Welcome back, hockey fans, to another week of NHL Power Rankings. As of this week, the final month of the NHL season will be underway. Already. So, we will have some intense playoff and seeding races to start following in the coming weeks. It was a very quiet week in terms of power rankings movement, but that doesn’t mean there will be no stories to talk about. For the second week in a row, the Philadelphia Flyers will make an appearance as they made a significant organizational change. And, a quick preview of the aforementioned playoff races to keep an eye on. But first, here are some quick hits from around the league.
The Edmonton Oilers are a confusing team. One game they can mount a comeback win against the historically dominant Boston Bruins, becoming the first team all season to beat the Bruins after giving up the first goal and trailing after the first and second periods. But then the next they can absolutely collapse against the Toronto Maple Leafs and lose off of a series of bad turnovers. Not to mention having trouble beating some of the worst teams in the league. The lack of consistency and the fluctuations in the Oilers’ game is something they will need to sort out for the playoffs if they have any hope of another deep run.
The big trade deadline acquisition for the Washington Capitals was bringing in Rasmus Sandin from the Toronto Maple Leafs. That move, so far, is paying off in a big way. So far, he is averaging just over 25 minutes of ice time per game on an otherwise depleted defensive core. And, in his first four games in a Capitals uniform, has seven assists and eight points total. Not a sustainable pace, but he is making it shown he is more than ready to take on a much bigger role with his new team.
Now, let’s move on to the week’s bigger stories.
The Chuck Fletcher Era is Over
Finally. The Chuck Fletcher era is over for the Philadelphia Flyers. It was a rough stretch, with him in the GM chair for parts of five seasons. The Flyers had just one playoff appearance and have become more of a laughing stock around the league than legit threat. And the legacy he will leave is summed up with interim GM Daniel Briere saying it will not be a quick fix.
Fletcher’s time with the Flyers is remembered best with baffling trades that took the team’s once competitive roster down the standings, hampered the team’s prospect pool and development, and, just this past trade deadline, stood pat and did nothing when the team is in the perfect position to sell and commit to rebuilding.
Just a couple of the moves that were regularly criticized were the series of events leading to the signing of Rasmus Ristolainen.
That whole offseason in 2021 was a bit of a disaster. But, starting with the trade for Ryan Ellis (which ended up being a lose-lose-lose for all teams involved at this point), not much in this series of events made sense. Nor did the following trade to get rid of Shayne Gostisbehere and a couple of draft picks in exchange for nothing. Nor did the following trade to give up Robert Hagg and a couple of high draft picks for Ristolainen. That is a lot of value and future prospects lost in a short period of time.
There were not many positives to come from Fletcher’s tenure in Philadelphia. But it is finally time to start a new era for the Flyers. Although the lack of action at the trade deadline was a deciding factor in the decision, the timing does suggest that it was another thing added to an ever-growing list of criticisms levied towards the former GM.
Playoff Races to Keep an Eye On
The Boston Bruins, to no one’s surprise, became the first team to clinch a playoff berth last week. But no one else is quite there yet. And heading into the final month of the season, there will be some tight races for a playoff berth, as well as seeding determining matchups.
In the Atlantic Division, the major race to watch is the battle between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Maple Leafs have a few-point lead and a game in hand, but not a big enough cushion for Toronto to get comfy yet. The Panthers are the other team to watch, as they are the closest team to challenging for a wild card spot.
The Metro Division features a close race for first place between the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils. Both teams will want to win the division to avoid having to likely play the New York Rangers in the opening round of the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders are also battling it out for wild card seeding, the prize of which will be not playing the Bruins in the first round.
For the Central Division, the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars are in a tight race for the division title, and as of the standings right now, the opportunity to avoid facing the defending Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in the first round. Though that is not a guarantee as those same Avalanche are neck and neck with the Winnipeg Jets for seeding between the third divisional spot and a wild card berth.
The Pacific Division features a very similar battle. The Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings are in a close race to become the division champions. While the Seattle Kraken are battling with the Edmonton Oilers for the third spot in the division. All of these teams have a decent-sized lead over the first runners-up to the playoffs. But, especially with the seeding implications in this tight division, no team can get too comfy just yet.
That wraps up another week of NHL Power Rankings! Who is ranked too high? Drop a comment down below.
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