avalanche (2-0-0) – The Colorado Avalanche have outscored the opposition 9-2 in the first two games of the season, and Patrick Roy is leaving scorched earth in his path. I like what I’m seeing, but I’m not a full believer yet.
19. New York Islanders (1-0-0) –Life is not so easy without a power play quarterback/puck mover like Mark Streit.
18. Florida Panthers (1-0-0) – Tim Thomas was a difference-maker for the Panthers in his debut, and that could be a theme for Florida’s season.
17. Minnesota Wild (0-0-1) – Relying on some youth in Minnesota to help support Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. We’ll see if it works.
16. Philadelphia Flyers (0-1-0) – Peter Laviolette is on the hot seat in Philly, and Paul Holmgren isn’t far behind him. That usually doesn’t bode well for a hockey club under a microscope.
15. Phoenix Coyotes (1-0-0) – The Coyotes continue to win in the desert, and have an eye on the door for another permanent NHL home.
14. Edmonton Oilers (0-1-0) – Andrew Ference is already making a difference after less than two months with the Oil.
13. Montreal Canadiens (0-1-0) – The Habs have some of the NHL’s best in P.K. Subban and Carey Price, but they also have way too many undersized forwards in a physical Eastern Conference.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs (2-0-0) – The Leafs are already showing that last season’s playoff demise is powering them to better things this season. Phil Kessel is now the man Boston always hoped he’d become when he was with the Bruins.
11. Vancouver Canucks (0-1-0) – I’ll only believe the Canucks are willingly going to play Tortorella hockey when I see it with my own eyes. .
10. New York Rangers (0-1-0) – Meanwhile the New York Rangers players must feel like they’re out of jail with Tortorella in Vancouver.
9. San Jose Sharks (1-0-0) – Joe Thornton, Dan Boyles and Patrick Marleau are all entering their final contracted season with the Sharks, and could be headed for the Nintendo reset button if they don’t get off to a good start.
8. Washington Capitals (1-1-0) – Alex Ovechkin should carry the Olympic torch more often given the way that he started the season in dominant fashion. It looks like he finally gets it.
7. Ottawa Senators (1-0-0) – A healthy Erik Karlsson and the addition of Bobby Ryan should make Ottawa a contender, but the money questions are lingering around in the background.
6. St. Louis Blues (1-0-0) – The Blues continue to add offense to what is already a nice defense and goaltending mix, and this season they have something to prove in the playoffs.
5. Detroit Red Wings (2-0-0) – Jimmy Howard, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg along with Daniel Alfredsson will make a formidable hockey club in the Atlantic Division, and they’re off to a good start.
4. Los Angeles Kings (1-1-0) – The Kings are no longer hung over, and ready to go looking for Stanley Cup dinner again.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (1-0-0) – Everybody is healthy and Marc-Andre Fleury is pitching shutouts. Wonder how long that will last for?
2. Boston Bruins (1-0-0) – There are plenty of things the Bruins still have to get used to with so many new additions, but this is one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference with a chance to be better next year.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (1-0-0) – The Blackhawks are my pick to repeat as Stanley Cup champs. They were that impressive with their play against a banged up Bruins team last June.