With the first month of the NHL season almost over, we can finally get a fair assessment of how the hockey landscape looks.
During the first few weeks, these rankings have had to be organized and re-organized due to the endless amount of storylines coming early into the season. Some teams have worked to exceed expectations, while others have fallen well short of them. Teams are establishing themselves as Stanley Cup contenders, while others are searching for Connor Bedard highlights already. Whatever the case may be, the shifts we’ve seen already in how strong each team really is are remarkable.
For this week, given it is Halloween, I wanted to have a little fun and figure out what the “scariest” part of each team is. Whether that implies scary good or scary bad is subjective, although these rankings will probably be a fair indication of what to expect. Regardless, every team has some aspect that deserves to be examined closely, as it is something to either build off of or work to fix moving forward.
How scary is each NHL team? Let’s find out.
Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded from October 30.
1. Boston Bruins (15): The scary part with the Bruins is simple. Their 4.22 goals per game is far and away the best mark in the league, and Brad Marchand just returned to the lineup. Yikes.
2. Carolina Hurricanes (3): The Hurricanes might not even need Max Pacioretty with how scary good the second line has been. Andrei Svechnikov is emerging as a legitimate superstar, Martin Necas is having a breakout year, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi has been an analytics darling early on.
3. Calgary Flames (7): Despite having the league’s toughest strength of schedule, the Flames have impressed with a 5-2 start. Given that they’ve defeated potential playoff foes like Edmonton, Vegas, and Colorado early, Calgary has some impressive momentum on their side.
4. Vegas Golden Knights (16): Not only does Vegas have the best record in the West, but they’ve done it with dominating defense and goaltending. Logan Thompson and Adin Hill have given the Knights the highest combined save percentage in the league, and they’ve only given up a league-low 1.7 goals per game (for context, the next highest mark is Dallas and Boston at 2.33).
5. Colorado Avalanche (1): While the Avalanche haven’t been as dominant as expected in their Cup defense, they’re also currently missing captain Gabriel Landeskog and leading scorer Valeri Nichushkin. When those two come back, the chance for Colorado to go on a rampage increases dramatically.
6. Florida Panthers (4): Matthew Tkachuk has been as advertised, but the defensive depth has been tested with Aaron Ekblad out with an injury. Brandon Montour and Gustav Forsling have a combined 14 points and +10 differential; the rest of the defensive corps has a combined five points and +4 differential (Josh Mahura has +8, for context)
7. Edmonton Oilers (5): The Oilers may have a Jack Campbell problem and a Stuart Skinner solution. While the prized free agent Campbell has struggled so far this season (.888 save percentage and 3.89 GAA), his supposed understudy has provided Edmonton with much-needed stability in net (.955 and 1.59)
8. New York Rangers (9): Stars like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad have continued to play well, but the Rangers have inconsistent metrics and some bad losses to the likes of San Jose and Columbus on their ledger. This team may very well be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and that’s an aspect that must change sooner rather than later.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning (2): While the Lightning have started to win some games, the metrics still have them as one of the most inconsistent teams in the league. Which version of the Lightning is real: the one that started 1-3, or the one who has currently won four of its last five?
10. Pittsburgh Penguins (10): Losing to the Alberta teams is one thing, but losing to Seattle and Vancouver? These are teams that the Penguins should be beating, so this current losing streak has to be cause for some alarm.
11. Dallas Stars (17): Will the Stars be willing to say goodbye to a long-time leader this offseason? Between Jamie Benn’s poor production (three assists and -2 differential), Stars owner Tom Gagliardi publicly calling him out this offseason, and his potential replacement in Mason Marchment doing well (four goals and seven points), the captain is looking like a sleeper buyout candidate.
12. Minnesota Wild (8): Just when everyone was starting to write his obituary, Marc-Andre Fleury has risen from the dead. After a rough start, Fleury has come alive in the past week, winning all three of his starts and recording an impressive .927 save percentage and 1.95 GAA.
13. New Jersey Devils (24): Jesper Bratt’s next contract meeting is going to be a scary one for the Devils. Currently at fifth in the league with 15 points (ahead of the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon, and Sidney Crosby), Bratt will likely be looking for an extension well above the $5.45 million bridge contract he signed this offseason.
14. Toronto Maple Leafs (6): Auston Matthews has been snakebitten thus far, and the Leafs just got swept on a West Coast road trip. It’s probably a case of defensive injuries and bad puck luck, but have the Leafs and their fans ever been known for patience? Sheldon Keefe and Kyle Dubas are in very real danger.
15. Washington Capitals (13): The Capitals were already missing Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson, and now the injury list includes T.J. Oshie and John Carlson. There seems to always be a team that can’t play up to its potential due to serious injuries; is Washington playing that role this year?
16. Winnipeg Jets (25): The Jets have started to look better, and Connor Hellebuyck may have regained his form. Just this week alone, the Vezina-caliber goaltender recorded a 2-0-1 record with a .949 save percentage and 1.96 GAA.
17. Buffalo Sabres (27): It took four years to get there, but Rasmus Dahlin is finally playing up to his top overall pick status. His five goals and ten points are only second among defensemen to San Jose’s Erik Karlsson (six and eleven), and Dahlin’s +7 differential well surpasses Karlsson’s -2. He’s effectively on Norris Trophy watch.
18. Ottawa Senators (20): While the Senators are starting to find their form, the potentially season-ending injury to Josh Norris makes them worryingly thin at center. Expect them to be in on the likes of Bo Horvat, Jonathan Toews, and any other center that finds themselves on the rumor mill between now and the deadline.
19. St. Louis Blues (11): Similar to Dallas, the Blues may also be willing to part with their captain next summer. With extensions handed out to Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou, Ryan O’Reilly may be finding himself as the odd man out; if he can’t shake off a rough October (one point and -10 differential), there’s a real possibility St. Louis lets him walk in free agency.
20. Detroit Red Wings (19): Good news: Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Larkin are both at ten points already, and Ville Husso looks good in net. Bad news: no other Red Wing has more than five points, and defending Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider only has one across eight games.
21. Los Angeles Kings (14): While Gabriel Vilardi’s breakout has been noteworthy, the Kings won’t return to the playoffs if the goaltending doesn’t improve. After finishing with a .901 save percentage last season, Los Angeles currently has a league-worst .868 mark this season.
22. Nashville Predators (12): After defeating the Sharks twice in Prague, the Predators have only won one of their last seven games since returning to North America. The culprit has been easy to spot; their 2.44 goals per game is only better than San Jose and Anaheim.
23. New York Islanders (21): The Islanders are low for now, but they have the potential to make a big leap soon. They’re currently fourth in goals for, sixth in goals against, and they’ve had some nice wins over Colorado, Carolina, and the Rangers lately. Keep an eye on them as a potential sleeper team moving forward.
24. Philadelphia Flyers (31): In terms of scary, Gritty and the fear of John Tortorella chewing someone out in a press conference comes to mind. Good news is that the latter hasn’t had to happen yet, with the likes of Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny, and Carter Hart having bounceback years.
25. Seattle Kraken (26): While I disagree with usage of Shane Wright and don’t think Martin Jones can lead a team to the playoffs anymore, Seattle’s offense has looked much improved this season. After mustering only 2.6 goals per game in their inaugural season, they’ve managed to put up a more respectable 3.3 goals per game this season.
26. Montreal Canadiens (28): Martin St. Louis has had the Canadiens playing at least closer to their potential since getting behind the bench, and nowhere has that impact been more profound than with Cole Caufield. Currently tied for second with seven goals (Connor McDavid has nine), Caufield looks like a Rocket Richard Trophy candidate for now and the future.
27. Chicago Blackhawks (30): The Blackhawks have been extremely inconsistent so far, going from a four-game winning streak to dropping their last three. It feels like only a matter of time until at least one of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews gets traded, and Chicago would firmly put themselves in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes if that’s the case.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (22): So much for the renewed optimism in Columbus. Despite Johnny Gaudreau playing as advertised, the Blue Jackets go into a series against the Avalanche in Finland after getting blown out in their last three games, including giving up six goals to Arizona.
29. Vancouver Canucks (18): After losing their first seven games, the Canucks have scored their first two wins of the season, including a blowout victory over Pittsburgh. That said, the team still misses the likes of Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko’s start (.874 save percentage and 4.05 GAA) leaves a lot to be desired.
30. Anaheim Ducks (23): Anaheim’s defense is starting to approach lost cause territory. John Klingberg has been one of the more disappointing free agents this season, Jamie Drysdale will likely lose a season of development with a shoulder injury, and only Columbus and Arizona have given up more than Anaheim’s 4.22 goals against per game.
31. San Jose Sharks (29): Mike Grier may have avoided trouble by not extending Timo Meier this offseason. After scoring a career-high 35 goals and 76 points last season, Meier has been ice cold to start this campaign, only scoring once in 11 games.
32. Arizona Coyotes (32): It appears the Coyotes’ fate will be left to the polls in November, as their proposed arena project is likely going to a public referendum. If any problems arise between now and then, what happens next?