NHL Power Rankings: Week 6 Edition

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Another week of the NHL season has come and gone.

For this week, the rankings will be a little bit special. Normally, I’d talk about each team’s week and why their play in that time reflects their new spot in the rankings. However, with Thanksgiving just a few days away, I figured it would be more appropriate to embrace the spirit of the holiday.

For these rankings, each team’s entry will list one thing they should be thankful for in this early part of the season. Granted, not every team has a lot to be thankful for at this point, but it’s still worth trying. Everyone needs at least some reason to celebrate.

So how does the NHL stack up this time?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded since November 21.

1. Carolina Hurricanes (1): The Hurricanes are thankful for their offseason decisions turning out correct. With the exception of Jesperi Kotkaniemi (which was more of trolling Montreal for the Sebastian Aho offer sheet business, anyway), Carolina has been rolling based off of the strong play of the likes of Frederik Andersen and Tony DeAngelo.

2. Edmonton Oilers (2): The Oilers are thankful that the offense has been as prolific as ever. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are leading a team loaded with scoring options, which is a good thing with a mid-tier defense that will be without its top player in Darnell Nurse for a little while.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (4): The Maple Leafs are thankful that the defense and goaltending are getting the job done when their offense can’t. While Toronto is sitting with a bottom-ten offense, they are currently giving up only 2.25 goals per game (only Calgary and Carolina have lower marks.)

4. Florida Panthers (6): While Sergei Bobrovsky is one reason, the Panthers are thankful that the hockey gods took mercy on Aleksander Barkov. While the Florida captain is still listed as week-to-week with a knee injury, this nasty knee-on-knee hit will not end his season.

5. Washington Capitals (8): The Capitals are thankful to John Scott for his less-than-flattering remarks towards Alex Ovechkin and the team before the season. So far this season, the Capitals are second in the Metropolitan Division, and Alex Ovechkin has passed Marcel Dionne and Brett Hull so far on the all-time goal scoring list.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning (5): The Lightning are thankful that they have experience being without key players. Despite Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point being out long-term, the Lightning are 7-1-2 in their last ten games.

7. Vegas Golden Knights (7): The Golden Knights are thankful that this current group is holding the line with the injuries to star players. Whether it’s current players in expanded roles or rookies in their first NHL tours of duty, the Knights have been lucky to receive positive contributions to stay in the early playoff conversation.

8. Calgary Flames (15): The Flames are thankful that Jacob Markstrom has been Darryl Sutter’s latest great goaltender. Markstrom has been top-two in every major goaltending stat, only trailing Toronto’s Jack Campbell in GAA and save percentage and a league-leading five shutouts.

9. Minnesota Wild (3): The Wild are thankful that their offense has picked it up, currently tied for fourth with 3.5 goals per game. Unfortunately, it’s come at the price of having the sixth-worst defense in the league, which could come to haunt them sooner or later.

10. New York Rangers (12): The Rangers are thankful that Igor Shesterkin has been bailing out the defensive corps. Despite his team having some of the worst metrics at their own end, Shesterkin has put together a .931 save percentage, good for eighth in the league.

11. Boston Bruins (9): The Bruins are thankful that Jeremy Swayman has been at least somewhat productive in his rookie season. The only question is whether he’s done enough for the Bruins to not look at bringing back Tuukka Rask when the longtime Boston netminder is healthy.

13. Colorado Avalanche (13): The Avalanche are thankful that the offense has been thriving in their current situation. Despite being without Nathan MacKinnon and other players, the Avalanche are on a four-game winning streak with 24 goals scored in that stretch.

14. Anaheim Ducks (14): The Ducks are thankful that they have exceeded expectations, headlined by a sixth-ranked offense scoring 3.39 goals per game. The winning streak is broken, however, and Max Comtois’s injury could cause some complications.

15. St. Louis Blues (10): The Blues are thankful for the hot start they had to start the year. Despite winning only twice in the last eight games, the Blues are still managing to hang on to a playoff spot in the Central.

16. Nashville Predators (17): The Predators are thankful that Matt Duchene is living up to the massive contract he signed two years ago. Coming off a mediocre couple seasons in Nashville, Duchene is currently tied for fifth in the league with 12 goals.

17. Philadelphia Flyers (19): The Flyers are thankful that Carter Hart’s down year is looking like a mirage. After being statistically the worst goaltender in the NHL last season, Hart is currently top-ten in both GAA (ninth) and save percentage (seventh).

18. Pittsburgh Penguins (24): The Penguins are thankful that they have a little momentum to go off of. After an up-and-down start to the season, Pittsburgh managed to get shutout in back-to-back games.

19. Los Angeles Kings (16): The Kings are thankful that the defense hasn’t crumbled without Drew Doughty. Despite being the streakiest team in the league, the Kings at least are giving up the seventh-lowest goals per game with 2.56.

20. New Jersey Devils (21): The Devils are thankful that Dawson Mercer has stepped up in the absence of Jack Hughes to tie for the team lead in scoring. Meanwhile, hockey fans will be thankful if these leaked alternate jerseys remain just a leak.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (22): The Blue Jackets are thankful that this team is once again managing to overachieve on low expectations. Columbus is largely led by their tenth-ranked offense, headlined by Oliver Bjorkstrand’s 17 points in 15 games.

22. Detroit Red Wings (18): The Red Wings are thankful that things are going according to schedule. Losing five of their last six is certainly not good, but Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider will both be in the running for the Calder Trophy all season long.

23. Dallas Stars (23): The Stars are thankful that karma exists. A 7-2 blowout loss to Minnesota is one thing, but what Rick Bowness did to Riley Tufte in his hometown is something that’s just inexcusable.

24. New York Islanders (20): The Islanders are thankful that UBS Arena looks nice. The bad news is that their first two games in their new home are the latest two of a six-game losing streak, were outscored 27-6 and shut out twice in that span, and have lost a top defenseman in Ryan Pulock to injury.

25. Chicago Blackhawks (25): The Blackhawks are thankful that Derek King has started to right the ship. King has gotten off to a 5-1 start since taking over for Jeremy Colliton, with Marc-Andre Fleury appearing to be the biggest beneficiary of the move (four straight appearances with two or less goals against).

26. San Jose Sharks (26): The Sharks are thankful that at least one of their goaltenders seems to be viable. While Adin Hill has struggled (.890 save percentage and 3.11 GAA), James Reimer has at least been good to start the year (.938/1.98).

27. Buffalo Sabres (27): The Sabres are thankful that the Jack Eichel saga is finally over. They likely aren’t close to a playoff team yet, but at least they now have something concrete to work their rebuild around.

28. Vancouver Canucks (28): The Canucks are thankful that Thatcher Demko has made them better than they are. There isn’t anything else positive to take away right now, starting with a league-worst 62.3% penalty kill.

29. Montreal Canadiens (30): The Canadiens are thankful that Nick Suzuki is at least doing something. Meanwhile, their other promising young forward in Cole Caufield might be better off in the AHL this season with how dreadful the team has been overall.

30. Ottawa Senators (31): The Senators are thankful that they can put this latest COVID scare behind them. Has the slow start already buried them, though?

31. Seattle Kraken (29): The Kraken are thankful that…well, they have a team. Their 2-8 record in the last ten and season-long poor goaltending is proof that Vegas was the exception to the expansion team rule.

32. Arizona Coyotes (32): The Coyotes are thankful that they’re at least looking viable. A week where they picked up seven of eight points wasn’t quite enough to take them out of the bottom slot, but at least the comparisons to the expansion Capitals have stopped.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 5 Edition

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It’s hard to believe that we’re quickly approaching the quarter mark of the 2021-22 NHL season, but here we are.

While (spoiler alert) the Carolina Hurricanes have reclaimed their top spot in the rankings, no team has gone on a roll quite like the Anaheim Ducks have. At the start of the season, the Ducks were widely considered a competitor in the Shane Wright sweepstakes, with the closest thing to in-season intrigue they were presumed to have being who would be sold off at the trade deadline. Instead, they have rattled off seven wins in a row, but they haven’t done it on the back of John Gibson. The offense has finally found its legs, with Troy Terry emerging as a legitimate star. While it’s not certain if the Ducks or any of the early-season surprises, for that matter, can keep this run of form going, but those storylines are what make the NHL so exciting year after year.

Of course, not all surprises are of the good variety. The Florida Panthers followed up a dramatic victory over Carolina with a winless week, the Pittsburgh Penguins are starting to show how important their injured players truly are, and the Vancouver Canucks have gone through one of the ugliest stretches of the season. Then there’s the Arizona Coyotes, who are worse than anyone could have possibly imagined. The Coyotes, at the moment, have won one game and earned just 10% of their possible points this season. To put it in perspective, the expansion 1974-75 Washington Capitals won eight games and earned 13.1% of possible points. Fifteen games is obviously too soon to say the Coyotes are that bad, but the fact they haven’t even looked remotely close to competitive has them rubbing elbows with some of the worst teams in NHL history.

So how does the NHL stack up this time?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded as of November 15.

1. Carolina Hurricanes (2): The best record, best goal differential, and even their more controversial offseason deals in Frederik Andersen and Tony DeAngelo are paying massive dividends so far. Even in a stacked Eastern Conference, the Hurricanes have a good chance to claw their way to Cup contention.

2. Edmonton Oilers (3): I can’t say I trust the Oilers one hundred percent, as losses to Detroit and Buffalo indicate more help is needed on defense and in net. Still, with Leon Draisaitl averaging over two points per game and Connor McDavid scoring at a similar rate, there isn’t a more exciting team to watch.

3. Minnesota Wild (4): November has been kind to the Wild so far, as they’ve won all but one game as they continue to stake their claim as a dark horse Cup contender. What’s scary is they’ve managed to have all of this success with mediocre to subpar goaltending and Kirill Kaprizov not yet finding consistent offense.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (8): A 2-4-1 start had Toronto fans clamoring for the panic button. Winning eight of their last nine on the back of their superstar forwards and Jack Campbell has eased such fears, at least for now.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (7): In the absence of Nikita Kucherov yet again, Steven Stamkos has been relied upon to put up the offensive numbers for the Lightning. I’d say that a 5-0-2 record in their last seven games shows how successful that strategy has been.

6. Florida Panthers (1): The sooner the Panthers break out of this rough patch, the better off they’ll be. The last thing they need is for the “Joel Quenneville made them good” rumors to start swirling around any longer than they have.

7. Vegas Golden Knights (12): Don’t look now, but the Knights have gone 8-2 in their last ten games, Chandler Stephenson has been playing lights-out to counteract the wave of injuries, and captain Mark Stone is back. Tuesday’s game against Carolina could determine if Vegas has turned the corner on this season.

8. Washington Capitals (15): Alex Ovechkin passed Brett Hull for fourth on the all-time goal-scoring list with goal number 472. Next on the list: Jaromir Jagr, who sits 24 goals away from the Great 8.

9. Boston Bruins (9): The Perfection Line is starting to get rolling, which is bad news for any team facing Boston. What has been surprising has been the emergence of Jeremy Swayman, who has thoroughly outproduced Linus Ullmark thus far (.914 save percentage and 2.16 GAA for Swayman, compared to Ullmark’s .903/3.01 line).

10. St. Louis Blues (5): A one-win week for the Blues is a step back, and the analytics did expect results like this after St. Louis’s unbelievable start to the season. At least Pavel Buchnevich has started to come alive in the month of November, though.

11. Winnipeg Jets (14): The rhetoric towards Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois has gone on all season long, but what about the defense? Stalwarts like Josh Morrissey and Neal Pionk are off to solid starts, but Nate Schmidt has looked more like the defenseman we saw in Vegas than last year’s version in Vancouver.

12. New York Rangers (13): The Rangers had a great week, but there is cause for concern with the Blueshirts. They have been bailed out by the play of their superstars and goaltender, and the underlying numbers suggest a substantial regression is coming.

13. Colorado Avalanche (17): A similar arc to Vegas: Stanley Cup contender suffering from injuries to star players and a slow start, but starting to find its form as the calendar changes months. Watch out.

14. Anaheim Ducks (21): Even with GM Bob Murray resigning from the team, the Ducks have still managed to continue their early success. Now the question is this: is this an early-season apparition, or the emergence of an underrated squad?

15. Calgary Flames (6): Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar have been one of the best goaltending tandems to start the season, but recent results have shown an overreliance on the Flames’ netminders. A .500 record in November with a middle-of-the-road offense is proving that Calgary needs more to sustain their hot start.

16. Los Angeles Kings (20): Who had Jonathan Quick re-emerging as a number one netminder on their 2021-22 season bingo cards? In the month of November, he has lead all goaltenders with at least three starts with a .97 GAA.

17. Nashville Predators (23): The Predators’ offense has Nashville rolling with an 8-1-1 record in their last ten, and Matt Duchene has been a pivotal part of the early success. The much-maligned forward has finally started living up to his contract this season, scoring eight goals in his last nine games.

18. Detroit Red Wings (19): Tyler Bertuzzi and Detroit’s dazzling rookie duo are in the spotlight in Hockeytown, but Vladislav Namestnikov has been playing his part superbly. His 29.2% shooting percentage certainly isn’t sustainable, but his career high of 22 goals in 2017-18 is within reach.

19. Philadelphia Flyers (10): The Flyers’ bouts with inconsistency have carried on, at least for this week. Hopefully, getting Kevin Hayes and Ryan Ellis back helps them out in that regard.

20. New York Islanders (11): It’s been typical Islanders hockey this season: sixth-best defense in the league, sixth-worst offense. At least we’ll finally get to see UBS Arena this weekend.

21. New Jersey Devils (22): The Devils have gotten solid contributions from the likes of Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, and another talented rookie in Dawson Mercer. Imagine if the team can keep this up when Jack Hughes and Dougie Hamilton get healthy.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets (16): I get the Blue Jackets are shopping Joonas Korpisalo and trying to give him every chance to boost his trade value, but this experiment is only hurting the team. Korpisalo has been an unimpressive 2-3-0 with a .897 save percentage and 3.56 GAA, compared to Elvis Merzlikins’s 5-2-0 record and .929/2.42 stat line.

23. Dallas Stars (26): They finally got their first regulation win against Philadelphia this week, but a 2.38 goals per game mark (fourth-worst in the league) isn’t going to cut it. A lot of Dallas’s big offensive weapons are off to slow starts, something that has to change if the Stars want to go anywhere.

24. Pittsburgh Penguins (18): The Penguins have struggled massively with their stars being out, highlighted by a 6-1 pasting at the hands of their rival Washington and a league-worst power play that’s two percentage points behind the next-lowest mark. At least Sidney Crosby was kind enough to give a physical demonstration of Pittsburgh’s frustration.

25. Chicago Blackhawks (30): No one’s going to mistake Nashville, Pittsburgh, and Arizona as the shining stars of the league, but Chicago’s three-game winning streak still has to feel good. Bottom-five marks in all phases of play still have the Blackhawks behind the eight ball, so interim coach Derek King will be pressed to continue his good first impression.

26. San Jose Sharks (25): Logan Couture and James Reimer have been bright spots thus far, and the Sharks are getting a lot of guys back from COVID protocol. Still, this is a team that has only won three of their last ten, and several key defenders (Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Radim Simek, in particular) have been struggling.

27. Buffalo Sabres (27): The Sabres have only won once in their last seven games, and have let go of less than four goals twice in that span. They’ve regressed quickly, but at least the divisional rivals below them seem content on staying in the basement of the Atlantic for a while.

28. Vancouver Canucks (24): 22 goals against the Canucks this week, including back-to-back games where they let go of seven, have highlighted how bad the defense has been this season. Travis Green and Jim Benning will have to move quickly if they want to have jobs in the new year.

29. Seattle Kraken (28): Is it safe to call Philipp Grubauer the biggest disappointment thus far this season? Signed by the Kraken to be their version of Marc-Andre Fleury, Grubauer has responded with a -9.53 goals saved above average mark, which is four goals worse than the next-lowest goalie.

30. Montreal Canadiens (31): Nick Suzuki has been the only player worth anything in Montreal this season. The decision to place Philip Danault and even Jesperi Kotkaniemi with Christian Dvorak has backfired dramatically, with Dvorak scoring only one goal (five points) and a second-worst -17 mark.

31. Ottawa Senators (29): At least the Senators had a high note in their last game against Pittsburgh. COVID ravaging their roster will see Ottawa on a bye week.

32. Arizona Coyotes (32): …The NHL expects fans in Tempe to watch this? Was cruel and unusual punishment allowable now?

NHL Power Rankings: Week 4 Edition

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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.

A Nerd’s Thoughts on the Jack Eichel Trade

Image Credit: Jack Eichel/Twitter

The Jack Eichel trade rumors are finally finished, and the team that was connected to them for the longest time finally got their target.

On Thursday, after months of speculation and standoffish behavior between player and team, the Buffalo Sabres traded their former captain and three-time All Star and a conditional third round pick in 2023 to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, and conditional first and second-round picks in 2022 and 2023, respectively (the condition being that, should Vegas’s pick fall in the top 10, the picks would defer to the following year.)

For the Sabres, it ends a near eight-month-long saga revolving around Eichel. Since suffering a neck injury in early March that effectively ended his 2020-21 season, the two sides became embroiled in a feud regarding the type of surgery Eichel would receive. Eichel went with an independent specialist’s recommendation of artificial disk replacement; Buffalo preferred Eichel to undergo fusion surgery. It is mildly concerning that an organization would tell an individual how they should take care of their body, but I can at least understand Buffalo’s concern when the only notable athlete to undergo artificial disk replacement is Tiger Woods. The current collective bargaining agreement for the NHL also gives teams ultimate authority over decisions such as this, so it wasn’t as if the Sabres were violating any rules. Either way, it seemed that the two sides were effectively headed for a split, and the trade carousel was in full rotation.

There were plenty of teams that wanted in on the action. Calgary had sent their own offer that, according to Kevin Weekes, included Matthew Tkachuk, a first-round pick, and two or three prospects (a deal that I personally would have ran with.) Minnesota and Anaheim were both linked to Eichel at points, with both teams having the need to justify the move and the future assets necessary to pull it off. Even the Carolina Hurricanes, despite being the last undefeated team in the league, did their due diligence on the feasibility of an Eichel trade. Ultimately, however, it was the Golden Knights that came away from the Eichel sweepstakes with the center in tow.

While a lot of hockey fans are prematurely declaring Buffalo the winners of this trade, it’s hard for me to see this as anything but a win-win at the moment. Buffalo gets two or three valuable assets to center their next rebuild around, while Vegas gets the franchise center they’ve needed for a long time. It was an issue that teams like Dallas and Montreal exposed in upset playoff wins over Vegas, so the need was definitely there. Top-line centers like Eichel rarely hit the trade market to begin with; it’s even rarer when those centers are still in or just approaching their prime. They had to give up a couple of pieces to get their guy, but the risk is definitely worth taking.

Vegas did win the day…but I have to ask what it cost in the end. There’s three things that have to be discussed in the context of this trade: health, timing, and financial ramifications.

Health is the most obvious red flag that sticks out. Like I stated earlier, the only notable athlete to undergo artificial disk replacement is Tiger Woods; for the NHL, this is unprecedented territory. Perhaps it was this lack of a baseline expectation that made Buffalo hesitant on Eichel’s request which, while still a little questionable morally, isn’t entirely wrong. Eichel, his camp, and the Golden Knights have all likely done their due diligence to ensure this was the right path to take, but there’s no guarantee that Eichel will be the same player after the surgery. Even if he does and is able to follow the earliest timetable, Eichel wouldn’t be able to play his first game as a Golden Knight until after the Olympic break, putting him at roughly a year between games. Given that Vegas paid a premium to get Eichel in a Knights uniform, they’ll need to hope that the surgery is a success.

It brings us to the second part of my hesitance about calling the trade a success: the timing of it all. While the Knights basically replaced one key injured player in Tuch for another in Eichel, that’s the tip of the iceberg with the injury problems plaguing Vegas. Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and William Karlsson are all out with long-term injuries. Nolan Patrick and Zach Whitecloud are also currently on the injured list. Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, and Mattias Janmark have all missed time early in the season. These aren’t insignificant pieces; many of these are players who play major minutes in key situations. The sheer amount of injuries are part of the explanation behind Vegas’s mediocre .500 start to the season, and the organization is counting on their depth players to keep the ship afloat until reinforcements arrive.

Even if Eichel returns fully healthy and the team is able to be at full strength, the Knights still have to contend against the third and most important ramification of all: the salary cap. There’s no current need to fret about it, as the Knights currently have $16 million tied up in injured reserve. The likely staggered returns of their players will keep them alright for now, possibly requiring a couple of minor moves to balance the books. When everyone comes back, however? Vegas is looking straight into a $7 million overage. Unless Vegas pulls a Tampa Bay and keeps Eichel or any other major player on LTIR until the playoffs (hello, instant playoff villain role), they’ll have to find a way to shed salary and possibly be the odd contending team that has to sell at the deadline.

The expiring contracts for this season such as Reilly Smith, McNabb, and Janmark are all but playing their final years in Vegas, so trading them for future assets to get something out of them would be a start. In order to re-sign any key restricted free agents like Nic Hague or Nicolas Roy, however, more cap-cutting might be in store. Chandler Stephenson has been a great fit for Vegas and has cemented himself as an NHL-caliber player, but is his $2.75 million AAV worth it for a third-line center role? What about Evgenii Dadonov, who would be in the mix to take Smith’s spot next to Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson (Marchessault, whose contract expires after the 2022-23 season, might also be a name worth considering.) Laurent Brossoit could also be a name worth floating around for $2.3 million in savings, especially if Logan Thompson continues to play well in the AHL. If a team wanted to be bold and take full advantage, they could contact Vegas about Shea Theodore and try to land a legitimate top-four defenseman for a bargain price and catch the Knights in a situation where they have no leverage.

See the problem? Even if the initial package looks like a bargain, the fallout from this deal will shake up the roster even further. If the Knights want to at least be cap-compliant, let alone avoid the cap-manipulating tactics they had to pull last season, they will have to sacrifice three or four NHL-caliber assets in exchange for adding Eichel to their core for the foreseeable future.

Situations like this have been the double-edged sword that has defined Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon’s run at the helm of the NHL’s 31st franchise. Throughout his time in Sin City, McCrimmon has never been afraid to go big-game hunting, and his roster resembles an NBA-caliber super team at this stage. It’s a tactic that works great in NHL 22 with the salary cap off, but real-world hockey management means no one can play this fast and this loose with the cap without sacrifices. The decisions to bring in Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone were great at establishing Vegas as a legitimate player, but such moves played a role in sending out the likes of Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt. Signing Alex Pietrangelo last offseason and extending trade deadline acquisitions such as Alec Martinez and Robin Lehner were huge moves, but it forced Vegas to sell the cornerstone of their franchise in Marc-Andre Fleury for literally nothing. With Eichel in tow, Vegas now has to endure its most aggressive cost-cutting venture yet.

For all the franchise-altering moves McCrimmon has made, the Eichel deal will be, in my honest opinion, what ultimately defines his tenure as the Golden Knights GM. If everything checks out and the Las Vegas Strip becomes home to a Stanley Cup parade in the near future, McCrimmon will be the subject of universal praise for his handling of the situation and arguably revolutionize the way Cup contenders are built, for better or worse. If not, he becomes this generation’s version of Peter Chiarelli, dooming Vegas to a long-term salary cap hell like Chiarelli did to Boston and Edmonton. The pressure for McCrimmon and the Golden Knights to complete owner Bill Foley’s “Cup in six” timeline is at an all-time high. Now it’s time to deliver.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 3 Edition

Photo Credit: Calgary Flames/Twitter

The first month of the NHL season is almost over. While it’s still too early to gain a true sense of where everything stands, we can make at least a few inferences about the season.

On the positives, the Carolina Hurricanes are the only team to go through the entire first month of the season undefeated. For a team that lost its top defenseman and made a supposedly unnecessary overhaul of their goaltending, the early results have been promising. Meanwhile, the Battle of Alberta may feature the top two teams in the Pacific in Edmonton and Calgary, St. Louis is benefitting from not pulling the trigger on a Vladimir Tarasenko trade in the offseason, and Buffalo(!) has actually played well with no expectations attached.

Then we get to the ugly parts of the season. While Pittsburgh and San Jose have cooled off after hot starts and contenders like Vegas and Colorado have yet to really hit their stride, the bottom three teams on this list make their problems seem small. Arizona and Chicago ended the month winless, with the latter facing massive fallout from a sexual assault coverup scandal that has marred their early-2010s dynasty. Meanwhile, Montreal is continuing to suffer from having no identity, and it appears the changes to their roster are far too great to overcome.

So how does the NHL shake out this time?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded as of October 31.

1. Carolina Hurricanes (2): The only undefeated team left deserves the top spot of these rankings. Frederik Andersen is undergoing a career revival after a lackluster stint in Toronto, while the roster in front of him is dominating both sides of the ice (second in goals for with 33, first in goals allowed at 12).

2. Florida Panthers (1): It took a shootout loss for the Panthers to end their win streak, but the league’s best offense combined with a great goaltending tandem are still going strong. That said, the resignation of Joel Quenneville does leave questions (and please don’t say replacing him with John Tortorella is a good answer.)

3. Edmonton Oilers (4): Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s 29 combined points in just seven games is sheer insanity, but they’ve gained some reliable depth with Jesse Puljujarvi and Zach Hyman. Goaltending has also been strong so far, but can they keep the hot start going?

4. St. Louis Blues (5): The underlying numbers still aren’t great, but the Blues are certainly not complaining about this hot start. How many teams do you think are wishing they took a swing at Vladimir Tarasenko while he was at a discounted rate?

5. Calgary Flames (18): The Flames have managed to go on a six-game winning streak, headlined by Jacob Markstrom in net and Elias Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane pacing the offense with seven goals each. My general distrust of the Flames has me waiting for the other shoe to drop at some point, but a hot start like this in a weak division could be worthy of playoff contention.

6. New York Rangers (10): There have been some key pieces to the Rangers’ excellent run so far, but Igor Shesterkin has to be the focal point of it all. With an astonishing .944 save percentage in six games, he has the potential to warrant Vezina consideration when all is said and done.

7. Washington Capitals (8): T.J. Oshie’s injury hurts a bit, but can we really count a team with a determined Alex Ovechkin leading the charge out? Ovechkin is already at nine goals to start the year, and Wayne Gretzky’s record is still very much in sight.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning (11): Losing to Buffalo this year isn’t at bad at it’s been in years past, and the Lightning did make up for it by beating up on Pittsburgh and Arizona. It’s been an inconsistent start to Tampa Bay’s quest for a threepeat but, with how much hockey they’ve played since the start of the pandemic, is that really too surprising?

9. Boston Bruins (6): Linus Ullmark has stabilized the goaltending in Boston, but injuries have weakened the Bruins. Nowhere has this been more apparent than the offense, which is currently fifth-worst in the league with 18 goals.

10. Colorado Avalanche (14): The offense is starting to emerge, and the Avalanche are shaking off a rough start as a result. Darcy Kuemper still hasn’t quite gotten it together, but he only has to be average for the Avalanche when they’re firing on all cylinders.

11. New York Islanders (9): The Islanders have started to go on a good stretch in this thirteen-game road trip to start the year, but their only game this week a shootout loss to Nashville. As a result, they drop out of the top ten.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins (3): The bad news is that Pittsburgh is on a three-game losing streak, being outscored 13-3 in the process. The good news is that many of their top players are returning or set to return soon from injury or COVID-19 protocol, including Sidney Crosby.

13. Winnipeg Jets (19): Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois have both been red-hot to start the season, but they need Connor Hellebuyck to replicate his Vezina season and shake off the slow start. Losing to a COVID-battered Sharks team is not a good look.

14. Vegas Golden Knights (23): They haven’t won in overly convincing fashion, but a three-game winning streak to enter November is a positive sign for the injury-battered Knights. They’re still patiently waiting for their top stars to return from injury to help out their offense, including a power play that’s approaching historic levels of futility.

15. Philadelphia Flyers (15): A shutout loss to Calgary is a little worrisome, but Carter Hart and Martin Jones have shaken off terrible seasons last year to be a serviceable goalie tandem. As long as that remains the case, the Flyers should be alright.

16. Minnesota Wild (7): Losing three of their last four drops the Wild back towards the middle of the rankings. Kirill Kaprizov should be getting more shot luck soon, but no goals after signing a massive extension has to be alarming to the Minnesota front office.

17. New Jersey Devils (16): Jack Hughes will miss the next month and change, and hockey fans are worse off for it. At least Dougie Hamilton and Jonathan Bernier have been solid acquisitions in the early going.

18. Toronto Maple Leafs (22): Toronto may have won two straight games to end the month, but neither looked incredibly convincing. The Leafs need to wake up and play to their potential soon, because missing the postseason and the inevitably-ensuing death by memes could force the front office into a full-blown panic.

19. Columbus Blue Jackets (17): It hasn’t been perfect, but Elvis Merzlikins and Patrik Laine have this team staying competitive in the early going. How is it that this team always performs when the expectations are off of them?

20. Detroit Red Wings (21): The Red Wings are finally starting to emerge from the depths of the NHL, led by two legitimate Calder Trophy candidates in Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond. Playoffs might be too soon for them, but they’ll continue to fight.

21. Buffalo Sabres (25): Do I expect the Sabres to fall back down to earth at some point? Yes. Should we let Buffalo fans enjoy this time and give Craig Anderson his respect? Also yes.

22. Nashville Predators (27): The Predators are getting some juice out of their offense, and Juuse Saros is living up to the task of standing on his head to keep Nashville competitive. A .500 start is good, but I still can’t help but think the Preds are a step or two below most of their division.

23. Seattle Kraken (28): Yanni Gourde’s debut for the Kraken has gone well, and Jared McCann and Brandon Tanev are in a race to determine the first true face of the NHL’s newest franchise. Still, defense and goaltending have to get better if Seattle wants to be any more than competitive in their first year.

24. San Jose Sharks (12): Defeating Winnipeg with a good chunk of their roster on COVID protocol is worthy of respect, but it’s been the Sharks’ only win in the last four games. After a good start, the flaws in San Jose’s roster and the analytically-suggested regression are starting to come around.

25. Dallas Stars (13): The offense is still terrible, and the Stars have yet to win a game in regulation. The underlying numbers and an easier schedule in November should help, but it’s disturbing that neither the old guard or young core is impressing thus far.

26. Ottawa Senators (24): The Senators aren’t a good team, but they should at least be fun to watch. Insert almost-weekly positive Filip Gustavsson rhetoric here.

27. Vancouver Canucks (20): Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak have been solid to start, but the Canucks have still managed to win only three times in nine games. Blame it on Elias Pettersson’s slow start and the offense struggling to find its rhythm.

28. Los Angeles Kings (26): As much as I personally hate Drew Doughty’s guts, it’s still tough to see an injury take out a top player for an extended period of time. With the Kings reeling and now needing to test their defensive depth, it could be a tough start.

29. Anaheim Ducks (29): Ryan Getzlaf becoming the all-time franchise leader in points was nice, but it’s been the only positive in a rough month for the Ducks. Once again, it’s all about the development of the young guns.

30. Montreal Canadiens (30): The only good thing going for the Canadiens has been that the two teams behind them have been much worse. Hope you didn’t bet too much money on Cole Caufield winning the Calder Trophy.

31. Arizona Coyotes (31): The Coyotes were expected to be bad, but even this is rough. Any fans in Arizona are currently busy watching Shane Wright highlights.

32. Chicago Blackhawks (32): Winless like the team in front of them for the first month, and now they’re tasked with facing the wrath of NHL fans at large. When Marc-Andre Fleury is finding it hard to smile, that’s cataclysmic.

NFL Power Rankings: Midseason Edition

Photo Credit: Andrew Nelles/USA TODAY Sports

With nearly half of the teams having or at their bye week and the NFL hierarchy starting to cement itself, we are close to saying that we are officially at the midway point of the NFL season.

At this point, one conference has been dominant, illustrated by the fact that the top five spots in these rankings belong to teams from said conference. The NFC has shown its teeth throughout the season, with each of their divisions being represented at the top by teams that could be legitimate powerhouses come January. Unlike the AFC, which is shaping up to be a surprising playoff picture, the NFC is loaded with elite talent, making the postseason a potentially explosive affair.

Speaking of the AFC, there’s a quick question I want to ask. Did any of you have the Cincinnati Bengals not just in first place of the loaded AFC North at this point, but ahead of the likes of the Chiefs in any capacity? If you answered yes, you are either a terrible liar, a legitimate psychic, or someone who could have a lot of money waiting for them at the betting counter in the new year. It’s good to see surprise teams at this point of the season prove their legitimacy (hello, Arizona and Los Angeles Chargers), but it’s more surprising when the Bengals overcame serious scrutiny over their offseason decisions and organizational malaise over the last few years to become one of the surprise contenders this season. The glory of sports, man.

So how does the NFL stack up this time?

1. Arizona Cardinals (3): After two straight weeks of clicking on both sides of the ball and keeping their undefeated record intact, I’ll finally give the Cardinals their due and place them at the top of the rankings. After JJ Watt’s season-ending injury, however, Arizona could now be in play to bolster their pass rush at the trade deadline (November 2, for the curious).

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2): The only worrisome thing from Tampa Bay’s clash with Chicago was having to negotiate with a fan for Tom Brady’s 600th regular-season touchdown ball (thank you, Mike Evans). If the Bucs can put together a similar effort against the only legitimate competition in their division in the Saints, you can basically lock the Buccaneers for at least one home playoff game.

3. Los Angeles Rams (6): The Rams have unsurprisingly gone through the weak stretch of their schedule, but the Lions were able to keep the game a lot closer than fans would have hoped for. The cupcake matches end after Houston, so any issues the Rams still have need to be solved soon for them to be able to catch Arizona for the NFC West crown.

4. Dallas Cowboys (8): The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cowboys, with Dak Prescott coming out of their last game injured and his Week 8 status still up in the air. They should still be fine with the amount of talent they have on the roster, but being without Dak for a game or two could knock them down a peg.

5. Green Bay Packers (7): Aaron Rodgers is still putting up big numbers to keep the Packers in the mix, but a few struggles against Washington still has me thinking this team is below the four above them in terms of sheer firepower. A game against Arizona where the Packers will be without their top three receivers and defensive coordinator might be a little unfair to judge them for, however.

6. Buffalo Bills (1): After being on cruise control for most of the season, Buffalo’s ambitions hit a snag against Tennessee last week. Hopefully, they come out of the bye week motivated to get the stench off of them, and it helps that the rest of their division doesn’t appear to have interest in chasing after them too hard.

7. Cincinnati Bengals (13): After soundly dominating their main AFC North competition in Baltimore, it’s time to finally admit that the Bengals have all the makings of a good team. Joe Burrow has completely changed the complexion of this franchise, and the decision to draft Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell has paid off in a big way.

8. Los Angeles Chargers (4): The blowout loss to the Ravens was probably necessary for the Chargers to see the flaws on their roster, which they can use the deadline and an easier stretch of their schedule to work out. They used the past week to try and solve their special teams issues, but their big task is going to be how to fix a league-worst run defense that has been exposed the last couple of games?

9. Tennessee Titans (15): Even in a game where Derrick Henry wasn’t dominating defenses as per usual, Ryan Tannehill and the defense were able to pick up the slack and then some. They could virtually lock up the AFC South with a victory over Indianapolis this week, giving them the season to play with more consistency.

10. Baltimore Ravens (5): A week after crushing the Chargers, the Ravens were on the other side of a blowout against Cincinnati in what felt like a “changing of the guard” game. The depth issues that Baltimore’s suffered since the beginning of the season may be coming back to haunt them, which could necessitate coming away from the trade deadline with a couple new pieces in tow.

11. Cleveland Browns (9): Give credit to the Browns for coming away with a victory over Denver on the back of a third-string running back that was suiting up in the AAF just a few years ago (if you had to Google that, you’re proving how impressive this effort was). The field hospital’s worth of injuries isn’t going to make Cleveland’s run any easier, but this level of adversity would have tanked any of last decade’s Browns squads.

12. Las Vegas Raiders (14): Did the Raiders somehow get better with Jon Gruden out of the picture? Derek Carr didn’t need Darren Waller to put together a dominant performance against the Eagles, and they’ve managed to remain in great position to be the Chargers’ biggest competition in the AFC West, assuming it’s not the other way around…

13. New Orleans Saints (11): The defense showed that the Saints are a likely playoff team against Seattle, but the offense has the potential to cut any plans short. Alvin Kamara has been great but, if the rushing game isn’t going, Jameis Winston and the passing game might not be good enough to move the ball without help. How they counter that when Michael Thomas finally returns will be pivotal.

14. Kansas City Chiefs (10): The blowout loss to Buffalo was bad enough, but failing to score a single touchdown against the Titans as the defense continues to fall apart and NFL defensive coordinators appear to be figuring out Patrick Mahomes? It’s time to slam the panic button as Kansas City runs the risk of not only missing the Super Bowl, but missing the playoffs entirely.

15. San Francisco 49ers (12): The bomb cyclone that hit Santa Clara and forced San Francisco’s primetime game against the Colts to be played in heavy rainfall did no favors, but the 49ers are falling fast in the NFC West where the top two teams don’t appear to be slowing down. Kyle Shanahan’s job security can’t be particularly high at this point in time, and Trey Lance’s health is the only thing that should keep him out of the starting lineup at this point.

16. Minnesota Vikings (19): The Vikings came off their bye week with two straight wins, but a primetime matchup against the Cowboys, followed by games against the Ravens, Chargers, and Packers, will decide their fate come January. Kirk Cousins has never had any problems putting up numbers, but even a .500 record at this stretch could add a bit of significance behind the stats.

17. New England Patriots (22): After taking the Cowboys to the limit, the Patriots embraced one of their favorite pastimes and beat up the New York Jets. Dropping fifty-plus points was impressive, but they need a statement win to convince me or anybody else that they’re a serious playoff threat.

18. Indianapolis Colts (25): After starting the season 0-3, the Colts have fired off three victories in the last four games to put them back in the AFC playoff hunt. While Tennessee will look to put the division in their pocket, an Indianapolis victory this week suddenly keeps their AFC South hopes alive.

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (21): Najee Harris and the defense have been at least alright, but the offensive line and an aging Ben Roethlisberger means to keep expectations low on this team. Injury-riddled Cleveland could give the Steelers some momentum, but their next five games (Chargers, Bengals, Ravens, Vikings, Titans) could doom them to their first losing season in the Mike Tomlin era.

20. Carolina Panthers (16): An embarrassing loss to the Giants all but ends the Panthers’ optimism for this season, as they’ve only shown how important Christian McCaffrey is to the overall team. If Sam Darnold getting benched for PJ Walker doesn’t tell you that they’re willing to pull the plug on the former number 3 overall pick, being in on the Deshaun Watson trade rumors certainly will.

21. Denver Broncos (17): Losing to the Browns wouldn’t typically be a bad thing, but losing to a Browns team that was torn apart by injuries definitely is. The only way for the Broncos to move forward is to fire Vic Fangio and Pat Shurmur, while looking at which quarterback in the 2022 draft would fit their new offense’s designs.

22. Atlanta Falcons (26): I’m not overly convinced the Falcons are all that good, but finally establishing a connection to Kyle Pitts is paying dividends for the offense. A reeling Panthers team gives Atlanta a chance to not only be over .500 for the first time in the Arthur Smith era, but the first time since 2017.

23. Seattle Seahawks (18): A Monday night dud against New Orleans has Seattle 0-3 at home since 1992, and I’m not convinced that Geno Smith or this team is good enough to beat the Jaguars in Seattle either (I can’t believe I’m saying that unironically). Russell Wilson was covering up a lot of flaws with the Seahawks, and that alone could inspire sweeping organizational change to keep their superstar QB happy.

24. Chicago Bears (20): Justin Fields is slowly suffering the same fate as Mitch Trubisky did in Chicago, and games like the one against Tampa Bay aren’t helping build confidence. It’s clear that Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace need to go in favor of a regime that’s willing to build around their quarterback before his confidence is shattered.

25. New York Giants (28): Give credit to the Giants for soundly defeating the Panthers, topped off by Daniel Jones imitating Odell Beckham Jr. on a trick play. I’m not going to say this team is good, but they can definitely play the role of spoiler for some teams as they look for pieces to center their rebuild around (is Jones emerging as one of them?)

26. Philadelphia Eagles (23): After showing so much promise against Atlanta in Week 1, the Eagles are on the verge of a deadline fire sale by losing five of their last six. Even more alarming is that pundits are already trying to figure out who’s going to drop out from the Jalen Hurts-Nick Sirianni connection, assuming either one of them stays in Philadelphia at all.

27. Washington Football Team (24): Washington had all the makings of a huge upset over Green Bay to turn their season around, but a failure to finish on offense still led to a double-digit loss. The Taylor Heinicke story is a nice one, but it feels like a matter of time until it reaches its conclusion.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (32): The losing streak is finally out of sight and out of mind, with Trevor Lawrence looking more like an NFL quarterback with each passing game. Catching Seattle without Russell Wilson might be a cause for momentum, but the stretch beyond that might dictate whether Urban Meyer’s first year in professional football is also his last.

29. New York Jets (29): Getting blown out by the Patriots was bad enough, but the offensive line finally letting Zach Wilson get injured puts an end to any reason to care about the Jets. If you seriously think Joe Flacco can be an answer, you’d be alone.

30. Miami Dolphins (27): Want to know how your season is over?; try breaking a 20-game losing streak and choking to the league’s most notorious choker in back-to-back weeks. The Deshaun Watson rumors are only getting louder but, with all of the problems that this team has, is it really any different or better than the one he’d be leaving?

31. Houston Texans (30): Losing to the Cardinals was expected, and the story now shifts to what Deshaun Watson might get for the Texans in the end. It seems like a saga that has ominously hovered over Houston since the offseason may finally be taken off their hands.

32. Detroit Lions (32): I really don’t want to bury this team, but is 0-17 watch officially a thing now? The only real winnable matchups I see are this week against the Eagles and Thanksgiving against the Bears; it’ll be gravely concerning if December comes and the Lions are still winless.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 2 Edition

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP

Well, this is going unexpectedly.

While this season is early, there’s plenty of teams having results that were not expected at this point of the year. With all of this in mind, we have to examine what stands out as legitimate and what’s just an early stretch of good fortune. For example, St. Louis and San Jose are off to strong starts, but their shooting percentages as a team are among the highest in the league. When the shots stop being as accurate, will the teams sink back to where they were expected to be? Meanwhile, Colorado and the New York Islanders haven’t gotten off to fantastic starts, but they are teams built for the postseason and should not hit the panic button quite yet.

What teams stand out as legitimate, however? No early results may be more telling of a team’s narrative than the Florida Panthers, who looks strong in nearly all phases of play. On the other side, Toronto and Vegas have legitimate problems emerging that could damage their hopes for this season, while Chicago and Montreal look flat-out terrible with little reason to expect much change. Of course, watch as a month or so passes by and at least one of these teams starts figuring it out, because sports loves to bust up narratives.

So where does your team stand?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based off of games played and stats recorded from October 24.

1. Florida Panthers (2): It’s one thing for the Panthers to be exceeding expectations this early; it’s another to be doing so with Sergei Bobrovsky matching the high play of his rookie counterpart in Spencer Knight. If Bobrovsky can finally regain his form after two sub-standard years in Sunrise, the Panthers’ Stanley Cup odds will skyrocket.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (1): It seems the reactions to the losses of Dougie Hamilton and Alex Nedeljkovic were more overblown than the on-ice results show. Also, it had to feel good for Carolina fans to watch Jesperi Kotkaniemi score his first goal as a Hurricane against his former team in Montreal (because the NHL needed another reason to dunk on the Habs, right?)

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (7): Top two centers, top two wings, top defenseman, and top goaltender on the roster are all of the injured lists, and the Penguins are still putting up five goals a game. I’m not quite sure if the Cup window is still open like Penguins fans might think, but it’s a promising start nonetheless.

4. Edmonton Oilers (9): Connor McDavid’s already got six goals and 13 points in Edmonton’s first five games, which puts him on pace for a Gretzky-esque 200+ point season. It would be somewhat surprising if McDavid manages that total, and what matters to him at this stage is postseason success, but it’s still restoring his status as the best player in the world.

5. St. Louis Blues (13): They have the second-best power play percentage in the league at 42.9%, and the league’s best shooting percentage at 15.83%. It’s led the Blues to a hot start this season, but what happens when those percentages start coming down?

6. Boston Bruins (4): The Perfection Line is still dominating games, and their plan to replace Tuukka Rask in a Linus Ullmark-Jeremy Swayman combination has worked out so far. So long as that remains the case, the Bruins have a chance to win most nights.

7. Minnesota Wild (6): The Wild suffered their first loss of the season to the Predators on Sunday, but they’ve still managed to produce at an effective rate. Kirill Kaprizov hasn’t found the back of the net quite yet, but Joel Eriksson Ek’s three goals in five games have more than made up for it.

8. Washington Capitals (12): Alex Ovechkin is showing zero signs of slowing down, and the problem spots for the Capitals last season seem to be clearing up a bit. They did lose to Calgary to close out the week, but they showed a lot of fight to get a point despite the 3-0 deficit early on.

9. New York Islanders (11): Ilya Sorokin has worked himself into a position that he can claim the number 1 netminder role in Long Island. Despite the uncharacteristically-questionable defense, Sorokin has a .933 save percentage in six games, including ending the week with back-to-back shutouts.

10. New York Rangers (16): Igor Shesterkin has allowed only one goal in his last three contests. and the success has pushed him to second in the league in GAA and save percentage. The Rangers may have some small issues, but the elite play of their goaltender can make up for at least some of that.

11. Tampa Bay Lightning (1): Since losing Nikita Kucherov to LTIR for the second straight season, the Lightning dropped back-to-back contests against the Panthers and Avalanche. They haven’t even held a lead yet in regulation, which can’t bode well for their chances to threepeat.

12. San Jose Sharks (27): The 13.87% shooting percentage for the team likely means the Sharks’ success isn’t sustainable, but strong starts from Erik Karlsson and Adin Hill are giving some substance to a surprisingly good unit. With the rest of the Pacific outside of Edmonton tripping over themselves, San Jose could put themselves in position for a playoff spot early.

13. Dallas Stars (15): The offense still hasn’t been performing, but Braden Holtby has managed to be one of the best under-the-radar signings of the offseason so far. It likely has more to do with Dallas’ defensive talent than anything, but strong goaltending should keep the Stars in games most nights.

14. Colorado Avalanche (5): Similar to last season, the Avalanche have some early-season issues to work out. Chief among them might be goaltending, where Darcy Kuemper has struggled with a .894 save percentage to start his time in Colorado.

15. Philadelphia Flyers (19): Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee have led the Flyers offense so far with four goals and six points, respectively, while Carter Hart has laid the Philadelphia fans’ doubts to rest with what’s looking like a bounce-back campaign. It’s looking good so far for Philly.

16. New Jersey Devils (20): The Devils are one of the bigger surprises this season, but analytics are suggesting that they are one of the more sustainable early success stories in the league. Losing Jack Hughes for a bit is unfortunate, but Dougie Hamilton has been as advertised in the early going.

17. Columbus Blue Jackets (22): The Blue Jackets aren’t exactly expected to sustain this hot start, but Elvis Merzlikins and Patrik Laine have both been solid to start the season. The latter has to be refreshing for Columbus fans to see, as Laine is finally emerging as the offensive driver that they needed.

18. Calgary Flames (24): Elias Lindholm’s six goals in four games is pushing the Flames off to a solid start. I don’t know where the Flames stand, but it’s a good start so far.

19. Winnipeg Jets (21): The Jets have scored five goals in three of their five games thus far, which has allowed them to shake off a rough first week. Kyle Connor’s six goals have pushed the Jets so far, while Pierre-Luc Dubois has also looked very impressive to start.

20. Vancouver Canucks (14): Conor Garland’s looked good to start, but the underlying analytics suggest the Canucks have been too reliant on Thatcher Demko thus far. It’s early in the season, but there will be trouble in Vancouver if some things aren’t fixed.

21. Detroit Red Wings (26): Tyler Bertuzzi is tied for the league lead with six goals, while rookies Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider have combined for four goals (all from Raymond) and eight points. As long as all three players are cooking, the Wings should continue to play better than expected.

22. Toronto Maple Leafs (8): The Leafs’ 5.7% shooting percentage is the worst in the league, and Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have done virtually nothing to start the year. Things might get better with the talent they have, but they are clearly behind the likes of Florida, Boston, and Tampa Bay right now.

23. Vegas Golden Knights (10): Injuries have affected them dramatically but, unlike the Penguins, the Knights have struggled in horrific fashion. Ten goals and being the only team without a power-play goal isn’t going to cut it, and there’s a chance that a clean bill of health doesn’t save this from being a mediocre unit this time around.

24. Ottawa Senators (23): Filip Gustavsson and Anton Forsberg have been solid in net so far, but the offense has let them down on a couple occasions already. They need more from Brady Tkachuk and Connor Brown, simple as that.

25. Buffalo Sabres (29): Back-to-back losses have dampened the optimism, but the Sabres have still been more competitive than expected. For a team with zero expectations heading into the season, that’s not a bad thing.

26. Los Angeles Kings (18): The Kings rewarded my “playoff contention” status on them last week by being held out of the win column this week. Even the win against Vegas isn’t looking as impressive as it normally would.

27. Nashville Predators (30): Philip Tomasino has looked good in his debut season, but it’s still a case of the Predators being carried by Juuse Saros. It’s impossible to figure out just where this team is headed.

28. Seattle Kraken (19): A four-game losing streak, including two blown third-period leads, has to be damaging for the NHL’s newest team. At least Climate Pledge Arena looks like it’ll be rocking all season long.

29. Anaheim Ducks (31): There’s a couple good spots here and there, even if the Ducks are still one of the worst teams in the league. That’s more than can be said for the three teams below them.

30. Montreal Canadiens (28): They got their first win of the season against Detroit, but les Canadiens were outscored 19-4 in the five games prior to that. Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield have only combined for two points this season, which has been one of the key reasons Montreal has looked anemic in the opposite zone thus far.

31. Arizona Coyotes (32): There is nothing here, and the tank job is still on. Anyone have any good Shane Wright slogans?

32. Chicago Blackhawks (25): They’ve been outscored 10-1 with Seth Jones on the ice, Marc-Andre Fleury looks like he held on a year too long, and they now hold the record for the longest time to start a season without holding a lead. At this rate, it’d be a shock if Jeremy Colliton and Stan Bowman are employed at the end of November.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 1 Edition

Image Credit: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The NHL season is officially underway.

Like any first week of a new season, this year’s NHL has given us a couple of surprises already. The Buffalo Sabres, widely regarded as the worst team in all of hockey, are currently undefeated. Meanwhile, championship contenders like the New York Islanders and Vegas Golden Knights have gotten off to relatively slow starts. It’s far to early to say anything regarding the seasons of any of those teams, and time should even things out so performances matches the talent, but it’s what makes these opening weeks some parts fun, some parts confusing.

While overreactions are always important to stay away from in the sports world, some trends have been interesting to note. Teams like the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, and Minnesota Wild may have been better than initially reported. Others like the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils are starting to get on the right track. On the flip side, the Winnipeg Jets, Chicago Blackhawks, and Montreal Canadiens all seem to have serious flaws that need to be fixed before the season kicks into full swing. While it is still to early to consider these teams as playoff contenders or enduring lost seasons, there’s still enough evidence to suggest where they are as a team.

So how does your team stack up?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on record and stats from October 17.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (1): It hasn’t been easy for the defending Stanley Cup champions so far, as their banner-raising ceremony was ruined by an upset loss to the Crosby-less Penguins. They’ve managed to rebound, but losing Nikita Kucherov to injury again and having to come back against Detroit is cause for concern.

2. Florida Panthers (5): A rally against Pittsburgh and a blowout of the New York Islanders have the Panthers living up to their loftiest expectations yet, at least early on in the year. Keep an eye out for Sam Bennett, who recorded a hat trick in the Islanders win and has looked rejuvenated since coming from Calgary at last season’s trade deadline.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (7): Frederik Andersen has looked alright to start his Carolina tenure, which the Hurricanes will need if they want to go anywhere this season. Andrei Svechnikov’s strong start is also promising, as he appears set to emerge as Carolina’s next great offensive superstar.

4. Boston Bruins (6): The Bruins core is still strong as usual, but a goaltending battle may be brewing in Beantown. Despite Boston throwing a good chunk of change at Linus Ullmark in the offseason, Jeremy Swayman’s strong opening-game start and fantastic finish to last season could force Bruce Cassidy into some interesting lineup choices.

5. Colorado Avalanche (2): It was an inconsistent start for the Avalanche, dominating the Blackhawks in their opening game before dropping the next one to the Blues. Not having Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog in the lineup is partially to blame; I’d imagine they’ll be back up to their old spot soon.

6. Minnesota Wild (12): A successful first two games against the Kings and Ducks have the Wild picking up where they left off after being a pleasant surprise from last season. While the schedule will undoubtedly get tougher, a drama-free Wild squad should have no problem being competitive in the Central.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (14): Even without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, or Jake Guentzel in tow, the Penguins managed to pick up five points in their first three games. More impressive is that they scored fifteen goals in those games, which could be a sign that the Penguins could be fine until the captain and his primary cohorts return to action.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs (8): Losing to the Senators was a rough start, but they at least got a revenge win and picked up four of six points to start the season. Having Auston Matthews back will help matters considerably, but everyone knows the real test for this group is the playoffs.

9. Edmonton Oilers (11): Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are going to rack up the points, to the shock of absolutely nobody. Outside of those two, it’s still unclear who’s going to emerge as the primary help, but Mike Smith continuing to kick and scream at Father Time is nice for Edmonton’s season prospects.

10. Vegas Golden Knights (4): They looked wholly unimpressive in their first two games, and now have to deal with long-term injuries to Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. A week of rest couldn’t have come at a better time for the banged-up Knights, who need some bodies back if they want to make this opening stretch any easier.

11. New York Islanders (3): Being outscored 11-4 isn’t a strong start by any stretch, and they still have eleven more road games before they head back to Long Island. Similar to Vegas, I wouldn’t be overly concerned just yet, but the rust will hopefully shake off sooner rather than later.

12. Washington Capitals (10): The Capitals didn’t start out too poorly, but I liked the start of the teams who leaped ahead of them better. Alex Ovechkin passed another legend on his quest to catch the Great One’s goal-scoring record, while Evgeny Kuznetsov and Vitek Vanecek’s strong starts should make any Capitals fan feel good about their chances.

13. St. Louis Blues (13): The Blues have played only one game, but a road victory against Colorado is sure to open some eyes. Granted, that did also happen last season before St. Louis endured an up-and-down year, so take it with a grain of salt.

14. Vancouver Canucks (16): Three games in four days is tough stretch for any team, so I’ll give the Canucks the benefit of the doubt for the .500 start on the year. With how most of the Pacific is playing right now, Vancouver’s start puts them in decent position for a run to the playoffs.

15. Dallas Stars (20): Ditto to the Stars, who had to play three games in four days with less positive results. Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov didn’t move the offensive needle too much in their returns, which has to change if the Stars want to be taken seriously.

16. New York Rangers (15): The season debut for the Rangers against the Capitals was an anti-climactic start to what should have been an interesting rivalry this year. Gerard Gallant may need a bit of time for this group to gel under his guidance, but having a Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman in Adam Fox should help.

17. Seattle Kraken (18): A rough call against Vegas probably should have given the Kraken at least one more point this week, but they seem to be willing to grind out for results. A victory against Nashville and strong efforts in Vegas and Columbus exemplify this team as one to at least pay attention to.

18. Los Angeles Kings (23): The Kings’ offseason moves indicated that they were pushing to make the playoffs and cement themselves as a team on the rise. Absolutely dominating Vegas in their season opener was a great start to that goal.

19. Philadelphia Flyers (17): Four goals on nearly forty shots made Flyers fans fear that the leaky defense and goaltending from last season would return to sink them this year. If Carter Hart’s confidence is shot, that dampens the Flyers’ short and long-term prospects.

20. New Jersey Devils (22): Defeating the Blackhawks a great start to the season, and it gave the Devils a great opportunity to showcase its stars. Dougie Hamilton got his Devils tenure off to a great start with a goal, while Jack Hughes showed why everyone feels he’s ready to take the next step.

21. Winnipeg Jets (9): The Jets are far better than what they were this week, so don’t anticipate them staying down here for too long. Still, coming up empty in a stretch against rebuilding teams is more than justifiable to knock Winnipeg out of the top twenty.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets (27): Elvis Merzlikins has looked locked-in to start the year, and the cannons fired so many times against Arizona that Nationwide Arena sounded like a Civil War reenactment. One word of advice: do it for Matiss.

23. Ottawa Senators (26): The Brady Tkachuk saga is finally over, and the Senators were able to pick up two wins in their first three games. How many segments for the Senators are going to be me waxing poetic about Filip Gustavsson?

24. Calgary Flames (24): A mediocre start for a mediocre team in a mediocre division. Yawn.

25. Chicago Blackhawks (19): Few teams have been as disappointing as the Blackhawks this season, and Marc-Andre Fleury’s over-7 GAA and .826 save percentage should tell you exactly how this team’s doing. Would Hawks fans feel too bad if the sexual assault scandal from the offseason took down Stan Bowman? Just saying.

26. Detroit Red Wings (29): The Red Wings blowing two three-goal leads against the Lightning wasn’t good, but at least it shows Detroit still has the potential to put up goals. At least Moritz Seider looks like the real deal so far.

27. San Jose Sharks (28): Evander Kane is officially lost for over a quarter of the season, which doesn’t help a team that already has issues. They did win their first game, though, and they should get a great package out of Tomas Hertl when he gets traded.

28. Montreal Canadiens (21): Maybe Carey Price and Shea Weber were more important for les Canadiens than anyone could have envisioned. With an 0-3 start and a putrid offense so far, Marc Bergevin’s gambles have landed on snake eyes in the early going.

29. Buffalo Sabres (32): Unlike the Canadiens, the Sabres have turned no expectations into two straight wins and a decent offensive performance. No slander here for Buffalo; just let the suffering fans enjoy this moment of happiness for however long this lasts.

30. Nashville Predators (25): Sorry, Juuse Saros, but it seems you won’t be getting much help this season. Mattias Ekholm’s contract extension was confusing for a team that so clearly looks like it needs a full-scale rebuild.

31. Anaheim Ducks (30): The Ducks won’t be very good this season, but at least goaltending and the development of their top prospects have all been positive so far. As long as it stays that way, this season will be successful, even if the results say otherwise.

32. Arizona Coyotes (31): Karel Vejmelka looked good in his NHL debut, which might not bode too well for his playing time this season. As obvious a tank job as there is in hockey right now.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 5 Edition

Photo Credit: Fox News

The chaos of the NFL continues for another week.

Kickers were nowhere to be found this week. The Browns and Chargers put on an early contender for Game of the Year. A scandal involving racism, misogyny, and homophobia shook an organization to its very core, with the potential of another being the root cause. These are the types of weeks that have ramifications for months to come.

Meanwhile, we can start discussing who’s going to be in play for the season awards. The MVP race is looking tight between two hotshot young quarterbacks and one widely regarded as the greatest of all time. Both Rookie of the Year awards are looking like close calls. One coach completely shifting the culture of his team is the front-runner for Coach of the Year. A lot can change in the next few months, but let’s not discount how this early success can catapult teams moving forward.

So how does the NFL stack up?

1. Buffalo Bills (2): After weeks of stacking up against mediocre-to-poor offenses, the Bills defense went into Arrowhead and flat-out dominated Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense. It’s uncertain if they can put together a repeat performance in January, but it’s feeling like the AFC is going to run through Bills Mafia.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1): The only reason the Buccaneers lose the top spot in a victory is due to competition: the Dolphins are nowhere close to the level of the Chiefs. The strangest stat of the day: this game marked the first time Tom Brady threw for 400+ yards and five touchdowns. Just another milestone for the GOAT.

3. Arizona Cardinals (3): After a month of dominant offensive play from the Cardinals, it was their defense that came through in a big divisional victory over the 49ers. We’ve now seen that both sides can take over games; now it’s just a matter of both clicking at the same time.

4. Los Angeles Chargers (6): Justin Herbert firmly entrenched his name into the MVP conversation, and Coach of the Year contender Brandon Staley has turned this into an exciting team to watch. The Browns exposed a couple of issues, but they pale in comparison to the rest of their AFC West counterparts.

5. Baltimore Ravens (4): After Monday night’s comeback against the Colts, it’s hard to deny Lamar Jackson is a legitimate quarterback at this level. After his performance, his combined 1,850 offensive yards would put him in the top half of all NFL teams.

6. Los Angeles Rams (7): The victory over Seattle on Thursday wasn’t necessarily a shining effort, and it’s become clear that the Rams are not as good as their Week 3 blowout of the Buccaneers made them look. Still, with their next three opponents having two wins between them, this will be a great chance for the Rams to gain momentum and keep pace with the Cardinals.

7. Green Bay Packers (8): No kicker redeemed themselves more than Mason Crosby, who went from goat to hero in a shouldn’t-have-been overtime thriller. They won’t skate by like that in their next stretch, which includes games against four playoff teams from last season and the Cardinals. Buckle up.

8. Dallas Cowboys (10): What can you say about the Cowboys other than how dominant they’ve looked after an up-and-down first two weeks? With a healthy Dak Prescott leading the offense and the defense generating takeaways at an insane rate, it seems safe to pencil in the Cowboys as the winner of one of football’s least intimidating divisions.

9. Cleveland Browns (5): After a strange performance against the Vikings where the defense had to carry a struggling offense, the inverse happened against the Chargers this week. Games like this show what the Browns are at this stage: a flawed contender.

10. Kansas City Chiefs (9): Patrick Mahomes’s six interceptions in the first five games have matched his total from last season already, and the Chiefs are tied with Jacksonville at a league-leading 11 turnovers. Unless the offense wakes up and carries a defense that has been completely overmatched, the Chiefs are looking at a first-round exit…at best.

11. New Orleans Saints (17): Combined with a punting performance from Blake Gillikin that would make Pat McAfee proud, Alvin Kamara and a strong defense put the mercurial Saints on top. With plenty of key players coming back after New Orleans’s bye, will their returns do anything to shed the inconsistent label this team has earned in the first month?

12. San Francisco 49ers (13): Despite the loss, the 49ers move up a spot due to the team that was in front of them and their…issues. It’s unclear who’s going to be starting at quarterback when the team returns from their bye, but George Kittle landing on IR will not help matters.

13. Cincinnati Bengals (14): Ja’Marr Chase is slowly building a case for himself as Offensive Rookie of the Year, but Evan McPherson’s imitating Nick Young on a missed field goal will be hard to forget. Zac Taylor going to his kicker in a game where field goals were nowhere to be found is an inexplicable decision that will be remembered if the Bengals go on a sudden drop.

14. Las Vegas Raiders (12): Losing to the Bears at home was bad enough, but the sudden Jon Gruden bombshell has completely scattered this team. It’ll undoubtedly be a black cloud that hangs over the Raiders for this season and potentially beyond, which isn’t a good thing when your quarterback’s already tabled talks of a contract extension…

15. Tennessee Titans (21): Derrick Henry is a god amongst men right now on the football field, as his 128 rushing yards per game currently have him on pace for the single-season rushing record. He’s already put himself on the map in another category: his 4,792 rushing yards are the most in a 40-game stretch in league history, eclipsing Jim Brown and his 4,759. Hail to the King.

16. Carolina Panthers (15): It’s clear that the Panthers need Christian McCaffrey, as Sam Darnold has thrown for five interceptions in the two games without his star running back and safety valve. Thankfully, Run CMC is expected to return this week, which hopefully means the wins can as well.

17. Denver Broncos (16): The Broncos have played poorly on third down and in the red zone this season, and those issues are finally being taken advantage of by legitimate competition. That 3-0 start was definitely too good to be true.

18. Seattle Seahawks (11): After ten seasons of surviving behind poor offensive lines, Russell Wilson will miss several games with a finger injury. Geno Smith did well in relief against the Rams, but I don’t think he’s capable of guiding a middling rushing attack and poor defense like Russ can.

19. Minnesota Vikings (22): The Vikings managed to keep Detroit winless, but is a last-second long-range field goal in your own building against a winless team really something to celebrate? Similar to Matt Nagy after Chicago’s victory over the Lions, I’m not sure if this victory does anything to cool Mike Zimmer’s hot seat.

20. Chicago Bears (23): It seems the Bears of this season are starting to take shape, with Justin Fields being allowed to learn an NFL offense while relying on decent rushing and a surprisingly-stout defense. Just don’t make the same mistake if you land another shock playoff berth, Bears: you’re winning in spite of Matt Nagy, not because of him.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (25): Losing JuJu Smith-Schuster for the year hurts, but it was refreshing for Steelers fans to see Big Ben put on a strong performance and Najee Harris live up to his first-round billing. A primetime matchup against a suddenly-wounded Seahawks team gives the Steelers a chance to reach .500 before their bye, which would be huge for them.

22. New England Patriots (20): While the Patriots did win against the Texans, they drop for making Davis Mills look like a superstar one week after he posted a Nathan Peterman-esque stat line. Did anyone else have “Mac Jones is missing four starting offensive linemen and still looks like the best rookie QB” on their 2021 season bingo card?

23. Philadelphia Eagles (24): The Eagles got three big plays on all facets to go from a nine-point deficit to a three-point victory. That’s great and all, but performances like that won’t fly against the Buccaneers tomorrow.

24. Washington Football Team (19): A disappointing defense that was absolutely embarrassed by the Saints in just the first half, and a potential continuation of the NFL’s investigation that has the NFLPA smelling blood. By the end of the season, the list of firings could have this organization resembling The Squid Game (Think the Red Light, Green Light episode, except a lot less NSFW.)

25. Indianapolis Colts (18): Trotting out a clearly-injured Rodrigo Blankenship one too many times had something to do with it, but I don’t think any team’s stolen defeat from the jaws of victory quite like the Colts did on Monday. After blowing a sixteen-point lead in the fourth quarter alone, I just don’t see how Indianapolis comes back.

26. Atlanta Falcons (29): It turns out utilizing Kyle Pitts’s unicorn-like size/speed combination against a defense ill-equipped to handle it works out pretty well most of the time. Hopefully, the bye gives Arthur Smith time to adjust his offense for more plays from the number four overall pick.

27. Miami Dolphins (26): Welcome back, Tua Tagovailoa; you come back to find your team in absolute crisis mode. If the Dolphins end up breaking the Jaguars’ run of futility in London, their offensive coordinators might be out of work before the team plane leaves Heathrow Airport’s tarmac.

28. New York Giants (27): The injury bug continued to bite the Giants hard, and they need to hope that neither Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, or Kenny Golladay are out long-term if they want to survive this part of their schedule. At least there’s a chance Kadarius Toney can build off a performance that was great…until he got ejected for throwing a punch.

29. New York Jets (28): It seemed that while the Jets played in London, their luck went over the Bermuda Triangle. Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur need to get Zach Wilson some luck, and using young promising playmakers like Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims would be a good start.

30. Houston Texans (31): Davis Mills had a surprisingly good day against a coach that typically dominates rookie quarterbacks, only to be let down by terrible special teams efforts. With the quarterback draft class looking murkier by the week, getting signs of life from Mills has to be relieving.

31. Detroit Lions (30): First Justin Tucker’s record-breaking field goal, then losing on another long-range field goal from a team notorious for missing those in key situations? I feel legitimately bad for Dan Campbell.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (32): Urban Meyer is now having issues with Trevor Lawrence, and the Jaguars have become the first team to lose 20 straight games since the EXPANSION Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1977. I’d normally advocate against firing a coach this early but, if the Jaguars push the streak to 21 in London, would sending Meyer out really be the worst thing to happen?

NHL Power Rankings: Start of Season

Photo Credit: NHL

In less than 24 hours, the 2021-22 NHL season will officially be underway.

It’s a reset for the NHL this time around. If everything goes according to plan, each team will play 82 games for the first time in three years. The divisions are back to their pre-pandemic alignment, with the only exception being the Arizona Coyotes moving to the Central to make room for the expansion Seattle Kraken in the Pacific. Every division looks like there will be battles throughout the season, ranging from the division crown to the final playoff spots.

One of the more interesting storylines, however, is the history that the Tampa Bay Lightning have the possibility to make. The last time an NHL squad celebrated a third consecutive cup win, the 1982 New York Islanders were hoisting the Cup for the third of four consecutive times. Their road to history, however, will not get easy. Their division is stacked at the top. Their conference rivals are either tough outs in the playoffs or teams looking for one last shot at glory. The other side of the bracket has two legitimate superpowers and a cluster of hungry squads looking to make their mark. As a wise man once said, it’s lonely at the top.

So where do the teams match up before the puck touches the ice?

1. Tampa Bay Lightning: The bottom six went through a serious overhaul due to cap constraints, but this roster is still loaded with star power. If health is permitting, they’ll be serious contenders for the Atlantic Division crown, the Presidents’ Trophy, and beyond.

2. Colorado Avalanche: They have the deepest roster in the NHL from a talent perspective, but patience could falter if they’re unable to make it past the second round. How the Avs transition from Philipp Grubauer to Darcy Kuemper in net will ultimately decide their fate.

3. New York Islanders: The Islanders have to be the most well-structured team in the NHL, with defense, goaltending, and coaching all being at elite levels or close to them. If they can score consistently and force the Eastern Conference playoff to run through their new stadium, the Isles could break through as a serious Cup contender.

4. Vegas Golden Knights: There’s a couple major questions surrounding the Knights, mostly centering around the forceful transition from Marc-Andre Fleury to Robin Lehner and if they did enough to fix the problems that ended their playoff run last season. They still have more than enough talent to stay competitive, however, and the Pacific Division still looks a year or two away from being on Vegas’s level.

5. Florida Panthers: The core from the best Panthers squad in this century remains intact, with the addition of Sam Reinhart and a healthy Aaron Ekblad hopefully pushing them over the top. The real X-factor here is in goaltending; if Sergei Bobrovsky regains his form or Spencer Knight enjoys a Calder-worthy season, this is a team that could do more than just win their first playoff series in 25 years.

6. Boston Bruins: The Bruins had a really good offseason, but the losses of David Krejci and Tuukka Rask indicate that a changing of the guard is still looming. Rask can likely be offset by a strong duo of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, but how will the transition from Krejci to Charlie Coyle on the second line affect their scoring depth?

7. Carolina Hurricanes: They still have the pieces to be a quality team, but losing Dougie Hamilton and undergoing an unnecessary overhaul of their goaltending has me somewhat concerned. If Rod Brind’Amour can work his magic again and pull this team into Cup contention, that will be an incredible accomplishment.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs: They have the talent to do some real damage, but it’s always been a question whether this team can finally shed the choker label that’s haunted them for the last decade and a half. If they fall short once again, do the Leafs remain as patient as they were this offseason?

9. Winnipeg Jets: The Jets have always had the offense and the goaltending to carry them far in the playoffs, but a lack of defensive depth has done them in the last few years. Adding Brenden Dillon and Nate Schmidt to pair with an emerging crop of young defenders could work wonders for Winnipeg, especially in the cutthroat Central.

10. Washington Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom’s injury poses a small problem for the Capitals, but Alex Ovechkin and crew should still put up a lot of goals. If Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov can get back on the right track after a season filled with distractions, they have the firepower to make one more spirited Cup run.

11. Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will still likely be pushing the Oilers to some kind of relevance, but did they truly get better? 38-year-old Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci don’t really move the needle for me on defense, and trusting goaltending to 40-year-old Mike Smith is an extremely risky proposition.

12. Minnesota Wild: Kirill Kaprizov has almost single-handedly turned the Wild from one of the more boring squads in the NHL to a legitimately exciting team, and he was awarded the big bucks for it. The question is now what Kaprizov has in store for an encore, as well as if the center depth and defense can hold up to keep the Wild competitive in a stacked division.

13. St. Louis Blues: Replacing Mike Hoffman and Jaden Schwartz with Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Saad were savvy moves by Doug Armstrong, and having a healthy Vladimir Tarasenko back can only help their scoring depth. They’re a re-emergence from Jordan Binnington and a return to form from their defense away from being competitive, and they do have Scott Perunovich waiting in the wings to help with the latter.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins: Betting against a core featuring Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang feels like a fool’s errand, but there’s viable reason for it this time around. Crosby and Malkin will miss significant time to start the season, and Tristan Jarry has to rebound after a disastrous postseason. If they can weather the early storm, they’ll be ok.

15. New York Rangers: The Rangers are pushing for the playoffs this season, adding grit to pair with their elite skill players and a coach in Gerard Gallant that knows how to maximize the talent under his direction. If that translates to the positive development of players like Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, and Vitali Kravtsov, the postseason could return to Broadway for the first time since 2017.

16. Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks dodged a serious bullet by getting Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes under contracts, and the collection of scoring talent and Thatcher Demko in net looks like enough to consider Vancouver for the playoffs. Their kryptonite, however, will be a defense that may concede a lot of scoring opportunities, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson won’t fix that at this stage of his career.

17. Philadelphia Flyers: The defensive overhaul was completely necessary for the Flyers, but none of their moves will matter if Carter Hart can’t rebound to prior form. Still, the Flyers have a strange trend in recent history of alternating years of playoff appearances, and they did miss the postseason last time…

18. Seattle Kraken: The Kraken will begin their maiden season with a solid goaltending duo and a strong defensive corps, but it’s hard to predict where the goals are going to come from. Expecting a season like the Golden Knights had is probably unrealistic; believing the Kraken can make the playoffs like their desert-dwelling brethren did in their first season is well in the ballpark.

19. Chicago Blackhawks: The return of Jonathan Toews and the additions of Seth Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury have the Blackhawks facing high expectations, but this roster still has some points of concern. How will they respond to the sudden increase in pressure, and do Stan Bowman and Jeremy Colliton survive if this season disappoints?

20. Dallas Stars: Injuries and bad luck did the Stars in last season, but the team is largely healthy heading into the next season. Call this a conservative ranking for now, as I want to see how the Stars respond to a season of disappointment.

21. Montreal Canadiens: This seems pretty low for last season’s runner-up, but there are more problems facing les Canadiens than a tougher division. Weakened center depth, a shakeup in on-ice leadership, and Carey Price being unavailable for the first month of the season will test this team early.

22. New Jersey Devils: Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves should make the defense a lot better than it was last season, and Jack Hughes seems on the verge of breaking out as a legitimate NHL star. Bad news for the Devils is the division is unforgiving and will likely temper the expectations for this season, but they’re trending in the right direction.

23. Los Angeles Kings: Quinton Byfield’s long-term injury certainly dampens the Kings’ outlook for this season, but several key additions and a strong prospect core approaching the NHL has the future looking bright. They could easily take advantage of the weak Pacific Division and make a playoff appearance ahead of schedule.

24. Calgary Flames: Trusting this team feels impossible to me, and there will likely be a lack of leadership in the early going with former captain Mark Giordano getting picked up in the Expansion Draft. Another season of mediocrity has to force this team to take action, and that might mean blowing up this core.

25. Nashville Predators: Juuse Saros can only do so much on his own, and the odds aren’t looking too good. Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson’s departures indicate a rebuild is coming, and a poor start could lead to a full-blown commitment.

26. Ottawa Senators: The Brady Tkachuk contract saga doesn’t seem to be coming to an end, which is a shame, given the Senators have some legitimately good talent. Young forwards like Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, and Shane Pinto taking the next step up will be key if the Senators want to have a successful season.

27. Columbus Blue Jackets: A coaching change hopefully allows Patrik Laine to round back into form, and Elvis Merzlikins has some potential as a top netminder in the NHL. Unfortunately, the roster has too many holes to place them anywhere but last in the Metropolitan Division.

28. San Jose Sharks: The Evander Kane drama looms large, which can’t help a team locked into bad contracts and below-average goaltending. Tomas Hertl is shaping up to be one of the league’s premier trade chips come Deadline time.

29. Detroit Red Wings: Alex Nedeljkovic is the latest big move of the Yzerplan, and rookies Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond gives Wings fans something to look forward to. Losing Jakub Vrana for the first half of the year and Tyler Bertuzzi due to his anti-vax views, however, are losses that will be hard for this team to come back from.

30. Anaheim Ducks: With no additions to make any fixes from last season, don’t expect the Ducks to do anything of note this season. The only way this season is a success is if Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale emerge as building blocks for the future.

31. Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes tearing down their core netted them several prospects and eight picks in the first two rounds of the 2022 Draft, including three in the first round. With how bad this team will be this season, there’s a chance the Coyotes could head to their new home with phenom Shane Wright in tow.

32. Buffalo Sabres: How the entire Jack Eichel situation has unfolded is how bad teams stay bad. At least the Bills will distract Buffalo from the nightmare their hockey team has become.