NHL Power Rankings
by Trevor Whenham - 12/22/2009
The deeper we get into the season, the fewer dramatic changes we see in the NHL Power Rankings. Teams still rise and fall, but the more we know about teams the less we get surprised by their strengths and their inconsistencies. That means that you'll see more teams treading water in these power rankings than you have seen in the last few.
1. New Jersey Devils (5) - They have the best record in the league, they have won nine of their last 10, and the ageless wonder Martin Brodeur is in the same zone he has spent most of the decade in. This team shouldn't have the talent to be quite as dominant as they are, but there is no doubting the results.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (2) - The Blackhawks have won seven of their last nine, and they have secured shutouts in three of their last four. In other words, they are playing about as well as possible on both sides of the puck. This team is in it to win it this year.
3. Washington Capitals (4) - The Capitals have won nine of their last 12, and survived back-to-back long road trips reasonably well. My one Christmas wish is to see these guys play the Penguins in the playoffs. That would be a series for the ages.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (6) - They had won five in a row before Monday night so I was ready to move them even higher, but then they went out and got manhandled by the Devils. New Jersey won 4-0, and Pittsburgh looked like they still have a bit of work to do.
5. Nashville Predators (11) - The Preds have won four in a row, and three of those four have been on the road. There is no reason that this team should look as good as it has, but strong goaltending and surprisingly balanced offense has them up in surprising heights in these rankings.
6. San Jose Sharks (3) - They have the best line in hockey right now, and they are also probably the most talented team in the league. They dropped in these rankings because of a five-game losing streak, but that's just a blip. They'll be fine.
7. L.A. Kings (7) - In a strange quirk of scheduling, the Kings get a nine day Christmas break. That's good news, because it gives Ryan Smyth even more time to get healthy and comfortable. The team has been hot without him, so his return to action is a very good thing.
8. Calgary Flames (2) - The hottest team in the league in November has been a total disaster in December. They have just one win in the last five, the offense isn't working as well as it should, and the defensive discipline that made them so tough to beat in November has disappeared.
9. Buffalo Sabres (8) - The Sabres aren't the kind of team that anyone pays attention to, but they are just quietly getting the job done. They are leading their division, and they have secured 13 of their last 16 possible points.
10. Colorado Avalanche (13) - I had this team penciled in for last in the West, so I am thoroughly shocked that they are still leading the Northwest. The biggest thing pushing this team along is the surprisingly strong play of their rookies. No team is getting better play from their youngsters.
11. Phoenix Coyotes (12) - Like the Avalanche, this was a team I had very low expectations for coming into this season, so I am struggling to process what is going on now. They have won nine of their last 12 games, and are all but unbeatable at home.
12. Boston Bruins (10) - This team probably doesn't quite deserve this ranking given that they have dropped four of five and they have a painfully underachieving offense and a broken power play. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt, though, because they are better then they look.
13. Vancouver Canucks (16) - I'm punishing Vancouver in part because they lose whenever I pick them. They are getting good offensive production from their top line, but they need more consistency from the lunch-pail types before they can really achieve their potential.
14. Detroit Red Wings (14) - The Red Wings could be a little lower in the rankings, but I am giving them a little credit because they have been hit harder by injures than any team ever deserves to be. If they ever get healthy they will be a team to watch.
15. Atlanta Thrashers (9) - This is still a team I respect - they just play hard no matter what - but they fall a bit because they have won just three of their last eight. The best thing that could happen to them is if the Ilya Kovalchuk situation were to get settled one way or the other - either he signs a new deal or they trade him.
16. Florida Panthers (28) - This is probably higher than these guys deserve to be, and I don't think they will stay here, but they deserve credit for their last two weeks. They are 5-1-1 in their last seven, and that includes a win over New Jersey and an overtime loss to Pittsburgh.
17. Ottawa Senators (18) - Ottawa just can't find any consistency these days. They have won five of their last nine, but never more than two in a row. Before that it was a long losing streak. I stubbornly feel like this is a better team than they look so I'm resisting dropping them lower.
18. Dallas Stars (15) - This team has the sixth best offense in the league, so there is no excuse for them being as bad as they are. the defense just isn't good and Marty Turco isn't playing like he can, so the offense just isn't good enough to carry this squad.
19. Anaheim Ducks (27) - The Ducks climb the rankings because they have gone 4-1-1 in their last six. This team should be a playoff squad based on what they can offer on paper, but so far it just hasn't worked. Hopefully this is the sign of things to come.
20. Minnesota Wild (20) - Based on their earlier play they should be moving up the rankings. Their equipment van caught on fire and much of their equipment was destroyed, though. That doesn't mean much in the long term, but it has them in a funk for now.
21. St. Louis Blues (19) - They can play well from time to time - they beat Calgary and Vancouver and destroyed Edmonton in the last six games. The problem, though, is that they are just plain incompetent on offense over the long term. This should be a serious contender, but they just aren't.
22. Montreal Canadiens (23) - We are in the final days of Montreal's 100th year of existence. Given their incredible history they should be going out with a bang. Instead, they dropped five in a row and just didn't look good doing it.
23. Tampa Bay Lightning (17) - A team with as much offensive talent as these guys have should not be so bad at scoring goals. They have won two in a row, but the problem is that they dropped 10 of 11 before that.
24. Toronto Maple Leafs (29) - I hate the Leafs, so I was really hoping they would stay in the cellar of these ratings all year. They are 7-41 in December, though, and they have looked almost competent. At this rate they may even move up into the teens. I hate that.
25. New York Rangers (26) - The only thing that has saved these guys from falling further is that they have won three in a row. Before that they had lost eight of nine and were playing way too poorly for a team that spends money on free agents like they do.
26. New York Islanders (22) - It doesn't take an advanced degree in mathematics to figure out the problems with this squad. They have won just two of their last nine and have scored only 14 goals over that stretch. A total lack of offense is bad news for any team, never mind an untalented one like this one.
27. Edmonton Oilers (24) - If I had done these ranking 10 days ago they Oilers would have been on the rise after having won five in a row. Since then, though, they have lost four straight, and they have been beaten up in the last three. Until they find consistency they aren't going anywhere.
28. Philadelphia Flyers (25) - I honestly thought that this team had Cup potential. Not so much. They have just three wins in their last 17 games, and there isn't a single thing that they are doing well right now. It looks like the coaching change wasn't the solution.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets (21) - What a disaster - this team has dropped seven in a row and 15 of their last 17. They can't score a goal and their goaltending is pathetic, so there are no signs of a quick recovery for this squad.
30. Carolina Hurricanes (30) - The Hurricanes are 4-4-1 in December. That's not great, but compared to the first couple months of the season that's a revelation. They haven't been the worst team in the league the last two weeks, but you need to be better than just okay to climb out of the bottom of the rankings.