Forget the future Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning.
Let's talk next-tier contenders across the NHL, because there are plenty of them.
It's a game of pick your poison when dissecting the 1A candidates around the league, from the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to the defending Western Conference champion Vegas Golden Knights. But not every poison seems as dangerous this time of the year, especially over the last few weeks.
In our latest edition of NHL power rankings, we've given the top 10 a makeover to reflect just that.
Everyone's done their best, for example, to hold off on crowning the Calgary Flames true contenders, but we're waiting no more after Bill Peters' incredibly balanced squad -- they've got five different players averaging a point per game -- reeled off five straight wins. The Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks, meanwhile, finally look like the powerhouses they were supposed to be. And the Toronto Maple Leafs might be further away from the Lightning than we thought considering their struggles at home.
|Big week for them against Toronto and San Jose, but is anyone in Tampa Bay even remotely concerned?||--||36-17-3|
|This is a total team effort, as cliche as that sounds. But it's working. Who would've pegged Calgary as a top-five, let alone top-10, group entering the year?||1||26-27-3|
|Every time we doubt them a little, they remind us they boast Cup-caliber scorers. Like other top teams, they're also especially dominant at home.||5||30-23-3|
|This is exactly where everyone thought they'd be after a big offseason. And yet there's still room for improvement thanks to Martin Jones' so-so production.||5||21-28-7|
|They're weathering the injury storm (and a Pekka Rinne slump) just fine. Consider us stunned if they're not favored in their first playoff series.||1||31-23-2|
|Time to panic? No way. Auston Matthews will pick it up again. But you wonder if their struggles at home will come back to bite them at some point.||4||35-14-7|
|Let's give them props for how much they've turned things around since October. Like the Maple Leafs, though, they've got issues with home and road splits.||3||40-14-2|
|Even after falling hard vs. San Jose, they might be the one team nobody's talking about enough. Sidney Crosby and Co. seem poised to sneak up on the contenders.||1||37-16-3|
|If the Caps went solely as Alex Ovechkin goes, they'd be top five, easily. At least the defending champs aren't lacking for offense.||4||36-15-5|
|It feels dangerous to put them this high considering Sergei Bobrovsky's suddenly murky future, but as long as they're winning, what can you do?||2||18-26-12|
|Aren't you just glad fans have Tuukka Rask-as-a-starter to talk about again?||--||33-16-7|
|If Barry Trotz has done one thing lately, it's get production from the Isles' depth. Even the fourth line has chipped in to keep this team in the hunt.||2||32-17-7|
|Carey Price. Shea Weber. It's just like the old days! Maybe all of us were a little too quick to write this team off to a rebuild?||3||24-21-11|
|It's got to be a difficult time in the Buffalo front office knowing your youngsters exploded out of the gate but are now teetering toward, what, 2019-20? Maybe the deadline helps.||--||15-34-7|
|They can be so much better than the 15th best team, but even this is probably a stretch. Their first line has Grade-A talent, they held Tampa to two goals and they're good at home, but everything else is a mess.||--||23-19-14|
|As long as their top line exists, they shouldn't be in the NHL's lower half. The problem is, with that line, they should probably be a heck of a lot better.||3||39-13-4|
|They get credit for staying above .500 over the last two weeks, but not too much credit. This is still a middle-of-the-road underachiever.||--||35-16-5|
|This. Always. Happens. Justin Williams deserves a nod, and, yes, the Canes are rolling. But how many years in a row are we going to be teased by them as a wild card possibility?||1||36-12-8|
|The most important part of their week will be watching Elias Pettersson get back on the ice.||1||23-29-4|
|They don't have the manpower to consistently beat contenders, but you wonder if they've found enough spark in addition to Connor McDavid to make a late run at a wild-card spot.||1||35-19-2|
|Vladimir Tarasenko and David Perron are finally putting numbers on the board, but it might be too late.||5||27-20-9|
|They don't really have any business being as high as they are, but there's something about Madison Square Garden that brings out the best in them.||3||27-23-6|
|If you want to read a sad story, just peruse Arizona's offensive statistical leaders.||--||24-26-6|
|Again, all eyes should remain on Mackenzie Blackwood, who's shown some nice stuff in the net thus far. The Devils would be so much better off if that position is accounted for.||--||19-30-7|
|Jimmy Howard Watch continues as the Red Wings keep playing spoiler near the basement.||3||19-27-10|
|We're starting to think they just need an overhaul of talent. Bob Boughner had this group ready to ride at the end of last season, but this just isn't getting it done.||6||37-14-5|
|The pendulum swings once more on this bizarre season. Just keep thinking happy thoughts (see: John Gibson) until the Ducks decide it's actually time for management change or a rebuild.||5||17-30-9|
|As long as Carter Hart's morale isn't permanently damaged by the ineptitude around him, the Flyers should be set to enter the 2019-20 offseason with a big need checked off their list.||2||25-23-8|
|The biggest letdown of the year might be the Kings' addition of Ilya Kovalchuk.||--||21-28-7|
|At least Patrick Kane is still giving fans something to cheer for.||3||24-25-7|
|We bet Craig Anderson is absolutely thrilled to be back soon.||--||23-28-5|