Team Rankings – Oct ’16

My current take on the first month of the 16-17 NHL season, power rankings style:

1) Montreal Canadiens – Does this start ring a bell to anyone? Montreal off to another great start this year, but we all know what happened last time around. Keeping in mind, with a healthy Carey Price they will most certainly help them continue this trend, they’re also sitting near the top of the league (tied 4th) in goals for with 31. Price has already missed time this year, however back-up Al Montoya has looked like he will be reliable. Shea Weber has done his job to silence any critics of the summer blockbuster that brought him to town putting up 4 goals and 6 assists in 9 games, along with a team-best +12.

Trending – Even

2) Pittsburgh Penguins –  The defending Cup champions haven’t missed much of a beat, even without their captain to start the season. Having Crosby back in the lineup (4 goals in 3 games so far) has been a big boost for Penguins, as they’ve also recently gotten young goalie Matt Murray back into the lineup. Their in a much better start at this point in the season than they were last year. Barring any big injuries, the Penguins have a strong chance to have a great season.

Trending – Even

3) Minnesota Wild – For myself, this is the biggest shock so far of the 2016-2017 season. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk can claim much of the credit for this on his own, as he posted 3 consecutive shutouts at the end of October. Minnesota’s best acquisition of the off-season was bringing in new head coach Bruce Boudreau, who could be the most underrated coach in all of the NHL. Boudreau has changed Minnesota’s style of play, and so far it appears to be paying huge returns. Can they keep it up? I personally didn’t expect them to be 3rd in NHL points by the end of October, but now I’m beginning to wonder how wrong I actually was about this team.

Trending – Up

4) Edmonton Oilers –  Similar to the Canadiens, this has a lot to do with their star player being healthy. Connor McDavid is arguably the best player on the planet already in only his second season. The things he can do at such a high rate of speed is incredible to watch. Milan Lucic appears to be a fit on his line, and the Oilers are showing both improved D and goaltending. This should be the year they finally find themselves in the playoff picture.

Trending – Even

5) Tampa Bay Lightning – This team is built to win a championship – now. They’re running out of time, as they will lose a couple key pieces to both the expansion draft, and to the salary cap in the next year – despite Steve Yzerman’s wizardry with re-signing star players. Ben Bishop hasn’t been playing like his old self, but could be on the move sooner rather than later with other teams suffering key injuries to goalies. Future goaltender Vasilevskiy has looked great in 3 starts (2.05 GAA, 0.929 SV%). They lost their last 3 games in October after winning 4 of their first 5, so they will look to bounce back before in November.

Trending – Down.

6) Chicago Blackhawks – Off to a 5-3-1 start, the Blackhawks are once again near the top of the Western Conference standings. Richard Panik has been the biggest surprise in the early going, with 9 points in 9 games. It seems Chicago has a way of just FINDING players that can help them score. Panik had been bounced around before landing in Chicago, so one has to believe it won’t last. But then again, it’s Chicago…

Trending – Up

7) NY Rangers – Jimmy Vesey has looked great so far for the Rangers, living up to expectations that he set by opting out and signing with the Rangers this summer. Chris Kreider is enjoying a good year so far, despite missing a few games due to injury. Mika Zibanejad has looked stellar early on. All has been going well so far for the Rangers. Can it keep up? It’s still very early, but they’ve looked like a complete team.

Trending – Even.

8) San Jose Sharks – The Sharks have looked pretty good so far this season, posting a 6-3-0 record. Brent Burns, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski are up to their usual thing, and Tomas Hertl has looked great early on. With not many years left for Jumbo Joe, you have to think the mind-set in San Jose is win now. They’ll have to add some scoring depth mid-season, but they boast a strong lineup night-in and night-out.

Trending – Up

9) St. Louis Blues – Jaden Schwartz started the year on the IR, Jori Lethera has missed time, but overall the St. Louis Blues have been hit or miss depending on the night. Some nights they look elite, others they haven’t. They managed a great record in October (5-2-2), and they’re hoping they can build off of that going into November. The better they start, the better off they’ll be playing in the tough Western Conference.

Trending – Even

10) Washington Capitals – The Caps have gotten off to a slower start this season, after dominating for much of the regular season last year. Part of the struggle has been scoring goals. Ovechkin has only managed 6 points (4 goals) in 8 games played. Issue is, with those 6 points he sits 2nd in team scoring behind only Marcus Johansson. They’re having some struggles that they haven’t shown in the past, however they still have an impressive record (thanks to Braden Holtby) at 5-2-1 through to the end of October.

11) Detroit Red Wings – Another big surprise – for me at least – is the play of Detroit through October. They’ve gotten excellent goaltending from both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek. Howard has started 3 games and is currently at a GAA of 0.86 (!!) and a SV% of 0.973. Those numbers are sure to take a hit, but he’s certainly playing well in an expansion year in which he could be taken by Vegas, or traded to one of many teams who could use an upgrade. Also worth noting, Tomas Vanek put up 8 points in 7 games for Detroit in October before getting hurt, very impressive.

Trending – Up

12) New Jersey Devils – The Devils added Taylor Hall in hopes that he would increase their goal scoring, and he’s done well (5 goals in 8 games), however Adam Henrique has fallen off in production through October. He managed to score 2 goals and 2 assists, which isn’t awful, but they were hoping for an increase from him. Cory Schneider continues to be one of the best at his position, sporting a solid 0.941 SV% and 1.86 GAA. The story is the same, goal scoring wanted.

Trending – Even.

13) Florida Panthers – Losing young stud Jonathan Huberdeau before the start of the season really hurt their chances. Enter Jonathan Marchessault. He has put up an incredible 6 goals and 5 assists in 9 games for Florida in October, however they were sitting at 4-4-1 when the month ended. They’re going to need more from Aleksander Barkov (5 points) and Jaromir Jagr (4 points) if they hope to be in a good position when they finally do get Huberdeau back.

Trending – Even

14) Ottawa Senators – The Sens struggled early on defensively, but Craig Anderson has been rock solid as of late. Coming off receiving terrible news regarding his wife’s health, he posted an impressive shutout of the red-hot Edmonton Oilers. If the Sens can play with the emotion that they did in this game, and carry it out further, they can rattle off some wins early on. Mike Hoffman has struggled early this season, posting only 1 goal in October. They’ll need more from him if they hope to climb their way into the playoffs this year.

Trending – Up

15) Boston Bruins – Brad Marchand has continued his strong play from last season, and at the World Cup, putting up 10 points in 8 games. Boston has managed to stay at .500 (4-4-0) despite having time missed by all of Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, David Backes, and David Pastrnak. If they can get all of the above healthy and into the lineup, they should do just fine.

Trending – Up.

16) Philadelphia Flyers – Last year it seemed as though the Flyers finally found viable goaltending. This year, that’s definitely not the case. They were near the top of the league in goals for, but finished dead last in goals against. Both Mason and Neuvirth have been terrible for the flyers, both sporting a higher than 3.45 GAA and lower than an 0.880 SV%. The offense is there, they just can’t keep the puck out of their own net.

Trending – Even

17) Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks started the year missing 2 key players in their lineup due to them remaining unsigned – Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm. Both are now signed, however neither suited up in a game for the Ducks in October. John Gibson has been shaky at times to start the season, and the Ducks finished 3-4-2 in October. Adding these two back into the lineup will be a much needed boost for the Ducks going forward.

Trending – Up

18) Buffalo Sabres – Losing your future star in Jack Eichel, as well as Evander Kane before the season was a gut-punch for the Sabres, who had playoffs aspirations at the start of the season. A big boost to the Sabres is having goaltender Robin Lehner back healthy to start the season. He has missed a couple games due to a stomach virus, but has looked great as of late. The Sabres are hoping they can keep pace in the Eastern Conference until they can get their injured players back later in the season.

Trending – Even

19) Calgary Flames – I think it’s safe to say Brian Elliot would love to forget his three starts in a Calgary uniform in which he surrendered 14 (!!) goals. He has turned it around since then, allowing no more than 2 goals in his next 4 starts. Calgary as a whole has gotten off to a tough start, with Sean Monahan also struggling early (4 points). This team is better defensively than they’ve played, and should be able to produce more offense than they currently have been.

Trending – Up

20) Dallas Stars – The Stars have been struck by injuries early on, as Ales Hemsky, Jason Spezza, Jiri Hulder, and Patrick Sharp have all missed time. Hemsky will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing hip surgery, however the key loss is Sharp who’s currently rehabbing from a concussion. If he can come back healthy, with no relapses, this team should still make the playoffs. Goaltending hasn’t been great for the Stars either, but everyone knew that coming in. Perhaps they will look to improve this through trade? Bishop? Fleury? There are plenty of better options for a team this talented than Niemi and Lehtonen.

Trending – Even

21) Colmubus Blue Jackets – Rookie d-man Zach Werenski has outstanding, playing most nights on the top pair, while putting up 6 points in 7 games. He’s definitely put himself in the Calder conversation early on, and has helped ignite offense each night for the Jackets, which they desperately needed help with. Sergei Bobrovsky has started each game, and while he’s 3-3-1, he’s rocking a solid SV% of 0.941 to go along with 2 shutouts. He’s been everything anyone would want in their number 1 goalie. He needs help up front. If the Jackets want to push themselves into the playoffs they’re going to need outside help.

Trending – Up

22) Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks had surprised everyone and got off to a 4-0-1 start which no one expected, beating teams like St. Louis, LA and Anaheim. They lost their next 3 games in regulation to end October at a respectable 4-3-1 record.  The issue that most people predicted has been coming to the front – goal scoring. They managed a league low 17 goals for in October. Their major signing in the offseason, Loui Eriksson, managed all of zero goals in October, with 4 assists and a -4 rating. The Canucks appear to be in for a long season, the nice start will soon be forgotten.

Trending – Down

23) Toronto Maple Leafs –  The rookies in Toronto have been incredibly fun to watch. The Leafs have struggled in the early going to close out a lead, as they’ve blown multiple 3rd period leads. Frederik Andersen has looked better as of late, after struggling early on. William Nylander was just named NHL Rookie of the Month for October, and along with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Nikita Zaitsev, the young leafs have looked great in the early going. Add in a little better defensive play and they should be able to round-out their game going forward.

Trending – Up

24) Colorado Avalanche – Starting goalie Semyon Varlamov has not been great, posting a GAA of 3.18. Not the worst in the league by far, but the Avs themselves are only averaging 2.85 goals for per game. So there’s blame to be placed on both sides. The Avs recently called up their number 1 rated prospect Mikko Rantanen, so Avs fans are hoping he jumps starts the offense. So far, he’s come up with zero points in 2 games, not an ideal start.

Trending – Down

25) New York Islanders –The Isles big signing of the offseason has not lived up to expectations at all. Andrew Ladd has managed no goals and only 1 assist so far in 9 games.1 point in 9 games! That’s while spending 99% of the first 6 games on a line with John Tavares. Not what you were hoping for when you signed him to an AAV of $5.5 million. Yikes. The Isles defense have been helping out offensively, scoring 10 of their team’s 27 goals in October. They need more help up front. Fans must be missing Kyle Okposo right about now..

Trending – Down

26) Winnipeg Jets – The Jets are an interesting case. They’ve looked great in some games, and bad in others. They’ve gotten steady goaltending from their tandem, and they’ve gotten good offensive support from rookie Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler. But after those three, it falls off quickly. They don’t possess the depth that others do in the division, not to mention that Jacob Trouba is still holding-out on the Jets, hoping for a trade. Time will tell, but as of right now they don’t look like a playoff team.

Trending – Down

27) Los Angeles Kings – Another team hit with injury trouble, which includes start Jonathan Quick. Tough to get by in today’s NHL without your starting goaltender (see Montreal last season). The Kings are also struggling to score, as they put up only 20 in 9 games in October. Hard to win in today’s NHL with that kind of support, no matter who’s in net. They’re now on their 3rd goalie of the season in Peter Budaj, and while he has played better lately, he’s not an ideal number 1 goalie. Things are looking bleak in LA.

Trending – Down

28) Nashville Predators – This has to be the biggest disappointment so far this year. Many were picking the Predators to win the Cup, yet they’ve started the year 2-5-1. Yikes. This team possesses a lot of talent, and boasts the best defensive corps in the league, but they were near the bottom in goals allowed in October. They’ve got to be better than they’ve been, and they can be.

Trending – Down

29) Carolina Hurricanes – A noticeable trend early in the ’16-’17 season was more goal scoring, or, as in the case with Carolina, weaker goaltending. The combo of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack has been awful for Carolina. Lack is posting a GAA of 4.00 and a SV% of 0.857, while Ward isn’t much better at a GAA over 3.00, and a SV% under 0.900. One of the only bright spots for Carolina so far is the play of Jeff Skinner, who put up great numbers in October – 5 goals, 6 assists, +1 (somehow) in 7 games played in October.

Trending – Down

30) Arizona Coyotes – Once again, the Arizona Coyotes are dealing with goaltending issues. Mike Smith is dealing with another injury after only starting 2 games. The Coyotes are a young team, with a cupboard full of high-talent prospects. Last year was the emergence of Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, this year we’re seeing Dylan Strome, Jakob Chychrun, Lawson Crouse, Christian Dvorak, and more as they try and make an impact for the Coyotes. Time will tell if this team can imrpove, but the future is definitely bright for the Yotes.

Trending – Up

 

*Stats from NHL.com. Cap info from CapFriendly.com*

Advertisements