The Olympics are over, and the injuries took their toll. John Tavares is done for the season after hurting his knee in the Olympics, and there’s little reason for anybody to go to an Islanders game over the next few months. Henrik Zetterberg finally succumbed to a back injury that’s been an off throughout the season. Paul Martin broke his hand and will be out for much of the rest of the regular season, and Carey Price has been sitting out games for the Canadiens.
Taken one at a time the injuries aren’t horrendous, but some teams know that injuries are less excuse, and more just being in the wrong time at the wrong place. Tavares will be the poster boy for the NHL owners as they look for ways to steer the players away from the Olympics, or at least create their own moneymaking World Cup tournament in one of the league’s non-Olympic years.
Everyone will want to get their way about the future participation of the Olympics, but it seems clear that many things just make fiscal sense before there’s a yeah or nay decision.
With the teams finally over the Olympic break, here are the rankings:
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30. Buffalo Sabres (18-35-8, last week: 30) – The Sabres definitely seemed to do well in dealing Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues, but the whole Pat Lafontaine quitting thing is just another sign that things aren’t hunky dory in Buffalo. They put the “dys” in dysfunctional.
29. Edmonton Oilers (20-34-8, last week: 29) – There really isn’t much to do at this point in Edmonton except start trading off the expendables, and start hoping things will finally change next season.
28. New York Islanders (23-32-8, last week: 26) – The loss of John Tavares at the Olympics was the final kick to the stomach for an Islanders team that just doesn’t have it this season.
27. Florida Panthers (23-31-7, last week: 27) – Are the Panthers actually going to sell off some of their players, or just try to re-sign all the players from a bad hockey team? I’m not sure I get what’s going on there.
26. Calgary Flames (23-31-7, last week: 28) – Just waiting for Brian Burke to press down on the plunger.
25. Carolina Hurricanes (26-26-9, last week: 21) – The Hurricanes have lost five in a row, but they’re still within shouting distance of a playoff spot in the horrible Metro Division.
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MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
24. Nashville Predators (26-25-10, last week: 24) – Pekka Rinne has a return date in mind now, and that portends great things for a Predators team that really needs him.
23. Phoenix Coyotes (27-23-11, last week: 20) – The Coyotes have lost four in a row, but sit just three points out of a playoff spot in the West.
22. New Jersey Devils (26-23-13, last week: 23) – Hard to believe the Devils will trade Martin Brodeur to a contender at the deadline, but the Hall of Famer is going nowhere fast in Jersey.
21. Ottawa Senators (27-23-11, last week: 18) – Bryan Murray sounds convinced he’s a buyer rather than a seller at the deadline. Not sure his players have looked like they should be buyers rather than sellers at this point.
20. Vancouver Canucks (28-25-10, last week: 17) – Everyone but the Sedin Twins could be moved by the Canucks. Well, that certainly paints a wonderful picture of the John Tortorella tyranny going on up there, doesn’t it?
19. Winnipeg Jets (30-26-6, last week: 22) – The Jets have won seven out of 10 games and have a home-heavy schedule in the month of March. It’s now or never to make a big push.
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MIDDLE OF THE SCRUM
18. Columbus Blue Jackets (31-25-5, last week: 13) – The Blue Jackets are sitting squarely on the fence with the trade deadline approaching: too high to get over, too low to get under.
17. Dallas Stars (29-22-10 last week: 19) – The Stars are right on the cusp of a playoff berth, and exactly where they’d hope to be with a young, talented, exciting hockey team filled with offense.
16. Washington Capitals (29-23-10, last week: 25) – The Capitals are making a post-Olympic break surge, and Alex Ovechkin seems to be playing angry hockey after the embarrassment in Russia.
15. Detroit Red Wings (28-20-12, last week: 20) – It’s the stretch drive and the Red Wings are winning hockey games despite losing Henrik Zetterberg at the Olympics. That’s just how the Wings roll.
14. New York Rangers (33-26-3, last week: 13) – Hard line negotiations have put Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan through the ringer this season. One has to wonder if that’s the best way for Glen Sather to do business if he wants to have success with the Blueshirts.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (32-23-8, last week: 11) – Phil Kessel is dominating for the Leafs coming off his powerhouse offensive performance for Team USA in the Olympics.
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A FIGHTING CHANCE
12. Philadelphia Flyers (32-24-6, last week 11) – The Flyers are starting to emerge as a potential second team worth a damn in the Metro Division, and faced down both the Rangers and Capitals over the weekend.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning (34-22-5, last week: 7) – Steve Stamkos is on the verge of returning, but how potent can the Lightning be with a disgruntled Marty St. Louis following his initial Olympic snub.
10. Minnesota Wild (34-21-7, last week: 12) – The Wild have won five games in a row, but badly need a goaltender as insurance in case Josh Harding can’t get his MS condition under control.
9. Montreal Canadiens (34-21-7, last week: 14) – Michel Therrien and P.K. Subban continue to be at odds with each other. How much longer can this situation go on?
8. Los Angeles Kings (34-22-6, last week: 15) – The Kings have won four in a row, but need Dean Lombardi to help them out with a trade or two for more scoring.
7. Colorado Avalanche (39-17-5, last week: 6) – If nothing else the Avs season is already a success given the playoff berth that’s seemingly already there for them.
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BEST OF THE BEST
6. San Jose Sharks (39-17-6, last week: 8) – The Sharks keep on winning and have an aggressive GM that will address their needs in Doug Wilson. Will this year be any different for San Jose?
5. Boston Bruins (38-17-5, last week: 5) – The Bruins defense hasn’t been good coming out of the Olympic break, but they’ve got time and a cushion to start figuring things out. They’ve also got a chance to upgrade their defense on Wednesday.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (40-16-4, last week: 3) – The Penguins are cruising, but badly need a right wing to skate with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. They also need some defensemen. Ray Shero has his work cut out for him.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (36-12-14, last week: 2) – They’ll be playing that move Jonathan Toews put on Brooks Orpik in the Stadium Series game for years. That was pure skill vs. pure junk.
2. St. Louis Blues (40-14-6, last week: 4) – Ryan Miller and Steve Ott really change everything for the Blues. They have such a dangerous team going into the playoffs.
1. Anaheim Ducks (43-14-5, last week: 1) – Ryan Getzlaf. Corey Perry. Jonas Hiller. Cam Fowler. Teemu Selanne. All Olympians and players that traveled back from Russia to play immediately for the Ducks. They may be in for some heavy legs over the next few months.