Interesting to see that in some sense all have weaknesses in the top 6- they just take different forms.
I think that I'd take the Chicago top 6 out of the bunch if I had to pick a top 6....
the Detroit top 3 if I had to pick a top 3....
and you certainly could argue that if you had to build a team from scratch around two wingers that Backes and Boyes would be the place to start (of course if you pick two, D/Z from the Wings and T/K from the Hawks wouldn't make you cry).
Bottom line, I don't think our top 6 is fatally bad compared to those teams.
I would rank us above Columbus, but below the rest. Stay tuned for the next installments with bottom 6, top 4 d, bottom 3 d, depth players, goalies, coaches. Feel free to add your own
I fixed those for a little bit better accuracy (I think Babcock puts Leino in the top six because his game isn't really suited to a checking role.) I would rank us last in the division, even with Sullivan back. Our second line might be ahead of Detroit's, but I'm not sure about everyone else.
Personally, I don't think you can tell as much from the top six as you can from the third line. That generally tells you how much depth a team has up front, and how many different looks they can hit you with.
Chicago - Ladd-Madden-Byfuglien - Good balance of grit, offense, and defensive responsibility, with a ton of size. Sort of a jack-of-all trades line.
Chimera-Pahlsson-Modin - Very effective shut down line that can hem the opposition into their own zone. Not the strongest offensive bunch, but they compensate for it and play a role on the team.
Holmström-Draper-Abdelkader - Detroit will probably get 40-45 goals from this line, and they should do a solid job of mopping up in their own end.
Kariya-Backes-Steen - If Kariya stays healthy, Backes will score 25-30 goals again this year, and Steen should pitch in 15 or so. Easily the best third line in the division, if not the NHL.
Jones-O'Reilly-Hörnqvist - Young, inexperienced, and not really the greatest offensive bunch, although their styles seem to compliment each other better than some of the other groups. Certainly a far cry from Hartnell-Forsberg-Radulov.
Right now, I think St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit are in a three horse race for the division crown. Chicago has a relentless forward attack coupled with a strong defense, although they're hurt by their goaltending.
St. Louis is by far the most offensively dangerous and dynamic team in the division. They bring a great mix of speed, grit, and tenacity across all three of their scoring lines (and make no mistake, they'll be rolling three scoring lines). They have a very well-rounded defense with the return of EJ and Brewer, and they have a goaltender who, when on his game, can really steal the limelight. They just have to stay healthy.
Detroit are always in the division race until they aren't. That's just the nature of things.
Columbus will be battling every step of the way to return to the playoffs.
We'll be hoping not to get made into everybody's prison "friend."
Our defense is a major strength. If we have average production out of the 5/6 spots, we will be a tough tough tough team to beat. If Rinne maintains last year's level of play, we have a playoff contender. Our forwards are definitely probably the weakest in the division, but this could change in a hurry if ONE player breaks out. If Erat takes the step that he was taking in his contract year pre-injury, we are fine. If Wilson or Jones turns into a 20 goal scorer, we are fine. If O'Reilly or Santorelli turn their game up a notch, we are fine. We will still be weaker than other teams, but having a solid top 6 would be acceptable with the defense and goaltending we have. Right now we have a decent top 5 with a huge question mark as the 6th man....
Hamhuis-Klein...yet to be seen how Klein can handle Zanon's minutes
Rinne...outstanding rookie campaign
Ellis...bounce back year
Lidstrom-Rafalski...Hall of Famers
Osgood...finds a way to win, not too hard with Det
Russell-Tyutin...average to weak
Mason...Calder winner, team MVP
Garon...proven back-up, just won a Cup as a back up
Brewer-Johnson...both coming off injury filled years
Mason...great season, gained 1 spot, stretch MVP
Conklin...solid vet back up
Keith-Campbell...Campbell a little overrated, but solid offensive pair
Seabrook-Barker...good young pair
Huet...will he live up to his contract?
Conclusion: Det yet again leads the charge on the back end with two hall of famers and more depth than anyone else. But, I would rank Nashville a close second with to up and coming all-stars in Suter and Weber. Columbus ranks last here.
Goalies: Nashville has the best depth with two solid goalies, closely followed by St. Louis for depth. Best starter slimly goes to Columbus' Mason.