With the NHL now in the first day of their three-day holiday break, it’s time to hit the pause button and assess where all 30 teams are. In case you didn’t pay attention to the first three months of the season, the Oilers, Sabres and Islanders are a complete mess and the Ducks, Blackhawks, Penguins and Kings are crushing opponents like gingerbread houses.
Injuries and ugly, suspension-worthy hits have been too much of the norm over the first three months of the season, and there’s a fleeting hope that calms down over the stretch run of the season. But for now, the entire league gets three days off to relax, reflect, recharge and wind things up for a busy January before the Winter Olympics break arrives in February.
Clearly it’s still early in the power rankings season and time will tell with a lot of these teams, but here are the rankings:
30. Edmonton Oilers (12-24-3, last week: 28) – You have fans throwing expensive team jerseys on the ice then you drop to the bottom of the power rankings. That’s a rule.
29. Buffalo Sabres (10-24-3, last week: 30) – They’ve won three out of four games, including W’s over likely playoff teams in the Bruins and Coyotes, and seem to have found a goal-scoring recipe.
28. New York Islanders (11-20-7, last week: 29) – They’ve taken points in four out of five games since Evgeni Nabokov returned to the Isles lineup and notched wins against the Rangers and Red Wings. Amazing what a goaltender can do.
27. Calgary Flames (12-17-5, last week: 23) – The vibe around the flames definitely seems to have changed with Brian Burke in charge. There’s a lot of tough talk and accountability to go along with the copious amounts of losing.
26. Florida Panthers (14-19-5, last week: 27) – The Panthers have been world beaters while playing the teams HBO is trailing for the 24/7 series. Apparently, that is their Stanley Cup Final this year.
25. Carolina Hurricanes (14-15-8, last week: 14) – The Canes have lost three in a row and six of their last seven games, including a loss to the Blue Jackets. Yet, still just two points out of a playoff spot in the quality Metro Division.
24. Winnipeg Jets (16-18-5, last week: 20) – Blake Wheeler isn’t blowing any more smoke to his teammates or the media, but the Jets are still losing. They were mediocre as an Eastern team and are straight up bad as a hockey team out West.
23. Nashville Predators (16-17-4, last week: 19) – The Predators have lost four in a row, and Carter Hutton was yanked six minutes into the loss to the Bruins after a pretty terrible goal. Life has not been easy without Pekka Rinne, and his return date keeps getting pushed back.
22. Ottawa Senators (15-17-7, last week: 22) – The Sens had lost four out of five, and then proceeded to blow out the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-0, on Monday night. It’s hard to figure out what’s happening in Ottawa.
21. New Jersey Devils (15-16-7, last week: 24) – The ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr just keeps breaking records for a Devils team that’s not really going anywhere.
20. Columbus Blue Jackets (16-17-4, last week: 26) – Marian Gaborik returns from one injury, and goes right back on the shelf with another. That’s not exactly the free-agent walk year he imagined.
19. Dallas Stars (18-12-6, last week: 18) – The Dallas Stars keep on winning and Tyler Seguin keeps on scoring, but the Stars aren’t going anywhere in the standings. Life is tough out in the West.
18. New York Rangers (18-18-2, last week: 21) – The Rangers put together back-to-back wins over the Wild and Maple Leafs, and sit right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Rick Nash is not exactly lighting it up on Broadway.
17. Philadelphia Flyers (17-16-4, last week: 25) – The Flyers have taken nine out of their last possible 12 points while floating on the edge of the last playoff spot in the Metro Division.
16. Detroit Red Wings (17-13-9, last week: 15) – The Wings have lost seven out of nine games, and Mike Babcock appears to be getting rattled by the 24/7 cameras following him around. Good times in Motown. They should be slapped upside the head by the league for Babcock chasing the HBO cameras out of the dressing room while throwing F-bombs at them.
15. Minnesota Wild (20-14-5, last week: 13) – They’ve been outscored 13-4 in three straight losses to the Penguins, Rangers and Flyers in the kind of Metro Division smackdown that hasn’t happened much this season.
14. Phoenix Coyotes (19-10-7, last week: 16) – The Desert Dogs have losses in four of their last five, including dropping games to the slumping Canes and flat-lined Buffalo Sabres.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (18-16-5, last week: 17) – Judging by the increasing volume of Randy Carlyle’s rants, things aren’t going all that well for the Maple Leafs.
12. Washington Capitals (19-14-4, last week 11) – Four hundred goals and counting for Alex Ovechkin, who has once again become a must-watch phenomenon in the NHL world.
11. Colorado Avalanche (23-10-3, last week 8) – A cloud has lifted with the charges getting dropped for Semyon Varlamov, but reality is setting in on an Avs team that’s probably middle of the pack in the West.
10. Montreal Canadiens (22-13-3, last week: 9) – The Habs head into the Holiday break as one of the East’s few elite teams, but they’ll be tested with four road games right after Christmas.
9. Vancouver Canucks (22-11-6, last week: 10) – Roberto Luongo is hurt, and Eddie Lack is playing well in his place. How long before the Vancouver media cooks up a goalie controversy.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (23-11-3, last week: 12) – The Bolts are 11-6-3 without Steve Stamkos, and continue to keep themselves in the playoff picture waiting for imminent return. That’s impressive.
7. San Jose Sharks (23-8-6, last week: 7) – It’s a bummer about the Tomas Hertl injury. It ruins his Calder Trophy chances and wipes him off the Czech Republic Olympic roster.
6. Boston Bruins (25-10-2, last week: 6) – The Bruins have won eight of their last 11 games while getting slapped with injuries, illness, suspensions, locusts, plagues and all other manner of natural disasters. The play of younger skaters like Kevan Miller and Ryan Spooner has been impressive.
5. St. Louis Blues (24-7-5, last week: 3) – The Blues dismantled the Habs and Oilers by a combined 11-1 score before losing to the Calgary Flames in a shootout. They’re just cruising along.
4. Los Angeles Kings (25-9-4, last week: 5) – Martin Jones has become the new, hot hockey thing out in Los Angeles, and should create an interesting goalie competition with Jonathan Quick when he gets healthy. They’re 9-2 in December, but couldn’t get past Dallas on Monday night.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (27-11-1, last week: 4) – Leave it to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins to steal the show on 24/7. Dion Phaneuf getting into a trash-talking captain’s debate with Sid the Kid is a massive mismatch.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (26-7-6, last week: 2) – As Kris Versteeg said, Pat Kane is “turning into a man” that can only be matched by Sidney Crosby among the NHL’s elite. While the top teams come and go on the power rankings, the Blackhawks have been there all year.
1. Anaheim Ducks (27-7-5, last week: 1) – The Ducks have won nine games in a row with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry lighting it up offensively. They’re the best of the best in the West right now.