The Intermission’s 2018-19 NHL Team Rankings, a five-part series as part of the 2018 NHL Preview coverage, will have Lee and Mike rank all 31 teams from worst to first, based on each team’s viability and general expectations of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup next June. Each part in the series will be comprised of a different grouping or “tier” of competitive standards, featuring six to seven teams at a time, until we reach those true Cup contenders for this season.
13. Philadelphia Flyers
2017 Record: 42-26-14 (98 points)
2017 League Ranking: 13 (–)
IN: James van Riemsdyk (Maple Leafs)
OUT: Valtteri Filppula (Islanders), Petr Mrazek (Hurricanes), Matt Read (Wild)
Lee: Adding a perennial 30+ goal scorer in James van Riemsdyk will definitely help the power play, but he doesn’t defend, period. I’ve watched first hand for many years. This team is good on paper, but I’m unsettled on whether they can put it all together over a full 82-game schedule.
Mike: I’m not a huge fan of their defensive core as it stands, but the Flyers are fully loaded up front. I think they’re a playoff team based on their offense alone, but realistically, they’ll only go as far as the Brian Elliott and Michael Neuvirth combination in goal will get them. Both guys have been inconsistent over the past few seasons.
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12. Dallas Stars
2017 Record: 42-32-8 (92 points)
2017 League Ranking: 19 (+7)
IN: Blake Comeau (Avalanche), Anton Khudobin (Bruins), Roman Polak (Maple Leafs)
OUT: Dan Hamhuis (Predators), Antoine Roussel (Canucks)
STAYING: Mattias Janmark, Valeri Nichushkin, Devin Shore
Lee: The Stars have all the talent in the world on one line and a world class defender in John Klingberg. They also have a really, really tall goalie (Bishop) but nothing much after that. Can a new coach (Jim Montgomery) take this team to where they should be?
Mike: Thin defense aside, I think the Stars could have a special season ahead. They have a ton of talent, but it’s aging, so the “win now” window looms large in 2018. The Tyler Seguin contract talks are mildly concerning, but I’m sure they’ll figure that out.
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11. San Jose Sharks
2017 Record: 45-27-10 (100 points)
2017 League Ranking: 11 (–)
OUT: Mikkel Boedker (Senators), Eric Fehr (Wild)
STAYING: Dylan Demelo, Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane, Joe Thornton
Lee: What is with these California teams? All of them are very good, but all of them have aging stars. The Sharks are solid through and through, but I see them bowing out in the first round of the playoffs.
Mike: The Sharks outperformed my expectations a season ago, so I’m good with them being ranked just outside the Top 10 heading into the ’18 season. They have depth at every position (except maybe right wing) and Martin Jones proved that he’s worthy of number one goaltender status.
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10. Minnesota Wild
2017 Record: 45-26-11 (101 points)
2017 League Ranking: 8 (-2)
IN: Eric Fehr (Sharks), Andrew Hammond (Avalanche), Matt Read (Flyers)
OUT: Matt Cullen (Penguins)
STAYING: Matt Dumba, Greg Pateryn, Jason Zucker
Lee: This is what a “complete” team looks like. Not a true superstar to be found, but everyone on this team is just solid. The Wild are well coached and have a solid goalie. This should be a good year in Minnesota.
Mike: Though this team bores me to no end, they are a pretty complete squad. And the whole gang is back, as they didn’t sacrifice anything in the offseason either. If Dubnyk is the real deal, this team will challenge in the West again.
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9. Florida Panthers
2017 Record: 44-30-8 (96 points)
2017 League Ranking: 16 (+7)
IN: Troy Brouwer (Flames), Mike Hoffman (Sharks), Michael Hutchinson (Jets)
STAYING: Alex Petrovic
Lee: Don’t sleep on the Cats! This team is underrated and if (big IF) Roberto Luongo can stay healthy all season, this team will surprise a lot of people. With Alexsander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad, this team is very, very good.
Mike: I think the Panthers could be very under the radar coming into the ’18 season. They actually amassed a respectable 96 points last year. I look at their depth and I like what I see. The addition of Mike Hoffman was solid as well. And should Luongo get hurt, they have depth in net with Reimer and Hutchinson.
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8. Boston Bruins
2017 Record: 50-20-12 (112 points)
2017 League Ranking: 4 (-4)
IN: Jaroslav Halak (Islanders), John Moore (Devils), Chris Wagner (Islanders)
OUT: Nick Holden (Golden Knights), Anton Khudobin (Stars), Riley Nash (Blue Jackets), Tim Schaller (Canucks), Tommy Wingels (Switzerland)
STAYING: Sean Kuraly
Lee: The Bruins featured the best “top line” in the league season with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. They should put up massive numbers again. But Zdeno Chara is now on the wrong side of 40 and Tuukka Rask has played a lot of hockey. In 2018, the mileage may slow down the Big Bad Bruins.
Mike: Even after losing some depth in the offseason, this Bruins team is still one of the thickest in the league. They aren’t particularly young, but they could be poised to make a run this season. 112 points in 2017 is no joke.