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.
They say variety is the spice of life, yet this year’s crop of Power Rankings haven’t exactly featured much variety at the top. In fact, every single edition since the start of the season has featured the same two teams — the Hurricanes and Panthers.
Florida has spent much of the season at No. 1 thanks to an incredibly impressive start, but they’ve come back down to earth a bit in recent weeks. Even still, Carolina has been the only other team to hold that throne, and they’ve once again returned to the top spot this week.
However, the winds of change are blowing and there are other teams steadily creeping toward the peak. Could we see new royalty next week? Stay tuned. For now, here’s another installment of the good, the bad and the in-between.
1. Carolina Hurricanes (Last week: 2): The Canes and Panthers have spent the last month or so jostling for the top position, but there’s really no debate this week. Carolina is 11-2-0 and currently owns the league’s best goal differential (plus-20) and points percentage (.846). It’s a clear choice. Nobody can yell at me this week.
2. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 3): The Oilers hit a bump in the road last week with losses to Detroit and Buffalo, but they also beat Boston and St. Louis so … \shrug\. Everyone loves talking about Connor McDavid (for good reason, obviously), but Leon Draisaitl has 15 goals and 31 points through 14 games. He’s playing on Rookie difficulty right now. The bad news? The power play conversion rate has dipped all the way down to 41.9 percent. Pathetic!
3. Florida Panthers (LW: 1): Well, here’s the first big slide for the Panthers. They’ve lost four in a row, and now Andrew Brunette has his first real test as a head coach. Can he rally the boys and get back to playing at an elite level before the doubt creeps in?
4. Washington Capitals (LW: Not ranked): I openly concede I haven’t been giving the Caps their due credit. I wasn’t super high on the aging roster but, hey, they’ve done quite well through the first month and change. They’ve won four in a row (and earned points in eight of 10), have solid underlying numbers and a goal differential that’s climbing to impressive levels (plus-18). It doesn’t hurt that Alex Ovechkin is scoring at a 66-goal and 142-point pace. How’s that for “aging?”
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 7): It’s certainly not always pretty, but Toronto is finding results. The Leafs have won eight of their last nine and are surging in an Atlantic Division that very much seems up for grabs. We love to obsess over the contributions of the big three (Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner) but don’t overlook how impressive Jack Campbell and William Nylander have been so far.
6. Minnesota Wild (LW: 6): It’s hard not to go back and forth on the Wild this season. They’re winning a lot of games but are often doing so by a thin margin. However, their underlying numbers are very good. They have the league’s best expected goals percentage (56.28) and are top five in attempt share, shot share, scoring chance share and high-danger chance share.
7. Winnipeg Jets (LW: NR): As a pleasant surprise, the Jets have not spent this entire season bleeding high-danger chances in front of Connor Hellebuyck, and that is a very good thing considering Hellebuyck has only been so-so behind the defense. The Jets are doing a better job of controlling possession and letting their talented forward group find results. If they can continue to strengthen their defensive zone presence while Hellebuyck returns to elite form, they’re going to be in good shape.
8. Anaheim Ducks (LW: NR): Say whaaaaaaaaaaaat? I did NOT expect the Ducks to crack the top 10 this season, especially beyond the first month, but here we are. Anaheim has won seven straight -- an impressive accomplishment for any NHL team at any juncture of the season — and they’re seeing flashes of brilliance from their young stars. Troy Terry has exploded out of nowhere, racking up 20 points (including 11 goals) in his first 14 games. Do we have to start respecting the Ducks already?
9. Calgary Flames (LW: 4): They are sliding and are essentially holding on to a top-10 spot by a thread, especially with Vegas surging behind them in the Pacific. The Flames have lost five of seven, but three of those losses have earned them a point. Also, they still have pretty good 5v5 numbers, including best goals against per 60. It’s probably too early to give up on Calgary, but the recent stretch is concerning for sure.
10. New York Rangers (LW: No Man’s Land): The Rangers sure are a roller coaster, huh? After losing three straight games last week, they’ve turned around and won three straight this week. They’re a non-stop adventure, but that record (9-3-3) is still looking pretty with the sixth-best point percentage in the league. Also, Kaapo Kakko season is officially open. Let’s ride.
32. Arizona Coyotes (Last week: 32): Still very, very bad. Like, historically bad. But, again, that was pretty much their intention with this roster, so it’s somewhat forgivable. What’s not forgivable is the fact that they had a national TV game last week and wore the howling head jerseys instead of the Kachinas. Inexcusable.
31. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 30): Just when it seems like the Canadiens might be ready to seize back some pride, they find a way to screw it up and trip all over themselves. Sure, they’re looking better than they were a few weeks ago, but they’re also still losing quite often. That’s not great!
30. Seattle Kraken (LW: 28): This is certainly not Vegas in its first year, huh? The Kraken are 4-10-1 through the franchise’s first 15 games (the Golden Knights were 9-5-1), but I feel like we can’t fully evaluate this team until it stops getting league-worst goaltending. Philipp Grubauer has been AWFUL.
29. Vancouver Canucks (LW: Not ranked): They’ve given up 19 goals over a three-game stretch. Is that good?
28. Ottawa Senators (LW: 29): Not a lot of positivity to be had in Ottawa right now, unless you count positive COVID-19 tests. Not only have the Sens lost seven of their last eight games, but their roster also has been slammed by the virus with the first team being forced into a COVID-related shutdown. Hopefully, it passes soon and everyone recovers fully.
No Man’s Land
Vegas Golden Knights (Last week: Not ranked): Slow start and mass injuries be damned, the Golden Knights are starting to figure it out. They have won three in a row and eight of their last 10. I know Jack Eichel hasn’t been on the ice in a while, but, looking at what’s happened to Buffalo and Vegas since the trade, there are some interesting patterns there. I’m not ready to crown the Knights just yet. They’re pushing hard to make up for a rough October, though.
Nashville Predators (LW: NR): I came oh so close to including them in the top 10 this week, and they certainly have made a compelling case. They’re 8-1-1 over their last 10 games, and one of the more encouraging signs has been the play of Matt Duchene. There’s been plenty of talk about Duchene failing to live up to his big contract and a perceived lack of effort/motivation, but he’s been really good for Nashville in the early going.
Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 31): Three straight wins? For the Blackhawks? I’m not sure whether we should be throwing Derek King’s name into the Jack Adams discussion or throwing Jeremy Colliton‘s name into whatever the opposite of the Jack Adams is, but at least the organization isn’t unfathomably embarrassing on ALL fronts anymore.