It is a new year. To kick off my 2012 rankings, I have modified my ranking formula such that all shootouts count as 1 point ties, and overtime losses are real losses. Ergo for this week, and this week only, there will be an adjustment according to the changes in the formula that don't necessarily reflect team performance since the last rankings. There has been little change at the top, but some shuffling in the middle tier.
1. Boston Bruins (last rank #1): It is time to start giving Rask more starts so that they don't overuse the 37 year old Thomas before the playoffs. This is a power house team that shows no sign of letting up. Krejci has 10 pts already in January.
2. NY Rangers (last rank #2): Henrik Lundqvist is the team MVP. The Rangers are currently sitting in first place in the real NHL standings, but Boston has a far better goal differential. Rangers lack the Bruins offensive punch, but still finding ways to win hockey games.
3. Vancouver Canucks (last rank #3): The victory over Boston was huge for this team, even if Luongo was sitting on the bench. Lou has a 1.47 GAA and a .949 SVPCT in 4 January games thus far. He's always one of the league's best in the middle of the regular season. Mr December or Mr January? Both apply.
4. Detroit Red Wings (last rank #4): The right players are producing as needed, and this remains one of the league's best teams. You could almost demote them a spot or two for losing to the Leafs, but these rankings are mathematically based and without personal bias...
5. St. Louis Blues (last rank #9): What a difference Ken Hitchcock makes! Jaroslav Halak has caught fire before Brian Elliot even had the chance to cool off, and Alex Pieterangelo has 9 PTS already in January. They now sit in second place in the western conference.
6. Philadelphia Flyers (last rank #6): Claude Giroux has regressed since returning from a concussion, while Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds have been leading the team. Frankly I'm a bit amazed that the Flyers have maintained their standing without Pronger and with a Bryzgalov train wreck. 3.45 GAA in January. My man Sergei Bobrovsky has been the far better goaltender.
7. San Jose Sharks (last rank #8): Right now Patrick Marleau is the team's most productive forward, Dan Boyle has 9 PTS and a +10 in January while Antti Niemi is 4-0-1 with a 1.74 GAA this month. Sharks remain a contending team, but I doubt they'll advance to the conference finals this year.
8. Chicago Blackhawks (last rank #5): Their goaltending has started off 2012 very poorly as Ray Emery and Corey Crawford both have GAAs north of 3 for the month. It was a goaltending controversy when Emery was playing well, but now they both suck.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (last rank #7): They're slowly slipping, having lost 6 of their last 10 games. Letang and Crosby are reportedly skating but not practicing. Jordan Staal is out for at least a month. Malkin is on fire. This team desperately needs to get healthy.
10. Washington Capitals (last rank #13): Ovechkin and Semin have not improved after Bruce Boudreau's departure, so their declines may not have been attributable to trying to get their coach fired, but rather that they have regressed. They have won 2 in a row and 6 of 10.
11. Nashville Predators (last rank #12): They have won 4 in a row, 7 of 10, Shea Weber is back, and Mike Fischer is leading the team in scoring so far in January. They are playing at close to peak production right now, which if they can maintain will put them in the playoffs.
12. Dallas Stars (last rank #16): The Stars climb in my rankings is more based on my new anti-shootout formula than with recent team success. The team is getting scoring but Kari Lehtonen has been below average since returning from his groin injury. It really shows how close the #10-#20 ranked teams really are.
13. Los Angeles Kings (last rank #18): Jonathon Quick is back on fire, which could help LA climb the standings in the 2nd half. They need more out of Mike Richards.
14. Ottawa Senators (last rank #22): What's more ridiculous, that Sens fans voted all those guys into the starting all-star line-up, or that those guys may have deserved those spots? Paul MacLean has leapfrogged Mike Yeo as my favourite to win coach of the year. Craig Anderson is 6-0-1 with a 1.80 GAA so far this month. Is Karlsson having a Norris calibre season? He should be in the discussion.
15. Toronto Maple Leafs (last rank #17): They are hanging around, winning some, losing some, never getting too hot or cold. I must apologize again to Joffrey Lupul for calling his trade to Toronto a salary dump. Joff, you are more than just a salary dump. You are a somebody.
16. New Jersey Devils (last rank #14): New Jersey is 8-1 in shootouts. Sorry guys, there are no shootouts in the playoffs. My friend keeps telling me that Parise could be going to Toronto, but I've said that unless the Devils start losing more hockey games, Parise is going nowhere (until July 1st that is).
17. Florida Panthers (last rank #11): This fall down the standings was mostly the result of my new formula. The Panthers have 8 overtime loses, and their goaltending has slipped in recent weeks, which shouldn't shock anyone.
18. Minnesota Wild (last rank #10): The Wild have already participated in a league high 10 shootouts this season. They have fallen from 1st to 8th in the west, and are very nearly out of a playoff spot after one of the hottest starts of the early season. Mike Yeo maybe not the coach of the year, where in November you could have engraved his name on it.
19. Phoenix Coyotes (last rank #19): Mike Smith is back in the line-up and playing lights out, but the team has still lost 3 straight and 8 of their last 10. It's not looking like a playoff year in Glendale. I wonder if city council will keep cutting cheques to cover their loses? Radim Vrbata is leading their team in scoring in 2012, which is never a good sign of a healthy productive scoring machine.
20. Colorado Avalanche (last rank #20): Colorado is 7-0 in shootouts. Sorry guys, there are no shootouts in the playoffs. They will struggle without Matt Duchene, who wasn't even playing that well to begin with. They are currently one point out of 8th behind a collapsing Minnesota Wild, but I'd be surprised if this team made the playoffs.
21. Winnipeg Jets (last rank #15): The Jets finished 2011 sitting in the 8th seed, but two weeks later are 4 PTS out of the playoffs. They have lost 3 in a row as their goaltending has struggled. Andrej Pavelec is either great or terrible it seems, and I've owned him in fantasy hockey. Evander Kane has cooled off.
22. Calgary Flames (last rank #21): Mike Camalleri come on down! It will be tough to crack the playoffs, but re-acquiring "the squid" does help Calgary's forward group. Still, I'd like to see Jay Bouwmeester break the all-time record for NHL games played without playing in the playoffs. Olli Jokinen got up to almost 800 GP before his first playoff game, J-Bo is sitting at 681.
23. Montreal Canadiens (last rank #25): Pierre Gauthier should have been fired instead of Jaques Martin. This team is a train wreck.
24. Buffalo Sabres (last rank #24): There's a reason that Detroit let Ville Leino go for next to nothing. He's not worth what the Sabres paid for him. Pominville continues to be the best player on this team, which might explain why they are sitting outside of a playoff spot past the halfway point the season.
25. Edmonton Oilers (last rank #23): The season that started off with a bang has been slowly sliding downhill ever since. The team will continue to slide without Hopkins or Eberle, especially since Khabibulin has long since returned to Earth.
26. Carolina Hurricanes (last rank #27): They have won two in a row. Eric Staal looks to have turned it around early this new year, and with that the team is improving. They still suck, but are improving.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning (last rank #26): Last year I was praising Steve Yzerman for being the best GM in the NHL, but the bubble has burst on that one. A team with this much firepower sucking this bad? They need a goaltender about as bad as anyone could possibly need a goaltender. Hard to believe this is almost the same team that made that playoff run last year.
28. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (last rank #29): They have jumped a spot in the rankings thanks to my new formula, otherwise this team has not turned any corners. They have too much talent to suck this bad. Though as I get to this spot in the rankings, the Ducks are beating the Canucks 3-1 going into the 3rd. If they can hold on and beat the top team in the conference, that might be worth a rankings upgrade.
29. NY Islanders (last rank #28): Tavares already has 11 PTS in 2012, which when paired to Evgeni Nabokov's low .885 SVPCT has translated into slightly below average production.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets (last rank #30): They still suck.