The first month of the NHL season is officially over, and things got interesting really quick this week.
I don’t think I need to tell you about the major story regarding Jack Eichel’s trade to the Vegas Golden Knights. I’ve already made a post that documents my thoughts on the subject, and you can read it here. As for the rest of the league, the first clash between the top two teams in the rankings occurred, with the Florida Panthers besting the Carolina Hurricanes to end their pipedreams of an 82-0 season. The two have been deadlocked in the top two spots for the last couple weeks, but a win like this only further legitimizes the Panthers, especially with this win coming in the wake of Joel Quenneville resigning for his role in the Brad Aldrich scandal.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to round into form as their quartet of star forwards ramped up their production, while a pair of rebuilding California teams suddenly have momentum to build off of. It hasn’t been all good news, however, as the Buffalo Sabres are starting to crash back to reality, and the first NHL coach has been fired to kick off the coaching carousel early.
So, how does the NHL stack up this time around?
Disclaimer: these rankings are based off of games played and stats recorded from November 7.
1. Florida Panthers (2): Including their big victory over the Hurricanes, the Panthers have not lost in regulation so far this season and have collected all but one possible point out of 22. The hype isn’t just real; this team may be even better than anyone could have imagined.
2. Carolina Hurricanes (1): A disappointing result against Florida, and the schedule doesn’t get much easier in the near future. I imagine their latest stint at the top of the rankings won’t be their last, though.
3. Edmonton Oilers (3): I’m not quite as sold on the Oilers as I am on the two teams in front of them, but they’ve been getting plenty of contributions to pair with their two stars in McDavid and Draisaitl. Also, kudos to the former for ending the Goal of the Year race early.
4. Minnesota Wild (16): The Wild are the big risers in the rankings this week, in large part to Kirill Kaprizov starting to find his scoring touch with a pair of goals. The comeback victories show that this Wild group has heart, but I’d like to see them put up some dominant wins before I label them a legitimate contender.
5. St. Louis Blues (4): The Blues have played well to start the year, but an unlucky West Coast trip saw them lose games to Anaheim and Los Angeles that they probably should have won. They’re passing the eye test and the statistics look great, but advanced metrics still aren’t as convinced on the Blues’ successful first month.
6. Calgary Flames (5): Another unlucky team this week, losing back-to-back overtime games against Nashville and Dallas that would have ended in victories most nights. So long as Jacob Markstrom remains a shutout machine (four in nine starts), Calgary will be up this far for at least a little while longer.
7. Tampa Bay Lightning (8): The Lightning seem to have finally found their game, picking up five of six points this week and showing that they can still score with the best of them. Good thing too; their opponents this week are the Hurricanes and Panthers.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs (18): A five-game winning streak is the perfect tonic for a fanbase that was calling for blood after a slow start. How good are the Leafs really, and can stars like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner finally get it done when it truly matters?
9. Boston Bruins (9): The Perfection Line hasn’t been perfect as of late, but the metrics suggest that the Bruins are in line for some positive regression on offense. Here’s hoping Patrice Bergeron’s four-goal game against Detroit was the beginning.
10. Philadelphia Flyers (15): The Flyers were already breathing a sigh of relief with Carter Hart bouncing back after a terrible 2020-21 season. Even more shocking, however, has been the revival of Martin Jones, who currently sports a .950 save percentage after three straight sub-.900 seasons in San Jose.
11. New York Islanders (11): The defense has been unsurprisingly superb, leading the league for fewest goals against once again. Semyon Varlamov coming back should help, but Ilya Sorokin’s play gives the Islanders time to let the veteran netminder get fully healthy.
12. Vegas Golden Knights (14): Robin Lehner has started to emerge as a legit number one netminder after an up-and down start, and he was easily the best player on a road trip where Vegas went .500. There will be questions about the makeup of this team when everyone (including Eichel) is healthy, but they have the potential to skyrocket up the rankings as long as this current group holds the line.
13. New York Rangers (6): Alberta was not kind to the Rangers, as they had five players baptized on McDavid’s insane goal in Edmonton before getting stomped by Calgary. Igor Shesterkin and Adam Fox have been great, but it’s been an incredibly inconsistent season for the Rangers in the early going.
14. Winnipeg Jets (13): Kyle Connor has led the charge for Winnipeg’s fast start, but they are another team that analytics have primed for a regression. What they need is for Connor Hellebuyck to shake off the inconsistent start and turn back into the Vezina-caliber netminder we’ve come to know.
15. Washington Capitals (7): Three of Washington’s losses this week came in one-goal games, and the Capitals have lost all four of their overtime games so far. Alex Ovechkin’s doing his best, but the injuries to Washington’s top six are starting to take their toll.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets (19): The bad news is that Patrik Laine will be out for a little while, which is unfortunate given his re-emergence as a top offensive player. The good news is that Columbus beat Colorado twice, Elvis Merzlikins has still been fantastic, and rookie Cole Sillinger looks like a legitimate building block for Brad Larsen.
17. Colorado Avalanche (10): I’m starting to get mildly concerned about the Avalanche this season. Injuries have played a part of it, but relatively poor goaltending and inconsistent offensive play are not helping Jared Bednar’s hot seat get any cooler.
18. Pittsburgh Penguins (12): The Penguins started strong, but the injuries and COVID issues are starting to pile up. They’ve gone 1-3-1 in their last five, and a stacked Metropolitan Division isn’t going to make a climb back up the standings any easier.
19. Detroit Red Wings (20): Tyler Bertuzzi has continued to produce, while Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider might just be one and two in the Calder Trophy conversation. I’d be surprised if this is a playoff team at the end of the season, but the Yzerplan is finally starting to come together.
20. Los Angeles Kings (28): Despite losing Drew Doughty and Sean Walker long-term, the Kings have fired off four straight wins. Anze Kopitar’s continued to produce up front, but who thought Jonathan Quick would turn back the clock to 2011 for a stretch?
21. Anaheim Ducks (29): Similar to their rivals in LA, the Ducks are on a four-game winning streak. Troy Terry has finally emerged as a piece of Anaheim’s short and long-term future, riding an 11-game point streak.
22. New Jersey Devils (17): Being without Jack Hughes and now Dougie Hamilton can only hurt the Devils at this point. The metrics at least are on their side, so they have some room for growth when their two stars come back healthy.
23. Nashville Predators (22): Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene have finally been producing at a level that’s at least close to worthy of their massive contracts. Despite the winning week, however, I’m still not convinced about the Predators being a serious playoff threat.
24. Vancouver Canucks (27): Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson have both started off strong in their first season in Vancouver, J.T. Miller continues to be one of the most underrated players in the league, and Thatcher Demko is starting to play up to his potential. With all that said, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser need to start producing if Vancouver wants to vault up the rankings.
25. San Jose Sharks (24): Since winning their first four games, the Sharks have gone 2-4-1. Don’t let the overall record fool you; this is still a bad team.
26. Dallas Stars (25): In an unsurprising turn of events, the Stars have still struggled to put up goals. Until the offense finally gets something going on that end of the ice, it’s impossible to truly take Dallas seriously.
27. Buffalo Sabres (21): Copy-paste the Sharks segment, except the Sabres have gone 2-4-2 since winning their first three. The foolish optimism was fun while it lasted.
28. Seattle Kraken (23): It was a week of lows for the Kraken, as they gave the Coyotes their first win this season and sank below Vegas in terms of power-play production. In case you forgot, this is what is common for an expansion team.
29. Ottawa Senators (26): The Senators went winless in their last four games, letting go of at least five goals in each one. Is this really a great time to put your statistically-best goaltender back in the minors (do I even have to say his name?)
30. Chicago Blackhawks (32): The on-ice product is still terrible, and Jeremy Colliton just became the latest casualty of the Blackhawks’ disappointing start. If things don’t pick up soon, the roster could look a lot different come March.
31. Montreal Canadiens (30): Welcome back to the NHL, Carey Price. Enjoy the dumpster fire your team has become.
32. Arizona Coyotes (32): Andre Tourigny finally has his first NHL win. He won’t get many more by the time this season is done.