Monday, October 24, 2011

NHL October Power Rankings

The NHL season is nearly 2 weeks old, and here are my rankings for the new season. For these rankings, the order is based on a score of points per game and goal differential for each team. I decided to base my first rankings entirely on this measurement and not factoring in information not reflected in the teams record or goal differential.  Now that I have a benchmark from which to start, my future rankings will be more subjective.

1. Washington (last April rank #2): Tomas Vokoun and Nick Backstrom are carrying this team through their early season winning streak. Ovechkin is getting back on pace and they are getting production from their blueline.

2. Los Angeles (last April rank #11): Jon be nimble Jon be quick! Three straight shutouts for Jon Quick and suddenly LA is a very tough team to beat. This will be difficult to sustain if Drew Doughty remains injured for any significant period of time.

3. Detroit (last April rank #4): It will be interesting to see how this team performs should Lidstrom ever decide to retire. As a Wings fan, I'd like to see him play until age 50. He's like a fine wine, he ages very well.

4. Pittsburgh (last April rank #9): Jordan Staal is a beast. Team continues to perform well without Crosby.

5. Colorado (last April rank #29): By far the biggest surprise of the new season, as this team was absolutely atrocious in the 2nd half of last season. Add Semyon Varlamov, and suddenly they don't suck so bad.

6. Buffalo (last April rank #15): This team did a good job of strengthening their roster in the offseason. I said at the time that Vancouver's offense would very much miss Ehrhoff's presence on the blueline. Thomas Vanek has his mojo back.

7. Chicago (last April rank #8): This will be a top 10 team for at least the next five years. Toews, Kane, and Keith is a great foundation on which to build a franchise.

8. Dallas (last April rank #17): Kari Lehtonen is a beast and easily the biggest reason that Dallas is off to this fast start. Hopefully he can finally stay healthy.

9. Philadelphia (last April rank #5): They added Bryzgalov, but shipped out Carter and Richards. By all accounts they should not be a better team this season, despite more solid goaltending.

10. Toronto (last April rank #20): The Leafs are once again out of the gate as a top ten team and Phil Kessel is leading the league in scoring. We'll see if it lasts.

11. Florida (last April rank #28): This team improved themselves in the offseason, but this roster is not good enough to win a playoff series with Jose Theodore between the pipes.

12. Edmonton (last April rank #30): It is unlikely this team will maintain this ranking, only earning this spot by virtue of mathematics. I expect them to be good eventually with the quality youth on their roster, but I did not expect this year to be a strong season for the Oilers.

13. NY Rangers (last April rank #18): If you've seen Tortorella lately, you'd expect the Rangers to be worse than their 7th rank in the East. John tells me that their team is playing terribly, despite their record being better than average. This team is going to struggle so long as Marc Staal is out of the line-up, and emotional outbursts by the coach can't fill the void on their blueline.

14. San Jose (last April rank #3): Heatley and Setoguchi are gone, Burns and Havlat have replaced them. It is difficult to determine how much better or worse the team is, but Niemi missing the start of the season did not help. Now their #1 goaltender is back which will help the team. They will make the playoffs and be competitive.

15. Anaheim (last April rank #10): Not a mighty start for the Ducks, but it looks like Getzlaf and Perry are starting to produce. Since I own both on my fantasy team, I'll be rooting for them.

16. Vancouver (last April rank #1): This team should climb the charts now that Kesler has returned. Once he gets back into game shape and hits full stride, things will improve. Fortunes might rest on the relationship between Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver fans.

17. Minnesota (last April rank #18): Not much has changed. It seems like they will always be a middle of the road team, never good enough for success or bad enough to get to draft picks.

18. NY Islanders (last April rank #26): John Tavares is now officially a superstar. This team has a decent shot at a playoff spot if their goaltending holds together.

19. New Jersey (last April rank #24): The Devils were one of the league's hottest teams to end last season, and now with Parise back they should be better. Brodeur's injury will cost them some points.

20. Tampa Bay (last April rank #7): A rough start to the season in Tampa. Tough to say if this is a playoff hangover or if the team has structurally regressed. Can they overcome the loss of Sean Bergenheim?

21. St. Louis (last April rank #23): I expect more from this team with an excellent core of quality young players. If Jason Arnott is leading your team in scoring, something is not right.

22. Phoenix (last April rank #14): Losing Bryzgalov should cost this team at least 20 points this season. Mike Smith is not an adequate replacement, and this mediocre roster needs an elite goaltender to be a playoff team.

23. Boston (last April rank #6): This team has to get better because their talent is greater than their record. However playing until the end of June and partying all summer can have a negative effect on the start of your new season.

24. Carolina (last April rank #19): I expected this team to be better, just as I now expect them to get better. They have a .500 record, but a poor goal differential.

25. Nashville (last April rank #12): David Legwand was unable to sustain his share of the NHL scoring lead. Like Montreal this team does not look good out of the gate and are giving up too many goals. We knew the offense would be anemic, but with Pekka Rhinne in net they should not have a -5 goal differential.

26. Calgary (last April rank #16): 2nd to last place in the Western conference is a pathetic start for this line-up. The team should be better than this. It remains to be seen how this season will unfold.

27. Ottawa (last April rank #27): They have won 2 in a row after a 1-5 start, and Jason Spezza is putting up points. That being said, I'd still bet against this team making the playoffs.

28. Winnipeg (last April rank #25): Not the start we all wanted to see with Winnipeg returning to the NHL, but the good news is that they sold out their season tickets on 3 year contracts so they have time before mediocrity could severely damage their box office revenue.

29. Montreal (last April rank #13): Things are not looking good in Montreal, but the roster has too much talent to continue at this rate for an extended period. Heed my advice Montreal, there is no problem to which Peter Budaj is the solution.

30. Columbus (last April rank #22): The worst team in the NHL right now should be better with Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski. Oh that's right, Carter has a broken foot and Wisniewski was suspended for the first 8 games. We'll see if they last in the 30 slot.

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