The Pittsburgh Penguins open the 2013 NHL season on top of the TSN.ca NHL Power Rankings, ahead of the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.
With a healthy Sidney Crosby and reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins have an abundance of skill and, even though they traded Jordan Staal to Carolina, remained strong down the middle by getting Brandon Sutter in return.
Pittsburgh's supporting cast and defence do present questions -- there are no flawless teams -- but the Penguins also addressed their goaltending concerns by adding Tomas Vokoun, to pair with Marc-Andre Fleury after Fleury struggled in last year's playoffs.
As for the Rangers, adding Rick Nash and having a healthy Marian Gaborik for the start of the season should give the Blueshirts the offensive firepower necessary to support Vezina-winning goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
The Bruins have quite a bit of continuity, except in goal, where Tuukka Rask will take over the starting role with Tim Thomas on a self-imposed hiatus. If Rask can handle the No. 1 job, he has an experienced defence in front of him and a quality group of forwards, bolstered by the return of right winger Nathan Horton.
Even without two-way pivot Ryan Kesler to start the year, and some uncertainty regarding the ultimate solution to their goaltending situation, the Vancouver Canucks are the top-ranked Canadian team, at No. 5.
Following up a surprising 2011-2012 season, the Ottawa Senators are next, ranked 13th, while the Montreal Canadiens sit 18th, with the presumption that they will get restricted free agent defenceman P.K. Subban signed to a new deal.
After years of languishing at the bottom of the rankings, the Edmonton Oilers are poised for a jump and open this season ranked 16th, an indication that a playoff berth ought to be within their grasp.
The Calgary Flames are ranked 21st, hoping that a new coach (Bob Hartley), and additions like Roman Cervenka, Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman can get them back into the postseason.
Firing general manager Brian Burke didn't have any impact on the preseason ranking for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the fact that the Leafs are currently ranked 26th, with promising defenceman Jake Gardiner sidelined due to a concussion and question marks in goal, does make it appear that they're fighting uphill to start the season.
The Winnipeg Jets are the lowest-ranked of the Canadian teams, at 28th, with goaltending questions and a lack of depth, particularly on defence while Zach Bogosian is injured.
** Team Rankings are based on a weighted collection of individual player rankings. The individual rankings are comprised of weighted per-game values for Goals and Assists (weighted by Power Play, Even and Shorthanded), Plus-Minus, Shots, Hits, Blocked Shots, Giveaways, Takeaways, Faceoffs and Penalty Differential (Drawn - Taken).
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.