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.