NHL 2022-23 Power Rankings: February Edition
Welcome to February, aka the Stanley Cup Playoffs for general managers. Once the actual playoffs start, there is nothing they can do but sit back and watch like the rest of us. Now is a time of maximum activity. The actual trade deadline isn’t until March 3, so their final exam is still a bit away. But February is the final extended period for them to evaluate their team. Decisions will have to be made right here, right now, even if the trigger isn’t pulled until we’re two weeks away from St. Patrick’s Day. We’ve already seen one blockbuster move. More (and many lesser trades) are sure to come soon. Let’s evaluate each team to get their buying and selling needs lined up while there’s still time with our latest NHL power rankings installment.
32. Columbus Blue Jackets (15-32-4, January: 30)
Andrew: 31, Griffin: 32, Trey: 32
In a stunning twist, surges from Anaheim and Chicago have pushed the Blue Jackets into the NHL’s basement. Other than two months of having Matt Duchene in 2019, Columbus has never had a true franchise center. Landing one, whether it’s Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, or someone else, would be massive. In the meantime, we’ll see if they can run back the David Savard trade with Vladislav Gavrikov.
31. Chicago Blackhawks (15-29-4, January: 32)
Andrew: 32, Griffin: 28, Trey: 30
I still think Chicago is the Bedard favorite, however. The reason is simple: they can offload so much talent over the next month. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are the big names. But leading scorer Max Domi is a UFA at season’s end, and Jake McCabe should garner interest, too.
30. Anaheim Ducks (16-29-5, January: 31)
Andrew: 30, Griffin: 31, Trey: 31
This truly is a torturous season for the Ducks. They lost lottery ground in January and saw one of the beloved Trevor Zegras become the center of one of the sport’s biggest controversies. That doesn’t even include John Klingberg going full Sabres Taylor Hall or what’s looking like a very suspect Ryan Strome contract.
29. Arizona Coyotes (16-28-7, January: T-28)
Andrew: 29, Griffin: 27, Trey: 29
I’ll believe Arizona is going to trade Jakob Chychrun when I see it, and not a moment before. This deadline could be a rare moment for the Coyotes to get to pat themselves on the back. Smart, speculative moves to acquire Nick Ritchie and Shayne Gostisbehere with sweeteners and a cheap $900K contract to Nick Bjugstad should bear quite a few draft picks and prospects. In Round 2 and 3 over the next three seasons, Arizona already has a whopping 15 selections.
28. Vancouver Canucks (20-26-3, January: 25)
Andrew: 26, Griffin: 29, Trey: 27
It’s only three games, but Vancouver’s underlying numbers have improved by leaps and bounds since Rick Tocchet arrived as head coach. Their Corsi For% has jumped from 47.2% to 54.7% and their Expected Goals% has improved from 45.7% to 58.1%. However, two of those games were against Chicago and Columbus, and the one game they played against a good team (Seattle) ended in a 6-1 thumping. Oh, and now they’re without their captain and leading goal scorer. It’s going to be an uphill battle to sustain those improvements.
27. San Jose Sharks (15-25-11, January: T-28)
Andrew: 27, Griffin: 26, Trey: 28
No non-playoff competiting team has more at stake over the next month than the Sharks. They could officially submerge themselves in a rebuild and simultaneously pull off the improbable feat of acquiring assets while getting out of a $90-million-plus contract. The Sharks chickened out last year by extending Tomáš Hertl last year, but it’s harder to justify retaining Timo Meier and especially Erik Karlsson.
26. Montréal Canadiens (20-27-4, January: 27)
Andrew: 28, Griffin: 25, Trey: 26
In contrast, no non-playoff competition team might have less at stake the rest of the season than the Canadiens. They don’t have any star players to trade, and most of those who they will try to move are currently injured. CapFriendly says they only have 10 forwards currently on their roster, which includes Cole Caufield, who’s done for the year.
25. St. Louis Blues (23-25-3, January: 22)
Andrew: 25, Griffin: 30, Trey: 30
Crazier things have happened — you don’t even have to look to other franchises to find some. But Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly aren’t in their primes anymore. Lots of teams talk about wanting to retool, not rebuild. Between those two’s impending UFA status and the young talent the Blues do have, particularly up front, they might be the rare team who can actually pull it off.
24. Detroit Red Wings (21-19-8, January: 21)
Andrew: 24, Griffin: 24, Trey: 24
Good news: Dylan Larkin isn’t talking like someone who thinks he’s going to be traded. “I’ve said it all along, and I stand by it: I really see myself as a Red Wing,” he told ESPN. The bad news: Detroit is still struggling to take the next step, and this is probably the last year where that’s at least moderately acceptable. The clock is starting to tick.
23. Philadelphia Flyers (21-21-9, January: 26)
Andrew: 21, Griffin: 23, Trey: 25
There are players and reasons to have some semblance of excitement about the Flyers. But the bottom line is they aren’t among the league’s best teams at either playing hockey or fawning over Bedard. Even a retool still requires you to make changes. Those probably aren’t coming until the offseason in Philadelphia, but they are coming.
22. Nashville Predators (24-18-6, January: T-23)
Andrew: 23, Griffin: 20, Trey: 22
If Nashville was a team at Detroit’s stage in roster building, this would be an acceptable place to be. But they aren’t. Only two of the nine Predators making at least $4 million are under the age of 30. A wild card spot is within reach, but at some point, Nashville is going to have to commit to something.
21. Ottawa Senators (24-23-3, January: T-23)
Andrew: 22, Griffin: 21, Trey: 21
After a rough start, the Senators have more or less stabilized and find themselves within arm’s reach of a wild-card spot. As long as they finish the season with at least, say, 85 points, that seems like a solid outcome for a team that hasn’t cleared 73 since 2016-17.
20. Florida Panthers (24-22-6, January: 20)
Andrew: 20, Griffin: 22, Trey: 17
On paper, there are still signs of the juggernaut the Panthers were each of the last two seasons. They still rank sixth in the league in Expected Goals Percentage. But due to poor goaltending, injuries, and other factors, it’s just not materializing as it has in the past. It feels like the Panthers are where they were in the late 2010s; a team with some really great parts but unable to put it all together.
19. New York Islanders (25-22-5, January: 19)
Andrew: 19, Griffin: 19, Trey: 18
While shocking at first, the Bo Horvat trade is understandable. The Islanders aren’t a young team, they’re not far removed from consecutive Eastern Conference Final trips, and they need help scoring goals, particularly on the power play. Plus, they were already able to ink Horvat to an extension — albeit a pricey one. Paying for a career year is always risky, although it’s better to overpay good players than bad ones. Even if he regresses to his career norms, Horvat definitely fits in the former category.
18. Washington Capitals (27-20-6, January: 15)
Andrew: 17, Griffin: 17, Trey: 20
The Capitals are in a weird spot. They have no cap space for if/when John Carlson returns from injury, yet they just extended Dylan Strome and Sonny Milano. Yes, in theory, they could just wait until the playoffs start to activate Carlson. But there’s no guarantee they make it there, and their odds are obviously lower if he doesn’t return in the regular season. It’s going to be quite the balancing act for Brian MacLellan at the deadline.
17. Pittsburgh Penguins (24-16-9, January: 17)
Andrew: 14, Griffin: 15, Trey: 19
Whether it’s with generational talents who debuted in 2005, the All-Star Game, or yes, these power rankings, the Capitals and Penguins always move in lockstep.
16. Calgary Flames (24-17-9, January: 14)
Andrew: 15, Griffin: 16, Trey: 16
Calgary feels like the type of team that should benefit from getting a week to reset themselves. The talent is obviously there, but Darryl Sutter just hasn’t found the way to get the most out of the roster. They’re tied for the last wild card and just six points out of the Pacific Divison lead, so there’s a wide range of outcomes for the Flames.
15. Minnesota Wild (27-17-4, January: 11)
Andrew: 18, Griffin: 11, Trey: 15
Some of the players who have had career years in recent seasons have inevitably regressed this year for the Wild. Looking at you, Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman. The Wild are still a solid team despite that, but they can afford to just shrug at losing that production (not to mention Kevin Fiala‘s) in a fairly wide-open Central Division?
14. Buffalo Sabres (26-20-4, January: 18)
Andrew: 16, Griffin: 10, Trey: 14
We’ve been fooled by the Sabres before, but this time does feel different. It will be really interesting to see how Kevyn Adams, armed with three second-round picks, approaches this deadline. You want to reward players for taking their team to unexpected heights, even if this is by no means a “go for it” year for the Sabres.
13. Vegas Golden Knights (29-18-4, January: 3)
Andrew: 11, Griffin: 18, Trey: 9
No one needed the break more so than Vegas. After looking like their pre-2021-22 selves for a few months, January felt like an uncomfortable blast from the recent past. A 2-6-2 stretch is concerning on its own. Losing Mark Stone to surgery? Let’s just say if Vegas doesn’t come out of the break strong, things could get very tense, very quickly.
12. New York Rangers (27-14-8, January: 13)
Andrew: 10, Griffin: 9, Trey: 13
Last year, the Rangers had a very aggressive deadline, and it paid off big time. The path out of the Metro is even harder this year with New Jersey’s emergence, but maybe that only adds more incentive to run back that approach.
T-10. Los Angeles Kings (28-18-7, January: 8)
Andrew: 9, Griffin: 12, Trey: 10
The Kings are having another solid year, but how concerned should we be that it’s mostly the old guard carrying the load? Other than Gabe Vilardi and Sean Durzi, every other King with at least 25 points is at least 26. That’s obviously not that old, but it feels like the old and new guards were supposed to have meshed more seamlessly by now.
T-10. Winnipeg Jets (32-19-1, January: 10)
Andrew: 13, Griffin: 6, Trey: 12
Call me stubborn, but Winnipeg hasn’t done enough to prove they’re a true contender yet. They’re just 22nd in Expected Goals Percentage, a worse mark than every other team in a playoff spot. Connor Hellebuyck can mask a lot of flaws, but not all of them. Winnipeg does have the league’s 13th-best prospect pool, per The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, so maybe they can make a big splash to change things.
9. Colorado Avalanche (27-18-3, January: 7)
Andrew: 12, Griffin: 13, Trey: 2
Bold call from Trey putting the Avs at second, but it’s not totally off base. The defending champs are closing in on full strength, and it would still be shocking not to see them return to elite levels when that happens.
T-7. Seattle Kraken (29-15-5, January: 16)
Andrew: 8, Griffin: 7, Trey: 11
Worth remembering that the 2017-18 Golden Knights did make a big splash at their inaugural deadline, acquiring Tomáš Tatar for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The trade didn’t work out, but the playoff run did. Wonder if Ron Francis will be thinking about that.
T-7. Dallas Stars (28-13-10, January: 4)
Andrew: 6, Griffin: 14, Trey: 6
We’ve seen players respond to all-star snubs in a big way before. Can Jake Oettinger, seventh in the league in goals saved above expected (per Moneypuck.com), join that list?
6. Edmonton Oilers (28-18-4, January: 12)
Andrew: 7, Griffin: 8, Trey: 5
I wrote this last year about Joel Embiid. The same principle applies to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They’ve only got three and two years left on their deals after this one, respectively. It’s time to go for it. Their big jump in our power rankings doesn’t really reflect a significant improvement in the standings.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (31-13-8, January: 5)
Andrew: 5, Griffin: 5, Trey: 8
Only New Jersey and Boston have fewer regulation losses than Toronto’s 13. The Leafs have made fairly big moves at each of the last few deadlines — maybe this year they take their chances with sticking with what they’ve got.
4. New Jersey Devils (32-13-4, January: 9)
Andrew: 3, Griffin: 4, Trey: 7
This was a big month for New Jersey, proving that they are different than their 2017-18 version that also started incredibly strong and sort of just road that to a wild card spot. This year’s club is looking for more. An 8-1-1 run to go into the break shows just that.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (32-15-1, January: 6)
Andrew: 2, Griffin: 3, Trey: 4
They’re slightly ahead of Toronto in points percentage for home ice in the most inevitable Round 1 series in recent memory. Do they have the cap space to add? Not really. Will they still find a way to anyhow? Probably.
2. Carolina Hurricanes (34-9-8, January: 2)
Andrew: 4, Griffin: 1, Trey: 3
This is just the second time all season a team other than Boston has received a first-place vote. Losing Max Pacioretty hurts, but Carolina has proved before and since they are an elite team. They’ve come such a long way in the last five seasons.
1. Boston Bruins (39-7-5, January: 1)
Andrew: 1, Griffin: 2, Trey: 1
They wobbled near the end of the month, yet they’re still 7-2-1 in their last ten games. Boston has earned the benefit of the doubt at this point. That they’ll probably be even better a month from now is scary to think about. No surprise that they top our power rankings once again.
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All Advanced Stats are 5v5 and via Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise stated