[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
8. The Canadiens' offense
Alex Galchenyuk better start putting up goals like crazy next year, and Carey Price better still be well-beyond-incredible, or this team is in a lot of trouble.
7. Coach's challenge
Loved this article from Greg last week about the coach's challenge we'll enjoy in the NHL next year. Because one thing hockey games definitely needed was to get longer.
Coaches seem to have a good understanding of how they're going to use it and what that means for their teams. And the whole “getting things absolutely right” issue is obviously an important one. But the thing I loved the most was this revelation from Paul Maurice:
“Gary Bettman explained to us that the Coach’s Challenge will be there to fix around eight goalie interference calls we had last year that clearly were.”
Wow, eight goals. It's unclear if that's per team or for the whole league, because it certainly feels like eight goals is maybe a little bigger than what should be the average number per team, but way too small for the league as a whole.
So let's go with it: Eight goals. Last season, it took about 5.5 goals of differential to equal one win league-wide, so that's a difference of close to three points getting redistributed per team. That can be the difference between a playoff appearance and not making it, obviously.
But would coaches catch every single goalie interference call that could be overturned? You'd have to guess not. So it's probably more like two points. Still important, but not as much.
And at this point it starts to feel a little like that 3-on-3 overtime thing that probably won't do much to curb shootouts: It looks like it's a major change, but it doesn't do a lot in actual practice.
Hope I'm wrong about that, but I'm concerned this just adds five or 10 minutes to 10 percent of games.
6. Still being on the market
An incomplete list of guys I can't believe are still on the market but here we are: Cody Franson, Christian Ehrhoff, Curtis Glencross, Jiri Tlusty, Lee Stempniak, and Marcel Goc. I'm sure there are more I'm forgetting.
That's not a half-bad middle-of-the-roster for your average NHL team, really. And with guys like Franson and Ehrhoff, it's amazing that teams didn't beat down their doors with good-sized offers on July 1.
Ehrhoff may or may not be seeking a shorter-term deal for relatively little money to play for a contender, depending on whom you believe. And as for Franson, who can guess?
There's been a lot of talk that GMs are finally getting frugal, and the cap barely going up really put a lot of teams in positions where they can't sign these guys even if they want to. And what that means is that a lot of good veterans are probably going to have to accept training-camp invites and be happy to get them. Which is weird. Usually it's only old guys who need to prove they can play in this league or mid-20s veterans out to prove that they can actually be NHL regulars who have to take those deals. (In the case of the former, you see one or two get a quick run-out every year, and in the case of the latter you occasionally get a guy like Anton Stralman.)
But like, you're gonna invite Christian Ehrhoff to training camp without a contract? Yeah he's coming off a not-great year, and maybe you're necessarily trying to keep the price down, but man, that's a guy who seems like he has a lot of tread left on the tires.
5. Only knowing the result of arbitration hearings
It's almost arbitration season, and we have to keep in mind that for the most part, players and teams don't get to the actual hearing part of the process because it's so unpleasant.
A few do squeak through the cracks, and this year it's looking as though at least some go through that process. But man, we often don't find out what happened in those hearings, and when we do, it's usually amazing like “Mike Milbury once made Tommy Salo cry!” and so on.
I mean, the idea of the process itself is just great. “Player X argues why he is good,” and “Team Y argues why Player X — whom they would like to sign — is human garbage who can barely skate.”
We need in-depth coverage from inside the room on these things. Like, one a year, one reporter gets to sit in. You know, to crystalize the process or whatever.
When the Caps signed Justin Williams, there was a lot of assent on the subject of, “Oh he's good in Game 7s, and the Caps always lose those games, so this is a good signing.” And in theory it is. Williams has traditionally been a very good hockey player, if only properly valued recently.
But then some people started leaning in and whispering just loud enough for everyone to hear, “Say wait a second here, isn't Justin Williams OLD?” A daring hot-take move; you subvert what the advanced-stats people usually say and turn it around on a guy their stats love. Hoo boy, how diabolical.
And what do you know? They're right, Justin Williams is pretty old! He'll be 34 on Oct. 4! That's old! So yeah, there's reason to believe that at any point in the near future, Williams might soon be not as good as he once was and possibly even............. bad.
The likelihood of this, we'd all admit, is remote. But there is no doubt at all he is now at the age where you have to say, “It's possible he stops being effective soon.” And the good news is that these two facts can exist simultaneously in our brains! Wow! Wowwwwww!!!
What's interesting is that people have done a lot of research and found that the ability of a player to drive possession in the right direction tends to hold up longer than the ability of a player to put up a ton of points. So the thing that has made him so valuable (and yet so undervalued!) for so much of his career — he is a good Corsi guy! — should still hold true for a little while longer. But then again: It Might Not!!!
The risk for Washington is low, of course. Low because he probably won't become a boat anchor out there this season or next, and low because that's exactly how long he's signed for, and low because he costs them less than Columbus is paying Rene Bourque.
Let's just review here.
Justin Williams: Good (but old). Apparent value on the contract: Good (without qualification). Likelihood he becomes not-good and the contract follows suit: Low.
He doesn't have to be a world-beater that gets the Capitals over the hump. That's not his job. He just has to be worth the contract, and given what we know, he probably will be. Thank you.
3. Ads in the local paper
Shout out to Patrick Sharp and Milan Lucic. They know the score.
If you've ever in your life wanted everyone to talk about what a great guy you are, all you have to do is take an ad out in the paper after you've lived there for a sufficiently long amount of time and say, "I liked it here but now I'm leaving."
Then all you have to do is sit back and wait for the tsunami of praise to come a-rollin' in. Lucic, whose cap hit is $6 million, only needed to take out a quarter-page ad deep in the Boston Globe last week, and people spent a lot of time saying how "classy" he is. Milan Lucic! Ball-spearin', "I'm gonna [expletive]ing kill you"-threatenin', "Do you know who I am?"-sayin' Milan Lucic!
What a move.
2. Freaking out in Tampa
I can't wait to hear nothing but Steven Stamkos To Toronto speculation for the next 11 months. I hope Steve Yzerman doesn't spoil it by signing him this summer or trading him. That wouldn't be fun at all.
1. Not checking the math
Something that's been bugging me for a while now is the Bruins — and their sycophantic media — insisting that what Don Sweeney has done to this point in the summer has been beneficial or at least not-harmful to this team's chances of making the playoffs again next season.
Nowhere has this been exemplified more than what Sweeney himself said yesterday on Boston radio:
This morning on the radio Don Sweeney said it's as simple as Hamilton+Lucic+Smith = 41 goals, Beleskey+Hayes = 41 goals.— Bruins Stats (@bruins_stats) July 14, 2015
This is a silly and undeveloped argument to say the very least.
Yes it's true, Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes combined for 41 goals last year, and that is coincidentally the same number of goals scored by Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith, and Dougie Hamilton. And hey, there's cap savings for the Bruins too (because paying two players costs less than paying three!), so, “Advantage Sweeney!”
But not so fast here, gang. Because let's look at the basic facts. Lucic had a down year, Smith had a down year, and Hamilton is a defenseman on whom you shouldn't be depending for goals. Meanwhile, Beleskey doubled his all-time best goal total (and still only had 22), and Hayes scored 19, which was eight better than his previous best.
That's not to say that both players aren't good and wouldn't be able to contribute playing alongside David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, of course, but to expect them to keep putting up these comparatively “big-time” numbers — which by the way are still somewhat modest for two guys you're hoping become viable top-six contributors for years to come at 26 and 27 years old — is a lot like wishful thinking.
Here are all these players' goals per 60 by their age at the start of the season.
Now, you can clearly say that Hayes is a reasonable replacement for Smith, and no one would argue that he can be expected to put up similar numbers in the near-term, except that he's older, which is a point of concern.
And clearly, Beleskey is on an upswing, mostly driven by a huge personal shooting percentage this season (14.3 percent at 5-on-5) and playing with Ryan Kesler. And the fact that he had to go on a huge upswing in three partial seasons — oh yeah, Beleskey's all-time record for games played is 69, four seasons ago — just to get to Lucic's levels is something that should be quite worrisome.
“We signed a 22-goal-scorer,” is all well and good, but hey, uh, how about the fact that he averaged 7.88 goals per 82 games over the first 263 games? And you gave him five years based on the 22 goals and not the way-less-than-that from before?
Again, I have little doubt that Beleskey and Hayes will still put up the numbers people roughly expect next season given the quality of forwards they will play with. But what does Beleskey look like, say, three years from now? And what's a more likely outcome? The 1.34 ES goals per 60 he posted in 65 games last season, or the .68 in the five partial seasons prior to?
Better question: How soon does this end up feeling to Bruins fans like the Chris Kelly contract? The money's not a killer, but boy it's not great either, and the term is baffling.
(Not ranked this week: The price of success.
Along those lines, here's a fascinating look from Dominik Luszczyszyn — an easy last name to copy-and-paste — at how teams have spent so far this summer, and what that spending bought them. Buffalo, for instance, added a lot of wins for less than they should cost. San Jose has improved in this area as well. So has Toronto, so has Philadelphia.
But if you click the link and go to the bottom of that chart, well, the three teams that cut the most salary and also lost a lot of expected wins were Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago. That's just what you have to go through in a cap league, though, when you're as good as those teams were for so long.
And hey, at least they're not Arizona, which has somehow added almost $9.2 million in salary and lost close to four points in the standings. That's just bad management.)
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