The 2013/14 NHL season is now 14 weeks old, and it is time for my bi-weekly power rankings, as we pass the half way mark of the season. The rankings below are on a "per game" basis, so there is no reward for playing more games than another team, I use a formula based on points per game (shootout wins not included), and goal differential as of Monday Jan 7th. My rankings are not a matter of personal preference, I plug the standings into a simple formula and crank out a rankings list.
1. St. Louis Blues (last rank 1): The Blues are 7-1 in their last 8 games and continue to be the best team in the NHL. Losing leading scorer Alex Steen to a concussion has not slowed down the Blues power house offense. It is remarkable how much scoring depth they have at the forward position, in addition to one of the best bluelines in the league. The hottest player on the team right now is Jaden Schwartz (a must own in all fantasy hockey leagues), though there is no question that their first half MVP is Alex Steen.
2. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (last rank 3): The Ducks are 13-1 in their last 14 games, in part because they are finally getting scoring depth outside the top 3. Saku Koivu is on fire (10 PTS in last 10 GP), with Kyle Palmieri and Andrew Cogliano not far behind. Even Ben Lovejoy has been making a strong offensive contribution. They are proving that last year was not a fluke, and are once again going to be a tough out in the playoffs.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (last rank 2): 4-4 over their last 8 games, I'm not exactly sure how this team moved into TSN's #1 spot. The offense has been excellent, but they are not matching the pace of Anaheim and St. Louis. Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews are red hot, and would make an effective tandem on the Canadian Olympic team. They could save everybody a lot of time and trouble if they just cancelled the Central division playoffs and go directly to a Chicago-St.Louis series to win the division. It's ridiculous that Seabrook did not make the Canadian Olympic team, all because he's a right hand shot. What if a left handed defenseman gets hurt? Will Yzerman only replace him with a left hand shot? Keith and Seabrook would have been the best pairing in the tournament.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (last rank 5): 11-2 over their last 13 games, the Penguins have endured a multitude of injuries and have not skipped a beat. The one healthy component throughout all of these injuries has been Sidney Crosby, who continues to dominate the NHL. Marc-Andre Fleury deserves praise for his first half performance, as does Chris Kunitz and James Neal. Over the last month, Kunitz, Neal, and Crosby have combined for 50 PTS (with Neal even missing a few games to suspension). Now that Malkin is back, look out. In my opinion, this is the next Stanley Cup champion.
5. Boston Bruins (last rank 4): They are 6-4 over their last 10 GP. With Loui Eriksson on the shelf for most of the last month, Reilly Smith has emerged as a star player. Milan Lucic has slowed down, but he still remains the league's premier power forward. Iginla and Krejci have been producing at a point per game clip. Right now their biggest problem is depth on defense, losing Ference and Seidenberg, who logged a lot of tough minutes last season.
6. San Jose Sharks (last rank 7): 7-3 over their last 10 GP, they have proven themselves to be a force in the Pacific division. It remains to be seen if they can win the "rock-paper-sissors" match ups on the West coast. Logan Couture has cooled off, but Pavelski, Marleau, Thornton, and Burns are getting the job done. There is no way that Marc-Edward Vlasic should have made the Canadian Olympic team. He started quickly, but has slowly been getting worse each week. Neither Vlasic or Boyle should be on Team Canada.
7. Colorado Avalanche (last rank 8): 4-6 over their last 10, the Avs are being carried by Matt Duchene (17 PTS in his last 12 GP) and Ryan O'Reilly (11 PTS in 12 GP). We are getting confirmation that the Avs defense is not as good as it needs to be (Erik Johnson notwithstanding). It is unlikely that their second half will be as successful as the first. Eventually they will be who I thought they were.
8. Los Angeles Kings (last rank 6): 4-6 over their last 10 games, the Kings have started to slip. Their biggest problem right now is Mike Richards going ice cold with just a single point over his last 11 GP (Dustin Brown and Tyler Toffoli have also dried up). Over the last 11 GP, the leading scorer is Jeff Carter at 12 PTS, with the 2nd highest being Dwight King with 9 PTS. But still, Anze Koptiar is the Kings 1st half MVP. Carter being named to Team Canada did catch me by surprise, as he never crossed my mind as a potential Olympian. If you want a pure sniper, there is none better in the game right now than James Neal.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning (last rank 9): There is no question that Ben Bishop belonged on the American Olympic team, as he has been carrying this team on his shoulders without their best player. There has been some controversy today that Yzerman left Martin St.Louis off the Canadian roster, as Greg Wyshynski claims that St. Louis can play any role on a team (except maybe power forward, right Puck Daddy?) Marty will probably be the first phone call Yzerman makes if he needs an injury substitution.
10. Vancouver Canucks (last rank 10): Despite having a very strong December, the Canucks have now lost 4 in a row, and the phone in radio shows are filled with angry Canuck fans screaming that the sky is falling. Canuck Nation collectively has a very short memory. It's ridiculous that Dan Hamhius made Team Canada. By my estimation he's not even the best Canadian defenseman on his team (Jason Garrison). Hopefully Hamhius suffers a serious injury over the next few weeks. I'm seriously considering taking up voodoo this week.
11. Montreal Canadiens (last rank 11): They have lost 3 of their last 5, enough to sustain their rank of slightly above average. PK Subban certainly deserved his spot on the Canadian Olympic team, as it is between him and Carey Price for first half team MVP. Alex Galchenyuk will miss a big chunk of time with a broken hand, which is a huge blow to the Eller-Gallagher line that has already been struggling for the last month. The Habs will need more production from Danny Briere and Rene Bourque if the are going to step into the elite tier.
12. Quebec City Coyotes (last rank 12): The season is half over, and who continues to be dead last in NHL attendance? That's right, the Coyotes. The new owners are going to hit $40 million in operating loses in 2015. The only reason they won't hit the magic number to trigger the out clause in the sale of the team in 2014 is because of shared revenue from the Canadian market. That's right, the team that moved from Canada to Arizona will stay in the desert a few months longer because of subsidies from Canadian fans. Isn't it ironic, don't you think?
13. Dallas Stars (last rank 13): They have lost 3 games in a row, over which time they have given up 18 goals against. Kari Lehtonen is probably the most important player on this team, but they need him to be playing at his best if they are going to make a run at a playoff spot. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are still producing the bulk of the offense, but thankfully Erik Cole is finally starting to earn his fat pay cheque. Injuries combined with under-performing players on the blueline is perhaps the biggest obstacle this team is currently facing (in combination with goaltending).
14. Detroit Red Wings (last rank 14): 4-3 over the last 7 games coming off a 6 game losing streak, this has been a frustrating season for Wings fans. Todd Bertuzzi has zero PTS in his last 11 GP, just behind Dan Cleary's 2 PTS in 11 GP. The secondary scoring has dried up, with Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Alfredsson carrying the load. They need Franzen to come back from a concussion, they need Helm to get healthy, and they need Tatar, Nyquist and Andersson to put up better numbers. The young guns went silent as soon as the HBO cameras came into the room.
15. Philadelphia Flyers (last rank 19): I think Team Canada's selection committee decided not to take Claude Giroux back in November, and has completely ignored how good he has been since breaking that early season slump. Giroux has 17 PTS in his last 11 GP and has been carrying this team on his shoulders as they return to relevancy. Jakub Voracek has certainly enjoyed the ride, with 15 PTS over those 11 games (propelling the Flyers to an 8-3 record over that span).
16. Minnesota Wild (last rank 16): 2-6 over their last 8 GP, it has been a rough month for the Wild. They need Zach Parise back sooner rather later, especially with Mikko Koivu going down to ankle surgery. Ryan Suter can only carry this team so far and is doing everything he can (13 PTS in his last 11 GP, including a 3 goal game). The corpse of Danny Heatley continues to collect a pay cheque far bigger than his production should afford him.
17. Washington Capitals (last rank 15): The Caps have lost 7 if their last 9 games, and are perilously close to falling out of a playoff spot. Holtby has been struggling in goal, being outplayed by back-up Philipp Grubauer (whose name sounds like a bad guy from a Die Hard movie). Alex Ovechkin is not playing like a league MVP, an award he never would have won if not for Crosby's broken jaw. We'll see if the Caps can turn things around, or if they fall victim to an improving division.
18. New Jersey Devils (last rank 17): The Devils are 4-6 over their last 10 games, as the Marty Brodeur hot streak appears to have come to an end. Cory Schneider has emerged as the better goalie, but is still playing less than half of the games. If they manage to somehow make the playoffs, I will be plenty surprised.
19. Ottawa Senators (last rank 22): All of a sudden the long time slumping Ottawa Senators have won 5 of their last 6 games and find themselves 2 points out of the last playoff spot. This despite poor production from Jason Spezza. Erik Karlsson has been their hottest player and their team MVP.
20. New York Rangers (last rank 21): Callahan and Staal have returned from injuries, and the Rangers are currently as healthy as they have been all season. Rick Nash was a bit of a surprise on the Canadian Olympic team, given that he has not played very well when healthy this season. He has been described by many as "slow", which could hurt on the large international ice. Remember in 2010, they played the Olympic on NHL sized ice.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs (last rank 20): After a big win in the Winter Classic on Jan 1st, the Leafs have played two terrible games against the New York teams, getting outscored 12-4 (9 of those goals being scored on Bernier). The Leafs have given up at least 35 shots against in 7 of their last 8 games, which is not a recipe for playoff success.
22. Carolina Hurricanes (last rank 23): After losing 5 in a row, the Canes have now won 4 in a row. Jeff Skinner has easily been their hottest player, with Eric Staal being their 1st half MVP. Alex Semin is starting to show signs of life after a miserable start to the season.
23. Columbus Blue Jackets (last rank 18): Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky has been moved from injured reserve back to the active roster, and the sooner they can get him back on the ice, the better. Marian Gaborik might be lost for the foreseeable future, but the good news is that Nathan Horton is back with the team. They will finally get to play their prized free agent power forward who was injured in last year's Bruins run to the Stanley Cup final.
24. Winnipeg Jets (last rank 25): Losing 4 in a row is not what this team needed. They are highly unlikely to make the playoffs and need to make some changes. The Coach looks to be at the end of his rope, especially given how much talent there is on the roster. New Coach + a better goalie = Jets playoffs.
25. Nashville Predators (last rank 24): 3-7 over their last 10 games should be the first nail in the Predators coffin. They currently sit 7 PTS out of the playoffs, which will be a very difficult gap to close. Shea Weber is both their hottest player (14 PTS in his last 12 GP) and their 1st half MVP, and it's not even close.
26. Florida Panthers (last rank 27): After an impressive little winning streak, the Panthers have now lost 5 of their last 7 games. Aleks Barkov has become the best player on this team lately, and Sean Bergenheim has returned from the dead to score some big goals.
27. Calgary Flames (last rank 26): 2-9 in their last 11 GP, the Flames suck. Paul Byron is their hottest player over that span with 7 PTS. Hudler, Monahan, Stajan, Cammalleri have all dried up. They can't keep the puck out of their net, and now they can't score. It's going to be a rough 2nd half.
28. NY Islanders (last rank 28): The Islanders are 7-3 in their last 10 GP and may have finally turned their season around (but still sit 8 PTS out of a playoff spot). The good news is that John Tavares is officially on fire, the bad news is that it might be too little too late. Kyle Okposo should have been on Team USA, with 14 PTS in his last 11 GP. They'll need to have a monster 2nd half to make the playoffs.
29. North Pole Oilers (last rank 29): The Oilers are 3-11 over their last 14 GP. They suck. If I magically became the owner of this team, my first order of business would be the firing of Kevin Lowe. He might have been a great Oiler, but he's a joke in the front office. Taylor Hall is by far their hottest player and unquestionably their 1st half MVP.
30. Buffalo Sabres (last rank 30): They suck.