By Allan Muir
August 14, 2009

With most of the major moves completed and training camps fast approaching, it's an ideal time for the first Power Rankings of the new season. Keep in mind that this isn't a predicted order of finish, and "last week" is merely where each team stood in the final regular season PRs for 2008-09. This is a highly subjective consideration based on what teams accomplished last season and how well they're likely to start off in October, taking into account the summer's key acquisitions and departures.

Your mileage may vary. If unsatisfied, feel free to vent via the email address is below.

NHL Power Rankings
1 Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 2
Impossible not to give the nod to defending champs, but it's fair to question whether GM Ray Shero has adequately restocked the cupboards after several departures. Jay McKee could be a value signing, but the Pens need another veteran with a defensive focus after losing Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill. There's also an opening for a legitimate top-six winger, but no cap space to add one. And let's not start with talk of a Stanley Cup hangover...
2 San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 3
San Jose Sharks (53-18-11)
GM Doug Wilson's promised internal review yielded no major changes, but the Sharks don't need any to be a formidable regular season opponent. Their center depth is enviable (FA Scott Nichol is a nice fourth-line add) and they retained the defensive group that averaged 2.43 goals-against, third best in the league. Don't write them off.
3 Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 7
Detroit Red Wings (51-21-10)
Hard not to notice that 90 goals skated out of town with Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samuelsson and Tomas Kopecky, or that the kids who'll be promoted (Ville Leino, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader) won't come close to replacing them. But is there a more confident group in the league? They know they let one get away last spring and will be motivated to prove they're not sliding into obsolescence.
4 Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 12
Chris Pronger might be the most ideal late-career signing since Denis Savard joined the Canadiens. Pronger's snarl and skill, even in decline, give Philly a top-shelf blueline to match a deep group of forwards. Together, they might just be good enough to cover up for the new and unimproved netminding tandem of Ray Emery and Brian Boucher.
5 Boston Bruins
Last Week: 1
Boston Bruins (53-19-10)
GM Peter Chiarelli took care of business, re-signing Vezina-winner Tim Thomas, breakout star David Krejci and vet Mark Recchi, but the B's will be hard-pressed to hold on to the top spot in the East without leading scorer Phil Kessel. The two sides aren't close and may not come to terms until midseason, when Phil The Thrill is expected back after offseason surgery.
6 Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 6
Chicago Blackhawks (46-24-12)
The good news? Patrick Kane won't be doing time and Marian Hossa should be well-rested by the time he recovers from that surprise shoulder problem. The Hawks also have three players -- Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook -- battling for spots on Team Canada. Chicago should benefit as they raise their games.
7 Calgary Flames
Last Week: 14
Calgary Flames (46-30-6)
If Darryl Sutter had to give someone $30-million plus over five years, better Jay Bouwmeester than Mike Cammalleri. The trade for Jay-Bo gives the Flames the best blueline (on paper) in hockey. They'll need it. Sutter still lacks a reliable backup for Miikka Kiprusoff and a legit center for Jarome Iginla. Problem is, he has less than a million bucks to spend on them.
8 Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 4
There's nothing sexy about them, but they didn't use some Jedi mind trick to finish the regular season 13-3-2 and then take out two division winners. Their lineup should be solid after GM Jim Rutherford returned all of his key FAs and brought in veteran Aaron Ward, who's an underrated presence on the blueline -- an appropriate addition for the most underappreciated squad in the game.
9 Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 8
Anaheim Ducks (42-33-7)
Keep an eye on their goaltenders. If they struggle, it'll be netminding coach Francois Allaire, not Pronger, who was the biggest offseason loss. That said, GM Bob Murray neatly de-Burked the squad by adding Joffrey Lupul and Saku Koivu for secondary scoring and Luca Sbisa as the future defensive cornerstone. Add in some nifty work at the draft and it's no wonder their fans are excited. A serious Cup run isn't far off.
10 Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 5
Vancouver Canucks (45-27-10)
GM Mike Gillis deserves props for signing the Sedins to deals that were reasonable in both term and dollars. Mikael Samuelsson adds versatility to the top six, but where's the puck-moving defender this team has needed since Pam Anderson was a Labatt's Blue girl?
11 Washington Capitals
Last Week: 9
GM George McPhee addressed one key weakness by signing Mike Knuble away from the Flyers. Knuble could score 40 goals this season and 35 of them will be from within three feet of the net. Perfect. Still, the signing of Brendan Morrison -- who was Claude "Invisible Man" Rains in Dallas -- and the decision not to acquire a crease-clearing defender will hurt the club more than the departures of Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov.
12 New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 11
Will Brian Rolston regain his touch under new/old coach Jacques Lemaire? Will David Clarkson break through as Travis Zajac did last season? Who will replace Brian Gionta and John Madden? Lots of questions surround the Devils, including what they'll look like under Lemaire, who returns to the swamp after eight years in Minnesota. But as long as that Brodeur kid stays healthy, they're still a threat to win the Atlantic.
13 St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 10
St. Louis Blues (41-31-10)
What's not to like about this team? The most exciting crop of youngsters in the West -- watch for a breakthrough year from Patrik Berglund -- only gets better with the return of Erik Johnson. Ty Conklin comes over from Detroit to solidify the goaltending. Now if only they can avoid the curse that seems to befall teams that start the season in Europe...
14 Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 25
Edmonton Oilers (38-35-9)
The focus might be on the signing of UFA Nikolai Khabibulin and the refusal of Dany Heatley to go west, but the shakeup behind the bench was the turning point of Edmonton's offseason. Pat Quinn and Tom Renney are a crafty, experienced pair. They'll need to be. GM Steve Tambellini has spent to the cap, with heavy money on the blueline. He'll expect results, not potential.
15 Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 13
The return of Derrick Brassard and the addition of Sami Pahlsson provide depth down the middle like the Jackets have never had. Brassard has battled injuries in each of his first three seasons, so durability is a question. No one doubts his skill, though. Big and slick, he could break through as the legitimate first line center they need to maximize the impact of superstar Rick Nash (who signed an eight-year extension last month).
16 Dallas Stars
Last Week: 27
Dallas Stars (36-35-11)
Last season? Throw it out. The injuries to captain Brenden Morrow (he'll be ready for camp) and top defender Sergei Zubov (headed home to Russia). The sloppy, unfocused play of Marty Turco. A blueline that needed ID to get into R-rated movies. Tt was all too much at once. These Stars are healthy, their goaltending is balanced (FA Alex Auld will play 25-35 games) and they should be motivated to impress new coach Marc Crawford.
17 New York Rangers
Last Week: 17
New York Rangers (43-30-9)
The second-lowest scoring team in the East swapped the salary spent on Scott Gomez (Montreal) for a legit sniper in Marian Gaborik. If he stays healthy, no sure bet, he could be the summer's best UFA signing. They also ditched the frustratingly erratic Nikolai Zherdev and brought in feisty wingers Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik. Neither is without flaws, but both compete, making them better fits under coach John Tortorella.
18 Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 20
Montreal Canadiens (41-30-11)
The best buy in advertising right now might be the Habs' game program. They're gonna sell a boatload to fans trying to figure out who these guys are. It's impossible to say yet how (or if) GM Bob Gainey's full-throttle revamp will come together, but with new faces Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Travis Moen up front, and Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek and Paul Mara on the back end, it'll be different. And after last season, that may be good enough.
19 Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 21
Ottawa Senators (36-35-11)
Don't let the Dany Heatley imbroglio obscure the strong finish the Sens had under rookie coach Cory Clouston. Their 19-11-4 mark was earned with an aggressive forecheck and a smarter utilization of their defensive assets, and that should carry over to this season. GM Bryan Murray brought in Alexei Kovalev to anchor the second line, but has at least one more move to make. Murray is nearly $600,000 over the cap and needs to shed some salary.
20 Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 15
Buffalo Sabres (41-32-9)
The loss of Jaroslav Spacek is going to hurt. He led them in time on ice (22:16) and scoring from the blueline (45 points). Those are numbers that newcomers Steve Montador and Joey DiPenta won't mimic. Mike Grier adds speed and grit (an area that's been a focus in all their signings), but the top six forwards still lack the depth of the East's elite squads. RFA Drew Stafford has yet to sign.
21 Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 16
Minnesota Wild (40-33-9)
Too low? Maybe. Tough to say what this group will look like under new coach Todd Richards (ex-San Jose assistant), but the betting is that they'll risk moving out of the right-hand lane on occasion. Do they have the horsepower to handle life in the fast lane? The loss of Marian Gaborik was potentially offset by the signing of Martin Havlat, but new blueliners Greg Zanon and Shane Hnidy are ill-suited for an uptempo passing game.
22 Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 24
Los Angeles Kings (34-37-11)
Is it time yet? If not, it's getting close. The additions of heart-and-soul winger Ryan Smyth and playoff hero Rob Scuderi should bring some veteran poise to a young group that got a little too comfortable with losing last season. At lot will be riding on netminder Jon Quick's development.
23 Nashville Predators
Last Week: 19
Pekka Rinne must break the one-and-done streak in Nashville's net, and they could really use some additional pop up front, but don't underestimate these guys. A healthy Steve Sullivan makes them more dangerous and their blueline ranks with the best. Now if only GM David Poile would fall out of love with his prospects long enough to deal one (or more) for a legit sniper.
24 Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 26
It didn't take GM Brian Burke long to recast the Leafs in his image. He snared prized FA goalie Jonas Gustavsson and added some junkyard bite to protect him by signing Mike Komisarek and Francois Beachemin and trading for Garnet Exelby. Now he has to turn one (or more) of his nine defenders into a top-six forward. The Leafs scored a respectable 250 goals last season, but any team that counts on Jason Blake to be its top weapon clearly needs help.
25 Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 30
Ownership mess aside, this has been summer full of promising developments for the Bolts. Vincent Lecavalier wasn't dealt -- smart move, despite his sticker price -- and the blueline was bolstered with the signings of Mattias Ohlund, Kurtis Foster and Matt Walker. Victor Hedman was drafted as franchise cornerstone. The playoffs are probably out of reach, but the Bolts could surprise.
26 Florida Panthers
Last Week: 18
Florida Panthers (41-30-11)
Pretty tough to think playoffs when the club's been stripped of Jay Bouwmeester, Craig Anderson, Karlis Skrastins, Ville Peltonen and Richard Zednik (Europe). It doesn't help that Steve Reinprecht and Jordan Leopold are hailed as legit replacements. At least FA Scott Clemmensen adds a wee bit of sizzle to the goaltending battle. They'll need some heavyweight stopping power to give this featherweight offense a chance.
27 New York Islanders
Last Week: 29
You have to think GM Garth Snow will regret his decision to sign both Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron this summer . . . not because Rick DiPietro?s feelings might be hurt. The problem is that the upgrade in net all but guarantees the Isles will steal a few games and squirm out of the basement. Good for the fans, bad for a rebuilding process that leapt forward with addition of first overall pick John Tavares.
28 Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 22
GM Don Waddell inked all of his free agents -- including Kari Lehtonen, who promptly underwent back surgery to treat a lingering injury -- then committed four years and $16 million to Nik Antropov, a supposed top-six forward whose career season-high is 59 points. Ugh. At least the defense shows promise. Zach Bogosian and Toby Enstrom could have big seasons.
29 Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 28
Joe Sakic's playing bingo. Ryan Smyth was sacrificed to the youth movement. They Avs are pinning their hopes on a career backup goalie (though FA Craig Anderson might surprise) and are in full-on rebuild mode. While it won?t alleviate the suffering, at least they?re off to a solid start. Matt Duchene could mature into Sakic-lite and...well, you gotta start somewhere.
30 Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 23
Phoenix Coyotes (36-39-7)
Or is that Hamilton Coyotes? A veteran side would have trouble coping with the stress of this ongoing ownership soap opera. A group of kids like this, saddled with a coach who has yet to prove his NHL bona fides? Things are only going to get uglier when this team hits the ice...wherever that may be.

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