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Dec 12, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) skates with the puck past Florida Panthers right wing Owen Tippett (74) in the second period at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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.

The Good

1. Colorado Avalanche (Last ranking: 1): Their lengthy winning streak was snapped with a shootout loss to the Coyotes (of all teams) a few weeks ago, but they’ve gone right ahead and started a brand new one after the All-Star break. They have at least a point in 19 straight games and are 30-3-3 over their last 36. Good luck keeping up with that.

2. Florida Panthers (LR: 2): The Cats lost their final game before the break and haven’t played since. But, all things considered, they had won nine of their previous 12 leading up to that loss. So I’m not rushing to move them out of the second spot just yet.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (LR: 3): They kicked the crap out of the Bruins in Boston last week but then promptly dropped a game to the Wild in Minnesota to give Carolina three losses in its last four. They have a tough stretch with four games this week, so you can either see it as an opportunity to tighten things up and rebound — or to slide a bit more.

4. Minnesota Wild (LR: 5): The Wild finally suffered their first regulation loss since the Winter Classic when they were shut out by the Jets last week. Still, Minnesota is 10-1-1 since the outdoor game, including a nice win over Carolina last Saturday. They’re legit.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (LR: 4): They’ve been a bit up and down over the past month or so, but they’re still hanging right there with Florida at the top of the Atlantic Division. It’s a weird thing to say about a team that is currently in the top five with back-to-back titles, but Tampa Bay has a little bit of sneakiness to it this season. Nobody should be forgetting about (or underestimating) the Lightning.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins (LR: 9): They’ve won three straight and technically slid into first place in the Metro over the weekend (Carolina is one point back with three games in hand), so this team continues to perform above expectations. They’re getting contributions up and down the lineup and could be positioning to add at the March 21 trade deadline. One really intriguing and chaotic idea for you to snack on: Claude Giroux in a Penguins uniform.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs (LR: 6): A six-game win streak was snapped last week when the Leafs dropped two in a row in Western Canada. Maybe it’s not reason to panic just yet, but there are some troubling trends in Toronto — mainly the lack of production from the John Tavares line and Jack Campbell’s slipping performance between the pipes.

8. New York Rangers (LR: 8): The Rangers are one of my biggest teams to keep an eye on ahead of the trade deadline. They’ve been hanging in the top 10 all year long, but they could stand to add a couple pieces to improve depth and be stronger in front of Igor Shesterkin. If they’re able to do that, they might be taken more seriously as legitimate contenders in the postseason.

9. Calgary Flames (LR: Not ranked): The Flames are back in the top 10 and taking measures to try and stick around. Not only have they won six straight (and eight of 10), but they also picked up some scoring help in Tyler Toffoli via trade with the Canadiens. The deal reunites Toffoli and Darryl Sutter, who found success together in Los Angeles. Not a bad idea for the Flames.

10. St. Louis Blues (LR: 7): Regardless of who’s in net moving forward, they’re probably going to want to add some help on the back end. That being said, Jordan Binnington continues to lose his grip on the crease as Ville Husso steals more and more confidence.

DROPPED OUT: Nashville Predators (LR: 10).

The Bad

32. Montreal Canadiens (LR: No. 32): A big week for the teardown in Montreal! They fired Dominique Ducharme and hired Martin St. Louis as interim head coach — a very surprising but very intriguing turn of events given St. Louis’ lack of coaching experience. They also have started the process of wheeling and dealing ahead of the deadline, shipping out Toffoli for a decent return. There should be plenty more moves to come.

31. Arizona Coyotes (LR: 31): The good news? They’ve finally signed a lease for a new place to stay over the next three years. The bad news? They’re sharing a building with Arizona State, and the capacity is expected to be less than 5,000 people. It’s not exactly a great look for the Coyotes or the NHL, but I guess you can consider it means to an end.

30. Philadelphia Flyers (LR: 30): All eyes are on Claude Giroux now. Not only did he use All-Star weekend as a chance to play with some good NHLers, but he also won some money and showcased himself as a valuable trade target if he decides he wants to get out of Philly. At this rate, why wouldn’t he?

29. Seattle Kraken (LR: 29): I know it makes sense from a logical standpoint, but the idea of trading Mark Giordano, approximately six months after naming him the first captain in franchise history, tickles me.

28. Buffalo Sabres (LR: Not ranked): Jack Eichel is going to return to the ice and make his Golden Knights debut this week, just in case being a Sabres fan wasn’t depressing enough.

MOVING UP: New Jersey Devils (LR: 28).

No Man’s Land

Boston Bruins (LR: Not ranked): Speaking from personal experience, last week was a VERY tough week to be a Bruins fan. Tuukka Rask officially called it quits in a rather unceremonious fashion. Patrice Bergeron suffered a head injury. Brad Marchand got suspended for being an unhinged pest … again. On top of all that, Boston lost two straight to Pittsburgh and Carolina. This team has a rapidly closing window but still seems a ways away from being taken seriously as a contender.

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