It’s that time of year again.
Peter Laviolette, Kevin Dineen and Ron Rolston were the first victims sent to the chopping block after their teams stumbled out of the gates. The Sabres went the extra distance of also axing GM Darcy Regier, who had ample chances to take them to the next level. Florida GM Dale Tallon can’t be that far behind, as he’s also been at the helm of multiple rebuilding jobs and is now operating under new ownership . . . just as Regier and Rolston were in Buffalo.
The Flyers, however, seem to have stabilized under interim head coach Craig Berube as GM Paul Holmgren decides what to do with a pricey roster full of players.
So who's next? Well, Dallas Eakins and Craig MacTavish both appear to be safe in Edmonton, given that they’re new hires who need time to sift through the young, unbridled talent. Same goes for Bob Hartley in Calgary, as the Flames switch over to a young cast of characters led by prominent names like Sean Monahan and Sven Baertschi. But Todd Richards and Claude Noel might not want to buy any green bananas in Columbus or Winnipeg.
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 (5-15-2, last week: 28) – Given the expectations that the Oilers had going into the season, this has to be the biggest disappointment of the season’s first month-plus. Ilya Bryzgalov is a whole different level of desperation for the Oil.
29. Buffalo Sabres (5-16-1, last week: 30) – Sabres owner Terry Pegula finally took some action, and has the Sabres returning to happier days with the management/coaching tandem of Pat LaFontaine and Ted Nolan.
28. Calgary Flames (6-11-3, last week: 25) – The Flames have lost six games in a row and got thoroughly humbled by Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn last week. The Iron Sheik couldn’t have done a better job humbling Calgary.
27. Florida Panthers (5-12-14, last week: 29) – Kevin Dineen deserved so, so much better. I can’t even imagine the epic fist pump executed by Kris Versteeg when he learned he was dealt back to Chicago.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (7-10-3, last week: 24) – Marian Gaborik is out because of a knee injury suffered at the end of the game against the Bruins. My prediction: Things aren’t going to end well between the Blue Jackets and Gaborik.
25. Philadelphia Flyers (7-10-2, last week: 26) – Steve Mason is doing a good job of giving the Flyers a foundation they can build around if other guys start showing up. Claude Giroux finally got his first goal, so Philly has that going for it . . . which is nice.
24. Winnipeg Jets (9-10-2, last week: 27) – The Jets are sitting just below .500 and Bryan Little is having a great season, but they picked the wrong year to move over to the Western Conference.
23. New York Islanders (8-10-3, last week: 22) – Wins over the Red Wings and Predators snapped a four-game losing streak, but the Islanders aren’t making anybody think about the playoffs right about now.
22. New Jersey Devils (7-8-5, last week: 23) – Jaromir Jagr scored two goals to lead the Devils in a 4-1 win over the Penguins. Why couldn’t he score one during the playoff run for the Bruins last spring?
21. Nashville Predators (9-9-2, last week: 17) – Losing games to Winnipeg and the Devils in the same week isn’t going to win you any points in these power rankings.
20. Carolina Hurricanes (8-8-4, last week: 21) – Justin Peters is carving out a position for himself with the way he’s playing, while Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin sit on the sideline with injuries.
19. Ottawa Senators (8-8-4, last week: 16) – One big win over the Bruins, snapping an 11-game losing streak to Boston on Ottawa home ice, and then a no-show against the Blue Jackets on Sunday. Not enough guys punching the clock for this team.
18. New York Rangers (10-10-0, last week: 18) – The Rags are hanging in there without any real contribution from Rick Nash yet this season.
17. Montreal Canadiens (10-9-2, last week: 16) – Don’t make any jokes about David Desharnais . . . don’t make any jokes about David Desharnais . . .
16. Vancouver Canucks (11-8-3, last week: 8) – The Canucks have lost four games in a row, and they can’t seem to score any goals. Wonder how long it will be before John Tortorella says that somebody “stinks” on the power play.
15. Dallas Stars (11-7-2, last week: 20) – Four goals for Tyler Seguin in one game, but the Stars are still out of a playoff spot despite winning six in a row on the road.
14. Detroit Red Wings (9-5-7, last week: 14) – The drop-off in depth for the Winged Wheels after Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg is astounding.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (12-7-1, last week: 9) – Phaneuf the Princess can’t be happy about the Maple Leafs dropping out of the top 10 in the rankings.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins (12-8-0, last week: 11) – I would love to know what Mario Lemieux is thinking while watching Jagr in a New Jersey uniform scoring two goals against his team.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning (14-6-0, last week 5) – The loss of Steven Stamkos is a crushing blow to a team that got out to an excellent start under new head coach Jon Cooper. It will be hard for the Bolts to stay afloat without him.
10. Washington Capitals (12-8-1, last week: 15) – The Caps have won 7 of their last 10 games, and three in a row while climbing all the way to the top of the rough Metro Division.
9. Boston Bruins (12-6-1, last week: 12) – The Bruins had a nice little four-game winning streak going until they fell apart in the third period against the Senators. Boston has righted the ship, and will get to prove it on the road against Carolina and New York this week.
8. Los Angeles Kings (14-6-1, last week: 13) – The Kings are getting a nice infusion of youth from Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey, who have made immediate contributions upon their arrival. They’ll need that – and yeoman work from Ben Scrivens -- to continue with Jonathan Quick on the sidelines.
7. Minnesota Wild (13-4-4, last week: 7) – Josh Harding is the best story in the NHL this season, starring between the pipes for the Wild while inspiring all of those afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis.
6. Colorado Avalanche (14-5-0, last week: 1) – The Avalanche have lost three games in a row, and might have lost Matt Duchene for an undetermined amount of time. Is reality setting in for Patrick Roy’s club?
5. San Jose Sharks (13-3-5, last week: 10) – Two defeats in a row for the Sharks, including a lopsided loss to the Blackhawks. Antti Niemi looks like he might be wearing down every so slightly
4. Phoenix Coyotes (14-4-3, last week: 7) – Oliver Ekman-Larsson might be the best player in the NHL that nobody is talking about.
3. Anaheim Ducks (15-2-2, last week: 2) – Losses to the Hurricanes and the Panthers can hurt a team’s pride.
2. St. Louis Blues (13-3-3, last week: 3) – Alex Steen has 17 goals in 19 games. This is not a typo.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (14-3-4, last week: 4) – The rich get richer with the acquisition of Kris Versteeg, who can be a dangerous depth guy making plays on the third line for the Blackhawks. This team will be a handful all season.