Each year, ESPN does their Ultimate Team Rankings. They rank each team based on things like a team's ownership, fan relations, coaching, stadium experience, ticket price and team success, among other things. But a look at their NHL rankings will make any real fan question their methodology.
Here's a look at how I would rank the NHL's top 10 franchises, with the ESPN Ultimate Team Ranking in parentheses. I took into account things like a team's recent success, potential future success, fan base, stadium experience, tradition/history and coaching/management.
1. Detroit Red Wings (8)
The Red Wings have been the pinnacle of excellence in the NHL for the past 20 or so years, winning four Stanley Cups since 1997. They have the recognizable logo, rich team history, dedicated fanbase and a talented current roster, albeit an aging one.
The only thing the Red Wings don't have going for them is a group of young up-and-comers, but knowing Detroit, they'll find a way to re-stock.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (20)
Led by captain Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks have resurrected themselves in the past few years. A historic team that went through decades of losing, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and continue to be one of the better NHL teams. Toews is only 24 years old, and fellow star Patrick Kane is only 23, so this team has a bright future still. How did ESPN rank them 20th?
3. Philadelphia Flyers (14)
Philadelphia has had a great run since it finished dead last in 2006-2007, including a Stanley Cup appearance in 2010. The Flyers continue to have one of the most dedicated and rabid fanbases in all of sports. They underwent a bit of a makeover a year ago and now boast one of the league's best young rosters, led by Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier.
4. Boston Bruins (15)
Much like the first three teams, the Bruins are a team that is currently successful and has a rich history and great fanbase. They had an unlikely but riveting Stanley Cup run in 2011, but are in a bit of an awkward period with goalie Tim Thomas taking a year off. Their right wing, 20-year-old Tyler Seguin, is one of the NHL's best young players though.
5. New York Rangers (17)
The Rangers have really vaulted up the ranks in the past year after remaking their roster and becoming serious contenders. Nobody can argue with the history and special Madison Square Garden atmosphere, but years of underachievement should be forgotten with Brad Richards and Rick Nash now leading the offense in New York.
6. Minnesota Wild (22)
At the end of last season, the Wild would not have been in the top 10. But signing two of the best free agents in recent history in the same offseason will boost a team. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise go to one of the U.S.'s best hockey towns in the hopes of making the Wild into a perennial playoff team, which I think they are.
7. St. Louis Blues (5)
The Blues are one of the NHL's youngest and least-known teams, but they are also one of the most formidable. Led by captain David Backes and a strong goalie tandem of Brian Elliot and Jarsolav Halak, the Blues are making hockey popular again in St. Louis by playing great defense, and they have the youth to be good for years to come.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (6)
After a disastrous first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Flyers, the Penguins have some question marks surrounding them. But Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are still the best one-two punch in the NHL, as long as they stay healthy.
9. Los Angeles Kings (9)
Los Angeles was the only franchise that ESPN and I agreed on at the ninth spot. The Kings acquired Mike Richards last offseason and then made a midseason trade for Richards' former Philadelphia teammate Jeff Carter. As we all know, they then went on a Cinderella run to win the Stanley Cup as the eight seed in the playoffs. LA may not historically be a hockey town, but if any team can turn it into one, it's this one.
10. Winnipeg Jets (23)
Winnipeg finally got an NHL team back in its city, and the fans didn't let the team down, with a 100 percent attendance ranking. They will continue to support their young team with one of the best fanbases in all of hockey.
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