Before the current collective bargaining agreement with its salary cap was put in place, an anonymous league GM predicted the new NHL would be a paradise of parity. Boy, was he right. Take the results from the last week for example. Of the top 15 teams in the rankings last week, 11 produced losing records, including each of the first nine (7-15-2). The top 15 teams went 14-26-5. Conversely, the bottom 15 went 34-17 and only three sported losing records.
The power rankings will be updated every Tuesday.
1. Detroit Red Wings (15-6-2; Previous: 2) – They feasted on division foes last year, going 23-4-5 on the way to a sixth straight Central crown. It may not be as easy this time. They already have more losses against immediate rivals (4-5-2) than all last season.
2. Ottawa Senators (16-5-1; Previous: 1) – Subpar goaltending, at least that's the opinion of coach John Paddock who yanked Martin Gerber after allowing a tying goal during an eventual loss to Philadelphia, has provided impetus to recent 1-3-1 stretch.
3. Philadelphia Flyers (13-8-2, Previous: 10) – Daniel Briere is bringin' it in Philly. The ex-Sabre has five goals and 10 points during a current four-game scoring streak. He's the team leader now in points with 29.
4. Dallas Stars (13-7-4; Previous: 19) – League's hottest team is not only encouraged from positive results since front-office shakeup, but also the fact they rank in the top-10 in positive goal-differential, penalty-killing success and power-play prowess.
5. Carolina Hurricanes (13-8-3; Previous: 3) – Special teams have been less than stellar – three power-play goals allowed in two of the last three games and 0-for-6 on the power play in the last two – have 'Canes playing their last eight like their distant cousins, the Forever .500s.
6. Montreal Canadiens (12-8-3; Previous: 4) – After seven-goal explosion against Boston, Habs' offense produces no more than two goals in three of the next four – losing three, including both ends of home-and-home series against Sabres.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (12-9-2, Previous: 7) – Really, a 2-2-2 showing for a difficult six-game trip is a step in the right direction for a team that's building confidence, and now plays six of seven, eight of 10 and 11 of their next 14 contests at home.
8. Vancouver Canucks (12-9-2, Previous: 15) – Loss at St. Louis on Friday was team's first in regulation in more than three weeks, then they bounce back to shut out a hot, yet tired Chicago team Sunday.
9. San Jose Sharks (11-8-3; Previous: 6) – Twelve times – more than half of their 22 games – they've been held to two or fewer goals. Inconsistent first passes out of the zone and continued underachieving by a number of veteran forwards the culprit.
10. New York Islanders (12-8-1; Previous: 5) – Offensive woes spreading all across New York as Isles haven't scored more than two goals in nine consecutive games (4-4-1) and now have a league-low 51 for the season.
11. New York Rangers (13-9-2; Previous: 8) – This team scored five goals on opening night and never more than four since. The amazing challenge to score goals continues with no more than two in each of their last four outings. Sixteen times it's been two or fewer goals scored in games this season.
12. St. Louis Blues (13-8; Previous: 18) – Winners currently in six out of seven have allowed two or fewer goals in all but one game (and surrendered only three that night) while going 37-for-39 on the penalty kill. Typical Andy Murray coached team – solid defensively and good with details.
13. Anaheim Ducks (11-9-4; Previous: 13) – With Ryan Getzlaf extended and safe from any sort of free agency until 2014, GM Brian Burke now must weave his salary-cap dodging magic to keep Corey Perry from being eligible for the restricted free-agent market next summer.
14. Boston Bruins (12-8-2; Previous: 17) – Another consequence of their non-aggressive attack: Team has managed six power-play chances in only one game out of the last 15, and have been limited to three or fewer power-play opportunities in eight of those matches.
15. Minnesota Wild (12-9-2; Previous: 9) – Displeased not only with results but with a lack of grit, GM Doug Risebrough plucks journeyman forward Todd Fedoruk off the waiver wire and warns it's not the last move if things don't improve.
16. Colorado Avalanche (12-9-1; Previous: 11) – Major power-play drought – 0-for-24 over the last five games through Saturday's loss to Calgary, the team's fourth defeat in five games.
17. Nashville Predators (11-9-2; Previous: 14) – A successful 5-1-2 stretch during eight straight against Central rivals has the Preds thinking they can compete for a fourth straight playoff appearance instead of taking a year off to rebuild.
18. Buffalo Sabres (11-10-1; Previous: 25) – Last year Thomas Vanek had a career year, not only scoring 43 goals but posting an obscene plus-47. He's earning $10 million this year. And his plus-minus after a quarter of the season was minus-3.
19. New Jersey Devils (11-10-2; Previous: 24) – Four straight wins in regulation feature typical numbers from goalie Martin Brodeur – 1.25 goals-against average and .955 save percentage – and propels team back into thick of playoff chase.
20. Columbus Blue Jackets (11-9-4; Previous: 16) – Under the tutelage of Ken Hitchcock, who celebrated his one-year anniversary as coach of the team last week, Jackets are 39-38-9. Before Hitchcock, they were 144-229-33-24, for a .401 winning percentage. Enough said.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins (10-11-2; Previous: 22) – Pens win consecutive games for first time since Oct. 19-23 when they won three straight before taking five-night hiatus. Evgeni Malkin's 15-game point streak (seven goals, 22 points) comes to an end, however.
22. Tampa Bay Lightning (10-11-2; Previous: 12) – Team of streaks has gone like this over their last 15 games: winless in six (0-5-1), winners of five straight in regulation, and currently winless in four (0-3-1) with three straight losses in regulation.
23. Calgary Flames (10-11-3; Previous: 23) – And now a word from coach Mike Keenan: "I feel the team has underachieved. Our expectations going into the season were much higher than the results we're getting at this point. Sometimes, you can build expectations that are too high … that aren't achievable."
24. Atlanta Thrashers (11-12; Previous: 21) – Four-game winning streak elevates team over .500 for the first time, but comes to a screeching halt with back-to-back shutout losses to New Jersey and at Pittsburgh within 48 hours.
25. Phoenix Coyotes (11-10; Previous: 28) – Talk about a team responding to a move. Not only are they 4-0 since plucking Ilya Bryzgalov off waivers from Anaheim, but 'Yotes are averaging 37 shots per game during streak.
26. Florida Panthers (11-12-1; Previous: 27) – First GM/coach Jacques Martin has to stave off Olli Jokinen trade rumors, then reports of team dissention. "When you look at the last few weeks, we're going in the right direction. We're doing a lot of the little things right. You want to write there's dissention? Well that's news to me," Martin said.
27. Edmonton Oilers (10-13-1; Previous: 29) – Team's rallying cry should be "Let's Get Into The Shootout!" Why? They are a league-best 6-1 during the post-overtime penalty-shot format to decide games tied after 65 minutes.
28. Toronto Maple Leafs (8-11-5, Previous: 20) – In one breath Paul Maurice says he can't imagine coaching anywhere in the NHL besides T.O., and in another he offers this: "The media is so passionate, so opinionated and so sure of themselves and (the fans) work a nine-hour (job) and expect to do mine on the side. I don't know how they get my email but I made a line change recently and got an email within two hours from someone who said, 'That's what I've been saying you should do'."
29. Los Angeles Kings (9-13-1, Previous: 26) – Dean Lombardi returns from a three-week scouting mission and is not happy with what he sees. Team's current 1-5-1 streak (through Monday) may motivate disgruntled GM to make some moves.
30. Washington Capitals (8-15-1, Previous: 30) – Change in head coach sparks team to first winning streak – even if it was a modest two-gamer – for first time since opening the season with three straight victories.