NHL, we have a problem.
Seven of the top 10 teams are from the Western Conference, and it really appears there is an imbalance in talent split up between the Eastern and the Western Conference clubs. Clearly a big part of the problem is the Metropolitan Division that’s doing a better job of showcasing the new reality show “When Goaltenders Attack” rather than showcasing their playoff worthiness.
The Pittsburgh Penguins appear to be the only legit team in the Metro Division with a stacked roster and a 22 point total to lead the division while riding a four-game winning streak. The Islanders, Rangers and Capitals make up the second tier of teams that should be playoff-caliber when things have settled at the end of the season, but none of them appear willing to seize the moment.
Maybe the Isles will snap out of it with the talented Thomas Vanek added to the mix. Perhaps the Rangers will be a force once Rick Nash shakes off the cobwebs and is able to join the Blueshirts. Perhaps we’re seeing another slow start turn into a strong finish for a Capitals team that has all kinds of skill.
The only thing that will answer these questions is time as the regular season rolls on. But it sure looks like the Metro Division will be the blight of the NHL this season.
Clearly it’s still early in the power rankings season, but here's where teams stand right now:
30. Buffalo Sabres (2-13-1, last week: 30) – The Buffalo Sabres put Patrick Kaleta on waivers in a first small step toward gaining control of their organization, but they’ve got a long way to go.
29. Edmonton Oilers (3-10-2, last week: 29) – The Oil have lost five in a row when things already look like they’ve gone pretty badly for them. I guess Edmonton now realizes it can get even worse.
28. Florida Panthers (3-8-3, last week: 25) – This nowhere team seems like the exact wrong place for young talents like Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov to learn their hockey craft. Like the Oil Crew, the Panthers have dropped five games in a row.
27. Philadelphia Flyers (4-9-0, last week: 28) – Ray Emery can’t beat up an opposing goalie every night to get his struggling team going. But if he could he’d be high up in the Three Stars voting for the NHL this season.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (5-8-0, last week: 21) – The Blue Jackets have lost three in a row, but were also awarded the 2015 NHL All-Star Game. Tough to decipher which made a bigger dent among the B.J. Faithful.
25. New Jersey Devils (3-7-4, last week: 27) – The Devils are 28th in the NHL with 1.9 goals per game. Life is not easy for New Jersey when it comes to creating offense without Ilya Kovalchuk.
24. Carolina Hurricanes (4-7-3, last week: 17) – With injuries hitting both of their goaltenders, the Canes have signed Rick DiPietro to a tryout deal with their AHL team. That’s called desperation, my friends.
23. Ottawa Senators (4-6-4, last week: 20) – The struggling Sens are 1-3-2 at home and have lost five games in a row. Maybe Daniel Alfredsson was holding things together even more than any of us knew?
22. Winnipeg Jets (5-8-2, last week: 22) – The Jets have lost three games in a row, and still haven’t dropped any further in the rankings. That’s how bad the Eastern Conference has been this year.
21. New York Rangers (6-7-0, last week: 26) – Guys like Derek Stepan and Brad Richards are battling, but life isn’t easy without the dinged Rick Nash.
20. Dallas Stars (6-6-2, last week: 24) – The 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists) in 14 games are pretty, pretty, pretty good for Tyler Seguin. The 37 percent face-off success rate definitely is not.
19. Calgary Flames (6-6-2, last week: 19) – Big overtime win for the Flames over the Blackhawks, and they might have found a young goalie in Reto Berra. He certainly has a catchy name.
18. Washington Capitals (7-7-0, last week: 23) – The Capitals are very fortunate that Braden Holtby survived that rabid dog attack on the ice. Oh, that was a goalie fight? My bad.
17. Montreal Canadiens (8-7-0, last week: 15) – I can’t even imagine how nuts Habs Nation went after watching Patrick Roy and his Avalanche team stun the Canadiens with a 4-1 win.
16. Nashville Predators (7-5-2, last week: 16) – The Predators are treading water without Pekka Rinne. A lot of credit to them in a time of turmoil, but do we expect anything less from a Barry Trotz-coached team?
15. New York Islanders (6-5-3, last week: 18) – Thomas Vanek and John Tavares are going to be fun to watch together. Perhaps he was worth the hefty price tag for an Isles team looking to make a real mark in the Eastern Conference.
14. Boston Bruins (8-5-0, last week: 10) – They are what they are. A talented team that’s not playing up to their potential quite yet, but sitting in playoff position as calendar turns to November.
13. Los Angeles Kings (9-6-0, last week: 12) – The Kings are grinding things out right now and just hanging around at the edge of the playoff picture.
12. Minnesota Wild (8-4-3, last week: 14) – Jason Pominville with 10 goals in 15 games for the Wild thus far. Life is clearly good away from Buffalo.
11. Detroit Red Wings (9-4-2, last week 13) – Two goals and zero assists with a minus-3 in 15 games for free agent signee Stephen Weiss. That’s not what Detroit was looking for.
10. Vancouver Canucks (10-5-1, last week: 6) – The Sedin Brothers sign four-year contract extensions with the Canucks guaranteeing there will be ginger hockey in Vancouver for years to come.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs (10-5-0, last week: 4) – The Maple Leafs rank no lower than eighth in the NHL in any major statistical category, and look like they’re finally getting it together.
8. Anaheim Ducks (11-3-1, last week: 3) – An eight-game road trip is testing the Ducks along with a bevy of injuries, but they’re clearly doing more than surviving in the East.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (9-2-4, last week: 8) – Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks had a successful trip home to Winnipeg last weekend. Most NHL teams have that same kind of experience when they travel to Winnipeg.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning (10-4-0, last week: 7) – The skilled Valtteri Filppula has been a nice fit with the Lightning, and somebody the Red Wings have clearly missed.
5. St. Louis Blues (8-2-2, last week: 5) – The Blues power play just keeps on cranking for a St. Louis team that gets it done with depth, hard work and good coaching.
4. Phoenix Coyotes (10-3-2, last week: 7) – It’s amazing what you can do when you start things off with three legit defensemen in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Keith Yandle and Derek Morris.
3. San Jose Sharks (10-1-3, last week: 1) – Good to see a couple of Hockey East guys in Justin Braun and Matt Irwin getting things done along the blue line for a Sharks team still near the top of their game.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-4-0, last week: 11) – The Penguins showed the Bruins that they’ve still got a little something special in the tank when they really, really want it. That’s helped spark a four-game winning streak for Pittsburgh.
1. Colorado Avalanche (12-1-0, last week: 2) – There are plenty of things that could trip up Colorado right now, but they just keep on winning led by one player (Matt Duchene) that looks like he’s on a mission.