NHL Power Rankings: Numbers 30 to 26

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October 1st. The day that cannot come any quicker for a fan of the NHL. But the question is who are the pretenders, contenders, or the ones in the middle.

Let’s start with the teams that are destined for the lottery and the bottom of the league.

30) Calgary Flames 

It is tough to say but the Calgary Flames are the worst team in the NHL and they will be for a while. While the flames do have a few good young players only one or two is NHL ready. With the departure of long time stalwart Miikka Kiprusoff it will be Leland Irving’s net. On the other hand in will be young offensive dynamo Sven Baertschi time to shine. The have several bad contracts and Sean Monahan their brightest prospect is years away. The Flames will be similar to the Oilers and will garnish several lottery picks.

Key Players: Sven Baertschi, Leland Irving, Dennis Wiedman, and Mike Cammalleri

Predicted Finish: Last in the West

29) Florida Panthers

This team could possibly have the greatest possible upside with the immense talent this organization has. The only problem is they have not put that talent together and the veterans are getting older. They have brought Tim Thomas in for a tryout but make no mistake this is Jacob Markstrom’s team. He will push Markstrom and the true colors of the best goalie prospect will show. This team has size and they have speed but they are raw. Leading point getter Brian Campbell lead what was a fairly good powerplay but had trouble keeping the puck out of the net. If Versteeg is healthy this team will score but the liability on defense is what will cost them. They are a few pieces away from being a perennial playoff team.

Key Players: Jacob Markstrom, Kris Versteeg, Nick Bjugstad, Brian Campbell, Eric Gudbranson, and Johnathan Huburdeau

Predicted Finish: Last in the East

28) New Jersey Devils

It is tough to count out a team with the best goalie of all-time in net but this Devils team has way too many holes. They have lost Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. They just don’t have star power outside of emerging Adam Henrique and Defensive prospect Adam Larsson. The devils might make the playoffs but based on the current roster it is tough to see. The additions of Ryan Clowe, Michael Ryder, and Jaromir Jagr just do not do enough to make this team successful. Cory Schneider is the goalie of the future but Brodeur will get most of the starts.

Key Players: Martin Brodeur, Adam Henrique, and Patrick Elias

Predicted Finish: Last in the Metropolitan

27) Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres are bad and more likely to get worse. Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller are likely trade chips to for the rebuilding. With the old regime of Sabres gone and current underperforming this team has realized rebuilding needs to happen. Tyler Myers who was the former rookie of the year needs to have a big year to keep the Sabres even remotely relevant. The leadership now rest with Drew Stafford who is also a player that could be moved. The Sabres had such promise but it looks like they could sit in the cellar for years to come. The young forwards of Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson will hold most of the offensive burden. Tough to ask that of such young players.

Key Players: Tyler Myers, Cody Hodgson, Drew Stafford, Steve Ott, and Tyler Ennis

Predicted Finish: 2nd to Last in Atlantic

26) Winnipeg Jets

The toughest place to play in the NHL is Winnipeg. It is a shame that the team can match the intensity of the fans. The team is loaded with defensive talent. Dustin Byfuglien was out-of-shape last year and it showed as he was more of a liability. Defensemen were hurt left and right with Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian missed significant time. With really only one line of attack the Jets are not deep and that is where their true weakness is. Mark Sheifele’s time to shine is now with the former top ten pick never made a mark on the NHL. The Defense will not be the Jets problem and they have solid goaltending in Ondrej Pavelec but no real offensive depth. Capitan Andrew Ladd is the Jets best player and nearly propelled the Jets into the playoffs. He will need an even better performance to get this team into a playoff push.

Key Players: Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, Ondrej Pavelec, Mark Scheifele, and Andrew Ladd

Predicted Finish: Last in the Central

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