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 NHL season is truly in full swing now, my friends. This past week brought our first big trade (and a merciful end to the Jack Eichel/Buffalo saga), one of the best goals in recent memory and the first official coach firing of the season. Yeah, the league is certainly keeping us busy.
But how have the rankings changed over the past seven days? Who’s moving up and who’s falling down? I’m glad you asked. Let’s get into it.
1. Florida Panthers (Last week: 2): There’s been no major drop-off without Joel Quenneville. This team continues to thrive under Andrew Brunette, going 3-0-1 since Quenneville’s departure. The Panthers earned points in their first 11 games of the season (10-0-1) and managed to smack around the previously undefeated Hurricanes over the weekend, even without their best player in Sasha Barkov and second-line center in Sam Bennett. Message sent, message received. They’re back on top this week.
2. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 1): The NHL’s last remaining unbeaten team has finally been humbled, and it was humbled in pretty emphatic fashion. On Saturday, Florida dominated the Hurricanes, who have a tough schedule this week against the Lightning, Flyers and Blues. That’ll be a good test after their first taste of adversity.
3. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 5): For the first time ever, the Oilers have won nine of their first 10 games (9-1-0). It’s an extremely fun time to be an Edmonton fan, as Connor McDavid is contributing all-time highlights and the power play is clicking at a historic rate (50 percent through 10 games). How long will this keep up? Not quite sure, but it’s hard not to appreciate the entertainment value right now.
4. Calgary Flames (LW: 4): Since dropping the season opener in regulation, the Flames have earned at least a point in 10 straight (7-0-3), and their plus-18 goal differential is third-best in the league. (The 6-0 beating they delivered to the Rangers on Saturday certainly helped!) The top line is buzzing plus they’re getting secondary contributions and great goaltending — a recipe for success. It’s also worth pointing out that they’re 5-1-0 on the road at this point and have a seven-game road trip coming up.
5. St. Louis Blues (LW: 3): Injuries and COVID-19 have hit them pretty hard early in the season, so I’m trying not to read too much into tough losses like the one they suffered against the Ducks over the weekend. It was still just the Blues' second regulation loss in 10 games, and what I’ve seen from them while healthy has been surprisingly strong.
6. Minnesota Wild (LW: 7): Their plus-1 goal differential next to an 8-3-0 overall record helps tell a story: They never seem to make it look easy or pretty, but they often manage to gut out wins.(Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Islanders was Minnesota’s first victory with more than a one-goal margin.) Wins are wins and count the same in the standings, but, hey, a low-stress blowout every once in a while doesn’t hurt.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: Not ranked): The Leafs’ annual roller coaster experience is off and running, and one of the only roller coasters I’m tall enough to ride. Toronto has ripped off five straight wins while finally getting results from top players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares. Jack Campbell also has been nearly unbeatable in net during that stretch (.960 save percentage), so things are very good in Leafs Land ... for now.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: NR): You knew they wouldn’t be out of the top 10 for very long, right? The Lightning still don’t look like the powerhouse contender they’ve been over the past few years, but they’re finally starting to put it together, securing at least a point in their last five games (4-0-1). Still a ways to go, they’re at least shaking off the early season rust.
9. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: NR): I truly don’t know what to make of the Flyers at this point. The underlying numbers suggest that they’ve been getting pretty thoroughly outplayed at 5v5 this season, but the actual results tell a different story. They’re outscoring opponents 22-14 at full strength through 10 games, and that’s with notable absences from key players (primarily Kevin Hayes and Ryan Ellis). Great goaltending has helped, but I think the jury is still out on this team as a whole.
10. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: NR): I have no idea how the Blue Jackets keep winning, but they have a flair for the dramatic and are 7-3-0 to this point. I certainly don’t expect them to keep this up — especially without Patrik Laine — but this young squad deserves some credit for a surprisingly respectable start.
32. Arizona Coyotes (Last week: 31): They finally won a game! After scoring 14 goals in their first 11 games, the Yotes managed to put five (!) goals past Seattle in a winning effort. I wouldn’t quite cancel the Shane Wright tankapalooza just yet, as Arizona is still 1-10-1 with a hilariously terrible goal differential of minus-30. The wins are going to be few and far between this season, but getting that first one had to feel pretty good.
31. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 32): Jeremy Colliton was finally fired two full weeks after seemingly giving up behind the bench. Derek King managed to lead Chicago to victory in his first game as interim head coach, so maybe brighter days are ahead. Then again, they can’t get much darker now, can they?
30. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 30): Montreal has given us a leading candidate for the most hilarious loss of the season. The Habs outshot Vegas 38-18 (including 20-1 in the first period) but gave up five unanswered goals and lost 5-2. What an absolute disaster.
29. Ottawa Senators (LW: Not ranked): They’ve lost four in a row (and seven of their last eight), and now they are dealing with COVID issues.
28. Seattle Kraken (LW: NR): Losing to the Coyotes automatically drops you into the bottom five for the week.
No Man’s Land
Colorado Avalanche (Last week: Not ranked): It seems like their mediocrity has been flying under the radar. Maybe the Golden Knights’ early season woes have helped take some attention off Colorado, but the Avs are playing with more of a full deck than the Knights and are still struggling. One of the biggest surprises is just how bad the defense has been (third-worst in goals against per game, 11th worst in shots against per game), but it’s still early. And we know that this roster is capable of MUCH better. They’re getting healthier, the goaltending has been better and they're probably going to figure it out. But right now, the Avalanche are stuck in the middle.
New York Rangers (Last week: NR): Looking at the Rangers on a page, things don’t seem so bad. They’re 6-3-3 and hanging near the top of the divisional standings. That being said, they’ve lost three in a row (including blowing a 4-1 lead to Edmonton), have a negative goal differential (minus-5) and can’t stop giving up highlight-reel goals. This is the kind of team that drives its own fans absolutely insane.