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Out of the gate

Memo to Gary Bettman: You'd better remember to send holiday cards to Tim Donaghy, Barry Bonds and Michael Vick. With help from a renegade referee, a supposed cheat and a dog-killer, the NHL has been given a huge opportunity to again become relevant in the sports world.

Now two years removed from the damaging lockout, this is the perfect time to give sports fans something positive. And maybe, just maybe, the NHL can creep back into the Big Four Club (along with MLB, the NFL and the NBA). Right now, hockey probably falls somewhere behind soccer and MMA (don't get me started on that).

OK. I'll step off my soapbox. Have you noticed how insanely competitive each division (excluding the Central) can be? Old faces in new places and youngsters ready to shine have leveled -- for the most part -- the rink. The two toughest are the Atlantic and Northwest, where four of five teams in each are legit playoff contenders. Also, some postseason mainstays could be playing golf much earlier than usual (e.g. Stars, Devils). I'm also interested to see how youngsters like Erik Johnson, Nicklas Backstrom and Jonathan Toews perform.

Ladies and gentlemen, let the eight-month quest for Lord Stanley begin.

Have issues with my Power Rankings or want to pat me on the back? Send me an E-mail

Read on for teams 11-20 ...

Have issues with my Power Rankings or want to pat me on the back? Send me an E-mail

Read on for teams 21-30 ...

Have issues with my Power Rankings or want to pat me on the back? Send me an E-mail

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