NHL Power Rankings: Capitals back on top …
We’ve got our first coach firing – Scott Gordon, we hardly knew ya. We’ve got more suspensions. And we’ve got a new All-Star Game format that won’t do anything to breathe life into an event that lost its luster 20 years ago.
We’ve also got a list that features the Washington Capitals finding their way back on top for the third time in four rankings this season. And the New Jersey Devils finally have found their way out of the basement.
3. Vancouver Canucks (10-4-2, Previous: 9) – Contract talks with Christian Ehrhoff(notes) are on hold because the German-born puck-moving defenseman won’t buy into the hometown discount to keep as much talent on a Stanley Cup-caliber lineup as possible.
4. Los Angeles Kings (12-4-0, Previous: 1) – A franchise-record 8-0-0 start at home. A good start is nice, but you never want to be playing your best hockey in November.
6. St. Louis Blues (9-4-3, Previous: 3) – Interesting timing. With one goal in 13 games coming off a sub-par season in which he netted 17 goals, David Backes(notes) bags a five-year, $22.5 million contract extension.
7. San Jose Sharks (9-5-2, Previous: 12) – Antti Niemi(notes) killed the Sharks in the playoffs as a Blackhawk last spring and he was killing them again this season (as a Shark) again until Saturday night.
10. Chicago Blackhawks (9-9-2, Previous: 6) – The circus comes to town and the ‘Hawks are kicked out on the road for six games. Could be the best thing for a team finding there is such a thing as a Stanley Cup hangover.
11. Anaheim Ducks (10-7-2, Previous: 29) – Randy Carlyle says the team’s new identity is a hard forecheck followed by dogged determination on the puck. And here we thought the Ducks’ resurgence could be chalked up to Teemu Selanne(notes) skating like a 22-year-old.
12. Boston Bruins (9-5-1, Previous: 8) – So a female fan wearing a Milan Lucic(notes) jersey kicks a hole in a bathroom at the TD Garden, and the team responds by putting a video on the team’s website reminding fans how they should act. And these are the Big, Bad Bruins?
13. Colorado Avalanche (9-7-1, Previous: 16) – Can anyone keep track of the number of concussions on this team? No one wants to use injuries as an excuse, but this is pretty crazy.
16. Nashville Predators (7-5-3, Previous: 13) – How much does Ryan Suter(notes) mean to the success of this hockey team? They experienced a five-game losing streak in his absence. And won during his return on Saturday.
17. Buffalo Sabres (7-9-3, Previous: 27) – Their only hope is the return of Ryan Miller(notes) will spark the team to more positive results. Then again, that’s a lot to ask for one player who sure could use some help.
18. Minnesota Wild (8-6-2, Previous: 22) – Don’t even think of whining about injuries. This is the slowest team in the league, and without rookie call-ups such as Casey Wellman(notes), Robbie Earl(notes) and Cody Almond(notes) Minnesota might just get stuck in the mud.
20. Phoenix Coyotes (7-5-5, Previous: 24) – In the “we-shouldn’t-be-surprised” department: The Coyotes drew an announced crowd of 9,412 in their seventh home game. Five of the crowds have been announced at less than 10,000. In other words, after opening night they’ve crested five figures in fannies only once.
21. Ottawa Senators (9-8-1, Previous: 25) – No snide comments here. The Sens are dealing with the untimely death of assistant coach Luke Richardson’s(notes) teenage daughter. Another reminder that hockey is just a game and there are much bigger things going on.
23. Calgary Flames (7-9-0, Previous: 17) – So it was a cab driver that Brett Sutter(notes) slugged in Scottsdale late last week. And guess who comes visiting on Friday? Why it’s Patrick Kane(notes) and the Blackhawks. Calgary cabbies beware!
24. Atlanta Thrashers (7-8-3, Previous: 19) – Pivotal time for the Thrashers, who play their next six games on home ice starting Wednesday night. Atlanta has to take advantage of home cookin’ even if the building is poorly attended. They’ve won just three of eight at home thus far.
25. Carolina Hurricanes (8-9-0, Previous: 21) – Much ado about nothing – anticipated changes during three days off after a lopsided loss. The bottom line is when they decided to run this with a tight budget over the summer it was a signal they’d get what they pay for – not much.
26. Florida Panthers (7-8-0, Previous: 26) – Steve Bernier(notes) is out for at least 3-4 weeks after orbital surgery as a result of Brent Burns(notes) careless butt-end, not intentional, but damaging nonetheless. Burns gets a two-game suspension. It just doesn’t seem fair, does it?
27. New Jersey Devils (5-11-2, Previous: 30) – So Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) scores his first goal in eight games on his only shot of the game on Friday against the worst team in the league and everyone is ready to exhale. Wow, how expectations have lowered in Jersey.
28. Toronto Maple Leafs (5-8-3, Previous: 14) – When you know it’s just gotten out of control: The Leafs had to deny locker-room access following Saturday’s morning skate to minimize the anticipated onslaught of questions from the media in anticipation of Nazem Kadri’s(notes) debut.
29. Edmonton Oilers (4-9-3, Previous: 28) – The only thing good about a road trip in which the team was outscored 26-10 was that sucker punch from Rangers idiot Sean Avery to the chin of Oilers defenseman Ladislav Smid(notes). Maybe the play will somehow galvanize the team and make them tougher in the long run. … Well, it was worth a try.
30. New York Islanders (4-10-3, Previous: 23) – Winless in 10 games? And just when we were all starting to believe this year might be different on Long Island. Another coaching change, another do-over.