[Author's note: Power rankings in general are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
6. Ahem, “mild” concussions
Dougie Hamilton has one, according to Claude Julien, and given the things we know now about the ways in which brain injuries work, maybe it's time to stop downplaying things.
Here's a fun fact: This isn't salsa and there's no such thing as mild.
Every concussion is a big deal. Even if this particular one hasn't kept Hamilton home in a dark room with his eyes closed, the next one might, or maybe the one after that. Medical professionals, who have a little bit more training in the area than an NHL coach, currently have no system in place for grading the severity of a concussion, which can manifest itself symptomatically in all kinds of different ways. Because no one can pinpoint the exact play on which Hamilton was concussed, and because he's not actively throwing up every time he tries to walk, it seems as if this is no big deal.
Now, of course, one assumes that the team's medical personnel are the ones who briefed Julien on Hamilton's status and they would know better than him what does and does not constitute a more serious concussion.
Calling it “mild” sets perhaps unreasonable expectations for recovery time, that could be days or weeks. We all know how much Boston fans want to see guys get over concussions nice and quickly; they were bitching about Max Pacioretty and Brooks Orpik for weeks.
The NHL is now full-on promoting the Los Angeles Stadium Series game, with the memories of how awful the Winter Classic was now safely buried under a foot of Ann Arbor snow because of how nice it looked in a picture-postcard kind of way.
More of the same is apparently slated for Dodger Stadium, as there will be the following things on the field to distract you from how bad and awful hockey played outside in 70-degree weather is: A beach volleyball pit, a pool, a street hockey rink, a big spinny thing that shoots off fireworks or something.
“Whatever you do,” they all scream in unison, “do not look at the two inches of water in which Ryan Getzlaf is currently trying to skate.”
The good news is that the game will move very quickly indeed, as the standing water will successfully slow any clearing attempts to a stop well before they reach the goal line. Very appropriate. If there's barely going to be ice, there might as well not be icing either.
4. Brotherly hate
Speaking of the Kings, Dustin Brown and Ryan Kesler settled a little bit of bad blood in that ultra-violent game between the Kings and Canucks on Monday, after Brown “bumped into” Roberto Luongo and knocked him out of the teams' last meeting.
One problem: They're Olympic teammates.
You'll recall that in the wake of the roster announcements last time around, David Backes went on a bit of a scalp-hunting campaign against every decent Canadian player in the lineup against him on any given night, and was roundly applauded for fighting all of them. Makes sense. You want to see that kind of bad blood between countries on some level; hate makes for good hockey, as Monday's entertaining-as-hell LA/Vancouver game clearly illustrates.
This time around, the US players seem confused. Hey idiots, you're supposed to be running Luongo and fighting Doughty, not fighting each other. What's next? Cam Fowler skating 65 miles an hour into Jonathan Quick?
And the worst part of it is Dan Bylsma's reaction: “We had a scout at the game who gave Dustin Brown a five in the game which is the highest rating you can get in the game. He talked about the battle. His comment was, ‘If this is what Team USA will do to each other, then wait until they get Canada on the other side.’”
Yeah, just wait, Canada. You'll have to play the US with a concussed Brown and broken-handed Kesler watching from home. Look out.
3. Strength of schedule
Strength of schedule is something you tend to hear more about as the season moves along. This team has played the hardest schedule so far, this team has had it easy, and so on. This is often based on the compiled records of the teams they've played, which isn't always predictive of very much because teams can have records that belie how good or bad they in fact are. This is less of an issue this late in the season — for the most part teams are what the standings now say they are — but the teams that are right around mediocrity can certainly move up and down enough to effect the outcomes of the final standings.
To this end, stats blogger Travis Yost compiled the score-adjusted fenwick ratings (that is, the number of non-blocked shot attempts with any score effects taken out) of every team in the league and used that to determine strength of schedule. This should, effectively, tell us who's going to have the easiest and hardest paths to the playoffs.
Tampa, San Jose, Vancouver, New York, and Florida have it easiest, and that's going to impact the East playoff race heavily, as the Bolts and Rangers are likely to continue racking up wins and putting some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack of so-so teams behind them.
Meanwhile, the hardest final 35 games or so belong to Minnesota, Washington, Colorado, Philadelphia, and Toronto, meaning that the chances they hang around the playoff picture is going to be diminishing heavily in the coming weeks.
What's amazing is that basically all those teams will be affected appreciably by having those super-hard schedules going forward. Minnesota and Colorado should have their knives out for each other, because whichever one doesn't finish third in Conference III is probably going to play the No.1 team in the West in the first round, which is to say they're looking at a one-and-done playoff appearance.
Meanwhile, Washington, Philly, and Toronto are within three points of each other and none are exactly playing the most overwhelming hockey you've ever seen. The fact is that two of them are still probably going to make the playoffs because of the idiotic format, barring hard charges from Ottawa (ninth-easiest remaining schedule) or New Jersey (seventh-easiest), who are themselves four points back.
As close as three or four points sounds, it's actually a lot, but this kind of information shows just how likely or unlikely teams are to achieve their goals. I wouldn't count on the Wild here.
2. Sticking your head in the sand
In furtherance of that point about the Leafs, Tim Leiweke went on the radio Monday, following a Leafs shootout win over the Devils, and said a number of increasingly ludicrous things about the quality of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's eponymous hockey club.
Chief among them, perhaps, was his insistence that October — when the Leafs went 10-4 despite being terrible — was not a fluke. That the team has gone 12-16-5 since then is, therefore, the fluke part of their season, which is a theory that of course does not stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. It's one thing, I think, to say, “We're not as bad as our record indicates.”
They aren't, but that's a relatively harmless thing to say and at the end of the day it at least doesn't come off as needlessly arrogant and dismissive of the last two and a half months' worth of results.
To say that October is the real quality of the Leafs is silly, but the reason why he thinks that is even sillier: Dave Bolland has been hurt. Bolland went 6-4-10 in the Leafs' first 15 games, and was much better than most people expected him to be; mainly because he shot 22.2 percent in that time.
You wonder what the Leafs' explanation when he doesn't magically keep shooting at about twice his career numbers, and the Leafs keep not-winning in regulation, will be. It could be “ghosts.”
1. The mediocrest of mediocre free agents
You all are about to get PAID.
The Florida Panthers say they can finally spend to the cap, and what happened the last time they went on a shopping spree? One of their biggest acquisitions was Scottie Upshall.
Is Upshall a bad hockey player? Nope. Is he a good one? Also nope. He is, in fact, the league's most middling player this season. And yet his current contract pays him $3.5 million, as it has each of the last two seasons, and next season as well.
So if you're a guy who plays like 16 minutes a night and is about a 30- or 35-point player, who's going to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, make sure your agent has Dale Tallon on speed dial.
(Not ranked this week: Paul Maurice, Steven Stamkos signing with the Leafs 60 years from now, the Devils' new stats guy trying to tell Lou Lamoriello he shouldn't play Marty Brodeur so much, the shocks on Shaq's Zamboni, Meadowlark Scuderi, Holding taxpayers hostage, having Valeri Nichushkin in the Olympics, the Quebec Remparts, playing your best defenseman as a forward, committing to college at 13, sending the wrong Sedin to the box, anyone who's not Nathan MacKinnon winning the Calder.)