The 2008-09 NHL power rankings debut with a familiar power on top. Not only based on the fact they're defending Stanley Cup champs, but the Detroit Red Wings appear to be an even stronger outfit heading into the new season than the one that polished off Pittsburgh in six games to win the franchise's 11th Stanley Cup. Add top-line winger Marian Hossa to a balanced and talented roster with the only subtractions including the retirement of Dominik Hasek and Dallas Drake and the ingredients appear to be in place for Detroit to make another strong run. In this season-opening list, a reason why each team will succeed and a reason how it could fail will accompany the initial rankings. Power rankings will appear throughout the season, generally twice a month.
1. Detroit Red Wings – The Wings will succeed because of superior talent, tremendous depth and because the organization is too professional and experienced to fall into the trade of a Cup hangover. The Wings could fail only if they are hit with a rash of injuries. And to that end they can't be thrilled with a broken nose to Nicklas Lidstrom and a fractured shin bone to Chris Chelios already.
2. San Jose Sharks – The Sharks will succeed because the retooled blue line fits new coach Todd McLellan's system that encourages the defense to get involved offensively, and there's a ton of talent at the right age on this roster. The Sharks will continue to underachieve if Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo and other top offensive stars do not hold up their end of the bargain.
3. Dallas Stars – The Stars will succeed because the addition of Sean Avery to an already deep, talented and young attack will make them a tough team to play every night. The Stars will drop back to the pack if Marty Turco has an off season or misses significant time with an injury.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins – The Penguins will succeed because of their world-class talent, it's as simple as that. The Penguins will slip back only if role players don't mesh with stars or if the team struggles with a short offseason and the fact they're starting the campaign with additional travel to Europe.
5. Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks will succeed because the team that is very similar to the Cup champs of two years ago is healthy and ready to start from the get-go, no distractions and plenty of talent in place. The Ducks will slip from the league's elite only if defensemen Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger start to show their age.
6. Montreal Canadiens – The Canadiens will succeed because they're a fast, exciting, young and talented team that will play in front of a supercharged crowd celebrating the franchise's 100th season. The Habs will fall short of expectations if goalie Carey Price isn't ready for the everyday grind of the NHL and the pressure of the playoffs in a hockey-mad city. They are asking a lot early of this 21-year-old.
8. Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers will succeed because they'll take what they learned from a deep playoff run and made the necessary adjustments, both mentally and physically, and get a healthy Simon Gagne back in the lineup. The Flyers will fall back a bit if Martin Biron can't maintain his breakthrough goaltending displayed last season.
9. Edmonton Oilers – The Oilers will succeed because they added complementary pieces to a solid core that expects to not get decimated by injury like the roster was last season. The Oilers will fail to break back into the West's top eight if Mathieu Garon doesn't match his breakthrough showing in a non-playoff effort last year.
10. Calgary Flames – The Flames will succeed because their best players – Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf and Miikka Kiprusoff – are the best at their positions of any team in the division. The Flames will fail if they tune out second-year coach Mike Keenan.
11. New York Rangers – The Rangers will succeed because Chris Drury and Scott Gomez will rebound from a so-so first season in New York, and the young stars will emerge with added ice time and responsibility. The Rangers will falter because the revamped defense and loss of Jaromir Jagr was too much for one offseason.
12. New Jersey Devils – The Devils will succeed if Martin Brodeur is in the running for a fifth Vezina Trophy in six seasons. The Devils will drop if the offense continues to struggle to support their all-world goalie, and the defense isn't up to snuff.
13. Colorado Avalanche – The Avalanche will succeed if the blend of old and young is just right, and Tony Granato proves he learned a lot in his second stint as Colorado's head coach. The Avs will fail if the goaltending combo of Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft can't get the job done and if special teams struggle as badly as last season.
14. Chicago Blackhawks – The Blackhawks will succeed if the team is prepared to work even harder this season after earning a lot of respect around the league for a bounce back season last year. The Blackhawks will fail if Cristobal Huet isn't the answer in goal or if the young guns experience a sophomore slump.
15. Ottawa Senators – The Senators will succeed because new coach Craig Hartsburg will foster a feeling of more accountability and less selfish play. The Sens will continue their late-season slide if they have underestimated what they have in goal.
16. Boston Bruins – The Bruins will succeed because they are adding Patrice Bergeron and Manny Fernandez, previously injured for almost all of last season, to a group that is very close and resilient. The Bruins will fail if there's a fracture in that stellar team chemistry, or if there's another key injury.
17. Tampa Bay Lightning – The Lightning will succeed because all the moves will come together in a division that seems to change in terms of the balance in power every season. The Lightning will fail if there isn't enough on the blue line to move the puck to a strong group of forwards or help out goalie Mike Smith.
18. Carolina Hurricanes – The Hurricanes will succeed because the talent is there and the motivation should be, too, considering the division was theirs to win until a late-season meltdown last year. The Hurricanes will fail if the early-season loss of Rod Brind'Amour will be too much to overcome.
19. Minnesota Wild – The Wild will succeed if they can get the Marian Gaborik contract situation solved early so he can concentrate solely on helping his team win. The Wild will slip if the inability to attract free-agent talent, coupled with the loss of a number of key contributors, is too much in terms of lost offense.
20. Buffalo Sabres – The Sabres will succeed if they return to their style of run-and-gun play and get an outstanding season from goalie Ryan Miller, the kind of season that might vault him into Vezina talk. The Sabres will fail if their lack of size and depth, especially on defense, proves too much over the long haul.
21. Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks will succeed if they get two lines contributing offense, roles players plugging along and the defense to jell. The Canucks will fail if goalie Roberto Luongo has an off season or misses any significant time due to injury.
22. Phoenix Coyotes – The Coyotes will succeed if they build on last year's improvement and continue to get contributions from young future stars. The Coyotes will stall because making the jump from 83 points to 93 (and a possible playoff spot) is difficult to do in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
23. Columbus Blue Jackets – The Blue Jackets will succeed if GM Scott Howson's wholesale changes in the offseason results in giving coach Ken Hitchcock the right mix to play his two-way system. The Blue Jackets will fail if they don't find enough talent at center ice or get a similar outstanding season from goalie Pascal Leclaire.
24. Nashville Predators – The Predators will succeed if GM David Poile and coach Barry Trotz continue to work their magic with a team that lately has done more with less. The Predators will fail if the loss of Alexander Radulov is the sign of bad things to come.
25. Atlanta Thrashers – The Thrashers will succeed if Ilya Kovalchuk has an MVP-caliber season and goalie Kari Lehtonen stays healthy long enough to breakthrough and fulfill his enormous expectations. The Thrashers will fail because there are too many holes up front, on defense and a big question in goal.
26. Los Angeles Kings – The Kings will succeed if the young stars continue to blossom and find a way to stay within shouting range of the eighth and final playoff spot. The Kings, with few expectations, will fail only if they misjudge who should be gaining experience at the NHL level and who would be better served with another year in the minors or elsewhere.
27. Toronto Maple Leafs – The Maple Leafs will succeed if the team comes to the rink and competes hard every night, takes baby-steps in terms of improving defensively and posing as a tough team to play even if they don't win very often. The Leafs will fail if management gets impatient, bows to the media and fan pressure and strays from the path of drafting, developing and showing patience.
29. Florida Panthers – The Panthers, like the Maple Leafs, will succeed if they listen to the marching orders of a new coach and work hard every night. Florida would be wise to become the first team in the division to focus on defense. It might go a long way. The Panthers will fail if a young cornerstone in defenseman Jay Bouwmeester plays out the season and departs via free agency, setting a difficult precedence for the franchise to ignore.
30. St. Louis Blues – The Blues will succeed if they join the American Hockey League. The Blues, with top-notch management but not enough talent ready for the league yet, will fail if the team departs from its plan of drafting and developing.