Power Poll: Gotta go Red Wings for preseason No. 1

There’s a temptation to pick a team other than the Detroit Red Wings as the preseason No. 1 in the NHL power rankings. You know, make a splash—take a risk and be different. That decision would be easy to support because NHL teams have a hard time repeating. One problem: This Detroit team has no weakness. None. So it stays No. 1. But after the Red Wings, it gets interesting.

There are teams we like—maybe more than we should—in Columbus and Florida. There are teams we’re not crazy about—but are willing to admit we could be wrong about—in New Jersey and Ottawa. And then there’s Tampa Bay. What the heck do you do with the Lightning?

Here goes:

1. Detroit Red Wings: The recent broken nose suffered by Nicklas Lidstrom offers a stark reminder that if Detroit ever loses him for any length of time, this becomes a totally different team.

2. San Jose Sharks: The talent base remains intact. And now the Sharks have added Stanley Cup winners Dan Boyle and Rob Blake. Good moves.

3. Dallas Stars: With Brenden Morrow, Sean Avery and Steve Ott, this team will be miserable to play against.

4. Montreal Canadiens: Nice pickups in Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang. But success will hinge on the development of goalie Carey Price.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins: As long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are around, this team is elite. But it has downgraded since the playoffs. The Penguins will miss Sergei Gonchar more than they will Marian Hossa.

6. Washington Capitals: This team is huge and fast. And Alex Ovechkin is on a mission.

7. Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers make the jump because of the continued growth of homegrown talent, combined with a healthy Sheldon Souray and the pickup of Erik Cole.

8. Philadelphia Flyers: Some concerns on the back end, including skill on defense and questions about goalie Martin Biron’s ability to guide a team to the Stanley Cup.

9. Chicago Blackhawks: All the ingredients are there for a big jump in Chicago, but a slow start could be costly for coach Denis Savard, who will feel the pressure. Having Scotty Bowman and Joel Quenneville on the team payroll will do that.

10. Calgary Flames: Mike Keenan gets his type of players; now he has to win with them.

11. Anaheim Ducks: With the Mathieu Schneider distraction behind them, the Ducks can focus on getting off to a better start this season.

12. Tampa Bay Lightning: The overhaul in Tampa will either get the team in the playoffs or be a complete train wreck. Early indicators are good for the Lightning.

13. New York Rangers: Now isn’t there room on that roster for Brendan Shanahan?

14. Buffalo Sabres: This team is better than you think. Good to see the Sabres taking care of their own this summer with long-term deals.

15. Florida Panthers: There’s strong defense, strong goaltending and just enough scoring to get the Panthers into the playoffs.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets: Want a sleeper for the Calder Trophy? Try Derick Brassard. He’s been centering Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius.

17. New Jersey Devils: We don’t like to bet against a Lou Lamoriello team making the playoffs, but too many other teams passed New Jersey this summer.

18. Minnesota Wild: The longer the Marian Gaborik contract talks drag out, the bigger the distraction becomes.

19. Vancouver Canucks: The defense is still strong and the goaltending outstanding. But where is the offense coming from?

20. Ottawa Senators: There’s offense in Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza: just not enough to overcome a shaky D.

21. Colorado Avalanche: Joe Sakic liked the makeup of this team enough to return. But we’re not so confident.

22. Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron’s comeback might be one of the better stories of the early going.

23. Carolina Hurricanes: This is a big season for Cam Ward, whose consistency needs to improve if the Canes are to challenge for a playoff berth.

24. Nashville Predators: Nashville still hasn’t found a replacement for Alexander Radulov. His loss is a serious blow.

25. Phoenix Coyotes: There’s a stockpiling of young talent going on in the desert and eventually the Coyotes will start winning. Just not yet.

26. Atlanta Thrashers: Good week for Don Waddell: He extends Tobias Entsrom and adds Mathieu Schneider. This team still needs another scoring winger.

27. St. Louis Blues: Erik Johnson’s injury pretty much squashes any hopes that the talented young Blues could surprise this season.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs: No pressure, Vesa Toskala: But any success the Maple Leafs enjoy will be because of you.

29. New York Islanders: Scott Gordon might be the right choice in Long Island. It’ll just be hard to tell this season.

30. Los Angeles Kings: We believe in Dean Lombardi’s long-term plan of building with youth, but he should bring in a couple more veterans to show the way.

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