NHL Power Rankings: Every team’s 2021-22 season in a sentence

Florida Panthers defenseman Ben Chiarot, left, and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) chase the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP)

It’s our final NHL Power Rankings of the regular season, and what a season it’s been. You could fill an entire novel with all the storylines, drama, developments, and historic achievements that told the story of the 2021-22 campaign… or, you could attempt the foolish but well-intended task of summing all that up in a single sentence.

So, with the 2021-22 campaign (mostly) in the books and as we now look ahead to the field of 16, we’re recapping all 32 teams’ regular season in a single — bracket-filled, comma-riddled, run on — sentence… or at least we’ll try, anyway. 

1. Florida Panthers (57-17-6)
Florida hockey has never been finer, or more fierce, thanks to the dynamic duo of Jonathan Huberdeau (MVP, if not for Auston Matthews’ 60-goal season?) and Aleksander Barkov, who have led this incredible deep squad to the top of the league and could find themselves in another battle for the Sunshine State later this spring.

2. Colorado Avalanche (56-18-6)
We could talk about the incredibly clutch success of Nazem Kadri, the stardom of Cale Makar, or try to find the words to describe what Nathan MacKinnon can do, but we’re better off handing the mic over to Darryl Sutter, who said it best when he told reporters facing the Avalanche in the playoffs would “be a waste of eight days.”

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (53-21-7)
Auston Matthews’ 60-goal campaign has been one of the best stories in hockey today, but everyone knows there’s only one definition of hockey success in Toronto: A playoff series win.

4. Carolina Hurricanes (53-20-8)
It’s been a near-perfect season for the Metropolitan-topping Hurricanes, but the keyword there is near – with late injury troubles for Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta, Carolina could be placing their post-season hopes on the shoulders of a rookie netminder… hey, that sounds familiar.

5. Calgary Flames (50-20-10)
The complete, cohesive success of this Flames team can be boiled down not to one sentence, but one word: Chemistry.

6. New York Rangers (51-24-6)
It’s tough to decide what the better Blueshirts story is: Igor Shesterkin’s Vezina-worthy backstopping that saw them challenging for the Metropolitan’s top spot by season’s end, or Chris Kreider’s out-of-nowhere scoring spree.

7. Tampa Bay Lightning (50-22-8)
Some of the cast of characters has changed, but this Cup-winning core looks ready for a three-peat and is heating up at the perfect time to prove it.

8. St. Louis Blues (49-21-11)
After being swept by Colorado in Round 1 last spring and held to just seven goals all series, the Blues took a page out of their Central foes’ playbook and have turned up the heat on their own goal-scoring – their 3.77 goals per game is the fourth-best rate in the league and the biggest reason they’re back in the playoffs… and yet, they still feel like they’re flying under the radar as a contender.

9. Minnesota Wild (51-22-7)
In Year Two of the Kirill Kaprizov era, the sophomore superstar wrote his name into the Wild’s history books — single-season goals, assists, points, you get the idea — and has turned this club into a real-deal contender that capitalized on its cap space (hello, Marc-Andre Fleury!) for a serious run before the cap crunch comes.

10. Edmonton Oilers (47-27-6): It’ll take more than just one sentence to sum up the rollercoaster season in Edmonton — the starts and stops, streaks and skids, the coaching change, and highs and lows in net — and it would take an entire novel to describe just how excellent the play of Connor McDavid (44 goals, 122 points) and Leon Draisaitl (55 goals, 109 points) have been throughout the entire saga to push this team into the post-season anyway.

11. Pittsburgh Penguins (45-25-11)
The Penguins are a playoff team for a remarkable 16th straight season (the best among all North American pro sports leagues) but with Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang on expiring deals and a long list of other pending UFAs, it feels like we might be witnessing the end of an era.

12. Los Angeles Kings (44-27-10)
Depth down the middle, the emergence of Adrien Kempe, and the resurgence of Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar have the Kings making quick work of their rebuild. 

13. Boston Bruins (50-25-5)
Six months ago, it felt almost impossible to picture the Bruins contending without Tuukka Rask in net, but the solid tandem of Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark has kept this window open (for now) as questions about the team in front of them — particularly, the future of Patrice Bergeron — take centre stage.

14. Washington Capitals (44-24-12)
Another 50-goal season for Alex Ovechkin ties him with Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most such campaigns in a career (nine) and pushed the Capitals into the playoffs for another shot at adding to the captain’s already-set legacy.

15. Nashville Predators (44-29-7)
Asking where this team would be without Juuse Saros this season now suddenly takes a much heavier tone… because it’s feared the Predators will soon have to find out.

16. Dallas Stars (45-30-6)
Two trends carried on from last season: the Stars continue to be nearly impossible to assess with any kind of consistency, and Jason Robertson is indeed the real deal.

17. Vegas Golden Knights (42-31-8)
When they traded for Jack Eichel back in November, it felt like they’d be unstoppable (cap? what cap?) but too many injuries — including, most recently, to Robin Lehner — and all-around disjointed hockey have ultimately been the sword that slayed them (but they didn’t go down without a fight Wednesday night).

18. Vancouver Canucks (39-30-11)
Through all the boos (the Canucks stumbled out of the gate), news (coaching and front-office overhauls), and joyous calls of “Bruuuuuuce!” in Vancouver, Quinn Hughes and J.T. Miller have both quietly been playing some of their best hockey – Hughes set a new franchise record for points by a defenceman (66), and Miller is flirting with 100 for the first time in his career.

19. New York Islanders (36-34-10)
The Islanders were one of the most surprising teams in the league this year, and not in a good way — early struggles throughout the lineup (including, uncharacteristically, in net) and a flat offence were just a few reasons for their unravelling, but considering how this core performed last year and rallied late, it feels like we can chalk this up to just a hiccup.

20. Winnipeg Jets (37-32-11)
After finding themselves in unfamiliar territory as deadline sellers, the Jets don’t look like a team that needs to rebuild — just a team that needs to rest and reset.

21. San Jose Sharks (32-36-12)
In another rebuild-resisting move, the Sharks kept would-be star rental Tomas Hertl ahead of the deadline by signing him to an eight-year deal – surely, a sign that they expect to contend with this core next year. 

22. Buffalo Sabres (31-38-11)
Jack Eichel’s departure from Buffalo in November brought the end of a chapter, and his return as a Golden Knight in March seemed to begin a new one — Buffalo has been one of the most exciting teams since, giving us a glimpse of a fun future with this young club while registering a 13-6-3 record since.

23. Anaheim Ducks (31-36-14)
It’s Trevor Zegras’ world, we’re all just living in it.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets (36-37-7)
The team that never surrenders looked defeated this year, a long list of injuries and lacklustre goaltending performances wearing them down and ushering in what will likely be an off-season of change.

25. Detroit Red Wings (31-40-10)
Three years into the Yzerman era in Detroit’s front office, we’re seeing his vision begin to take shape through the success of rookies like Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, making this upcoming off-season a pivotal one in the rebuild.

26. Ottawa Senators (32-41-7)
After last year’s rookie boom, this season brought a great leap forward for the club’s brightest young star — that’s superstar Tim Stützle — as the 20-year-old has blossomed as a centreman.

27. Chicago Blackhawks (28-42-11)
Any ideas that this rebuild was a short-term thing were erased early on in what has been a season of necessary change — with plenty more to come.

28. New Jersey Devils (27-44-9)
This year was supposed to be all about taking a big step forward, but while Jack Hughes certainly did that, surpassing his first two seasons’ totals combined with his 26-goal, 56-point effort, injuries ultimately held this club back — Hughes himself missed more than a third of the season and Dougie Hamilton never quite looked like himself since suffering a fractured jaw.

29. Seattle Kraken (26-48-6)
Year One of the Kraken didn’t see Seattle brass build a championship-calibre roster of underdogs in the expansion draft like their peers in Vegas, but they did build a really strong foundation of dedicated fans with inclusivity front and centre, a lot of cap space and draft picks for Year Two and beyond – the off-season will be where the fun here really begins.

30. Philadelphia Flyers (25-45-11)
Another dismal season and an emotional farewell to captain Claude Giroux makes it clear that this franchise isn’t in need of an easy fix but rather a seismic shift — what an off-season this will be.

31. Arizona Coyotes (24-50-7)
Arena controversies have overshadowed anything on the ice, which is a shame because the rebuilding Coyotes have put on some really fun shows down the stretch despite being long out of the race.

32. Montreal Canadiens (21-49-11)
Last year’s Cinderella run feels like ancient history, with health concerns taking centre stage and prompting veteran leadership to take a step back, and now the Canadiens find themselves back where they began: in rebuild mode, with nowhere to go but up.

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