By Justin Olson
I hope you notice that I’m taking a level one Spanish class. I also hope that you are enjoying the one sport that is playing now on ice (No Canada, curling does NOT count). NBA, get your act together. Sorry, I’m a little bitter if you can’t tell. Anyways, here is the first edition of my (slightly opinionated) monthly Power Rankings for the League. If you completely disagree with me, feel free to let me know it and leave a comment. I will disagree with you in turn. Enjoy:
1) Dallas Stars (11-3/22 pts): There is no doubt about it. This has been one of the most surprising teams in the league this year. In fact the only team I would say was more of a shock was the team ranked number 3. The Stars are currently the best team in the league. This is mostly due to their very impressive consistency, never really having to deal with an extended losing streak. In the past this team has faded later in the season, but this year I think they will contend for the divisional crown.
2) Pittsburgh Penguins (9-3-3/21 pts): Everyone around the NHL world has a clock ticking down to the time when Sidney Crosby gets back from Post-Concussion Syndrome. The only problem is that no one actually knows when that clock will run down to zero. They have been rumors that it is soon, but I’ll only believe it when I see it. The Penguins are one of the deepest teams in the league, but they are definitely not a championship team without him.
3) Edmonton Oilers (9-3-2/20 pts): The best story of the NHL so far. This was the team that finished with the league’s worst record for the last two years, and somehow now they are near the top. One of the reasons for this is the blossoming of top draft picks that the Oilers has drafted during its years of futility. In addition, the team has matured. The Oilers are still a very young team, so it will be interesting to see if they can keep up their level of play for the entire season.
4) Washington Capitals (9-4/18 pts): After a scorching start this team has slowed down in the last few game,s but they are still a very good team. Ovechkin will make sure that this team is never bad, but the team’s Achilles heel has always been their defense. This year, the Capitals have only given up 38 goals so far – a sign of improvement. They are probably the most complete team in the league right now.
5) Philadelphia Flyers (8-4-2/18 pts.): They can score goals. A lot of goals. They have a league leading 56 goals through the first 14 games. That’s 6 more than the second place team (Capitals). Unlike in past years, they haven’t been giving up an extreme amount of goals. This has the makings of a team that can go deep into the playoffs this year. However, their biggest problem is inconsistency. If they can play well on a steadier basis and Pronger can stay healthy, they should be a great team.
6) Chicago Blackhawks (8-4-3/19 pts): The Hawks are back. After a mediocre year resulted from the ’09 Cup Champs’ fire sale, they have their swagger back. They lead their division early and, if the Red Wings don’t get its act together, the Hawks should win it.
7) Toronto Maple Leafs (9-5-1/19 pts.): Yes I know that they are leading the division. Yes I know that they are second in the conference. Yes I know that I only have them ranked 7th. And no, I’m not crazy. This team just isn’t that talented. Phil Kessel is having a monster year so far, but he’s inconsistent (OK so I’m a little bitter that he left the Bruins a few years ago). This team also has a habit of fast starts every year, only to miss the playoffs every. single. time. It will be the same this year. Count on it.
8. San Jose Sharks (8-4-1/17 pts): This team had a playoff hangover for the most part of the first 10 games; however, they have been playing better lately. They are the most talented team in the league, and have been for a few years, but they always choke in the playoffs, Romo style. Is this the year for the Sharks? My instincts say probably not.
9) Minnesota Wild (8-3-3/19 pts): Another one of the surprising teams in the league so far. Unfortunately, this team is the same case as the Maple Leafs: they just don’t have that much talent and their goaltending is suspect. I expect them to fade before the season ends.
10) Buffalo Sabres (9-5/18 pts): For some reason there were several experts and radio peopl who picked this team to go deep into the playoffs, and possibly win the championship. I never understood why. They have a Vezina-caliber goaltender in Miller…and that’s about it. They always seem to underperform. They will do so again this year.
11) Boston Bruins: Wait a minute Justin, isn’t this team 13th in the Eastern Conference right now? Yes, that is true. Then why do you have them ranked 11th? Well my biased reason is that I’m from the Boston, but before you change tabs, there is a real reason too. They had a championship hangover that they just got over and they are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now. They have won 3 straight by scores of 5-3, 7-0, and 6-2. Also, if you haven’t seen Tyler Seguin play this year, watch him. You won’t be disappointed.
12) Phoenix Coyotes (7-4-2/16 pts): Once again, amid speculation that the team will leave Phoenix in the near future, this team is having a quietly good season. In the last few years, they have been one of the better teams in the NHL. Yet because of their ownership issues, they never get much attention on their game. It’s a shame.
13) New York Rangers (7-3-3/17 pts): Brad Richards must be happy he landed in New York. Not really. This team was supposed to be really good. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad, they just aren’t as good as their talent suggests. Call them the Eagles of the NHL. With that said, they are on a 5 game winning streak after a terrible start to the season.
14) Nashville Predators (7-5-2/16 pts): I never understood why there was a a hockey team in Nashville, but Predators have been a good one this season. It’s mostly because of their goalie Pekka Rinne, who is always in the Vezina conversation. They will make the playoffs again this year.
15) Florida Panthers (7-4-3/17 pts.): This team has been a surprising team so far (even though by surprising I mean that they actually aren’t in last). Don’t get your hopes up Panthers fans (if there are any out there). Much like the Maple Leafs and Wild, they don’t have enough talent to stick around.
16) Tampa Bay Lightning (7-5-2/16 pts.): This is another one of those playoff teams that got off to a slow start but is now turning it around. Goalie Dwayne Roloson is really showing his age. If I were GM Steve Yzerman, I’d start looking for the goalie of the future now.
17) Los Angeles Kings (7-5-3/17 pts): This has been one of the most inconsistent teams since the dawn of time. They are great one game and then horrific in the next. They’ll make the playoffs but they can never get enough momentum going to actually win a series.
18) Detroit Red Wings (7-5-1/15 points): What is wrong with Detroit? After a 5-0 start they have gone way down hill. They’ve been better lately but the pride of their franchise, the defense, has been shaky this year. However they’ve made the playoffs every year since the game was played with rocks and tree branches, so I’m not worried about them.
19) Vancouver Canucks (7-7-1/15 points): All I have to say is that Vancouver riot alert has to be on High right now, or at least it was until they started to play better. They aren’t having nearly as good of a year through this point in the season as they were at the same time last year.
20) New Jersey Devils (7-5-1/15 points): Kovalchuk looks to be out for a few more games with an injury, which is not good for the Devils. But hey, look on the bright start. They’re off to a much better start then they were last year.
21) Colorado Avalanche (7-7-1/15 points): This was one of the worst teams in the league last year, so it’s nice to see them hanging around a little bit. But they’re on the downswing and look for them to continue moving in that direction.
22) Ottawa Senators (7-7-1/15 points): Sure, they started off great but they have been worse lately. Is anyone surprised? I mean, we’re talking about the Ottawa Senators here, not the Washington Capitals.
23) Carolina Hurricanes (5-7-3/13 points): Jeff Skinner is an early MVP candidate but that’s about all this team has right now. Remember when Cam Ward beat the top-ranked Bruins with his goaltending skill in the 2008 playoffs. What the hell happened to him?
24) Winnipeg Jets (5-7-3/13 points): After a terrible start, this team has turned it around a little but, but we have to be honest. Thy are still the Atlanta Thrashers, except only now, they’re disguised in a new city. They won’t get much better than they are now.
25) St. Louis Blues: Wow, whoever picked the name for the franchise must have been a psychic. I’ve always had a soft-spot for the Blues. I want them to do well, but they never do. It looks like it’s going to be another struggle this year. The Cardinals brought the World Series trophy to a game last week. That couldn’t have felt good for the Blues.
26) Anaheim Ducks (5-6-3/13 points): This team can’t really be this bad. Can it? I mean they have so much talent. They have the reigning MVP, Corey Perry. I want them to rise in these rankings, but they have to give me a reason first.
27) Calgary Flames (6-7-1/13 points): This is a team that has always just kind of been there, but they’ve never really done anything good because they’ve never really had any marquee players. It looks like they’re headed to another season of mediocrity.
28) Montreal Canadiens (5-7-2/12 points): This may sound a little biased, but this team is truly bad. They have been inconsistent in every aspect of the game and Carey Price is having a pretty terrible season in net. They’ll be looking for a new coach before the end of their year.
29) New York Islanders (4-6-2/10 points): They just fired their coach. What did that change? Absolutely nothing. This wasn’t a coaching problem. It’s a talent problem. They have none. They will be the worst team in the Eastern Conference (again) this year.
30) Columbus Blue Jackets (2-11-1/5 points): Wow. That is literally all I can say. If you want to know what I’m talking about, watch a Blue Jackets game. Try to get through the entire thing, I dare you. It’s like watching Jennifer Simpson act: first you don’t think it’s that bad, but it wears away at you. Rick Nash…I’m sorry.
Questions? Problems? Thoughts? Let me know. Look out for Power Rankings: Numero Dos early next month
All standings and statistics are courtesy of NHL.Com. All team names are property of the National Hockey League.