Nerd Rage: The Arizona Coyotes’ Descent into Madness

Image Credit: NHL

On December 8, the financial issues that have plagued the Arizona Coyotes reached a brand new low. A letter was sent stating that the Arizona Department of Tax Revenue had filed a Notice of State Tax Lien on IceArizona, the ownership group of the Coyotes. IceArizona owed $1.3 million in unpaid taxes: $250,000 to the city of Glendale, and the rest to the state of Arizona. If the taxes were not paid by December 20, the Coyotes’ final season in Glendale would be ended prematurely and they would be locked out of Gila River Arena. They would pay said taxes the day after the news broke, but this incident speaks volumes about the health of the organization.

There have been stories about sports teams going through financial woes, but an organization not paying their taxes and being threatened with eviction is, at least to my knowledge, an unprecedented occurrence. The Coyotes made a statement claiming that the unpaid taxes were “the result of an unfortunate human error,” but is anyone seriously buying that story? With the Coyotes struggling economically and their recent history of late payments, the organization doesn’t exactly hold the benefit of the doubt at the moment. The question seems to no longer be “how could things get this bad?”; it’s become “can things get any worse?”

I won’t make too much light of the Coyotes’ on-ice struggles, even in the present day. They just provide mere context to the organizational issues. There has only been one time the Coyotes really stood out; a magical 2011-12 season that saw them claim first place in the then five-team Pacific Division and make a run to the Western Conference Finals. It was their last playoff appearance until 2019-20…and the only reason they made it was the playoff format going haywire due to COVID-19. They did get an upset series win over the Nashville Predators in the Qualifying Round, but those problems spoke more about the Predators’ Cup window closing than the Coyotes becoming a legitimate contender. When faced with one such team in the Colorado Avalanche, the Coyotes folded like origami. That’s all that I think needs to be said on that front.

Then we reach the off-ice issues…and going through them is the NHL’s equivalent of the Odyssey. Initially, then-owner Steve Ellman had an idea to build the Coyotes a home in Scottsdale, but costs became too much of a hassle and the deal was off. With that, Ellman looked towards Glendale and, while the entire mixed-use complex centered by the Coyotes’ new arena finished behind schedule, the team had a new long-term home. Here’s the issue: the location quickly turned out to be a mistake.

Much of the growth in Arizona at the time took place in the eastern part of the state, with Phoenix suburbs like Scottsdale, Mesa, and Tempe turning into thriving cities and being homes to several of the demographics that the NHL appeals to. On an average day, taking the I-10 West to Glendale from downtown Phoenix would be a 20 minute drive. From any of the suburbs listed, you would be looking at a 30-to-40 minute drive, once again on major highways with usual traffic. Granted, the Arizona Cardinals also play in Glendale, but to compare them with the Coyotes would be a false equivalency. The Cardinals primarily play on Sundays, so local fans would be more willing to make the drive, not to mention most NFL fanbases are incredibly loyal and travel well with their team. The Coyotes play half of their regular-season schedule at home, but most of those games occur on weeknights, when fans will be less enthusiastic about the long drive and poor location. Add to that the Coyotes’ on-ice issues, and there’s even less incentive to watch, even now.

Compared to other issues, however, the Coyotes’ arena issues come across as small potatoes. Since the Coyotes’ move to Glendale, they have been plagued by severe ownership issues. They haven’t had just one, not two, but three owners in the last fifteen years or so, with rumors of a fourth starting to swirl. Shortly after the Coyotes moved to Glendale, trucking magnate Jerry Moyes became the owner of the team. It would turn out to be a bad investment for Moyes; the team would lose over $30 million in his three seasons as owner and he would eventually declare bankruptcy, leading to a long-winded legal battle between Moyes and the NHL. Moyes wanted to sell the team to BlackBerry founder and Canadian billionaire Jim Balsille for $212.5 million, who would have moved the team to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; the NHL and Commissioner Gary Bettman would accuse Moyes of sabotaging an offer from a group spearheaded by Jerry Reinsdorf that would keep the team in Glendale. The team would eventually come under the temporary stewardship of the NHL itself until a new long-term owner could be found. With multiple ownership bids falling through and the Coyotes undergoing relocation rumors to Winnipeg, Quebec City, and Seattle, the team was sold to IceArizona in 2013, a group of business leaders across North America.

There was a brief period of time with hedge-fund manager Andrew Barroway at the helm, but that did little to stop the hemorrhaging of money that the Coyotes were causing. It’s a nice segue to the present day as, in 2019, Alex Meruelo became the first-ever Latin American NHL owner and bought the majority stake of the Coyotes from Barroway. Meruelo made a commitment to keeping the team in Glendale, but current events would do their best to derail such plans. Much of Meruelo’s portfolio came from casinos; cue a worldwide pandemic where casinos and the gaming industry are one of the most affected parts of America’s private sector. Through no fault of Meruelo’s own, the Coyotes suddenly found themselves right back in the unknown waters they thought they escaped from. A shaky financial situation might explain why the Coyotes had to furlough half of their team staff due to the pandemic, but that’s primarily speculation.

To be fair, the reasoning behind such speculation is sound. Remember at the beginning how I mentioned that the Coyotes had a recent history of late payments beyond just the tax incident? Well, there’s a couple of incidents that served as precursors. First, after the 2019-20 season concluded, multiple sources reported that the team was late on paying out signing bonuses to several players. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Coyotes were also late on a $1.6 million payment to ASM Global, the company that manages Gila River Arena. Were those the results of human error as well, or does it paint a disturbing picture of a team that’s been bleeding money since they moved to Arizona? How many incidents like these can happen before the organization stops dismissing the real issues?

If the Coyotes and NHL won’t admit it, others will. It’s exactly what Forbes did in its most recent Business of Hockey List. Not only are the Coyotes the least valuable team in the NHL with an approximate valuation of $400 million ($50 million lower than the next-lowest team), but they lost an astounding $33 million in 2021. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t just a recent occurrence for the Coyotes; in the ten-year span that Forbes provides data for, they have lost an approximate total of $141.6 million. How can anyone, much less the NHL, look at this and think it’s okay for any part of their business to struggle this badly for this long?

What makes all of this worse is the fact that the Coyotes’ proposal to the city of Tempe for a new arena and entertainment complex has yet to be accepted. The Coyotes’ $1.7 billion proposal has seen some opposition from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport. Sky Harbor has expressed multiple concerns about incompatible use of the land, the heights of the buildings in the complex, and the complex being in very close proximity to the airport’s two busiest runways. While the Coyotes are saying that the project wouldn’t cause any issues with the airport’s operations, the city of Tempe obviously can’t overlook such concerns. According to Sky Harbor’s website, the airport makes $106 million daily for the Phoenix area, as well as a total of $38.7 billion annually. I’m not exactly knowledgeable on how cities conduct their business, but I think that kind of economic impact nets a business at least some clout when said business directly concerns them.

What happens if Tempe decides that Sky Harbor’s concerns are valid and the Coyotes need to make sweeping changes to the proposal if they want to keep it alive? If Tempe, assuming it’s legal to do so, decided to run their own investigation on Meruelo, IceArizona, and the Coyotes organization as a whole, what would they find? Could the Coyotes commit as much money as they’ve promised and be able to financially commit after that? There’s a lot of variables that still need to be accounted for, and incidents such as the Coyotes’ tax problems suddenly put things in a less flattering light.

Even though everything looks bleak for the Coyotes’ future in Arizona, they do have one massive supporter: Gary Bettman. There may be no one more committed to Arizona hockey right now than Bettman is, including Meruelo. The NHL Commissioner has played a key role in keeping the Coyotes in the desert, denying relocation rumors (including the most recent ones coming from the tax incident) and insisting that the Coyotes have a viable future. That said, it’s hard to justify him attacking the city of Glendale like he has. Despite Glendale having every reason to be weary of the Coyotes financially, Bettman has gone on record to claim that the city has an agenda against the team and hasn’t negotiated in good faith. At this point, can you blame Glendale and City Manager Kevin Phelps for being exasperated about this situation? They’re playing the role of landlords to a derelict tenant; the excuses have worn thin, and it is long past time to tell the Coyotes that the late payments won’t be tolerated anymore.

Let’s say that the Tempe deal falls through, however. At that point, it may be time for Bettman to admit defeat and open the Coyotes up to outside markets. It’s unlikely that the NHL will relocate an American team to Quebec, but talks have opened between the NHL and the province regarding further expansion. There would be a lot of things going for Quebec City as a home to an NHL team; the VideoTron Centre that is home to the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts would be a viable NHL arena, a passionate fanbase, and an established cross-province rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens. As far as American markets are concerned, the clear leader to land the Coyotes is Houston. Not only has current Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta openly inquired about an NHL team, but Toyota Center would be a viable NHL arena and a Houston team would get an in-state rival in the Dallas Stars. Houston has also become the fourth-largest city in the US by population, and one of only two of the top ten media markets that are not represented in the NHL (the other one is Atlanta, which has had two failed attempts at an NHL team.) Even if a Houston idea falls through, the Coyotes would have plenty of suitors; Kansas City, Austin, and San Diego would all be great homes for any NHL franchise, much less the Coyotes.

Now, before I end this, I want to say that this is not an indictment on hockey in Arizona as a whole. Arizona State University and the University of Arizona have started to build decent programs. Some of the NHL’s top stars like Auston Matthews and the Tkachuk brothers call Arizona home. There is a fanbase here and, if the Coyotes do make the move to Tempe, perhaps the NHL fanbase at large will be pleasantly surprised. They’ve just grown tired and impatient with the mediocre play on the ice and the poor mismanagement off of it. This recent episode with unpaid taxes has just been the latest setback in the Coyotes establishing themselves in Arizona, and an uncertain future could mean that they won’t get another opportunity to do so.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 8 Edition

Image Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

We have officially crossed the quarter mark of the NHL season.

It’s been a time of change for the NHL in recent weeks. Just last week, I was talking about the Canadiens firing Marc Bergevin and instantly getting Jeff Gorton to kickstart what’s looking like an inevitable rebuild. Within the last 24 hours or so, two more teams have made significant changes. In Vancouver, Travis Green and Jim Benning were shown the door in a move that, frankly, should have happened last offseason. With Bruce Boudreau now behind the bench and an expected collaborative effort in the front office, the Canucks will be looking to salvage what they can from what looks like a lost season.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Philadelphia Flyers have fired head coach Alain Vigneault after a 7-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the latest in an eight-game skid. Similar to another divisional rival in the New York Islanders, the Flyers’ recent string of losses are hurting their chances to remain competitive in a strong Metropolitan Division. Similar to the Canadiens, the Flyers deserve credit for at least getting aggressive and addressing the problem early. Bad news is that the interim head coach is a man Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher is well-acquainted with: Mike Yeo. The last time we caught up with Yeo, he was running the Blues into the ground in the 2018-19 season before being replaced by Craig Berube and…well, you know the rest. Needless to say, I’m not feeling particularly optimistic that Yeo’s third tour of duty as an NHL head coach is going to go that well.

With all that said, how does the NHL stack up this week?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded on December 5.

1. Florida Panthers (5): The most entertaining team in the NHL over the last couple of weeks, the Panthers won all of their games last week in come-from-behind fashion, including erasing three-goal deficits against Washington and Buffalo. That’s the type of resiliency that will serve this team well, come playoff time.

2. Minnesota Wild (9): The biggest riser of the week, the Wild have won six straight games and have pulled ahead in the Central Division. If they can just fix their power play, which currently ranks 28th in the league, I’m not sure if there’s a noticeable flaw that can be exploited.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (1): The Leafs had their winning streak broken by the Wild, necessitating a small drop in the rankings this week. Still, Auston Matthews is scoring goals left and right to insert himself back into the Rocket Richard Trophy conversation, including a hat trick against Colorado.

4. Washington Capitals (3): In this week’s Ovechkin Watch, Alex hit 20 goals this season and 750 on his career. That and the re-emergences of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov have been critical towards the Capitals being in the running for the Metropolitan Division crown.

5. Carolina Hurricanes (4): A 5-4-1 record in their last ten games is a disappointment for a Hurricanes squad that started off so strongly this season. The loss to a white-hot Dallas squad was somewhat understandable; losing to lowly Ottawa, not so much.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning (6): If you were expecting the Lightning to fall off at some point, you’ll be disappointed to know that the defending champs are on a three-game winning streak. Steven Stamkos has been critical to Tampa Bay’s success, riding a seven-game point streak at the moment.

7. Edmonton Oilers (2): The Oilers fell back into some bad habits this week, with a top-heavy offense being unable to overcome a battered defense and shoddy goaltending. If this continues, expect Edmonton to be connected to any top goaltender on the trade market when the deadline rolls around.

8. Calgary Flames (8): The Flames have plenty of reasons to like their chances this season, and it starts with goaltending. Whether it’s Jacob Markstrom or Dan Vladar manning the crease, their play has given Calgary a chance to win every night.

9. New York Rangers (10): A six-game winning streak would normally indicate a massive rise, but Igor Shesterkin’s lower body injury complicates matters for the Rangers. He’s been a pivotal reason as to why New York is exceeding expectations, so they can prove something to a lot of people if they do well in this upcoming stretch.

10. Colorado Avalanche (7): The offense has been there for the Avalanche, but they desperately need to fix the back end. Their defense is currently sixth-worst in the league at 3.38 goals allowed per game, and Darcy Kuemper’s injury has forced an overmatched Jonas Johansson into starts.

11. Dallas Stars (16): A six-game winning streak has pushed the Stars closer to the top ten, and Roope Hintz has played a big part of that recent success. After a rough start to the season, Hintz now has ten goals in as many games, including a hat trick in an upset win over Carolina.

12. Anaheim Ducks (17): Troy Terry continues his hot start, and the Ducks may have an intriguing line with Trevor Zegras centering Sonny Milano and Rickard Rakell. After having the league’s worst offense last season, being seventh with 3.32 goals per game is a massive accomplishment.

13. Vegas Golden Knights (11): Vegas’s drop isn’t so much on them having a bad week more than the two teams leapfrogging them having better weeks. With Max Pacioretty being an offensive force right now and the team starting to find its way again, however, the descent likely shouldn’t go any further.

14. Boston Bruins (12): There is some cause for concern for Boston right now, as they are currently last in five-on-five shooting percentage with a dismal 5.84% success rate. It speaks to some issues with Boston’s offensive depth, which has been a common theme over the last few years.

15. Detroit Red Wings (21): The numbers haven’t been too supportive of their rise, but the Red Wings have won five games in a row. Sometimes, the results speak louder than the process.

16. St. Louis Blues (13): The offense has returned to form a bit in recent games, and the Blues have gotten back into the top ten on offense. Now, if only the rest of their underlying numbers were as positive…

17. Pittsburgh Penguins (14): Tristan Jarry is rewarding the Penguins for not giving up on him after his disastrous postseason. Out of goaltenders who have started ten games or more, Jarry is currently fourth in save percentage with .934 and third in GAA with 1.92.

18. Winnipeg Jets (18): A 4-5-1 in their last ten games isn’t a good thing, but Mark Scheifele did manage a breakout game against the Devils earlier this week. Hopefully, a hat trick is just Winnipeg’s number one center needed to break out of his early-season funk.

19. Nashville Predators (19): I’m still not sure if the Predators have what it takes to get anywhere beyond being a middle-of-the-road squad. A four-goal game for Filip Forsberg against Columbus certainly made him noticeable for any team needing offense at the deadline…assuming Nashville decides to stop holding off a rebuild.

20. Columbus Blue Jackets (15): A week where the Blue Jackets dropped three of four games and looked like the worse team in all of them speaks to where they are right now. They’ll play above their expectations one week, then sink below them the next.

21. Los Angeles Kings (23): The Kings haven’t been great lately, but the struggles of the teams above them put them closer to the top twenty. Anze Kopitar has been the only positive on offense so far, as the Kings are putting up only 2.64 goals per game.

22. San Jose Sharks (24): Similar to their in-state rivals, the Sharks have moved up more on the struggles of the teams above them than their own success. At least Erik Karlsson is playing up to his contract for arguably the first time since becoming the league’s highest-paid defenseman.

23. Seattle Kraken (25): The Kraken have been getting it together on offense, which speaks to their rise in the last week or so. My only concern is that the negatives surrounding the Kraken still outweigh the positives.

24. Chicago Blackhawks (26): The good news is that offseason acquisitions Seth Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury have shaken off rough starts to their seasons. The bad news is that longtime stalwart and captain Jonathan Toews is still without a goal at the quarter mark.

25. New Jersey Devils (20): A three-game losing streak has the Devils sliding down the rankings, with the main culprit being poor goaltending. While the Devils defense as a whole has been alright, they are still letting go of over three goals per game.

26. Philadelphia Flyers (22): Everything’s gone wrong for the Flyers lately. That’s really all that has to be said.

27. Vancouver Canucks (31): The Canucks’ rise is more on my curiosity of Bruce Boudreau meshing with this current team. It probably won’t lead to much postseason success, but he is third all-time in points percentage for a reason.

28. Ottawa Senators (32): Fun fact: since being bitten by Brendan Lemieux, Brady Tkachuk has scored five points in the last three games, and the Senators have won against Carolina and Colorado. Relevant? No. Hilarious? Absolutely.

29. Montreal Canadiens (29): The Canadiens are 2-7-1 in their last ten games, and a loss to Colorado led to fans tossing their jerseys out onto the ice. I can only imagine the fans’ reaction when their favorite players are traded away.

30. Buffalo Sabres (27): Goaltending has turned into a real issue for the Sabres, with Malcom Subban joining the list of injuries at the position after a disastrous debut in net. It’s not a matter of if top prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen cracks the team, but when he takes over.

31. Arizona Coyotes (30): I’m willing to throw in the towel on Jakob Chychrun this season. Whether it’s due to not finding a full-time defensive partner or the general awfulness of this Coyotes team, Chychrun has had a rough year both in terms of statistics and metrics.

32. New York Islanders (28): The descent to the bottom is complete for the Islanders, who haven’t won a game in a month. If Barry Trotz didn’t have the pedigree he has, he’d undoubtedly be shown the door.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 7 Edition

Image Credit: David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

The second month of the NHL season is nearly in the books.

Now that we’ve passed Thanksgiving, we’ve reached a critical milestone when it comes to the NHL playoff picture. In the salary cap era, teams that are currently in playoff spots have a 77% chance of remaining there by the time the postseason rolls around. Of course, this doesn’t make Thanksgiving the be all, end all for playoff hopes; look at St. Louis and Buffalo in 2018-19 for example. The Blues were tied for the worst record in the NHL when Thanksgiving rolled around, while the Sabres rode a hot start to tie for the second playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Fast forward to the end of that season and, while the Sabres added another year to their current streak of postseason-less hockey, the Blues were skating around with the Stanley Cup. Realistically, you can expect two or three teams to sneak into playoff spots before the end of the season; the only questions are who those teams will be and who they will replace.

If we were to take a look at the standings, the picture starts to take shape. In the East, the top three in both divisions seem relatively secure. It’s the Wild Card spots that are much tighter races; Pittsburgh and Columbus held them when Thanksgiving rolled around, but teams like Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and even Detroit are right on their heels. The West is much more wide open, with spots in the division still well up for grabs. Each of the divisions are separated by a few points, and even the wild card races are close. Very few teams can safely be considered out of the hunt already, but who knows if any team can pull a St. Louis and climb all the way back?

For now, however, how does the NHL shape up this week?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded as of November 28.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs (3): A new leader has emerged this week, as the Leafs have rolled to win 14 of their last 16 games. A lot of Toronto fans will obviously be looking to translate this into postseason success, but this has been a promising start so far.

2. Edmonton Oilers (2): Edmonton’s won four of their last five games, and Leon Draisaitl is still averaging two points PER GAME. The Pacific Division may be tighter than usual this season, but the Oilers are definitely at the top of the class right now.

3. Washington Capitals (5): An 8-1-1 record in their last ten games is nice enough, but Alex Ovechkin has been the real story. He’s collected seven goals in the last five games, putting his total to 19 goals in 22 games. Gretzky is very much is sight.

4. Carolina Hurricanes (1): Bit of a rough patch for the former leaders, who lost three of four last week and only scored more than two goals once. Nothing to worry about, as the Hurricanes still lead the league in points percentage with a mark of .750.

5. Florida Panthers (5): The Panthers stay in the top five for now, but they’re going to miss Anthony Duclair as much as they miss Aleksander Barkov. Duclair has put together a strong season, scoring nine goals and 17 points in 19 games.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning (6): The Lightning are 7-2-1 in their last ten contests, even with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point on the injury list. The success they’ve had in this stretch, as well as when any other star player is out, shows just how deep this team is.

7. Colorado Avalanche (13): Safe to say the Avalanche have shaken off an iffy start, winning seven of their last eight games. The major catalyst for this success has been their league-leading offense, which is averaging four goals a game…mostly WITHOUT Nathan MacKinnon.

8. Calgary Flames (8): Darryl Sutter’s defensive-minded philosophy has finally resonated with the Flames, but their offense has come along very nicely. They may have found a nice first line with Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk, as all three have been strong both in basic stats and analytics since being paired together.

9. Minnesota Wild (9): Kirill Kaprizov has started racking up the points, but my vote for the Wild’s early-season MVP would go to Ryan Hartman. He’s racked up four goals in his last five games to put his season total at 12, and he is currently on pace to shatter his career high of 19 goals in 2016-17.

10. New York Rangers (10): Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, and Igor Shesterkin seem to be the next trio of great players to wear the Rangers jerseys, and they have been rolling right now. Even better, the underlying numbers that have dogged the Blueshirts all season are starting to trend in the right direction.

11. Vegas Golden Knights (7): Vegas seems to be in that “getting key players back, but experiencing inconsistency as they readjust” phase. Still feels like a sleeping giant to me, especially with their top two centers still injured.

12. Boston Bruins (11): The Bruins are still very much in the playoff hunt but, like Vegas, the consistency just hasn’t been there for them yet. It might not be coming for a bit longer, as they’ll be without their best player in Brad Marchand for the next few games.

13. St. Louis Blues (15): The Blues have gotten points in three of their last four games, which should give them some momentum for the rough stretch ahead against Florida and Tampa Bay. After an impressive season last year, Jordan Kyrou seems poised for a true breakout with 22 points in 21 games.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins (18): Despite massive personnel issues and Sidney Crosby being off to a slow start, the Penguins were still able to rattle off a five-game winning streak before falling to Montreal. The contributions of Jake Guentzel (not surprising) and Evan Rodrigues (very surprising) have been huge so far.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets (21): The Blue Jackets have won three of their last four, managing to stay in a very competitive Metropolitan Division. Give credit to Brad Larsen for continuing to make the Jackets one of the toughest teams to play against.

16. Dallas Stars (23): Don’t look now, but the Stars have gone on a four-game winning streak and have won six of their last seven games. The offense is starting to show some balance, while the re-emergence of Jake Oettinger means Dallas may have to make a decision on Braden Holtby or Anton Khudobin.

17. Anaheim Ducks (14): Troy Terry has started to slow down, and the Ducks have lost four of their last five. A streak of bad luck, or a regression back to their expectations?

18. Winnipeg Jets (12): A four-goal explosion against Calgary was sorely needed, as the Jets only scored five goals in a five-game losing streak before then. Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler have been core contributors to the problem so far, with only two goals between them so far this season.

19. Nashville Predators (16): Last week was an accurate representation of the Predators; good enough to beat average to bad teams, but a few steps below the league’s elite. Now watch as they break another winning streak at the deadline to keep them from selling.

20. New Jersey Devils (20): The Devils haven’t exactly been impressive lately, with only two wins in their last seven games. At least Dougie Hamilton is producing as expected.

21. Detroit Red Wings (22): With a nice stretch of games coming up and coming off back-to-back wins, the Red Wings have a chance to gain serious momentum this week. This team needs to start winning on the road, however; they have only won three times in 11 road games so far.

22. Philadelphia Flyers (17): The Flyers have started to unravel recently, losing six straight games, winning only two of their last ten games, and injuries beginning to make an impact. If Philadelphia wants to keep pace in a stacked Metropolitan Division, they’ll have to shake this off sooner rather than later.

23. Los Angeles Kings (19): The Kings have also struggled in recent times, losing five consecutive games before beating Ottawa (more on them later). The most notable thing for LA as of late? Brendan Lemieux’s Mike Tyson impression.

24. San Jose Sharks (26): The Sharks have done alright to stick around the playoff picture, and Timo Meier’s been playing arguably his best hockey this season. I still just can’t see a team this inconsistent as a playoff threat.

25. Seattle Kraken (31): A stretch against four of the top six teams in these rankings, and the Kraken managed to win three out of four? This is the kind of stretch that builds serious momentum.

26. Chicago Blackhawks (25): Good news: the Blackhawks have won six of their last nine games and Marc-Andre Fleury is starting to figure it out in Chicago. Bad news: only three Hawks have scored more than three times this season.

27. Buffalo Sabres (27): It was nice of the Sabres to fade before Thanksgiving this season. At least Tage Thompson is looking like a key piece of the seemingly eternal rebuild.

28. New York Islanders (24): Putting the Islanders on pause due to a COVID outbreak almost feels like an act of mercy. They’ve lost eight games in a row, UBS Arena has yet to see a home victory, and they are digging a hole that could eventually become too tough to climb out of.

29. Montreal Canadiens (29): Being fired mere months after making the Stanley Cup Finals is the last chapter of Marc Bergevin’s complicated legacy as Canadiens GM. With Jeff Gorton now at the helm and the season slipping away, expect a rebuild soon.

30. Arizona Coyotes (32): The Coyotes are still terrible, but the two teams that fell below them have somehow been even worse. At least Shayne Gostisbehere is helping himself out.

31. Vancouver Canucks (28): Elias Pettersson has been the poster child of Vancouver’s problems, scoring only one point in his last nine games and only ten throughout this season. Travis Green and Jim Benning seem like safe bets to be fired as apathy is setting in.

32. Ottawa Senators (30): Believe it or not, the Coyotes beat the Senators to the ten-point mark on the season (COVID’s only played a small part of the problem). Matt Murray going unclaimed on waivers has completed his own personal fall from grace.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 6 Edition

Image Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images

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

Image Credit: Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

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

Image Credit: Rich Lam/Getty Images

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.