Even with the changes they’ve made this off-season, it’s difficult to ignore how the season ended, and the success of one of their rivals. Needless to say, the Avalanche have some competition at the top.
As for the rest of the division, things get murky quick. Three teams have to make the playoffs, but beyond that, I’m not so sure there’s another playoff team in this division.
Let’s get to the power rankings.
1A – Dallas Stars
Top to bottom, they’re just a real solid team. Roope Hintz has developed into a star down the middle, Jason Robertson is a top flight scorer in the league, Miro Heiskanen is (IMO) a top five defenseman, and Jake Oettinger is great in net. There’s plenty to like about this team, especially up front. On top of all that, as much as people in Colorado may not like him, Pete Deboer is a very good coach, especially in the regular season. He’s taken four different organizations to the Conference Finals. That’s not a fluke. Adding Matt Duchene for just $3 million is a great value deal.
Like any team, they have question marks. Do I see Jamie Benn repeating last season? Absolutely not. I don’t love their defense beyond Heiskanen, but this is still a very good team, and Colorado’s main competition in the division.
1B – Colorado Avalanche
Chris MacFarland was clearly not happy with the performance of the forwards in the playoffs for the Avalanche, and made it his goal to change the dynamic of that group this off-season. I love the move for Ross Colton, and it really won’t take much for Miles Wood to live up to his $2.5 million AAV, but they’re banking on Ryan Johansen (and to a lesser extent, Jonathan Drouin) bouncing back in a big way. There’s a fair bit of risk in that.
Still, how can you doubt a team led by Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, and Mikko Rantanen? Even with all the injuries they dealt with last season, the Avalanche won the division, and will be in the running again. A longer off-season might not have been the worst thing in the world for this team to just get healthy and rested for next season.
I see the Avalanche and Stars battling all year long for the top spot in the division.
3 – Minnesota Wild
Because of their cap situation, they haven’t been able to do much of anything this off-season, but they’re still a good team. Kaprizov is incredible up front, and I love Matt Boldy. Gustavsson, like Georgiev, has to show that last year wasn’t a fluke, but I feel comfortable saying this is a playoff squad, especially when looking at the rest of the division.
4 – Winnipeg Jets
I really wanted to put another team in this spot, but just couldn’t do it. They lost Blake Wheeler, and traded away Pierre-Luc Dubois, but I think they did pretty well in that trade. Gabe Vilardi is a good player, he just has to show he can stay healthy, and Alex Iafallo can chip in with some big goals.
Why did I want to put them lower? Because Connor Hellebuyck is not guaranteed to be there when the season starts, let alone make it through the entire year. But he’s there right now, and that puts them above some of these other teams, just based on some of their talent in other positions. He’s their most important player, so once he does get moved, this team could drop in a big way.
Barry Trotz was not afraid to make big moves this off-season, but I’m not so sure the team will be all that much better. Out goes Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen, and in comes Ryan O’Reilly and Gus Nyquist. Beyond those two, their forward group has a lot of question marks.
One area they have zero question marks at is in net. Juuse Saros is elite, and can keep them in any game. That’s a big reason why I couldn’t put them any lower.
If there’s one area I think they made a big improvement in, it’s behind the bench, as I like Brunette a lot more than Hynes, but not sure that’s enough for this team to make the playoffs.
6 – Arizona Coyotes
Is this a controversial opinion? I’m not so sure, but I like the forward group they’re building in the desert, especially with them signing former 3rd overall pick Logan Cooley today. With Clayton Keller, Schmaltz, Crouse, Maccelli, Kerfoot, and Zucker, they should be able to score some goals. Can they defend enough to rise up the rankings anymore? That’s likely to be the issue for most of the teams near the bottom of the rankings here.
7 – St. Louis Blues
Like the Coyotes, they should be able to score, but I don’t see them doing a very good job at keeping pucks out of their own net. Binnington has been on the decline for a few years now, and that contract isn’t going away. They clearly wanted to make some changes this summer, but weren’t able to pull off much, other than getting Kevin Hayes for basically nothing.
Connor Bedard will be fun to watch, and acquiring Taylor Hall to play with him was a smart move, but this team is unlikely to be any good, and they know it. The defense and goaltending isn’t any good, but they got the ultimate prize to kickstart a rebuild in Bedard, so this is a new beginning for them.