Print is in decline and it feels like preseason teasers come out earlier and earlier each summer, but in any case The Hockey News' annual yearbook still serves as a temperature check of some mainstream hockey media thinking about where the NHL is.
It's also an excuse to quibble over rankings.
So then, THN's 2013-14 yearbook predicts the New York Islanders to finish fifth in the reconstituted Patrick Division (okay: "Metropolitan"), behind newcomer Columbus among others. They see it:
- New York Rangers
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- New York Islanders
- Washington Capitals
- Carolina Hurricanes
- New Jersey Devils
They also peg only the top three teams making the playoffs, with the NorthSouthEast (er, "Atlantic") having five playoff entrants...including Toronto. Fire away.
If that is enough to ruffle Islanders fan feathers, THN's Top 50 player rankings should be more palatable: They place Tavares 5th, up from 18th last year. He's behind Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Erik Karlsson (in that order) on their list, and ahead of Jonathan Toews, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane and Patrice Bergeron.
Of some amusement: Mike Smith at 49 and Niklas Kronwall at 50 round out the Top 50 list. Hmm... (Martin Brodeur was ranked 50th last year, so...yeah.)
Meanwhile, Zach Parise dropped from 7th last year to 29th this season -- East Coast Boost removed! -- and Ovechkin rose from 22nd to 2nd.
Love for JT
THN praises Tavares' improving skating, includes him as one of their eight feature subjects, and notes:
That he can make such skilled plays at high speed is an incredible asset for him and makes him one of the more dangerous offensive players in the league.
Where non-Crosby players place on such rankings is often a "what are you in the mood for?" exercise, but seeing Tavares in the top five -- not to mention top 10 -- tells you, along with his top-three Hart Trophy finish, that the Islanders' franchise star has fully arrived in the minds of NHL pundits.
The focus is no longer on, "Oh, that poor young talent has to lift the Islanders by himself," and now on, "Wow, he's really good. The Isles will go as far as he takes them." (Not actual quotes, mind you.)
Refute, gloat or dismiss in 3...2...1...