Monday, December 22, 2008


1) Its been about 6 weeks since we last ranked the 30 NHL squads. We intentionally avoid doing too regularly as other publications/sites do. As before we will list all 30 from best to worst, taking into account their record, recent trends and quality of competition, with last rankings position in parentheses.

1) San Jose- (1) The Sharks maintain their top spot overall with a continuing of their excellent all around play. Great PP/PK and undefeated at home. Quickest team to reach 50 points in league history. That all said, it won't mean a lick if they are knocked out early (again) from the post season!

2) Detroit- (3) A modest 'jump' from the 3rd spot. If not for the Sharks they would be fighting Boston for the top spot. Biggest problem though remains in net. They are winning despite getting mediocre goaltending. Also chelios is back! Identical road and home records is a good indication that the Champs are still a team to be reckoned with.

3) Boston- (8) It was a tough call to place the B's in 3rd behind the Wings, but with the loss of forward Patrice Bergeron can Phil Kessel continue to carry the offensive load? They have lost but once in their past 10 (To Washington) and appear to have a strangle hold on their grip on the NE division with a 10 point bulge.

4) Chicago- (12) Since their early struggles the Hawks have been one of the best teams in the NHL. Moving up 8 slots in our poll. The Jan 1 game at Wrigley is shaping up to be a classic battle! The special teams for Quenville's boys are performing at a high level and they are getting solid goaltending from both Huet and Khabibulin. The ladder stifling temporarily trade talk. Nice to see the rebirth of hockey in The Windy City!

5) Philadelphia- (18) The Broad Street bullies rocketed up our chart with a very solid 6 weeks, especially their last 10 when they have dropped but once in regulation to move within 3 pts of the division leading Rangers (with 3 games in hand). Highly regarded prospects Carter/Richards are now stars to go along with one of the best slate of forwards in the NHL. Imagine if Briere were healthy?

6) New Jersey- (10) Who saw this coming? We apparently sure didn't!devils-done. Not only have they maintained their playoff position since Brodeur got hurt, but they actually have improved. Going 7-2-1 in their past 10 as previous AHL-er Scott Clemmensson has grabbed the #1 goalie position with Brodeur-like stats. Zac Parise is showing he is a legit NHL star! Brent Sutter adding Adams Trophy votes by the day!

7) Washington- (17) Have moved up 10 spots with a very solid 6 weeks solidifying their grasp on the still pathetic se-division even with an incredible slew of injuries that at one point claimed 4 of their 6 starting defensemen. After a pedestrian start, MVP Ovechkin has been looking like last year. Still questions remain, especially with regard to their goaltending and under performing Nylander eating up valuable cap space.

8) NY Rangers- (6) Drop slightly with lack luster play of late. If not for the extra session heroics the Rangers would be even lower. They have only won 4 games in regulation since our last poll, but are lights out in OT/SO's! Their PP is horrendous, but have the best PK in the league thanks in large part to Lundqvist who is having another Vezina quality season. The Rangers will need to step up their scoring to be considered a true threat

9) Calgary- (9) The Flames stay put at 9. Playing overall solidly, but unspectacular. Going 5-2-3 in their past 10. Still expectations are high in Cow-town and Iron Mike isn't happy despite being in first in the tough/even NW Division

10) Montreal- (2) The Habs have come back to Earth the past few weeks. Not in small part from several injuries depleting them. Also Alex Kovalev is having a bad season at a bad time for himself as a UFA after this season. They are now 10 big points from Boston. They also need to address an uncharacteristically weak PP.

11) Anaheim- (5) The Ducks drop 6 spots in our latest rankings. Not looking like an elite team, but staying very much in the thick of the playoff race. Four of their recent losses have been road defeats at the hands of Detroit, Chicago and San Jose. Still, if you're going to be a Cup threat those are the teams Randy Carlyle's team will have to beat. That said enforcer George Parros is having a 'monster season' with 3 goals/8 points!

12) Carolina- (11) Pretty much stay put from last poll. New coach for the Canes since then, but their play hasn't worsened or improved with the switch. Going an unimpressive 4-3-3 in their last 10. Rod Brind'Amour leads the league in faceoff win percentage but he's last with a minus-21 rating. Not good Rod!

13) Pittsburgh- (14) Had a brief surge, but have fallen back again recently going a very poor 4-5-1 in their past 10. Its too bad they can't play the Islanders more often. Injuries have been a problem, but Marc-Andre Fleury is back now so we should see the pens return to form. On the positive side Geno Malkin has continued his torrid MVP type pace he had the second 1/2 of last season

14) Vancouver- (20) The Canucks are still within 1 point of first which is remarkable since they have been without all star goalie Roberto Luongo fir the past few weeks, which included a long road trip. If they can weather that storm, and the addition of Mats Sundin the Canucks should be able to stay in the mix all season

15) Phoenix- (26) Gretzky's crew have rebounded nicely from their perennial bad start and are now back among the top 8 in the very tough West. Going 6-2-2 in their past 10 contests. Ed Jovanovski in particular is having a renaissance season of sorts. Hopefully for their fans they can stay right in it.

16) Buffalo- (4) The boys from up-state NY have fallen considerably from when we last ranked all the teams. Their special teams have been fine, but 5-5 the sabres have been very poor. Surprising since they have a lot of team speed. Thomas Vanek is on pace to score 65 goals, but Maxim Afinogenov is on pace for 3. Not good. Playing only 1 game above .500 at HSBC

17) Nashville- (15) The Preds staying right in the mix despite playing at or near .500 the past 2-3 weeks. Talent-wise, the Preds maybe in the bottom third of the league, but nobody competes harder than a Barry Trotz team. Shea Weber playing Norris calibre defense; Leading defenders in goals AND points and a +12

18) Florida- (25) The Panthers have rebounded the past 2 weeks from the dump heap. Going a solid 7-2-1 in the past 10 to salvage their playoff hopes (3 pts out). The most impressive is that most of those W's have come on the road. Jay Bouwmeester has been red hot finally earning the preseason praise we gave and increasing the trade rumours. When did Craig Anderson become good?

19) Colorado- (21) The Avalanche have been much better than they were in our first poll, but treading water recently. Going 5-4-1 in their past 10. Playing quite a few of those games on the road. The Sakic freak injury hurts. A mere 2 points from the playoffs. Right where we expected them to be in out preseason predictions

20) Minnesota- (7) One of the biggest declines in our rankings. The Wild have been in virtual free fall going 2-7-1 and falling from 1st to out of the playoffs in a short 2-3 weeks. They can't score (unless they play the Islanders) and Gaborik continues to be in and out with an assortment of injuries. Are the gum chewers (Lemaire) days numbered?

21) Toronto- (16) The Maple Leafs (so far) have refused to give up and die as their media expected. Going a respectable 6-4 in their past 10 to hang around the playoff race. However if Toskala is out for any length of time all bets are off as CuJo is looking every bit like a goalie over 40. The trade rumours of everyone will likely commence in earnest soon!

22) Dallas- (23) Was Sean Avery really the problem there? It would seem so as the Avery-less Stars have climbed back into playoff contention (4 pts out) with a 6-3-1 run. Marty Turco's success or failure is the real team barometer for them! With Sean gone who/what will next be the excuse if they fail?

23) Columbus- (27) A bit of a jump from 27th last time around. A mere 3 points from the playoffs right now, but have not played all that great recently. They haven't won or lost more than three in a row all season. Steve Mason continues his strong play in net, but the team's inability to hold on to leads has to be troubling for coach Hitchcock

24) Los Angeles- (29) Have avoided any long losing streaks to stay respectable, but their 3-8 road record needs improving before we'd say they are real playoff threat. They also have to stop giving up the first goal (The Kings have the worst winning percentage (.071) in the NHL when the opposition scores first 1-9-4). Bright spot is Anze Kopitar who has had a nice few weeks

25) Edmonton- (13) Another team that has taken a precipitous fall from our previous ranking. So much so that there is now a 'McTavish watch'. Only 4 points from playoff position, but the Oil have been anything but impressive recently, and nothing like what was expected in preseason polls. Of course they have been on the road for almost the past month. Going a reasonable 10-9. Lets see if home cooking changes their fate.

26) Ottawa- (22) Another team that might have a new coach before long. Craig Hartsberg's squad is falling into obscurity in the East. 8 big points from the 8th spot and falling. 3-8-2 road record is one problem. Absolutely ZERO secondary scoring is another. Amazingly their goaltending has not been an issue.

27) St. Louis- (24) Already thin on talent, injuries have hampered the Blues to the point that they have won but 3 of their past 10 games and now in dead last in the West. Andy Murray appears to be on very thin ice blasting his team publicly. Their specialty teams are actually good. Its 5-5 where the Blues, well sing the blues. Sorry.

28) Atlanta- (30) The best of the bottom feeders. The Thrashers have won 3 of their past 10 to fall 11 points from a playoff spot(out of it) The Kovolchuk rumours won't go away. Unfortunately we have yet to read a rumour that inept GM Don Waddell is on the way out. If Ilya is traded the franchise should be forced to either fold or relocate as they'll have no fans left!

29) Tampa Bay- (19) The Lightning should thank the NY Islanders. Without them they'd still be the worst team. Since our last rankings they have fallen like a rock. Little did they know that Melrose wasn't the problem, just a symptom. They have won but 1 game in their last 10. They continue to be snake bit(or suck) in OT/SO. Losing an incredible 9 games that way. If they won all of them, they'd be a mere 5 points from #8, not 14.

30) NY Islanders- (28) With the fewest points of any other NHL team (3) in their past 10 games the Isles find themselves in the basement of the NHL and our poll. Like St. Louis an already thin on talent team has sustained more than their fair share of injuries. Starting with All star goalie DiPietro who is still gone from their lineup. To add injury to that insult their best player Doug Weight was recently lost to an undisclosed injury. A lottery(bottom 5) pick is all but assured


Antzmarching said...

Screw the rest of the list, as I just want to comment only on #30... Isn't this a pathetic joke of an organization? I remember having a discussion with one of your "once" regular contributors named Sauce about a year ago regarding the miserable state the Isles were in... He reassured us that ALL of the young talent would have the Isles on their way back to glory... Seriously, how is that working out for Mr. Wang and Snowflake? Give me a break, this team has no youth that is worth speaking of... Weight is the best player on the team as he enters his 40s and now he's out with an injury... The Islanders may only win a handful of games from now to the end of their schedule... Please Sauce, DON'T feel free to compare Okposo and Tambellini to Ovechkin and Semin again - its embarrassing!


1) Most Islander fans we speak to didn't have high expectations for this season, but didn't think they would be this far out of it this soon.

2) To be fair how many teams in the NHL can compete at a high level with their #1 player/goalie out for the entire season(up till now)? In addition it seems every other player has been out of their lineup at some point.
3) As we wrote, they didn't have the deepest team to start with and they can't compete when they suffer so many injuries. As for the prospects, its really only been 1 season or less since the new approach so the cupboard has yet to fully be restocked. Which means another 2-3 seasons until they are ready to compete again.

Improvedliving said...

Screw the rest of the list, as I just want to comment only on #30... Isn't this a pathetic joke of an organization?

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