The first ever AFHL season is nearing the halfway point, but the 2009 portion of the schedule is complete after Thursday night’s action. That means it’s time for the time-honored tradition of making New Year’s resolutions.
The theme for these Power Rankings are suggestions for what each team should pledge to accomplish in the upcoming 12 months.
1. Buffalo Phantoms (88-37-19) – Yes, we are well aware everything is going just rosy for the Phantoms, but they can not lose sight of the fact the postseason is very different from the regular season and not to be quiet at the trade deadline coming up in a few months.
2. London Mustangs (84-39-21) – While this team has done its best not to get caught up in all the hype and accolades thrown its way early, there still is the temptation to get overconfident. Remember that the regular season is a process toward playing your best in the spring. If anyone thinks London isn’t going to be hard to dethrone, think again.
3. Vancouver Heroes (82-39-23) – The Heroes are like the Phantoms and Mustangs, dictating games with their speed and skill. They are legitimate. Their goaltending is the best in the league, but, like all teams, this team as a whole has not experienced the AFHL Stanley Cup playoffs. The trade deadline is a very important time to add at least one or two more star forwards.
4. Hollywood Stars (80-42-22) – General manager Mike Basset did a nice job of drafting a star-studded team, but now he must look at adding more top-end skill to this group or an early exit from the playoffs is inevitable.
5. Manhattan Supermen (67-47-30) – Any way you cut it, the Supermen can’t match the skill of every team in the league. That means Manhattan must stick with a hard work ethic and be the toughest team to play night-in and night-out. There are no nights off, especially come springtime.
6. Oshawa City Leafs (72-54-18) – Firebrand hockey is fun to watch, and no one does it better than the Alexander Ovechkin-led Leafs. But if you want to win when it counts most, defense is as much a part of the game as offense. To that end, Oshawa City needs to look for ways to possibly upgrade the blue line and definitely improve in goal.
7. Boston Giants (69-54-21) – A great team is only as good as its best players and for the Giants that means keeping Evgeni Malkin in Boston for years to come.
8. Deer Park Chiefs (65-61-18) – Improving their offense has to be the top priority for the immediate future. The team would look a whole lot better if the puck spent less time in the Chiefs’ end.
9. Fort Drum Killers (63-59-22) – Ilya Kovalchuk can not go it alone. He’s got a good supporting cast, maybe good enough to make the playoffs and even grab a high seed. But there may not be enough skill in place to go far in the playoffs. It’s a challenge GM Steve Stryska faces between now and the trade deadline.
10. Toronto Red Devils (64-64-16) – Offensively, they look good with their top line featuring Heatley-Zetterberg-Setoguchi, but the depth and goaltending are still question marks. They recently acquired Steve Mason in a trade with Detroit, but for the Red Devils to make the playoffs, they need Mason to turn it up a few more notches.
11. St. John’s Red Wings (58-64-22) – Score more goals on a regular basis. It’s going to be a quick ouster from the playoffs if they don’t score more consistently.
12. Seattle Bruins (57-67-20) – How much evidence do we need to admit the Bruins’ window has slammed shut, at least with the current roster? Bodies have been flying every which way here and people are still questioning them trying to win now or going into a rebuilding phase. Tough days are still ahead and the Bruins GM must remember how important it is to stick to the plan and realize there are no shortcuts.
13. Lexington Leg Hounds (54-64-25) – We knew about the potential of their youthful roster, but the Leg Hounds really are on the right path when you look at their overall numbers. The fact they have been able to beat some of the best teams in the league says that they are going in the right direction.
14. Winnipeg Wheat Kings (54-76-14) – Make the AFHL Stanley Cup playoffs, which would be a fitting reward for the dedicated work of new owner and respected coach Jay Irvin.
15. Edmonton Hellstars (48-70-26) – Keep doing what Washington is doing. Build, develop and trust young players. The Hellstars have some big difference makers in Anze Kopitar and Ryan Getzlaf, so it wouldn’t take much to get back into contention. Keep the faith and good things will happen sooner rather than later.
16. Washington Power (44-67-33) – Continue being patient with their youth movement. Don’t be afraid at the deadline to take a chance if, again, a player or two who fits the long-term plan is available.
17. Hamilton Outlaws (49-78-17) – The Outlaws have reached a crossroads. They have some good players and some older ones who are skating toward retirement. Rebuilding is calling out, and if Hamilton doesn’t turn it around soon, then they may start at the trade deadline.
18. Detroit Gladiators (46-76-22) – The future can’t come fast enough. The trick is to figure out exactly who should be part of it.
19. Castlegar Wolves (44-84-16) – Please, please, please create an identity other than that of a team that can only win if the goalies stop 100+ shots per week and Zach Parise scores more than twice.
20. Temiscaming Storm (39-84-21) – The fans, media and players are tired of hearing it, but patience is still the key in Temiscaming. The Storm will likely miss the cut for the postseason and will have to resist the temptation to get off course in search of a quick fix.