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  • Tampa Bay still sits atop the league, but the Lightning's sizable lead is dwindling as Calgary is leading the charge in the Western Conference.
By Jeremy Fuchs
February 04, 2019

The Western Conference seems to be a three-horse race: Calgary, Winnipeg and San Jose. The Sharks were hampered a bit by a poor start, but they're still in it. There seems to be a significant gap between those three and Nashville, who has been scuttling for some time. Vegas, it seems, is in that next tier with the Predators. All these teams have dynamic first lines. What makes them different from say, Colorado, is that there's just enough balance (particularly on Winnipeg) to make it work.

31. Ottawa Senators | Record: 19–28–5 | Previous Ranking: 31

This is a defining moment for Ottawa. What the Senators get for Mark Stone and Matt Duchene—and indeed, what they've gotten for Erik Karlsson—could transform the franchise for years. Or, it could be a big nothing.

30. Chicago Blackhawks | Record: 20–24–9 | Previous Ranking: 27

Even as Chicago struggles, Patrick Kane's season cannot go unnoticed—31 goals and 76 points through 52 games. Given what's been around him, it's one of his finest, statistically speaking.

29. Los Angeles Kings | Record: 20–27–4 | Previous Ranking: 29

Dion Phaneuf has been shockingly bad for the Kings with just two points in 43 games. And with his contract—which has a $5.2 million cap hit—they can't trade him. Yikes.

28. Detroit Red Wings | Record: 21–25–7 | Previous Ranking: 26

The end of the Jimmy Howard era is nigh. Overall? This team has been a bit too up-and-down.

27. New Jersey Devils | Record: 20–24–7 | Previous Ranking: 30

Even as everything else has gone wrong, the play of Mackenzie Blackwood has to be encouraging. But Blackwood is back to the AHL as Cory Schneider returns to the Devils having not won an NHL game since Dec. 2017. 

26. Edmonton Oilers | Record: 23–24–5 | Previous Ranking: 24

Here's why the Oilers might go for it at the deadline. They have the best player in the world. Why not see if you can put the best talent around him? Doing it at the deadline instead of over the summer, though, might not be the best idea.

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25. Florida Panthers | Record: 21–21–8 | Previous Ranking: 25

Surprised at the trade for Derick Brassard, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. Nick Bjugstad was a good player having a down year, and he has a few years left on his contract. But the trade leaves room to possibly go for a bigger name, and the three picks will certainly help.

24. Philadelphia Flyers | Record: 23–23–6 | Previous Ranking: 28

Look what happens when you get good goaltending! A seven-game winning streak (as of Monday morning), and the Flyers aren’t ready to be dropped from the conversation.

23. New York Rangers | Record: 22–22–7 | Previous Ranking: 22

Besides the big names on the block, look for lesser names like Fredrik Claesson and Adam McQuaid to see some trade action.

22. St. Louis Blues | Record: 23–22–5 | Previous Ranking: 23

Props to Ryan O'Reilly for being everything the Blues wanted and more, boasting 52 points so far. Just because it hasn't extended to the rest of the team doesn't mean it wasn't a good trade.

21. Arizona Coyotes | Record: 23–23–5 | Previous Ranking: 21

This should begin a week of sell-offs for the Yotes.

20. Anaheim Ducks | Record: 21–22–9 | Previous Ranking: 20

Why Anaheim thinks its still in it is baffling. They got creamed 9–3 by Winnipeg, which was the Ducks’ third straight loss.

19. Colorado Avalanche | Record: 22–21–8 | Previous Ranking: 19

If the price for a good defender is a first-round pick, then the Avs, if they're serious about improving, might not have a first round pick for a while…

18. Vancouver Canucks | Record: 24–22–6 | Previous Ranking: 18

It would be great if, for the rest of the season, the Canucks can see what they have in goaltender Thatcher Demko.

17. Dallas Stars | Record: 27–21–4 | Previous Ranking: 17

After going into the break with some momentum, the Stars kept it up with back-to-back good wins against the Wild and the Predators.

16. Carolina Hurricanes | Record: 25–21–6 | Previous Ranking: 16

Carolina had a good showing against Calgary, even if it ended in a loss. Are the Canes crazy enough to make a deadline splash? It could definitely be worth it given how uncertain the Metro Division is.

15. Buffalo Sabres | Record: 25–20–6 | Previous Ranking: 14

Buffalo has a minus-8 goal differential. It's amazing what a big winning streak can do.

14. Minnesota Wild | Record: 26–22–4 | Previous Ranking: 15

Securing Alex Stalock for three years was pretty smart. Keeps him as the backup for Devan Dubnyk and a good insurance policy.

13. Columbus Blue Jackets | Record: 28–20–3 | Previous Ranking: 10

A bad weekend, as losses against Winnipeg and St. Louis extended a five-game losing streak. It's going to be interesting to see how this week plays out, with a potential shakeup looming.

12. Washington Capitals | Record: 28–18–6 | Previous Ranking: 9

Overall, a good weekend. An impressive win against Calgary without Alex Ovechkin, followed by a tough, but close, loss against Boston.

11. Pittsburgh Penguins | Record: 28–18–6 | Previous Ranking: 13

Bjugstad could turn into a very good deadline addition if he finds his game. Losses to the Leafs and Devils were counter-balanced with wins over the Lightning and Senators this week.

10. Boston Bruins | Record: 28–17–7 | Previous Ranking: 12

Tukka Rask is back, but the Bruins have the luxury of taking things slow. Jaroslav Halak has been just as good as Rask.

9. Montreal Canadiens | Record: 29–18–6 | Previous Ranking: 11

Jeff Petry, who logged the most minutes while Shea Weber was out, is minus-7 this year. But he was minus-30 last season, so he’s doing something right.

8. Vegas Golden Knights | Record: 29–21–4 | Previous Ranking: 7

Vegas limped into the All-Star break, but we're looking ahead to Tuesday's matchup in Tampa Bay.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs | Record: 31–17–3 | Previous Ranking: 8

Jake Muzzin for a first round pick? Might be a bit steep. But it's a really good deal and boosts a strong team.

6. Nashville Predators | Record: 31–19–4 | Previous Ranking: 6

Nashville doesn't play a playoff team until after Valentine's Day, and then after that, not until March 1st. This is the time to gain some ground again.

5. New York Islanders | Record: 30–15–6 | Previous Ranking: 5

A tough 1–0 loss to Tampa is not a bad thing. And that came with Thomas Greiss in net.

4. Winnipeg Jets | Record: 34–16–2 | Previous Ranking: 4

Patrik Laine has 25 goals so it's hard to say he's been bad, but one goal in January is not going to cut it if he's not going to provide anything else.

3. San Jose Sharks | Record: 30–16–7 | Previous Ranking: 3

Karlsson and Brent Burns spent All-Star weekend talking about how comfortable they are together. It's showing on the ice. Watch for a second-half explosion leading up to the playoffs.

2. Calgary Flames | Record: 34–14–5 | Previous Ranking: 2

These rankings have long been skeptical of David Rittich in net, but it's probably time to change that assessment. He has just four regulation losses! Has to be doing something right.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning | Record: 39–11–2 | Previous Ranking: 1

Brayden Point is going to get paid, he's a legitimate superstar. That's how the good teams stay good—draft well and find gems like Point in the third round.

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