OK, now put it down, because there’s no way that’s true.
In reality, each of those teams had reason to believe they’d be in the mix during the 2018-19 campaign — the Sabres finally tapping into their developed youth, the Flames rebounding with more offense and the Ducks recovering from a wave of injuries. But now we’re approaching the new year and all three are legitimately doing things. The Sabres have fallen off a bit since a monumental win streak, and it remains to be seen how long Anaheim’s resurgence will last, but the fact that this trio of non-playoff contenders from the year prior has taken turns challenging the best of the best shows how much fluctuation there’s been in the NHL’s second tier.
By second tier, of course, we mean the teams below the Grade-A Stanley Cup favorites. The Tampa Bay Lightning. The The Toronto Maple Leafs. The Nashville Predators. The suddenly streaking Winnipeg Jets. And if we’re being honest, each week that passes brings us closer to moving the Lightning to a tier of their own.
In this week’s edition of NHL power rankings, you’ll find that Tampa Bay has a firm hold on that top spot, with some movement from unexpected competitors — like the Ducks and the Vancouver Canucks — below: