NHL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, moves that each team regrets

ByKristen Shilton ESPN logo
Friday, January 20, 2023 7:12AM
ESPN

The 2023 NHL All-Star class gained 12 new members on Thursday night. But of the original 32, four -- Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Nazem Kadri and Kevin Fiala -- were added to their current teams this past offseason via trade or free agency.

However, not every deal works out that well. This week, we'll identify a decision for which each team would like a do-over.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors rates teams against one another -- taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule -- and those results are tabulated to produce the list featured here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the most recent edition, published Jan. 13. Points percentages are through Thursday's games.

1. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 1

Points percentage: 84.44%

Next seven days: vs. SJ (Jan. 22), @ MTL (Jan. 24), @ TB (Jan. 26)

Boston must regret not finding a way to sign David Pastrnak to a long-term extension before this season. Because the way Pastrnak has played, on pace towards the first 100-point effort of his career, only makes the winger (deservedly) more expensive on his next deal. But hey, some problems are good to have.

2. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 3

Points percentage: 71.11%

Next seven days: @ NYI (Jan. 21), @ DAL (Jan. 25)

After signing Ethan Bear to a one-year, $2.2 million contract -- and then not playing him in a single game -- the Canes dealt the defenseman to Vancouver. Now, the Hurricanes' lack of defensive depth has them searching for a solid third pairing. A player like Bear (with three goals and 10 points in 34 games) would be a nice option, no?

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 8

Points percentage: 67.05%

Next seven days: @ CGY (Jan. 21), vs. MIN (Jan. 24), vs. BOS (Jan. 26)

Tampa Bay traded Ryan McDonagh -- an integral player in their back-to-back Stanley Cup wins -- to try keeping enough cap space for a guy like Ondrej Palat, only to see him walk in free agency as well. That's a lot of talent and much-needed leadership out of the door, the loss of which could come back to hurt the Lightning in the postseason.

4. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 5

Points percentage: 68.89%

Next seven days: vs. PIT (Jan. 22), vs. VGK (Jan. 24), @ NSH (Jan. 26)

New Jersey's one regret has to be not addressing their goaltending sooner. Vitek Vanecek coming on board over the summer helped ignite this Devils team into the special group into which it's blossoming.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 2

Points percentage: 68.48%

Next seven days: @ MTL (Jan. 21), vs. NYI (Jan. 23), vs. NYR (Jan. 25)

Toronto had a golden opportunity to showcase Mitch Marner as a defenseman during their early-season slump (which was highlighted by a slew of blue-line absences). Alas, coach Sheldon Keefe only floated the idea without ever bringing it to fruition, and the Leafs' back end has been sturdy ever since. What magic Marner could have brought!

6. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 9

Points percentage: 64.13%

Next seven days: @ OTT (Jan. 21), @ PHI (Jan. 22), @ NSH (Jan. 24)

Winnipeg has made such a stark turnaround this season under new coach Rick Bowness. It's only natural to wonder if the Jets regret not making a switch behind the bench sooner. That fresh voice has done wonders for a revived group.

7. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 6

Points percentage: 64.89%

Next seven days: vs. ARI (Jan. 21), vs. BUF (Jan. 23), vs. CAR (Jan. 25)

Dallas' success has hinged heavily on its top performers. The Stars' emerging issue is what to do when they aren't available -- or playing up to snuff. Roope Hintz is injured, and that has hurt Dallas given the lack of personnel to backfill. The Stars invested in their stars; looking back, Dallas could have paid more attention to how to survive without them.

8. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 4

Points percentage: 63.04%

Next seven days: vs. WSH (Jan. 21), @ ARI (Jan. 22), @ NJ (Jan. 24)

Vegas' longtime looming issue is the salary cap and how close they are to it. And when injuries start piling up -- as they are now -- the Golden Knights know it won't be easy juggling cap constraints and staying competitive. Given a chance, Vegas might roll the dice differently on its approach to roster construction.

9. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 7

Points percentage: 64.44%

Next seven days: vs. COL (Jan. 21), vs. VAN (Jan. 25)

Seattle's one potential weak spot in an otherwise outstanding season? Goaltending. The Kraken signed veteran Martin Jones to back up Philipp Grubauer, but it's Jones who has taken over as No. 1 from the struggling (and previously injured) Grubauer. Will Seattle regret not investing more in their goaltending depth given Jones (.895 SV%) and Grubauer (.888 SV%) have had their issues?

10. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 10

Points percentage: 61.96%

Next seven days: vs. FLA (Jan. 23), @ TOR (Jan. 25)

New York allowed several productive forwards -- Ryan Strome, Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano among them -- to walk in free agency and did little to fill in the gaps. The absence of depth up front has hurt the Rangers at 5-on-5 and on the power play when remaining skaters -- like Chris Kreider -- are sidelined by injury.

11. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 14

Points percentage: 61.36%

Next seven days: @ FLA (Jan. 21), @ TB (Jan. 24), vs. PHI (Jan. 26)

Minnesota had an excellent fourth line going last season, with Nico Sturm and Nick Bjugstad leading the way. The Wild didn't re-sign either player in the offseason and their replacements -- including Brandon Duhaime and Mason Shaw -- have been inconsistent. The importance of depth is paramount, and Minnesota could look back longingly on what they've lost there.

12. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 11

Points percentage: 59.57%

Next seven days: @ NSH (Jan. 21), @ CHI (Jan. 22), @ PHI (Jan. 24)

Los Angeles should have turned to Pheonix Copley sooner in net. He was right there in the American Hockey League while the Kings went through early-season lows with Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen. Copley has gone 12-2-0 since being recalled to the NHL in December. He was the savior they needed all along.

13. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 16

Points percentage: 58.51%

Next seven days: @ VAN (Jan. 21), vs. CBJ (Jan. 25)

Edmonton signed Jack Campbell to a splashy five-year, $25 million contract in July and anointed him the Oilers' new No. 1 netminder. Campbell has responded with an .886 save percentage and 3.36 goals-against average through 23 appearances (13-8-1). Ouch.

14. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 15

Points percentage: 56.98%

Next seven days: @ VAN (Jan. 20), @ SEA (Jan. 21), vs. WSH (Jan. 24), vs. ANA (Jan. 26)

Colorado GM Joe Sakic must look at the Avalanche's crush of forward injuries this season and feel some twinge of regret about the offseason departures of Nazem Kadri (35 points in 46 games for Calgary) and Andre Burakovsky (37 points in 44 games for Seattle). Being able to keep just one might have helped Colorado better weather its injury bug (although the Avs do finally appear to be on the mend -- and the upswing).

15. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 13

Points percentage: 58.33%

Next seven days: @ VGK (Jan. 21), @ COL (Jan. 24), vs. PIT (Jan. 26)

Washington finally found its footing after a slow start, only to see that identity start leaching away as healthy bodies returned to the lineup and changes were made. Coach Peter Laviolette's repeated tinkering seems to have pushed the Capitals out of their previous rhythm. Doing too much, too soon could come back to bite Washington down the stretch if it falls short in the standings.

16. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 12

Points percentage: 57.96%

Next seven days: vs. OTT (Jan. 20), @ NJ (Jan. 22), vs. FLA (Jan. 24), @ WSH (Jan. 26)

Pittsburgh went through an early-season, seven-game losing streak that highlighted, for some, a need to shake things up from the Penguins' old guard and inject the team with new life. GM Ron Hextall stood pat. Pittsburgh is now deep into more struggles, with only three wins in its past 11. If Hextall could rewind a few months, would he have been wrong to make a trade to jolt the Penguins' forward group?

17. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 18

Points percentage: 53.33%

Next seven days: vs. LA (Jan. 21), vs. WPG (Jan. 24), vs. NJ (Jan. 26)

Nashville put Eeli Tolvanen on waivers in December and saw him subsequently claimed by the Kraken. Even Predators GM David Poile recently admitted that might have been a mistake. We'd agree. The winger has been thriving in Seattle (five goals and seven points in nine games) while Nashville struggles for offense.

18. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 20

Points percentage: 55.44%

Next seven days: vs. TB (Jan. 21), vs. CBJ (Jan. 23), vs. CHI (Jan. 26)

Calgary's Brad Treliving had to trade Matthew Tkachuk somewhere. In hindsight, and if possible, would he look beyond Florida as his partner in that? MacKenzie Weegar has bolstered the Flames' back end, but Calgary hasn't been the best fit -- yet -- for Jonathan Huberdeau. Maybe there was a more optimal trade out there -- for both sides.

19. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 17

Points percentage: 54.26%

Next seven days: vs. CAR (Jan. 21), @ TOR (Jan. 23), @ OTT (Jan. 25)

New York finished last season 23rd overall in scoring, and did little to nothing in the offseason to elevate its offense. Where do the Islanders sit now in that respect? 24th (averaging 2.98 goals per game). Yikes. What if New York's decision to stand pat could now cost the Islanders a playoff berth?

20. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 19

Points percentage: 53.41%

Next seven days: vs. ANA (Jan. 21), @ DAL (Jan. 23), @ STL (Jan. 24), @ WPG (Jan. 26)

Buffalo needed to figure out sooner Tage Thompson was meant to be a center. Props to coach Don Granato for finally pulling Thompson off the wing and unleashing the superstar within. Imagine how much further ahead the Sabres might be had Thompson switched sooner?

21. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 22

Points percentage: 53.26%

Next seven days: vs. CHI (Jan. 21), vs. BUF (Jan. 24), @ ARI (Jan. 26)

St. Louis stumbled out of the gate, without making major changes to recover (which it did, briefly). Now the Blues have slid back down the Central Division standings and their two biggest trade assets -- Ryan O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko -- are hurt. Will St. Louis look back with regret for not trying to move both players sooner and get a (possibly) more substantial return than might be available now?

22. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 21

Points percentage: 52.13%

Next seven days: vs. MIN (Jan. 21), @ NYR (Jan. 23), @ PIT (Jan. 24)

Florida might have gone too hard with its offseason makeover. Yes, Matthew Tkachuk is a star -- but losing Jonathan Huberdeau and particularly MacKenzie Weegar in the trade to acquire him, coupled with not resigning Claude Giroux or Mason Marchment or Ben Chiarot and changing coaches from Andrew Brunette to Paul Maurice? Phew. It was a lot. And Florida hasn't looked nearly the same after all that turnover.

23. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 23

Points percentage: 52.27%

Next seven days: vs. PHI (Jan. 21), vs. SJ (Jan. 24), @ MTL (Jan. 26)

Detroit's best offseason move was acquiring Ville Husso. Perhaps its worst was not having the right depth to support him. Husso has been run ragged as Alex Nedeljkovic started this season like he finished the last: stumbling. Now the Red Wings are on to Magnus Hellberg as Husso's backup ... but is he too late to help Detroit salvage its playoff hopes?

24. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 24

Points percentage: 48.91%

Next seven days: @ DET (Jan. 21), vs. WPG (Jan. 22), vs. LA (Jan. 24), @ MIN (Jan. 26)

Philadelphia ultimately passed on picking up Johnny Gaudreau's hefty free agent contract last summer. But well before that, the Flyers bypassed selecting Cole Caufield twice in the 2019 draft (trading back from No. 11 to No. 14, then taking defenseman Cam York). Might Caufield have become the sort of electrifying forward Philadelphia could use in its ranks right now? Hard not to wonder "what if."

25. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 25

Points percentage: 48.86%

Next seven days: @ PIT (Jan. 20), vs. WPG (Jan. 21), vs. NYI (Jan. 25)

Ottawa can't go back now ... but if the Senators could, does the trade for Nikita Zaitsev (and his seven-year, $31.5 million deal) still happen? Zaitsev has another year remaining on that pact while having long since fallen out of favor with the Senators. His would be a tough contract to move at this point, too.

26. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 27

Points percentage: 44.32%

Next seven days: vs. COL (Jan. 20), vs. EDM (Jan. 21), vs. CHI (Jan. 24), @ SEA (Jan. 25)

Vancouver might have settled its coaching situation before this season started. All the drama surrounding Bruce Boudreau's status is not only distracting, but ultimately unfair to the man himself wondering when the ax will -- it seems inevitably -- fall.

27. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 26

Points percentage: 44.57%

Next seven days: vs. TOR (Jan. 21), vs. BOS (Jan. 24), vs. DET (Jan. 26)

Montreal moved on from Charlie Lindgren in 2021 after giving the goaltender only 24 NHL opportunities over five seasons. The Canadiens might like to rethink that. Lindgren is shining in Washington this season (11-6-2, .910 save percentage, 2.62 goals-against average) while Montreal's No. 1 Jake Allen (taking over for Carey Price) has struggled for consistency (10-16-1, .892, 3.52).

28. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 28

Points percentage: 40.22%

Next seven days: @ CBJ (Jan. 21), @ BOS (Jan. 22), @ DET (Jan. 24)

San Jose's present struggles can be tied to past contract decisions, namely the expensive, multiyear pacts doled out to veteran players (who are now difficult to trade). That has made it hard to build the Sharks' roster up elsewhere and, well, they're seeing the results of that now.

29. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 29

Points percentage: 36.67%

Next seven days: @ DAL (Jan. 21), vs. VGK (Jan. 22), vs. ANA (Jan. 24), vs. STL (Jan. 26)

Arizona wants a large return in trade for Jakob Chychrun that, so far, no other team has been able to meet. That decision could come back to haunt the Coyotes, as Chychrun remains in the fold and teams that could covet his services most -- those in a playoff-bound position -- are already priced out. Where does that leave Arizona and the ongoing Chychrun saga?

30. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 32

Points percentage: 34.88%

Next seven days: @ STL (Jan. 21), vs. LA (Jan. 22), @ VAN (Jan. 24), @ CGY (Jan. 26)

Chicago management has seemingly been doing the most to win the coveted Connor Bedard sweepstakes ... but what if the Blackhawks don't? They traded Alex DeBrincat, gave up too quickly on Kirby Dach, and let Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome walk (plus they still haven't traded Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews). Chicago might look back wistfully at all the proven players it had -- and lost -- in the pursuit of that No. 1 pick.

31. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 30

Points percentage: 31.11%

Next seven days: vs. SJ (Jan. 21), @ CGY (Jan. 23), @ EDM (Jan. 25)

Columbus inked Elvis Merzlikins to a five-year, $27 million contract that started this season -- and Merzlikins is currently the league's worst goaltender at 5-12-0, with an .869 save percentage and 4.44 goals-against average. The Blue Jackets have to be nervous now about the value on their long-term investment.

32. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 31

Points percentage: 33.70%

Next seven days: @ BUF (Jan. 21), @ ARI (Jan. 24), @ COL (Jan. 26)

Anaheim likely watched Connor Bedard perform spectacularly in the world juniors and wished for a do-over in every single game it has won this season. Because coming out on top in the NHL draft lottery would be the sweetest consolation in this down year for the Ducks.