By Allan Muir
March 04, 2014
The Blues welcomed Ryan Miller to the fold and ascended to the status of solid Stanley Cup contender.
Norm Hall/Getty Images
NHL Power Rankings
1 St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 1
St. Louis Blues (40-14-6)
The offense let them down in their first two games out of the break—both 1-0 losses—but the Blues are riding high after the bold acquisitions of Ryan Miller and Steve Ott. Doug Armstrong's gambit made St. Louis the co-favorite with defending champion Chicago to emerge from the West. It also set the table for what should be an interesting deadline period. (Last week: 1-2-0)
2 Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 3
Anaheim Ducks (43-14-5)
Four years ago, they struggled miserably coming out of the 2010 Olympics. This year, they found traction immediately after the Sochi Games. The Ducks seem to have all the pieces in place for a deep playoff run, but second-line scoring depth and an additional veteran presence on the blueline would help their chances. They have a wealth of goaltending talent that would appeal to other teams—as long as they don't ask for John Gibson--and sure enough, the Oilers were happy to take Viktor Fasth off their hands for a fifth rounder this year and a 2015 third rounder. (Last week: 2-0-0)
3 Boston Bruins
Last Week: 2
Boston Bruins (38-17-5))
The B's haven't looked like themselves since the break, and that may force GM Peter Chiarelli into making a move. The team's GAA has risen dramatically since defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was lost for the season (2.72 in his absence compared to 1.95 before he was hurt), and while that's not all attributable to the struggles of the kids who are trying to fill in for him, it seems clear that adding veteran help before the deadline would be prudent. (Last week: 1-1-1)
4 Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 4
If it's the trade deadline, there's bound to be some buzz surrounding the Pens. This year, the focus is on their apparently heated ardor for Ryan Kesler, who would return them to the Three Star Centers format that powered their last Cup win. But after watching them give up five goals in consecutive losses, it's clear that what this team really needs is help on the blueline, especially with Paul Martin out with a broken hand, and Kris Letang sidelined indefinitely by his recent stroke. (Last week: 0-1-1)
5 Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 5
The rebuilding Avs have surprised everyone but themselves with their success to this point and are a solid bet to return to the playoffs for the first time in four years. That said, they're more likely to sell off a key piece than acquire one unless pending UFA Paul Stastny signs a contract extension before the deadline. The veteran center would bring a nice return (likely a pick and a second-tier prospect). The Pens and Red Wings are thought to be kicking his tires. (Last week: 2-1-0)
6 San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 6
San Jose Sharks (39-17-6)
They scored more than two goals only once in their nine games leading up to the break, but have turned the trick twice in three games since. It's gotta be the Raffi Torres Factor, right? GM Doug Wilson said the return of the shift disturber would have the same impact as a big acquisition, and he looks prescient so far. Torres has three goals and the Sharks are biting their foes. Still, they could use a left-handed defender with top-four ability, and another top-six forward would really help them keep pace in the West. Wilson, however, seems disinclined to move his best assets, and so he might just stand pat. (Last week: 2-1-0)
7 Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 7
Chicago Blackhawks (36-12-14)
No one's forgotten that the Hawks have lost 12 of their 20 games in 2014, but the performance of their top stars in Sochi and their utter domination of the Pens in Saturday's Stadium Series contest suggest that this team simply needs a reason to flip the switch to Beastmode. The upper body injury to Marian Hossa is a concern, but since it'll be just three weeks until his return, GM Stan Bowman may decide to dance with the ones what brung him this spring. (Last week: 1-1-0)
8 Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 11
Minnesota Wild (34-21-7)
With three straight wins out of the break and a 14-4-2 mark since Jan. 2, the Wild continued their inexorable drive to return to the playoffs. Captain Mikko Koivu returned to the lineup on Monday night after missing 17 games with a fractured ankle. That's a real upgrade, but it likely won't be the only one for Minnesota. As expected, the Wild added a veteran netminder--Ilya Bryzgalov--to spell promising rookie Darcy Kuemper down the stretch. (Last week: 3-0-0)
9 New York Rangers
Last Week: 8
New York Rangers (33-26-3)
Netminder Henrik Lundqvist looked All-World in Sochi. Top defender Dan Girardi signed a new deal that should keep him in blue for the rest of his career. The only concern in New York now is the fate of captain Ryan Callahan. Word is that he has softened his bargaining position, but that's no guarantee that he'll be with the team for the playoff push and beyond. If he's moved, look for the Rangers to add a puck-moving blueliner or a second-liner with some veteran presence. (Last week: 1-2-0)
10 Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 9
Steven Stamkos has targeted Thursday's game against the Sabres for his long-awaited return to the lineup ... but will his running buddy Martin St. Louis be there waiting for him? Rumors spread last week that the Bolts' captain was still seething over being left off Team Canada's original roster by GM Steve Yzerman and had requested a trade. When asked to comment, St. Louis chose to play it coy rather than smooth things over. Hard to believe he'd want to leave with the team challenging for the Atlantic Division title, or that Yzerman would let him go without doing everything to patch the relationship, but it could happen. (Last week: 1-2-0)
11 Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 12
So Ryan Kesler wants nothing to do with the Jackets? That's fine, especially if a trade for him would have cost them Ryan Johansen, the young center who might already be playing better than the Vancouver vet. A bigger area of concern might be the blueline, where Fedor Tyutin is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain and Ryan Murray couldn't finish Monday night's game in Toronto. A playoff spot is within reach, so look for Columbus to be involved before the deadline. (Last week: 2-0-0)
12 Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 13
Winnipeg Jets (30-26-6)
The Jets keep on winning—they're now a remarkable 11-3-1 since Paul Maurice took over as coach in mid-January—but that success puts GM Kevin Cheveldayoff in an awkward position. His roster features six pending UFAs and while none of them are building blocks, the presence of veterans like Olli Jokinen, Mark Stuart and Al Montoya is key to keeping this team on the road to the playoffs. Does Chevy reward the fans for their support by letting it ride, or does he keep his eyes trained on the future and maximize his assets? I'd bet on the former. (Last week: 2-0-0)
13 Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 14
Detroit Red Wings (28-20-12)
The Wings have been mentioned as a possible destination for Vancouver's Ryan Kesler, but with Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery) lost for the regular season and Pavel Datsyuk (inflamed knee) out indefinitely, the big center would be a Band-aid over a bullet hole. Even though it puts their 22-year playoff streak in jeopardy, it makes more sense for the Wings to hold on to their young talent and look ahead to next season. (Last week: 2-0-0)
14 Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 21
Four consecutive wins out of the break reminded everyone just how dangerous this team can be, the same way the Ryan Miller trade reminded them how steep the climb will be to the top of the West. The Kings don't seem like a team that is adequately built to handle that challenge, and you have to think that GM Dean Lombardi will kick tires repeatedly until he finds some scoring help at a price that doesn't seriously compromise his team's future. Matt Moulson and Mike Cammalleri are said to be his top targets. (Last week: 4-0-0)
15 Dallas Stars
Last Week: 15
Dallas Stars (29-22-10)
Inspired by his success in Sochi, captain Jamie Benn has played like a golden god since returning from the Olympics. His spectacular shortie against Carolina last Thursday inspired one of the most colorful calls of the season, and his influence was all over a Monday night win against Buffalo that solidified Dallas' hold on the final playoff spot in the West. Still, their defense continues to allow some staggeringly easy chances, suggesting that GM Jim Nill might want to do more than hammer plywood over the windows and hope for the best if this team hopes to hang on down the stretch. (Last week: 2-1-0)
16 Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 16
Already a flawed team, especially on the offensive side of the puck, the Canadiens took another contender credibility hit coming out of the Olympics when all-tournament goalie Carey Price turned up lame. He could be back as soon as next Tuesday, but it will be to a room that looks little different than it does now. The Habs are likely to mostly stand pat on Wednesday, keeping one eye on the future and all but ensuring a one-and-done spring. (Last week: 2-1-1)
17 Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 11
So much for picking up where they left off. The Leafs won 11 of 14 going into the break, but have dropped all three since the resumption of play. They managed to pick up a couple of loser points, but their continued struggles in the defensive zone and the face-off circle led to them being booed out of their own building ... again. It'll be interesting to see how GM Dave Nonis handles pending free agent Dave Bolland—someone who could help on the draw, but might be too expensive for the team's tastes. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Toronto go in on one of the available top scoring wingers, either. (Last week: 0-1-2)
18 Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 17
A 7-3 loss to San Jose coming out of the break has been forgotten after wins over divisional rivals New York and Washington moved the Flyers into second place in the Metro Division. But it's a precarious perch, one that's inspired some franchise-altering trade talk including the possibility of dealing significant young assets in exchange for Ryan Kesler. This team could clearly use a push for the stretch run, but with no real chance for playoff success this season, a deal that shores up the blueline long term makes more sense than another center. (Last week: 2-1-0)
19 Washington Capitals
Last Week: 19
Collecting five out of six points after the break was critical to Washington's playoff chances, but it's maddening that the Caps have blown a two-goal lead in each of those games. That's not unusual for this team—it's happened 11 times this season and throws their defensive integrity into question. The focus has been on the failings of the goaltenders, but what this team really needs is a significant upgrade on the back end. Without one, it's impossible to take the Caps seriously as a playoff contender. (Last week: 2-0-1)
20 Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 22
Ottawa Senators (27-23-11)
The inability of this club to string more than two wins together since early January highlights the inconsistency of its season and has GM Bryan Murray willing to discuss the fate of virtually anybody—including, reportedly, Jason Spezza. Don't expect Murray to move his captain before the deadline, but his longest-tenured player, defenseman Chris Phillips, is likely gone. There's a good chance that a younger blueliner like Patrick Wiercioch could also be moved if a scoring winger can be procured in return. (Last week: 1-1-0)
21 New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 23
New Jersey Devils (26-23-13)
Martin Brodeur will get at least one more start for the Devils --on Tuesday night against Detroit. Will it be his last? Don't count on it. There's interest in the veteran netminder, but the value that other teams are placing on him befits a player whose save percentage (.900) is well below the league average (.914). Unless Brodeur is begging to get out, look for GM Lou Lamoriello to pass on acquiring mid-rounders and allow Brodeur to finish the season in New Jersey. (Last week: 2-1-0)
22 Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 20
Phoenix Coyotes (27-23-11)
Three straight losses out of the break left the Coyotes with just three wins in their last 10 games, dropping them three points and three teams out of a Western playoff spot. If that last defeat—which saw them blow a two-goal third period lead against the Blues—didn't exactly eliminate them, it highlighted their inability to seal a win they desperately need. A loss to Vancouver on Tuesday night would all but force them to rent a scoring winger or hoist the white flag on the season. (Last week: 0-2-1)
23 Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 18
If losing six of their last seven games, including all four coming out of the break, didn't essentially end whatever playoff aspirations they might have held, the injury to No. 1 defender Justin Faulk surely does the trick. Even if he's out less than two weeks, as expected, that's still a hole that the Canes unlikely to climb out of. The onus now falls directly on GM Jim Rutherford to address the team's goaltending situation. He's reportedly close to a new deal with Anton Khudobin, which means he could be willing to take nearly anything in exchange for high-dollar/low-result netminder Cam Ward. (Last week: 0-4-0)
24 Calgary Flames
Last Week: 24
Calgary Flames (23-32-7)
Great stat the other day from Eric Francis: Only one GM (New York's Glen Sather) has more deadline deal moves on his ledger than Brian Burke's 29. It's safe to assume, then, that the interim Keeper of the Flames will be active before Wednesday's deadline. Mike Cammalleri is his prime chip and should net a solid prospect or a first rounder, but non-UFAs including Lee Stempniak and Dennis Wideman could also be on the move in the right deal. For a rebuilding club like Calgary, a package of picks and promising young talent could make just about anyone available. (Last week: 1-2-0)
25 Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 25
Vancouver Canucks (28-25-10)
It's over. With nine losses in their past 10 games, and eight goals scored in their past seven, plus Daniel Sedin hurt and Ryan Kesler reportedly begging out, it's time for GM Mike Gillis to give up on any illusions about the playoffs and start planning for success a couple of years down the road. The monarch's ransom he's asking for Kesler isn't likely to be met before Wednesday, but could plant the seeds for a big haul during the summer. Given what's at stake, it makes sense for Gillis to take his time with a deal that could define his tenure with the club. (Last week: 1-1-1)
26 Nashville Predators
Last Week: 27
The Preds added a significant player for the stretch drive without making a deal. Goaltender Pekka Rinne is set to make his return on Tuesday night, finally putting an end to the Carter Hutton, Devan Dubnyk, Marek Mazanec and Magnus Hellberg circus that doomed Nashville to the fringes of playoff contention. If GM David Poile makes any other additions, they're likely to be minor. He's said that he isn't looking to swap his most likely chip, pending UFA David Legwand, before the deadline. (Last week: 1-1-0)
27 New York Islanders
Last Week: 26
With John Tavares sidelined for the season and just two wins to show for their past 11 games, the playoff return dream is dead for the 2013-14 Isles. All that's left now is for GM Garth Snow to maximize the returns on Thomas Vanek and Andrew MacDonald. He'll have a tough time getting the first rounder he's asking for MacDonald, but Vanek did him a favor by scoring twice in 58 seconds in a 5-3 loss to the Panthers. Vanek has the best hands that are up for auction at the deadline, which could mean a first rounder and a solid prospect will be coming back to the Isles in return. (Last week: 1-2-0)
28 Florida Panthers
Last Week: 28
Florida Panthers (23-32-7)
Forget a major move at the deadline. Panthers fans got exactly what they wanted this week with the news that team president Michael Yormark was leaving for a new gig with Jay-Z. Yormark's 11-year reign of error was marked by the alienation of true fans in pursuit of a monied spectator who is more interested in being seen than seeing the game. Even if GM Dale Tallon botches his assets on Wednesday, you better believe this week will be remembered fondly by the Florida faithful. (Last week: 1-2-0)
29 Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 30
Buffalo Sabres (18-35-8)
Never a dull week in Buffalo, where Tim Murray knocked one out of the park in his first at-bat as GM with the Ryan Miller/Steve Ott to St. Louis trade, and president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine either quit or was fired as a result of his unhappiness with the deal. It's pretty clear that the front-office incompetence that has defined this club for the better part of a decade is still in effect. The team's fans can only hope that Murray will be allowed to do what he thinks is best over the next 36 hours without any interference. (Last week: 3-1-0)
30 Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 29
Edmonton Oilers (20-34-8)
It never really seemed like a matter of whether the Oilers wanted to re-sign Ben Scrivens. It was whether he wanted to tether his future to them. Consider it a win for the team, then, that the breakthrough goaltender signed a two-year extension on Monday that fills one of the club's most pressing needs. Now it's just a matter of trying to address one or two more before Wednesday when, presumably, GM Craig MacTavish will deliver one of those bold moves that he promised fans last summer. (Last week: 0-1-1)

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