The National Hockey League currently has a repeat defending Stanley Cup champion in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the other 30 teams in the National Hockey League have a mission to dethrone the champions and not to let them turn a repeat into a three-peat. This NHL season looks like it is going to be one of the most interesting seasons that the league has seen in quite some time.
There is so much tension going around the league, with the Penguins fighting to win the Stanley Cup for a third year in a row against all odds. The rest of the league is trying to put a roster together that can compete with the Penguins. A lot of moves were made this offseason as it was one of the most busiest off seasons in recent memory. One part of the game that is important to have a solid blue line. The blue line is very important to make sure that they can help their goaltending. If you don’t have a solid blue line then your team has to rely on their goaltending to carry them, and in an 82 game season that is a lot to ask for one person.
Yes, the Penguins managed to win a Stanley Cup without Kris Letang and a very shaky blue line, but other teams don’t have the luxury of having Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at center. The Predators made the Finals and came very close to knocking off Pittsburgh, getting there primarily due to their ridiculously stacked blue line. It just goes to show you there is more than one blueprint to competing for the Stanley Cup.
With that being said here are the rankings of every team’s blue line from worst to best.
31: Vancouver Canucks
Top Six: Alexander Edler, Chris Tanev, Michael Del Zotto, Erik Gudbranson, Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher.
The Canucks are in a rebuilding mode, and their defensive pairings show it. Edler is a solid defenseman, and Del Zotto and Tanev are okay, but after that there is nothing that sticks out. Vancouver is in for a long season if their defensemen can’t help take some of the workload off of their starting goaltenders’ shoulders.
Jacob Markstrom looks like he will be the number one goaltender for the Canucks as of now. The Canucks present day team does not look like they will be in contention for the Stanley Cup for this season and for the foreseeable future. Look for the times to be tough in Vancouver and it does not help that their blueline lacks much punch from the backend.
30: New Jersey Devils
Top Six: Andy Greene, Damon Severson, John Moore, Ben Lovejoy, Will Butcher and Michael Kapla.
The Devils have struggled to find their identity in the National Hockey League since they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012 where they lost to the Los Angeles Kings. New Jersey has also been looking for a new face of the franchise once Zach Parise left in free agency to play for his hometown team the Minnesota Wild.
The Devils’ blueline has not been good in recent memory, and this year looks like it will be more of the same. Have Cory Schneider face a lot of shots, and hope that the Devils can score some goals for him up front. That tactic will not only fail to win the Devils games, but it will also be the definition of a struggle for the Devils to have another rough season in 2017-18.
29: Colorado Avalanche
Top Six: Erik Johnson, Nikita Zadorov, Tyson Barrie, Mark Barberio, Chris Bigras and Anton Lindholm.
The Avalanche have not been the same team due to injuries, and their talent up front not being healthy. Colorado has not had a good past couple of seasons of having success to take some of the workload off of their goaltender Semyon Varlamov. The Avalanche defense is led by Erik Johnson who was taken with the number one overall selection in the 2006 NHL Draft.
Colorado has not had a solid group on the blue line since the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup Title in the 2000-2001 season. Look for the Avalanche to have another rough season in 2017-2018 due to the fact that their goaltender will be dealing with a lot of shots per game due to the fact that their top six defenseman are not a good fit together.
28: New York Islanders
Top Six: Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Dennis Seidenberg, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey and Adam Pelech.
The Islanders don’t look like they will be contending for any Stanley Cup Title in the forseeable future. Especially when their blue line is not that good, which means a lot of shots go to the goaltenders and it is up to them to make sure they can keep the majority of shots out of the net per game. That is a tough style to play in the National Hockey League, and it will come back to bite teams down the stretch when they are looking for a playoff spot.
Look for the Islanders to struggle in 2017-2018, and with some big questions that have to be answered this off season what will the Islanders do.
27: Dallas Stars
Top Six: John Klingberg, Marc Methot, Dan Hamhuis, Greg Pateryn, Esa Lindell and Stephen Johns.
Now the Stars have widely improved this offseason by getting some talent at goaltender, and at forward. The one thing that is keeping them from being a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup is the fact that their defense just can’t measure up to others in the Western Conference. The Stars have a good core up front, but their blue line will be the weak point of this team.
John Klingberg is a great offensive defenseman, and guys like Marc Methot, and Dan Hamhuis have been in the league for a while now. Other than that can they really trust anybody on the blueline for them. Newly acquired goaltender Ben Bishop will not want to be taking a lot of shots in 2017-18 so look for Dallas to try and acquire some talent on defense, but for now they do not have a good defensive group in front of Bishop.
26: Florida Panthers
Top Six: Aaron Ekblad, Michael Matheson, Keith Yandle, Mark Pysyk, Alex Petrovic and Ian McCoshen.
The Panthers need a big time upgrade at defense, and can potentially get that from within if their young talent on defense develops well. Florida’s goaltenders are Roberto Luongo, and James Reimer who are currently splitting time. It is hard for the Panthers to find out which goaltender is the best fit as the number one starter when their defense does not help in keeping pressure off their goaltenders.
Florida struggled last season with getting the puck out of the zone, and had some inconsistent goaltending because of it. Look for the Panthers to address their issues on defense sooner rather than later, but look for Florida to get a big upgrade, ideally a blueliner who could partner up with Ekblad.
25: Buffalo Sabres
Top Six: Rasmus Ristolanien, Marco Scandella, Nathan Beaulieu, Zach Bogosian, Jake McCabe and Viktor Antipin.
Buffalo is a young team that is looking for some guidance in the Eastern Conference. With their core being very young the Sabres are trying to do their best to construct a roster of talented veterans, to help out their young talent. Defenseman Rasmus Rostolanien leads the charge for their defenseman, and he is only 22 years old.
The Sabres have a chance of being a very good hockey team in the next couple of seasons, but they need to progress the way that they can, and hope that everybody wants to remain together as a unit. Look for Buffalo to try and hope that their blue line can give some help to Robin Lehner in 2017-18, but look for them to be two years away from being a solid defensive team.