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 less than a few weeks away from Christmas, which means lists are all the rage right now. Shopping lists. Nice lists. Naughty lists. Hell, some of us are still obsessing over our year-end Spotify lists.
But the only list you need to focus on for the next few minutes is the one you’ll find below — our weekly NHL power rankings. Go ahead and check it twice, if it’ll make you feel better.
1. Florida Panthers (Last week: 1): Call them Logan Roy because there will be no succession this week. Florida holds onto the top spot largely because it strung together a five-game point streak (including four wins) before falling to the Avalanche on Sunday. The Panthers still have the league’s best points percentage (.741), and losing to the Avs right now is no reason to hang your head. But we’ll get to Colorado in short order.
2. Washington Capitals (LW: 2): I’m still surprised that the Caps are holding steady this close to the top (especially without Nicklas Backstrom, who is nearing a return). However, the offense continues to operate with effectiveness at 5v5, and the defense has seen an improvement of late as well.
3. Minnesota Wild (LW: 3): These guys saw their win streak extended to eight games, and that helped create a bit of cushion for them atop the Western Conference. But then they dropped two in a row to the Kings and and Golden Knights and will have a tough week ahead (including games against the Hurricanes and Panthers), so that should be a good test of their ability to bounce back.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 6): Their five-game win streak came to an end over the weekend thanks to an ugly 4-0 loss to the Senators (yikes), but it was the final leg of a tough road trip so we can cut them some slack. Overall, the body of work has remained solid, especially for a team that continues to play without its two best forwards.
5. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 9): I felt bad about sliding them all the way to the No. 9 spot last week, so it’s time to overcorrect a bit. Carolina won four in a row (including the first three games of its western Canada road trip) before losing in Vancouver. Things are looking up again after a tough slide in late November/early December.
6. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 10): Choo-choo! The momentum train is picking up in Colorado, and it feels like the Avs are really starting to hit their stride as the contender we expected them to be. They have points in 13 of their last 15 games (including 12 wins), and that’s without some key players in the lineup.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 4): Losing Mitch Marner is a tough blow for the squad, but recent goal prevention issues have been the biggest point of concern. They’ve surrendered 19 goals over their last four games. Time to tighten things up a bit.
8. New York Rangers (LW: 8): Do I keep disrespecting the Rangers? Maybe. They’ve lost two of three, but those defeats came against hot opponents (Colorado and Nashville). Also, they’re still 12-3-0 in their last 15 games. Still, I don’t feel compelled to buy in more than the other teams listed above.
9. Nashville Predators (LW: No Man’s Land): After two weeks sitting in our rankings limbo, the Predators have put together a nice little push. Five straight wins have helped them climb the ladder in the Central and crack our top 10. I’m not sure they’ll stay for very long, especially if Juuse Saros doesn’t continue to play at an elite level, but Nashville is worth respecting at this moment.
10. Anaheim Ducks (LW: Not ranked): Not sure what to make of this team this season? Join the club, but they’re certainly fun as hell — even in games they don’t win. They have points in seven of their last eight, and Trevor Zegras helped create one of the coolest goals we’ve seen in ages. Of course, the hockey world was only able to enjoy it for about 24 hours before the insufferable “skill is ruining the game” discourse began to take over. (Thanks, Torts!) But, as a gesture of appreciation for the Z-Man, I’ll give them the final spot.
32. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 32): They’re still awful by design. What else do you want me to say?
31. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 30): Six straight losses and their points percentage (.222) is dipping dangerously close to Arizona’s level. Jeff Gorton is probably salivating over the idea of starting the rebuild with the top overall pick in the 2022 draft.
30. Buffalo Sabres (LW: NR): Remember in October when we were all like “Are the Sabres going to be … respectable?” LOL, good times. Seven straight losses and the Sabres are back, baby!
29. Seattle Kraken (LW: NR): Losers of three straight and still looking quite porous in their own end. They’ve given up 25 goals over their last six games.
28. Ottawa Senators (LW: 31): As evidence of how stupid the NHL can be sometimes, the Sens have won four of their last five, including victories over Carolina, Colorado and Tampa Bay. Good luck making sense of that! One week’s success won’t undo how terrible they’ve been this season, but it will provide them some movement in the right direction.
No Man’s Land
Edmonton Oilers (LW: 7): Their exciting Honeymoon Phase might be over. They’re no longer the most fun team to watch in the NHL, and we’re seeing some familiar problems plague the club — namely a lack of production outside of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers have lost five straight and have been outscored 8-19 in that span, with half of their eight goals coming from Draisaitl and McDavid. Edmonton still needs to be carried to find success.
Calgary Flames (LW: 5): I guess the Battle of Alberta is taking place in No Man’s Land this week. Not too long ago, Calgary was firing on all cylinders. But now they’ve lost four straight and the wheels are coming off a bit. Making matters worse (and possibly contributing to the recent slide), they’re also in the midst of a COVID-19 shutdown. Things are a mess right now.