Every week, we’ll discuss and rank the “good” teams (the ones making some legitimate noise), as well as the “bad” teams (the ones that are so bad they’re actually worth talking about) and a few teams stuck in the middle. You know, the teams that aren’t quite good enough to be relevant but aren’t bad enough to be irrelevant either? The dreaded No Man’s Land.
We are officially on the other side of the ever-important Thanksgiving pole position and that means we have to start crowning playoff teams and writing death certificates based on what the standings tell us, right? That means you get to start taking these weekly Power Rankings super seriously and yell at me for every little injustice you think I’ve committed. Very exciting times indeed!
- Washington Capitals (Last week: 4): The aging Capitals continue to stun me and now they’re the first team not named the Hurricanes or Panthers to hold the top spot this season. Washington is red hot, winning nine of its last 11 with only one regulation loss in that span. The Caps still have some key players out of the lineup, too, which makes this run even more impressive.
- Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 1): A loss to Washington this weekend cost the Canes their top spot in the rankings but there’s no real reason to believe they can’t be right back on top next week. There’s no shame in losing to a scorching hot team, especially when Carolina has consistently gotten it done all year long, so far.
- Edmonton Oilers (LW: 2): It took 20 games, but the Oilers finally played a game in which they didn’t get a single point from Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. They also did not get a single power-play goal in that game, and yet they still managed to beat the Vegas Golden Knights. That might be a good sign for sustainability.
- Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 6): Based on the way they’ve been playing recently, the Leafs probably deserve a higher ranking, but it’s hard to punish any of the teams listed above. Regardless of the number assignment, Toronto has looked incredible of late. Since losing five of their first seven games, the Leafs have gone 14-2-0 -- including winning nine of their last 10 -- and have outscored opponents 53-26 in that span. Their underlying numbers are also very good, as they rank top five in shot share, goals share, scoring chances share and expected goals rate at 5v5. As much as I love to dump on the Leafs, this team looks awesome right now.
- Florida Panthers (LW: 2): The overall body of work is encouraging but the Panthers have started to show signs of mortality, especially on the road. They’ve lost six of their last 10 and now it’s time for Andrew Brunette to prove his worth and get the boys back on track.
- Calgary Flames (LW: 5): Calgary is still holding steady and there’s plenty of reason to believe in them moving forward, especially with how effective Darryl Sutter’s system has been and the consistency with which the Flames have outplayed opponents. That being said, they could probably use a bit more finishing power behind the top line.
- Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 8): After a mediocre start to the year, the Lightning are beginning to climb, and I think it’s probably fair to think they can keep trending upward. This is a team that had to reestablish its footing after some major losses this offseason (plus another Kucherov departure mid-season) and now they’re starting to gel again.
- Minnesota Wild (LW: 9): It’s worth taking some time to give props to Ryan Hartman, who has somewhat sneakily become a standout for the Wild through the first quarter of the season. He’s got 12 goals and has been a constant catalyst for Minnesota through the club’s first 21 games.
- New York Rangers (LW: 10): I’ve been saying all season that the Oilers are the most entertaining team in the league, but I may have to reconsider that statement if the Rangers keep this up. Not only have they surrendered two of the most thrilling goals of the season, but they also provide plenty of entertainment value themselves, most nights. This past week alone we saw an incredibly slick goal from the Rangers’ fourth line (set up with a dangle from Ryan Reaves!) and then a glove throw from Artemi Panarin on the bench. This team is pure chaos and I love it.
- Anaheim Ducks (LW: 7): They’re starting to cool off and lose positioning while a handful of other teams could probably make a good case to slide into the top 10, but we’ll give the Ducks another week to prove themselves just because it feels like they’ve earned it.
32. Arizona Coyotes (Last week: 32): After finding their first win streak of the season with back-to-back overtime wins last week, they’re back to regularly scheduled programming (losing). They better be careful, though, because a few more wins and they could be hearing footsteps in the tank race.
31. Ottawa Senators (LW: 30): Five straight losses (and nine Ls in their last 10 games) provided some temptation to put them last but, honestly, that felt disrespectful to Arizona’s commitment.
30. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 31): They finally reached the breaking point. Mere months after reaching the Stanley Cup Final, things have gotten so bad and so embarrassing in Montreal that they’ve decided to clean house in the front office. That was probably the right decision given the state of the team and Marc Bergevin’s inability to course-correct, and Jeff Gorton is a great hire to kickstart the turnaround. Still, what a disaster this team became in short order.
29. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 28): Now that Montreal has pulled the trigger on their front office, how soon does Vancouver follow suit with Jim Benning & Co.? And does Bergevin get consideration for the Canucks job if it suddenly opens up? Nine losses in its last 10 games have left a sense of impending doom hanging over Vancouver.
28. New York Islanders (LW: No Man’s Land): I feel kind of bad putting the Isles here because they’ve had a tough road out of the gate with that extended road trip, some key injuries and now a COVID breakout. Still, eight straight losses are eight straight losses, and this team is in rough shape.
No Man’s Land
Boston Bruins: It’s tough to figure out exactly what the Bruins are and can be this season. They do well to control the flow of games and their underlying numbers reflect that, but they also have holes in their roster and a tendency to come undone. Overall, the results have been mediocre to this point and the problems are quite predictable -- there’s a lack of production behind the top line and too much instability on the defensive end. I think some of the Bruins fans that were overly critical of Tuukka Rask in recent years are starting to realize how much stability he provided as the last line of defense.
Nashville Predators: They’re starting to fit into the space that I expected them to hold this season -- a transitioning team that is not good enough nor bad enough to make meaningful progress. They’re hanging tough in the Central standings but that feels more like a product of the absence of a divisional standout so far. The Wild, Avalanche, Blues and Jets are more promising clubs ahead of them in the standings and I have concerns about Nashville’s sustainability. If you’re a Predators fan, it almost feels like you should be rooting for this team to get exposed in the next month or two so that they don’t feel pressured to buy or hold at the mid-season deadline.