The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / NHL Top 16 Power Rankings: Category breakdown edition

NHL Top 16 Power Rankings: Category breakdown edition

A deeper look inside

With the trade deadline approaching and teams styles of play well established this week’s NHL power rankings will include each team’s greatest strengths, weaknesses, biggest trade deadline needs and their chance at a Stanley Cup.

Side Note, the Stanley Cup chances are in comparison to the other teams on this list, not to the entire NHL.

1) Washington Capitals

Strengths: Offense, penalty kill, experience

No question the Capitals have unstoppable forwards and a determined PK group bent on keeping pucks out of the net.

Weaknesses: Braden Hotlby

This may be hard to hear but Braden Holtby has had a rough year and is holding the Capitals back from further success.  This brings greater questions to what he and the Caps will do this off-season as Holtby will be an UFA.  He has been fantastic in the past but hasn’t done much recently.  This may affect their playoff success.

Deadline needs: None

This might seem counterintuitive but the best thing for Washinton to do right now is hold on to their current core.  There is always room for improvement but they are already in a cap crutch.

Stanley Cup Chances: High

2) Boston Bruins

Strengths: Defense, offense, power play, penalty kill

In nearly every facet of the game, the Bruins are outstanding as they are top ten in all these categories.

Weaknesses: Offensive depth

Although the Bruins have the “Perfection Line” they need some depth.  Honestly though the Bruins are pretty set.

Deadline Needs: Depth winger

The Bruins are looking for the final piece to put them over the top and win a Stanley Cup, a depth winger may just be the missing piece.

Stanley Cup Chances: Very high

3) Pittsburgh Penguins

Strengths: Forwards, goaltending

Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin, Tristian Jarry. What more needs to be said?

Weaknesses: Power play, injury prone

Oddly enough, despite having a top ten offense, the PP has struggled at times for the Pens.  The number of injuries has not stopped this group, though it could hold them back in the playoffs.

Deadline Needs: Left wing, defensemen

Pittsburgh is solid most of the way around but they could use a little improvement in these areas partially because of injuries.

Stanley Cup Chances: High

4) St. Louis Blues

Strengths: Power play, offense, goaltending, defense, physicality

No surprise the prior Stanley Cup Champions are doing so well in the areas that helped them win in the playoffs last year.

Weaknesses: Penalty kill

The PK has been a little spotty for the Blues but it isn’t bad enough to do anything significant about it.

Deadline Needs: None

You won the Stanley Cup with this group, why would you change anything and risk breaking something that isn’t broken?

Stanley Cup Chances: Very high

5) Tampa Bay Lightning

Strengths: Offense, penalty kill, power play, defense, goaltending

In every basic category the Lightning have done anywhere from good to great.

Weaknesses: Mentally soft, playoff uncertainty

As they proved last playoffs, Tampa Bay aren’t mentally tough and can choke in the most imperative moments.  Maybe this will change, maybe it won’t.  There is no knowing the answer to that question until April.

Deadline needs: None

You have the right players, it will never be perfect. Still you just have to go do what everyone has expected for years.  It is Stanley Cup or bust for the TBL.

Stanley Cup Chances: Low

(The sole reason for this remains their choking ways in playoffs past.  If they make a deep run this year there won’t be a need to question them in the future)

6) New York Islanders

Strengths: Defense, goaltending

A fantastic defense and an amazing goaltending tandem are leading the Isles to the playoffs.

Weaknesses: Special teams, offense

The PP and PK haven’t been in tune for New York and the offense is lacking a lot of what it needs for success.

Deadline needs: Forward

The Islanders need some additional help on the offense.  Chris Kreider may be a good option to fill this roll.

Stanley Cup Chances: Medium

7) Vancouver Canucks

Strengths: Young talent, power play, offense, goaltending

Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson lead the way as part of a younger generation of talent for the Canucks. The power play sits at number eight and the offense is a solid top ten.  Finally, Markstrom has had a good year in net and is giving Vancouver a chance to win.

Weaknesses: Lack of experience

This was especially noticeable when the Canucks gave up a couple of 3 on 0s in two different games this season.  This may have massive consequences in the postseason but they could surprise.

Deadline needs: Top 6 forward, shutdown defensemen

Not necessarily the best guy on the market, however a competent top 6 center or winger would be helpful.  As for the D-man it would be beneficial to pick up a lockdown defender going into the playoffs.

Stanley Cup Chances: Medium

8) Colorado Avalanche

Strengths: Offense, young talent, overachieving

The Avs hold pride that they are the number 1 offense in the league.  Moreover, Colorado is fueled by young talent such as Cale Makar who is one of the leading names up for Rookie of the Year and that’s not even mentioning the Avs top line.

Weaknesses: Penalty kill

The PK could definitely use some improvement, though it isn’t catastrophic.

Deadline needs: Bottom 3 defensmen

This problem may be able to be fixed internally so the Avalanche may not even need to make a small deal for a bottom 3.  Regardless a trade is still a possibility to look into.

Stanley Cup Chances: High

9) Columbus Blue Jackets

Strengths: Defense, goaltending, next man up, penalty kill, overachieving, physicality

The backend is what has kept the Blue Jackets running, that and CBJ’s ability to go deep into the roster.  The PK has been another bright spot on this squad, bailing out those who receive penalties on the team.

Weaknesses: Offense, power play

It is hard to be good at everything and the Jackets really feel that on offense, as it is often a challenging task to score.  This translates into the PP as well.

Deadline needs: Skill Forward

CBJ has plenty of physical forwards such as Josh Anderson and Nick Filigno.  What they need now is a pure skill and speed forward to bring scoring to the team.

Stanley Cup Chances:  Medium

10) Dallas Stars

Strengths: Defense, goaltending, penalty kill, overachieving

If it weren’t for the St. Louis Blues the Stars would have likely gotten to the Stanley Cup finals last year.  They are using the same strategy they did in 2018-19, relying on good D and Vezina like goaltending.  The PK has made a significant impact and the team is always affected by overachieving ways.

Weaknesses: Offense

The only missing puzzle piece for a Stanley Cup victory is the offense.  It is nearly non-existent.

Deadline needs:  Forwards

Note this is plural.  They need more than one forward to have a good offense. It is in a bad place.  It could potentially be a better option to go for several depth forwards since the Stars have a couple of top guys in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

Stanley Cup Chances: High

11) Florida Panthers

Strengths: Offense, power play

You want to score goals, the Florida Panthers have you covered.

Weaknesses: Defense, goaltending, penalty kill

That reference to scoring goals goes both ways; they can’t keep them out of their own net either.

Deadline needs: Goaltender, defensmen

The last thing this team needs is another forward.  They need to address their backend issues, preferably defensemen first, then goaltending.  Part of the reason Bobrovsky is struggling in net for the Panthers is the lack of defense, which is why I say get a couple of defenders first.

Stanley Cup Chances: Very low

12) Carolina Hurricanes

Strengths: Offense, defense, power play, penalty kill

Overall, the Hurricanes are a good team.

Weaknesses: Injuries, inconsistency

Besides injuries plaguing the team, the Canes don’t help themselves as they are inconsistent from game to game.

Deadline Needs:  Defenseman

With Dougie Hamilton’s injury being such a major worry for the Hurricanes, Carolina now has the complicated task of trying to replace him.

Stanley Cup Chances: Medium

13) Toronto Maple Leafs

Strengths:  Offense, power play

It is stunning to watch the Leafs power play and offense at work.  Quite the incredible bunch.

Weaknesses: Defense, goaltending, penalty kill, inconsistency

The defense and penalty kill have always been dumpster fires.  Regarding the goaltending, the only reason it is considered a weakness is because the starting goalie, Frederick Anderson, is injured and doesn’t have an equivalent backup even with the trade for Jack Campbell.

Deadline needs:  Defensemen

Again, this is plural.  One D-man would not get it done in Toronto.  They need 2-3 to be fully improved.

Stanley Cup Chances: Low

14) Philadelphia Flyers

Strengths:  Physicality, defense

Not much of a surprise to find out that the Flyers are a physical team considering their history.

Weaknesses:  Offense, power play

The Flyers are just not getting enough on the other end of the rink, plain and simple.

Deadline needs:  Power play specialist, forward

It shouldn’t be unexpected that the thing the Flyers need most is the solution to their aforementioned weaknesses.

Stanley Cup Chances: Low

15) Vegas Golden Knights

Strengths:  Power play, defense

Having an energetic power play is always good and the defense has really been beneficial for a struggling Marc Andre Fleury.

Weaknesses:  Penalty kill, inconsistency

The PK has been uninspiring so far, so that’s a downside to the team. More pressing is the team’s insane levels of inconsistency.  Win a game, lose a game, etc.

Deadline needs: Puck moving defensemen

They are a buyer on the market currently and could use a D-man that is fast and can keep the puck moving as well as the game.

Stanley Cup Chances: Low

16) Arizona Coyotes

Strengths: Goaltending, defense, penalty kill

The Arizona Coyotes are keeping it clean on their end of the ice, no one can deny that.

Weaknesses: Offense, power play

Maybe they are keeping it clean on their end but they certainly aren’t keeping it that way when trying to score goals.  It has been a struggle for them all season and even trading for Taylor Hall wasn’t enough.

Deadline Needs:  Forwards

Taylor Hall has been successful on this Coyotes team. Nonetheless, the Yotes need much more to have a sufficient offense.

Stanley Cup Chances: Medium

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