NHL Power Rankings
by Trevor Whenham - 10/15/2009
It's time for the first of many NHL Power Rankings for this season. We'll revisit these rankings every two weeks through the season, and you can be sure that there will be lots of movement each time in the fluid and fast-changing league. I especially like looking at Power Rankings early in the season because they bear so little similarity to what was expected coming into the season, and to how things are likely to look by April. Without further ado (Stanley Cup odds follow the team name in brackets):
1) Pittsburgh Penguins (5/1) - They faltered against the Coyotes, but other than that they have overpowered bad teams, and overcome tough ones. Sidney Crosby is playing like their best player - a key to long-term success.
2) Los Angeles Kings (45/1) - The Kings obviously aren't going to remain this high in the rankings, but they deserve the recognition now. They gambled by bringing in Ryan Smyth this year, and it has paid incredible dividends already. They've also had very good goaltending.
3) New York Rangers (25/1) - The Rangers are playing well offensively and clicking on defense. Marian Gaborik is earning his massive contract so far, and likely will until he inevitably gets hurt. The team has always had the talent, but so far this year they are playing with what they have lacked - cohesiveness and determination.
4) Philadelphia Flyers (12/1) - The Flyers have had a tough early schedule, and they have come through it reasonably well. They'll have to play better as the season progresses, but they certainly have the potential to climb up these rankings.
5) San Jose Sharks (8/1) - We knew coming into the season that if Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton could find chemistry then this team was going to be dangerous. They have, and they are. The record isn't quite as good yet as it should be, and will be, but it is certainly progress.
6) Columbus Blue Jackets (35/1) - The Central Division was supposed to be incredibly strong this year, but so far only Columbus is truly living up to their potential. They got crushed by San Jose, but showed some impressive character by bouncing back strong.
7) Colorado Avalanche (100/1) - The Avs aren't going to stay this high for long, but they are playing impressively well and deserve recognition for it. I had them penciled in to be 28th, at best, in the rankings from start to finish this year, but they are scoring, playing tough defense, and getting solid goaltending. Teams will start to figure them out, but until they do it will be fun to watch.
8) Ottawa Senators (34/1) - The Sens are a team that I pegged as an expectations-beater this year. So far, they have. They have an outstanding coach, and Pascal Leclaire is an upgrade in goal. This team won't win the Cup, but they can't be taken lightly.
9) Buffalo Sabres (40/1) - The Sabres have been incredibly stingy on defense. The problem had been, though, that they hadn't been able to score. They addressed that to some extent with an explosion against the Red Wings last time out. If they can continue to score they'll climb the rankings.
10) Phoenix Coyotes (100/1) - Here's another team that deserves a tremendous amount of credit for their shocking start. This team has every excuse to struggle - financial uncertainty, non-existent crowd support, a coach who jumped ship right before the season - but they have been surprisingly strong despite that. It likely won't last because of their lack of offense, but they have been defensively sound, and so far it's working.
11) Edmonton Oilers (45/1) - The 3-1-1 record of the Oilers is deceptive. Their two losses have both come against bitter rivals Calgary, and both have come in bizarre, fluky circumstances. This is clearly a team that is better than their record right now. The major coaching upgrade in the offseason is already paying off.
12) Washington Capitals (9/1) - Offensively, the team is living up to expectations - they are very capable of scoring. The problem, though, is that they haven't been playing defense, and they have shown little interest in starting to do so. To be an elite team they'll have to do something about that.
13) Chicago Blackhawks (7/1) - When the team wants to play then they are tough to beat. They have a startling tendency to take in-game vacations, though. So far that hasn't hurt them too badly, but it will if it continues. They are too young as a team to have habits this bad already.
14) Calgary Flames (14/1) - Before their last two games Calgary would probably have been in the Top 5 in these rankings. In both of those games, though, they have gotten out to early leads and then completely shut down. No team has blown a bigger lead than the 5-0 first period gap they opened against Chicago.
15) Anaheim Ducks (15/1) - Anaheim has been a long way from perfect so far, but there are a few things to really like about their play. Chief among those is the play of Teemu Selanne. The old man looks like the Finnish Flash of day's past. That's very good news for this team.
16) Carolina Hurricanes (28/1) - Now we get into teams that are better than their records indicate. Carolina is below .500, but they have played reasonably well, and they are showing real signs of potential. They just need to find some consistency.
17) Detroit Red Wings (6/1) - The Red Wings have high expectations, but they have yet to live up to them. They are facing injuries - most significantly to Johan Franzen, and they aren't getting good goaltending. They will play better, but it seems like they are interested yet. Maybe their old legs need more time to warm up than other teams.
18) Atlanta Thrashers (100/1) - The concern coming into the season was that Ilya Kovalchuk wouldn't play his best because he's all but done with the Thrashers after this season. So far that has been far from the case. He's been incredibly good, and he's been leading the team to some solid play.
19) Tampa Bay Lightning (66/1) - This team hasn't played with any consistency yet, but they are significantly improved from last year. They are even leading the faltering Southeast so far. They'd be even better if they could learn to do the shootout - they have followed dismal performance in the tiebreaker last year with two losses so far this year.
20) Dallas Stars (45/1) - Dallas is undefeated in regulation. Unfortunately, they haven't won in overtime or a shootout yet. That means that this team is largely what they were expected to be - a decent team, but one that probably isn't quite good enough to be a serious threat.
21) Nashville Predators (55/1) - The Predators are, with the exception of their 6-1 loss to Edmonton, getting good goaltending. That's a very good thing, because they certainly aren't getting any scoring. This team is offensively inept, and will have to get over that if they want to contend for a playoff spot.
22) Boston Bruins (9/1) - The Bruins were supposed to be an elite team this year. This ranking doesn't reflect their talent, but it does reflect their play. They lost some offense in the offseason - Phil Kessel at the top of the list - and they have yet to find a way to adjust to that. They have a schedule that should have been a gift so far, but it hasn't worked out that way.
23) New Jersey Devils (25/1) - Their record is better than the teams near them on the rankings (3-2), but they deserve to be down here because of their play. Their wins haven't been at all convincing, and their goaltending - a supposed strength - has been a concerning weakness so far.
24) St. Louis Blues (28/1) - They beat Detroit twice to start their season in Europe. But then they came back to the U.S. and promptly forgot how to play. They have the talent to get their act together, but not before they start playing more defense and score more as well.
25) Montreal Canadiens (30/1) - They started the season looking pretty good. But then Andrei Markov got hurt, Carey Price faltered, and the team came crashing back to earth again. They've lost three straight, and they've looked like that losing might become a habit.
26) Vancouver Canucks (14/1) - They came into the season with high hopes, but little has gone right. They've been overrun with significant injuries, and all-World goalie Roberto Luongo has looked like a shadow of himself. This team needs to forget that the beginning of this season ever happened and start over again.
27) Florida Panthers (60/1) - The team has allowed twice as many goals as they have scored. That's obviously no recipe for success. They didn't look bad when they were in Europe to start the season, but they have been underwhelming since then. Losing stud defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is clearly hurting them.
28) Minnesota Wild (50/1) - Coach Todd Richards is determined to change the system this team plays - from a numbingly dull defensive system to a more offensive one. It's a good idea, but so far it isn't working particularly well. You can't be an offensively-centered team when you can't score.
29) N.Y. Islanders (150/1) - There are some things to like here despite the lack of a win - they have only lost once in regulation, and star rookie John Tavares is scoring at better than a point-a-game pace. We knew this team was going to be bad, and they are, but there are glimmers of hope.
30) Toronto Maple Leafs (30/1) - This team is monumentally, indescribably bad. Like Oakland Raiders bad. Their top two goalies are both hurt, and both were lousy when healthy. They can't score, they don't play defense, and the coach may already have lost the team. They could have this spot in the rankings locked up for a while.
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