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’re a few months into the NHL season, and I generally haven’t struggled much when it comes to putting these power rankings together. Between paper results, advanced analytics or just the good ol’ eye test, there’s plenty of information to help determine these rankings and make certain decisions.
However, things seem to be getting tougher and tougher as the sample grows, and this week I definitely had some trouble figuring out who belongs where. Maybe that’s because every team experiences peaks and valleys over the course of an 82-game season, but it also seems like parity is really cranking in the NHL this season. There are plenty of good teams, but there don’t seem to be many overly dominant clubs that stand well above the rest.
We have a good amount of teams just hanging out together and partying in the same club, but that club doesn’t seem to have a VIP section for the elites … at least not yet. That might be a good thing for the sake of competition and the league, but it’s not great for the guy who has to do power rankings.
Still, on we go.
1. Florida Panthers (Last week: 5): After a quick slip, the Panthers are back on top. They have points in eight of 10 (including seven wins) and are showing a lot of character in the process. Sure, it hasn’t always been easy or pretty — they erased three-goal deficits in two separate victories last week — but they’re winning. And that’s what gets you the crown.
2. Washington Capitals (LW: 1): They held the top spot last week and, although it was a short stay, there hasn’t been much of a fall. They’re still playing well, and Alexander Ovechkin is still a freak of nature. It brings me great joy to see the “Ovechkin for MVP” hype train heating up this late in his career.
3. Minnesota Wild (LW: 8): The Wild are thriving right now with six straight wins and the best points percentage in the Western Conference. Last week, I mentioned Ryan Hartman, who continues to produce for this team. He may not be the “unsung hero” anymore because people are taking notice and singing his praises, but at $1.1 million, is he the most valuable bang-for-your-buck player (non-ELC) in the NHL right now?
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 4): They probably would've moved up a couple of slots if they hadn't lost back-to-back games over the weekend. Still, the Leafs won five straight before that and outscored opponents 26-7 during that stretch. This team is good and probably not done climbing.
5. Calgary Flames (LW: 9): The Pacific is shaping up to be more interesting than most of us thought, and the Flames are a big reason why. They’re on top of their division right now, and they have the best goal differential in hockey. Calgary has the pieces to stay on top of the Pacific -- and maybe the conference -- if everyone keeps buying in and producing.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 7): The Bolts continue to find their footing and string together wins. It really can’t be understated how impressive it is that they’re here despite some major offseason losses, coupled with the fact that they’re currently without their two best forwards.
7. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 3): After an incredible start, the Oilers are beginning to crack just a little bit. They’re coming off back-to-back losses over the weekend in which some of their issues were exposed — namely the lack of depth production and an over-reliance on the power play.
8. New York Rangers (LW: 9): I reeeeeally wanted to give the Rangers a much bigger jump in the standings based on recent results. They’ve won six in a row and 10 of their last 11, but I’m certainly not confident that’s going to hold up — especially with Igor Shesterkin on IR. As such, it’s a minor climb this week.
9. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 2): A seven-spot plummet seems harsh — and it probably is, especially considering injuries and COVID-related absences — but just look at the recent results. They’ve lost five of seven, including losses at the hands of the Senators and Kraken. Not great, but they’ll inevitably bounce back because they’re still a very good team.
10. Colorado Avalanche (LW: Not ranked): I can’t believe it took this long for them to crack the top 10, but here they are. The Avs are far from the powerhouse we expected them to be, and they have issues to work out — particularly with their defensive play and goaltending — but they’re making moves in the right direction. Also, Nathan MacKinnon is back and that’s always good for business.
32. Arizona Coyotes (Last week: 32): The goal differential is now at minus-46. How low can we go?! It’s all very exciting.
31. Ottawa Senators (LW: 31): They have been such a mess that I toyed with the idea of putting them in dead last. But then they won two straight games and I remembered they’re still not the Coyotes.
30. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 31): Jeff Gorton is now (half) in charge of this club, and I’m very intrigued to see what he has in store for the future. This roster isn’t exactly primed for a full-on teardown, but Gorton has experience turning ships around in relatively short order.
29. New York Islanders (LW: 28): It feels terrible to continue burying the Islanders given everything that has gone wrong for them so far this season, but what else am I supposed to do? They’ve lost 11 (ELEVEN!) straight games and have scored 11 (ELEVEN!) total goals in that stretch. It might already be too late for these guys to salvage the season.
28. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 29): Last week, I wrote that Montreal’s housecleaning may prompt the Canucks to tidy up themselves and that Marc Bergevin could be a candidate to land in Vancouver and … bingo! Jim Benning and Travis Greene are out, and rumors are already placing Bergevin as a possible general manager candidate. Good luck to whoever has to clean up Benning’s mess and lead the Canucks out of this 10-year rebuild.
No Man’s Land
Nashville Predators (Last week: No Man’s Land): I know I listed them here last week, but I had to do it again just to point out the fact that they’re 5-5-0 in their last 10 (13-10-1 overall) and have an overall goal differential of zero.They’re about as in the middle as you can possibly be.
Dallas Stars (LW: Not ranked): Admittedly, I haven’t paid close attention to the Stars this season because they tend to be an exceptionally boring team to watch, but they’ve managed to turn things on as of late. Dallas is scoring goals, winning games (six straight!) and climbing the Central. That division isn’t very impressive, and we’ve seen this group find success together in the past. So keep an eye out.