Final NHL Power Rankings: Best moments, performances of 2015-16

The 2015-16 season was interesting in a lot of ways, and in others, it became a little monotonous. There was a fun race to the finish that saw the final weekend of the season become crucial for several teams to set the stage for the playoffs at least.

Consider the fact that the biggest talking point of the entire season was the widespread lament of the lack of goals being scored. In a lot of ways that's a conversation that needs to be had, but the tedium of it sometimes distracted from some of the truly amazing things that happened this year.

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That's why I wanted to take our final power rankings and briefly run down some of the best moments, performances and happenings from the season that was.

For one, the Washington Capitals put together the best season by any team in a decade. Their 56 wins put them with the eighth most in NHL history, joining a top 10 that includes dominant Montreal Canadiens teams of the 1970s and Detroit Red Wings squads of the 1990s and 2000s, as well as one of Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton squads. The Caps had the Presidents' Trophy wrapped up with two weeks to go in the season.

In the process of that incredible run, Braden Holtby tied Martin Brodeur's single-season wins record with 48 while Alex Ovechkin notched his seventh 50-goal season with a hat trick in the second-to-last game of the season. Only Gretzky and Mike Bossy had more 50-goal campaigns.

Then there was Patrick Kane becoming the first American-born player to lead the NHL in scoring. He had 106 points, making him one of the few to reach the century mark in recent years. Twenty-seven players have done it since 2005-06, but only four have hit 100 points since 2010-11.

This year's rookie crop produced some of the most exciting first-year players we've seen in years. Had Connor McDavid played the whole season, he could have been among the NHL's top scorers, if his points-per-game were any indication. Artemi Panarin gave the Blackhawks a Russian-Kane clone to add to their mix, while Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin, Max Domi, Shayne Gostisbehere and so many more provided a breath of fresh air to the league.

However, the old guys showed they still could hack it, too. How about Jaromir Jagr's season? The guy turned 44 in February and remained one of the top scorers on a division champion. He also surpassed Gordie Howe and Brett Hull for third all-time in points and goals. And he doesn't even look like he's close to finished.

Other seasoned veterans like Joe Thornton and Jagr's teammate Roberto Luongo showed that nobody better be counting them out any time soon. Thornton was one of the league's most dominant offensive players, while Luongo helped steal some games for the Panthers in a record-breaking season.

This season wasn't always the most fun. There was a reason that the scoring debate dominated, but the players listed above and the compelling races to the playoffs at least set us up for what should be a fantastic postseason.

So with one final look back, here's our end of season NHL Power Rankings to provide a final snapshot of 2015-16. These are not to be confused with our playoff team rankings, which used different criteria for judging the teams ahead of the postseason.

Biggest Movers
2 Penguins
3 Kings
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Capitals Simply put, this was the best season in the history of the Washington Capitals organization. They won the Presidents' Trophy by 11 points with consistency from start to finish. Now they'll look to bury the "playoff choker" narrative. -- 0-0
2 Stars Winning a division that included three of the NHL's top-five teams in the standings is incredibly impressive. The fact they surged down the stretch without Tyler Seguin is particularly stunning. This Stars team has some special qualities and is a blast to watch. 1 0-0
3 Ducks In one of the most impressive turnarounds we've seen in the NHL, the Ducks went from last in the league at Christmas to winning a fourth consecutive Pacific Division title. If they can stay healthy in the postseason, they're going to be tough to beat. 1 0-0
4 Blues St. Louis finished just one win shy of a third 50-win season under Ken Hitchcock. Considering the insane amount of injuries this team endured, falling two points shy of the Central title should be seen as a major accomplishment. 2 0-0
5 Penguins Finishing the season on a 14-2-0 run was something special. Mike Sullivan's arrival and subsequent changes helped give a team the shot in the arm it needed. Sidney Crosby's late-season tear showed he's still one of the best in the game today. He had 58 points over his last 44 games. 2 0-0
6 Blackhawks The Blackhawks season ended in somewhat uninspiring fashion as they went 6-5-4 over their last 15 games. However, Patrick Kane did become the first Blackhawks player in 48 years to win the Art Ross Trophy with 106 points, and the postseason is when this team really shines. -- 0-0
7 Panthers The Panthers had such a fun season on so many levels. They made franchise history with 47 wins and 103 points. Not only that, they're surging into the postseason having won seven of their last nine games. Their path to the Eastern Conference Final is somewhat favorable. 1 0-0
8 Kings Maybe they took their foot off the gas or perhaps they were just saving some energy for the playoffs. Whatever the case, the Kings let the division title slip out of their hands and now have a tough first-round matchup with a Sharks squad that has looked strong. 3 0-0
9 Rangers Injuries piled up at the end of the season, which is cause for concern against a red-hot Penguins squad. Losing Ryan McDonagh for any portion of the series provides a big challenge. Henrik Lundqvist still has the ability to be the difference. -- 0-0
10 Sharks Boasting three of the league's top 11 scorers, the Sharks got back to being that deadly offensive team we're used to seeing. Joe Thornton's performance could go down as one of his most dominant, which is saying something. -- 0-0
11 Predators The Preds have to face the Ducks in the first round, which makes them big underdogs. They're still a threat, though. Filip Forsberg just tied the franchise's single-season goals record with 33 and James Neal also eclipsed the 30-goal mark. They've got some pop to compete with the league's stingiest team. 1 0-0
12 Islanders The Isles have some unfortunate injuries to contend with as they head into the postseason. They dropped into the first wild-card spot in the East, but John Tavares continues to have game-breaking potential. This playoff series against the Panthers could be a significant one for the franchise's direction after this season. 1 0-0
13 Flyers The Flyers did it. This did not look like a playoff team coming into the year, nor did it during the early season. They found their game around the halfway point of the season and continued to refine it and improve. They'll give the Caps some trouble in the first round. 1 0-0
14 Lightning If this team didn't have bad luck, they'd have no luck at all. Injury to Anton Stralman, blood clot surgery for Steven Stamkos and a host of other players banged up is going to make the playoffs challenging. Ben Bishop, who had a Vezina-caliber season, can steal them some games, though. 3 0-0
15 Red Wings They might have backed into the postseason, but it doesn't matter how you get there, just that you do. For Detroit, it's 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs. This streak is one of the more remarkable feats in pro sports, especially considering they're competing in a salary-cap league now. -- 0-0
16 Wild The Wild have been hard to figure out all year. Head coach John Torchetti had them playing well, but five straight losses to end the regular season was concerning. No one's giving them much of a chance against the Stars in the first round. 1 0-0
17 Bruins Another disappointing finish as the Bruins missed the playoffs a second straight year. With all of the moves they made last summer, they looked like a bubble team to make it. Then they exceeded expectations before fading dramatically down the stretch. They have some interesting decisions to make. 1 0-0
18 Hurricanes The Hurricanes had a really interesting season. Most expected them to be in the basement, but a possession-friendly system and some fresh blood helped. There are more moves that need to be made, and more positions to build on. But this was a season of progress in Carolina. 1 0-0
19 Avalanche The Avalanche season ended in disappointment once again as they could not take advantage of a faltering Minnesota Wild down the stretch. Some ill-timed injuries hurt, but the Avalanche have some significant issues that need to be corrected by Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy if this team is to progress. 1 0-0
20 Devils Another club that experienced a season of progress and exceeded expectations, the Devils still have plenty of work to do. Injuries were a major factor in this team's decline after a strong start. New coach John Hynes seemed to get a lot out of what he had, though. -- 0-0
21 Senators The Sens are already making changes, as GM Bryan Murray stepped down after the season. New GM Pierre Dorion already let go coach Dave Cameron and the coaching staff. So that next hire is a big one with the foundation the team has in place. -- 0-0
22 Coyotes The Coyotes fired GM Don Maloney in a surprise move. It will be interesting to see what that means for their rebuild that by all accounts was heading in the right direction. If Arizona starts looking for shortcuts, though, it could be costly. -- 0-0
23 Canadiens Despite the horrific season in Montreal, the coach and general manager will be back. The good news is that Carey Price has time to get 100 percent healthy, but they can't lean on him like they've had to in recent years going forward. -- 0-0
24 Sabres The playoffs were a long shot for the Sabres despite sweeping changes to the roster last season. They did improve though. Rookies Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart were as good as advertised and new addition Ryan O'Reilly can be the centerpiece until Eichel is ready to take over. -- 0-0
25 Jets The Jets had a disappointing year that overshadowed some of the positives. Blake Wheeler was a top-10 scorer in the league, while Mark Schiefele had a breakout season. There are pieces in place to get back on track as soon as next season. -- 0-0
26 Flames The Flames have to go back to the drawing board when it comes to their goaltending. That was a major cause for concern, but the team also needs to improve in the possession department. They also have some massive contracts to get done this year, meaning it will be a busy summer in Calgary. 1 0-0
27 Blue Jackets The Blue Jackets have a lot to work on, but already started this year. Adding Seth Jones was a big plus, while Brandon Saad affirmed the team's decision to acquire him with a 31-goal season. Now they have to get Sergei Bobrovsky back on track and see if a full season of John Tortorella makes a difference one way or the other. 1 0-0
28 Canucks The Canucks were a mess this season. Beyond the Sedins, their offensive attack was uninspiring and the depth of the team was notably poor. Their goaltending wasn't great either. This is a team that has to probably commit to some version of a rebuild. -- 0-0
29 Oilers The Oilers will move into a new building next year and will be looking to turn the page. They still need to sink some funds into the defense and continue to build around Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall. Peter Chiarelli's phone probably will be getting a workout this year. 1 0-0
30 Maple Leafs This was a year of suffering in some ways, but it was accepted suffering. The current regime in Toronto is going to great lengths to completely restructure the organization. That takes time. It also takes pain. If they win the draft lottery, that might be a nice reprieve. 1 0-0
CBS Sports Writer

Chris Peters has been a hockey writer for CBS Sports since 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for numerous outlets and edited the United States of Hockey blog, covering the sport at all levels. Peters also... Full Bio

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