NHL Power Rankings
by Trevor Whenham - 10/29/2009
It's been an exciting and, in many ways, very surprising start to the NHL season. Some good teams are better than we thought, while others have been lousy. Some teams that looked lousy on paper can't seem to lose. All the differences mean that the NHL power rankings will be quite different now than they were when we started the season. Let's have a look (previous rankings in brackets):
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1. Pittsburgh Penguins (1) - The Pens were the first team to reach 10 wins, and they don't show signs of slowing down. Sidney Crosby has always piled up the points, but he's scoring goals better now than ever before. There are some concerns because Sergei Gonchar, their best defenseman, is out for a while. So far, though, it hasn't made a dramatic difference.
2. Colorado Avalanche (7) - I'm not even going to try to understand how they are doing it, but the fact is that these guys are extremely good right now. I saw them play in person last night, and I was taken by their discipline, determination, and especially by the goaltending they are getting.
3. Buffalo Sabres (9) - Like Colorado, the Sabres have lost just once in regulation time. They also haven't lost on the road. Ryan Miller has been great in the nets, and rookie defenseman Tyler Myers has been a revelation. They are the best 5-on-5 team in the league right now.
4. San Jose Sharks (4) - The Sharks took an offseason risk to improve their offense, and it has paid off handsomely - they have three scorers in the top seven in the league, including the newly acquired Dany Heatley. They need to play better on the road, but this is clearly a team built for the long haul.
5. Washington Capitals (12) - It's not hard to be a good team when you have the best offensive player in the world - especially when that player gets off to the best start of his career. The biggest concern I had about the team was Jose Theodore, but the goalie is playing like a number one again.
6. L.A. Kings (2) - This ranking is basically an award for Anze Kopitar. He's not only leading the league in scoring, but he's doing it while playing with a defensive discipline that was lacking early in his career. The fact that he is doing so well is a testament to the coaching job that Andy Murray is doing, and that's good news for the team going forward.
7. New Jersey Devils (23) - This is a very big jump in the rankings, but it's warranted. They aren't fun to watch, but new coach Jacques Lemaire is bringing in the defensive discipline he is known for, and it is working - even if that is because they are boring opponents to death. They need to be much better at home, but their 5-0 road record earns them a higher spot than their overall record deserves.
8. Chicago Blackhawks (13) - I hate their goaltending, and nothing I have seen this year has changed that. The fact that they can look as good as they do with the goalies they have is a positive thing, though. They'll have to find a solution before the trade deadline, but if they do then this is a team on the rise.
9. Calgary Flames (14) - It's hard to assess my hometown team - they are in the midst of playing just five games in 20 days. The rust doesn't account for the frustration I feel as a fan, though. I was barely in my seat last night before they scored two goals in the first minute. That was the last burs of offensive competence they had all night en route to a 3-2 loss. This time has the talent to be much higher, but lack the consistency or focus to pull it off so far.
10. Ottawa Senators (8) - I came into this season ready to be reasonably impressed by the Sens. So far they haven't let me down. They aren't setting the world on fire, but they are playing well at home and on the road, they are getting good goaltending, and what they have done is reasonable sustainable.
11. Phoenix Coyotes (10) - Ed Jovanovski is about 100 years old, but the veteran defenseman has been fantastic, and he is leading this team to a start that is far, far better than expected. I don't feel like it will last, but so far, so good. I really have to wonder how much of the early gains are because Wayne Gretzky is no longer behind the bench.
12. New York Rangers (3) - They have 17 points, so they deserve to be higher in the rankings based on that. Their recent play doesn't warrant it, though. After starting out 7-0, they have one just once in their last five games, and they capped that with a pathetic loss to the lowly Islanders last night.
13. Dallas Stars (20) - The Stars need to get better at home, and they need to be significantly better on the power play, but the way that they are playing on the road (4-0-3) gives us reason to believe that there is cause for hope.
14. Philadelphia Flyers (4) - It is popular to make fun of the defensive pairing of Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn because of their horrific play this year. I won't go against the trend. They have been terrible, and that's a big part of the reason why this team has been a disappointment.
15. Vancouver Canucks (26) - They were supposed to be owning the Northwest Division by now, but they are hit hard by injuries, Roberto Luongo didn't look like himself even before he was hurt this week, and they are lousy on the road. They'll turn it around, but they haven't looked good so far.
16. Edmonton Oilers (11) - If I'd made this list just a few days earlier then the Oilers would have been higher - thanks mostly to the impressive emergence of Dustin Penner. They haven't scored in seven periods, though. Needless to say, that's not good. There are inevitable growing pains when a team overhauls their front office like Edmonton did, and the kinks aren't worked out yet.
17. Boston Bruins (22) - Without question the Bruins are the biggest disappointment in the league right now. They just can't catch a break. Last year their top line was perhaps the best in the league. Now, Phil Kessel is in Toronto, and Marc Savard and Milan Lucic are both on the shelf for an extended period. Ugly.
18. Montreal Canadiens (25) - This team needs to find some consistency in a big way. When they put together a winning streak they look great, but they can't sustain it yet. The good news is that they may be getting their goalie issues dealt with - Jaroslav Halak is looking like the real deal.
19. Atlanta Thrashers (18) - The Thrashers got a terrible break (pun intended) when Ilya Kovalchuk broke his foot this week. That could keep him out for a month, and that should mean that the Thrashers will fall from this spot.
20. Tampa Bay Lightning (19) - This team should be better than they are. The good news is that second-year star Steven Stamkos has been brilliant. The bad news is that Vincent Lecavalier has been absolutely invisible. This team is much better than they were last year, but they still have room to grow. It would help if they could win a shootout - they have lost three.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets (6) - They have dropped hard in the rankings, but that's what happens when you allow 22 goals against in four games. There are things to like about the team, but the play of goalie Steve Mason is not one of them right now, and that's a real problem.
22. Detroit Red Wings (17) - We often see the teams that lose the Cup go into a funk the next year, but I thought that Detroit was better than that. They lost a lot of personnel in the offseason, and have lost more to injury, and they haven't yet figured out who they are as a result.
23. St. Louis Blues (24) - Last year no one expected much of this team and they were a very pleasant surprise. This year they came in with major expectations, and so far they have been a major disappointment. It's almost like they read the headlines and got freaked out by them.
24. Anaheim Ducks (15) - I absolutely hate it when teams consistently have excuses for every shortcoming. That means I really don't like the Ducks right now. They aren't playing well, and they have done everything about it except try to fix it. Their talent is not matched by their heart.
25. Nashville Predators (21) - You can't win in this league when you don't score. The Preds are tied for the lowest goals for, and have allowed the third most goals. That's not a recipe for success.
26. Carolina Hurricanes (16) - I have already said that Boston is the biggest disappointment in the league, but the Hurricanes are close behind. Eric Staal has been off to a very slow start, and the team is taking the lead from him.
27. Minnesota Wild (28) - The Wild have entirely overhauled their offensive and defensive approaches this year, and so far it isn't going well for them. They have looked reasonably good at home, but are a pitiful 0-8 on the road. It's hard for a team to make a change of coaching after having one for so long.
28. New York Islanders (29) - It hasn't been pretty - this team is a long way from being good. There have been some very encouraging signs, though - like when they beat the Rangers last night. This team will eventually be good, but probably not before they have been moved out of Long Island - this is a long term process.
29. Florida Panthers (27) - The theory was that this was a potential playoff team. So far, not so good. They are giving up a pile of shots, not taking nearly as many, and just generally aren't looking like a good team.
30. Toronto Maple Leafs (30) - In a word - pathetic. Really pathetic. They should get used to this spot in the rankings because they are going to be here for a while.