Power rankings: ‘Tis the season …

While you’d think all most hockey players might want for Christmas is their two front teeth, it actually goes much deeper during this holiday season of gift-giving.

Players tend to put their team first, and that’s what we’ll focus on too, as this Olympic-accompanied season nears the halfway mark with a festive and mandatory two-day break in the schedule to pause, reflect and open a few presents.

Gary Bettman? Cue the elves, and let’s see what everyone received this holiday season.

Pittsburgh 1. Pittsburgh Penguins (26-11-1, Previous: 6) – Nothing, they’re already plenty gifted.


Washington 2. Washington Capitals (23-8-6, Previous: 4) – A suit of armor for Alexander Ovechkin, who looks bound and determined to keep playing his all-out style.

Chicago 3. Chicago Blackhawks (24-9-3, Previous: 3) – Maybe, just maybe, Marian Hossa(notes) picked the right team this time.


New Jersey 4. New Jersey Devils (26-8-1, Previous: 1) – Anaheim to keep going south so a certain veteran defenseman can return to join his brother and take a run similar to what the pair accomplished in 2007 as Ducks.

San Jose 5. San Jose Sharks (22-8-7, Previous: 1) – It’s not so much what they may want now as what they would really like in early-to-mid June.

Calgary 6. Calgary Flames (20-11-5, Previous: 10) – More success at home since nine wins in 16 games at the Saddledome doesn’t exactly fall under the heading of “difficult building to play in.”

Buffalo 7. Buffalo Sabres (22-11-3, Previous: 4) – More of the same from Ryan Miller(notes), who avoids last season’s injury bug in the second half.

Los Angeles 8. Los Angeles Kings (22-12-3, Previous: 13) – To wake up New Year’s Day and realize the surprising first half isn’t really a dream after all.

Boston 9. Boston Bruins (18-11-7, Previous: 12) – A balmy 30 degrees and a few snowflakes on New Year’s Day.


Detroit 10. Detroit Red Wings (18-14-5, Previous: 15) – A clean bill of health, and the realization no one really feels sorry for the rash of injuries considering all the success this franchise has had.

Colorado 11. Colorado Avalanche (21-12-6, Previous: 7) – Nothing more than simple stocking stuffers since they already owe the house with those tremendous picks of Matt Duchene(notes) and Ryan O’Reilly(notes).

Phoenix 12. Phoenix Coyotes (23-13-2, Previous: 20) – A little fan support. OK, a lot of fan support.


Vancouver 13. Vancouver Canucks (21-16-0, Previous: 22) – Success on the road because once Jan. 30 hits it’ll be 14 straight games away from the Winter Olympic city through March 10.

Nashville 14. Nashville Predators (22-12-3, Previous: 23) – Respect. Do you realize that if they sweep during regulation of a home-and-home series against the Blackhawks coming out of the Christmas break the Preds will be tied for first place in the division?

Dallas 15. Dallas Stars (16-10-11, Previous: 18) – Fewer games that require overtime and a shootout. Otherwise their legs are going to fall off by February.

New York Rangers 16. New York Rangers (18-16-3, Previous: 16) – A way to find some rest of Henrik Lundqvist(notes).



Atlanta 17. Atlanta Thrashers (18-14-4, Previous: 17) – An extension for Ilya Kovalchuk(notes).



Ottawa 18. Ottawa Senators (18-15-4, Previous: 14) – A real No. 1 goalie.


St. Louis 19. St. Louis Blues (17-14-5, Previous: 25) – A little offensive punch might me nice. Wait, no, that’s what they have now. A lot of offensive punch would be nice.


Minnesota 20. Minnesota Wild (18-16-3, Previous: 28) – Fire retardant. Lots and lots of fire retardant.


Philadelphia 21. Philadelphia Flyers (16-18-2, Previous: 8) – Here’s to a fight-filled Winter Classic to turn their season around – yeah, right.


Tampa Bay 22. Tampa Bay Lightning (13-15-9, Previous: 9) – Rekindling of the owners’ feud between Oren Koules and Len Barrie because, despite the emergence of Steven Stamkos(notes), this team was still a lot more interesting when there was in-fighting.

Montreal 23. Montreal Canadiens (18-18-3, Previous: 24) – A time machine so Scott Gomez(notes) could go back and rediscover the player he once was, or at least resemble something similar to what the Habs thought they were getting in the offseason.

Anaheim 24. Anaheim Ducks (15-15-7, Previous: 26) – An identity like they had in 2007 when they won the you-know-what.

Florida 25. Florida Panthers (16-16-7, Previous: 27) – A sniff of the playoffs.



Edmonton 26. Edmonton Oilers (15-18-4, Previous: 21) – A return to the good ‘ol glory days, even if for just one season.


Columbus 27. Columbus Blue Jackets (14-17-7, Previous: 11) – For the old Steve Mason(notes) to emerge.



New York Islanders 28. New York Islanders (14-17-7, Previous: 19) – Isn’t it obvious? At the risk of sounding unoriginal, a new arena.

Toronto 29. Toronto Maple Leafs (13-17-8, Previous: 30) – Relocation to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, until they get better, then they can return to the great microscope known as Toronto.

Carolina 30. Carolina Hurricanes (9-22-6, Previous: 29) – A complete do-over.

Ross McKeon is an NHL editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Ross a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Dec 24, 2009