We have finally reached the point of the season where you can make solid judgements about teams. It’s no longer a bad start, or a lucky run, teams have now played through streaks and have finally balanced out. Let’s take a look at how they have done and what they could be doing next.
Philiadelphia – It took some time, and different combinations but the Flyers are looking to be the juggernaut of the East. The two kids Claude Giroux and Ville Leino keep pace with last years playoffs and both are point per game while sitting 2nd and 3rd in team scoring behind captain Mike Richards. Out scoring Washington and fourth in goals against per game (Bobrovsky…who?), Paul Holmgren, drunk on success, places several calls a day to Brian Burke, offering random players for Thomas Kaberle before giggling and hanging up.
Washington – Ovechkin is 2nd in team scoring to Alexander Semin, didn’t see that one coming. Not that any of that matters if your general game plan is to ignore your own end, play the same 6 players all game and hope to outscore the opponent. Until goaltending and defensive work get some attention the Caps are not a cup threat.
Montreal – Huge surprise team so far this year and now Carey Price is the greatest goalie EVER! So long as not a single weak goal or losing stretch ever occurs. But no need to worry, with Martin behind their bench good regular seasons are a gimmie, playoff success not so much.
Oh yeah, someone want to tell Canadiens fans that this is hockey, not soccer? Maybe then they will stop that idiotic “Ole” before it rubs off on other teams. (looking at you Ottawa)
Detroit – It just isn’t fair, they are getting old and looked to be fading as of last season then they have to come back this year and pull this. Even Lidstrom is on pace for the best season of his entire career and that’s saying something for the best of a generation. GO AWAY! Your time to be good was done when Stevie Wonder retired, time for someone else to have a chance.
Columbus – …What? This high…are you sure? …you mean the team with 4 playoff games in club history? 5th overall? I guess Steve Mason really turned it on. What? Mathieu Garon is 6-1 with 10 goals against, 3 shutouts and a .950 save percentage? I’m speechless. They must be filling the arena every night with this team…
Tampa Bay – A lot of people want to give Yzerman credit for this one but he didn’t draft Stamkos or pick up St. Louis and that’s the only thing going right at this point. This could be a legendary season in Tampa if Stamkos keeps pace, but if he doesn’t, they are done.
Pittsburgh: Crosby is Crosby, Malkin is missing and Letang is better than Gonchar. Weak spot is Fleury for the second year in a row, but with a capable backup and Jordan Staal returning at some point, they can wait. Fleury has proven he can deliver the crucial save when the chips are down so there is a strong chance for another ring.
St. Louis: Halak it. Halak it a lot. If the offence ever starts to consistently produce, 5th in goal against, 21st in goals for, look for the Blues to soar, but with no big star power in the lineup a deep run in April will be hard.
Phoenix – One this day the Phoenix homepage offers this: Star Wars: Clone Wars night! November 27th, 6:00pm. In other words the marketers have given up. “Hey everyone, come watch a cartoon, all you have to put up with is little bit of hockey afterwards.” It’s a shame really, one exciting team with a terrific goalie and Lee goddamn Stempniak leading with 7 goals, doubling his total with the Leafs.
Boston – I will not mention the trade. Thomas has been… the best goalie in the league bar none, and the backup, Rask, has been damn solid as well. Possibly the best goalie pairing in recent history. Neither of them even drafted by the organization, feel bad for whoever gave up that Rask kid.
Los Angeles – My preseason pick for the cup drew some odd looks from friends, but not looking so bad now. Just like Chicago, the Kings have been drafting high for years and their top end talent is hitting their prime. Quick in a groove, Bernier learning the league and Justin Williams, the most under rated 30 goal scorer in the league, added with Kopitar, Doughty and captain Brown, the league should fear this team.
Vancouver – The Sedins keep up their explosive pace, finally living up to their draft positions. However, Raymond, Kessler and Burrows struggle to find their groove. Even if they find it an often less than mediocre Luongo will prevent them from making a serious run unless he returned to form or Schneider finally get rewarded for his patience.
Colorado – Ah, Mr. Anderson, I see you have kept up the solid effort behind an ever more talented Colorado team. Forget the kids and up and comers for now, Milan Hejduk is on pace for his best season since scoring 50 in 2002-03, with 23points in 21games.
Rangers – How? I mean how? How does Glen Sather still have a job? I cannot think of a single quality team he has iced in the last 10 years. Forget his mind boggling signings, the team this year has at least some potential, they will make the playoffs but unless he manages to dump more bad contracts in Montreal, his team won’t win it all.
San Jose – Oh San Jose, it has finally happened. Your playoff ineptitude has followed you to the regular season. True 15th overall is still playoff bound, but why bother? Shocker: Niemi is terrible. Should have realized that when Chicago dumped him after winning the cup. Oh, I hear Toskala is eager to get to the league if you ever to replace him with something similar.
Chicago – Goal scoring good. Goal stopping bad. Someone needs to remind Chicago that there are 2 ends to the rink and Turco is not what he used to be. Rumour is the next move made by GM Stan Bowman, son of Scotty, is to dump his next breakout player in Atlanta for a second bucket of pucks, which will promptly be split between Florida and Rockford.
Dallas – So much talent and potential, so little money. With Brendan Morrow still struggling climb back from his devastating injury a few seasons ago and all the whispers about player movement and ownership troubles, there isn’t much hope for the playoffs. Even less so when your best goalie is Andrew Raycroft.
Atlanta – Far surpassing my expectations the Thrashers have won multiple games this season, some of them in succession. I am not sure how, probably due to Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien arriving with cup rings and combining for 43 points in 22 games. With almost the entire young core of this team acquired from great pro scouting Atlanta may be a silent threat this season. Of course, the silence is mainly due to an empty arena. Kovalchuk may have been a curse, if not sure just as Lou Lamoriello.
Anaheim – Wrap your head around this one – Solid goaltending, top 4 players are point per game or very close. Saku Koivu and Jason Blake could be in for 40-50 point seasons, not bad for second/third line vets. Top 3 defensemen are playing relatively well, yet the team sits outside the playoffs with 3 more games played then both Dallas and San Jose.
Minnesota – Get this, ¼ into the season and Marin Havlat is uninjured a new record! But past injuries seem to have taken their toll as he sits with only 3 goals so far. Mikko Koivu’s fast start has slowed and Brent Burns, while back to putting up points, has done so by forgoing his defensive responsibilities as is -6 on the year. Looks like this will be another terrific year for Backstrom will be wasted by a talent starved lineup.
Nashville – As the 3rd lowest scoring team in the league it is clear what they need to do, score. No one has more than 5 goals. No one. Only 2 players are in double digits, Cal O’Reilly (13) and Steve Sullivan (10). This is what happened when a predator has no teeth, unless there is some massive turnaround from the entire forward cast, this season is already over for the bottom feeders of the very tough Central division.
Ottawa – This team reminds me of a fourwheeler stuck in the mud, just spinning their tires. They seem to get momentum for a game or two then proceed to slide back into the same old rut. Love it, Alfredsson is -5, Gonchar -12, Spezza has just 14 points, Kovalev only makes an effort occasionally and Fisher is -8 wth only 8 points. Goaltending is inconsistent and not a single young player looks NHL ready.
Carolina – Poor Eric Staal, poor Cam Ward and poor Paul Maurice. These are 3 people who will never get the respect they deserve a quality team. Most every player is on the wrong side of even, however early returns from Jeff Skinner offer some hope down the line. But will it be this year? Not likely.
Toronto – Exaggerated start, exaggerated slump and neither a good example of what to expect from this team. The arrival of what seems to be solid goaltending and consistent effort from scoring lines and desperation callup of Kadri seems to have sparked the Boys in Blue into action. One thing is clear, every prospect in the system is shopping for property in Boston, Anaheim, Calgary and St. Louis, since that is where most will end up.
Buffalo – Sophomore slumps and net with no Miller started the Sabres off slow but good work from Roy and Vanek offered hope to a quick rebound once Miller returned. Lindy Ruff is still the best coach in the East, working with very little he is turning them around once again.
Florida – Injuries seem to have taken a toll on Booth and Frolik leads all with a measly 13points. At Least Vokoun has been rock solid, and most every player is +1 or higher. If they ever get a legitimate goal scorer they may make it to 9th in the east.
Calgary – Where to start… The Sutters have combined for the worst sibling combo in managerial history, then, to spare him shame, they ship Brett Sutter to Carolina. This team is poorly coached and has what may be the worst GM in the league today. I knew they wouldn’t be good, but I didn’t think they would be this bad.
New Jersey – I know what’s going on here, just one look at the roster will tell you. The Devils are prepping for the most epic of comebacks in NHL history. They have to be. I mean Parise, elias, Kovalchuk, Zajac, Langenbruner, Rolston, Brodeur, Arnott…. That, or someone made a huge mistake and they don’t want to admit it. Either way it will be memorable.
Edmonton – They are… not last? How in the hell did that happen? No scoring, no defense and no real hope, how did anyone manage to be any worse?
NY Islanders – 14 straight losses. One more and they will go the entire month of November without a win. I would like to insert a joke here, but it just seems mean. After all, they do that every game night. This team could possibly go down as the worst in the history of the NHL. Not a fitting place for the Next One.
There you have it; that took forever. I need a drink.