THW NHL Mid-Season Rankings

Every team in the NHL has hit the half-way point of the 2013-2014 regular season. With the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics right around the corner, there’s no better time for THW to put out their NHL mid-season power rankings.

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

30. Calgary Flames

The Flames had a respectable start to the 2013-14 season by earning points in their first 5 games. Things have crumbled since then as the Flames are near the basement of the Western Conference. Before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night, they were shutout in five of their previous seven games. They’re 3-7 in their last 10 games.

29. Buffalo Sabres

The new NHL is supposed to allow for teams to score. The Sabres have a difficult time taking advantage of a more wide-open league. They’ve only scored 77 goals while sitting in the basement of a weak Eastern Conference. The Sabres are 10 points behind the Florida Panthers who are in second-t0-last place in the East. The Sabres have played better hockey of late, but will remain in the basement until season’s end. Ryan Miler has been their only bright spot with the save of the year Sunday night.

28. Edmonton Oilers

This was supposed to be the breakout year for the Oilers. They have great young talent at the forward position, but the Oilers’ forwards have yet to show their full potential. Their biggest issue is their defense. The Oilers don’t have any. They’ve surrendered the most goals in the league (169). Until the Oilers make a blockbuster trade to shore up their defense and goaltending, they’ll always be a pretender.

27. Nashville Predators

The Preds are entirely dependent on Pekka Rinne. The problem is that he isn’t playing for the Preds due to a hip injury. The good news is that the Predators’ website released an update about Rinne on Friday stating that he would begin weight training under doctor supervision. The Preds don’t have much NHL-caliber talent at the offensive end. Like years past, they’re solely built on defense behind Rinne and defenseman Shea Weber, their leading-scorer. The Preds have three regulation wins in their past 14 games.

26. Florida Panthers

The Panthers have a lot of high draft picks that they’re depending on in the future. The team is attempting to rebuild, but the Panthers are sitting right where everyone expected them to be this season. Tim Thomas hasn’t pulled off a miracle to put this young team on his shoulders. There isn’t any goalie who could play well enough for the Panthers to overachieve. This team will fight to reach the .500 mark all season.

Paul Maurice

Paul Maurice won his first game behind the Winnipeg Jets’ bench on Sunday. (Vincent Muzik/ICON SMI)

25. Winnipeg Jets

The Jets were in disarray after losing five games in a row. They’ve attempted to mend their wounds with the hiring of Paul Maurice who won his first game. Jets’ fans should be happy with this hiring. Maurice is former Stanley Cup-winning coach. Claude Noel had plenty of time to prove he was the right man for the job, but he failed. The Jets have too much talent to be where they currently stand in the West.

24. Dallas Stars

While the acquisition of Tyler Seguin has reignited hockey in the city of Dallas, the Stars’ season has hit an all-time low. They’ve lost six games in a row which is the longest losing-streak in the league. Most of these losses have been ugly. The Stars gave up 18 goals in three of these losses and were shutout in another. Every team hits a wall during the season, the Stars’ young corps needs to prove they’re able to overcome adversity.

23. Toronto Maple Leafs

At the beginning of the season, the Leafs had us convinced they were one of the better teams in the East. They started the season 6-1, winning 10 out of their first 14 games. Toronto was in a panic when the Leafs lost four straight contests and fell out of a playoff spot. The Leafs have to break out of this funk or Randy Carlysle may be on his way of town. A win last night was a step in the right direction.

22. New Jersey Devils

There’s no other way to put it like THW’s Dan Rice did when he said the Devils are “Consistently Inconsistent.” The Devils lack scoring depth, but when they’re playing “their game,” there’s no tougher team to score against in the league. But the Devils can’t seem to breakout this season. They haven’t had a winning-streak over three games. This was in mid-November (Penguins, Ducks, Kings). The Devils will struggle until the end of the season to make the playoffs, but no team will want to face the Devils if they qualify.

(Photo: Andy Martin Jr)

Jeff Skinner is one of the hottest goal-scorers in the league over the past month. (Photo: Andy Martin Jr)

21. Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes were one of the hotter teams in the league having run off five straight wins before falling to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames. These pair of losses were the first of the season for Anton Khudobin. He’s been a bright spot for the Cane since returning from injury. Khudobin was in the net for each game during the Hurricanes winning-streak and is 6-2 on the year. Jeff Skinner, who has buried 18 goals in his past 21 games, has also helped Khudobin carry the load.

20. Phoenix Coyotes

Mike Smith may have been picked for Team Canada, but that’s the only good news to come out of Phoenix lately. Smith’s stats are nothing to boast about (2.89 GAA & .910 SV%), but that shows how well he’s played this year since Team Canada executives decided to take him aboard. He’s kept his team in playoff contention. The Coyotes are going in the wrong direction in the tough Western Conference with three regulation wins in their past 14 games. They’ve always depended on defense, but they’ve played too loosely in their own end this season.

John Tavares Islanders

John Tavares is tied for second in scoring with 56 points. (Icon SMI)

19. New York Islanders

The Islanders have played some great hockey going 8-2 in their past 10 games. This has included three-game and four-game winning streaks during that span. This year has seen the Isles take a step back from a playoff birth a season ago. But with one of the best players in the game – John Tavares – the Isles have plenty of time to sneak into a playoff spot. They’ve won seven straight road games.

18. Columbus Blue Jackets

After missing the playoffs by a single point and a strong push to finish last season, big things were expected from the Blue Jackets this year. A 6-10 start quieted any hype. But the Blue Jackets seem to be turning things around once again. They’re winners of four straight, and seven out of their last 10 games. They just surpassed the .500 mark with a win against the Jets Saturday. Sergei Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, seems to be shaping into form with five straight victories.

 

Jason Spezza Senators
Jason Spezza is having a miserable season, but still has time to pick up the slack. (Icon SMI)

17. Ottawa Senators

The Senators may be one of the most disappointing teams to this point of the 2013-14 campaign. Their stars haven’t shown up to shine this season. Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek have been huge letdowns. Their plus-minus rating is a combined -34 on the season. Spezza, a regular atop the individual scoring leaders each season, isn’t even close this year with 31 points. However, the Senators have won five out of their last six games. Craig Anderson has turned his forgettable season around and is 6-0-1 in his last seven starts.

16. Detroit Red Wings

What a strange year it has been for the Red Wings. They’d rather play on the road than at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings have the best road record in the Eastern Conference, 14-6-3. They’re 6-10-7 at home. This equation is unsolvable. As we’ve seen some great Red Wings teams in the recent past, this team is average at best. They’re in a weaker conference this year and are one point away from being out of the playoffs. Right now, they’re without their best player, Pavel Datsuk. But first things first, the Red Wings need to figure out how to win at the Joe.

Alex Ovechkin (michael starghill/Flickr)

Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL with 32 goals, but has a plus-minus rating of -15. (michael starghill/Flickr)

15. Washington Capitals

The Capitals are a big disappointment and have been since Bruce Boudreau was sent packing. Things weren’t so bad looking back on them now. Adam Oates hasn’t been able to get the Capitals over the playoff hump. This season has been an anomaly. Alexander Ovechkin is leading the league in goals (32), Nicklas Backstrom is back in top form, but the Capitals can’t win enough games to be amongst the Eastern Conference elite. For the past month and half, the Capitals have developed a pattern of win, loss, and overtime loss in the standings. Their offensive talent should give them another playoff birth, but their defense and goaltending are still in question.

14. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers had a horrendous start and this caused Peter Laviolette to be shown the door. Once Craig Berube took over, not much changed. Flyers’ fans wondered if general manager Paul Holmgren had made the right move. It looks like good things do come to those who wait. From being in last place in the East, the Flyers have propelled themselves to 4th place in the Metropolitan division. Being in contention for a playoff spot right now is an accomplishment in itself. Most of their stars – Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek – have broken out of their early season funks and are back on track. Expect the Flyers to make the post-season.

 

Josh Harding Wild

Josh Harding has played at a Vezina Trophy-level this season. (Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)

13. Minnesota Wild

Josh Harding has been the feel good story of the season and is one of the biggest reasons why the Wild stand to make the playoffs as of today. Harding ranks first in the league with a 1.65 GAA and second amongst all net-minders with a .933 SV%.  December was a tough month when the Wild lost seven out of eight games at one point. Mike Yeo was on the hot seat even though Zach Parise is having a disappointing season. Despite the holiday blues, Yeo has the squad back on track winning five out of six games in the month of January.

12. New York Rangers

The Rangers began the season on one of the most brutal road trips (nine games) in NHL history. While Madison Square Garden was being renovated, the Rangers traveled to hell and back going 3-6. They played .500 hockey until Christmas time. Henrik Lundqvist, who’s always been relied upon to carry the team, wasn’t playing up to snuff. The Rangers have taken a step forward over their past 11 games going 8-2-1. This record is no coincidence considering their best player has been their best player. Lundqvist is 5-1-1 in his last seven tilts.

 

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Not many people were happy about Michel Therrien coming back to Montreal, but he’s proved that he was well worth the hire. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

11. Montreal Canadiens

The Habs got out ahead of the pack when they went 10-0-1 between November 19th-December 7th. That span of play has them feeling pretty comfortable in 4th place in the East. The most impressive thing is that Michel Therrien has made the Habs one of the better teams in the league for a second straight season. Carey Price has great numbers once again, but will he be able to perform in the post-season where he’s continued to struggle? The Habs are the epitome of team having nine players with 20 points or more.

10. Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks took some time to get acquainted with John Tortorella’s system.  Once they figured things out, they ran off seven consecutive wins. The Canucks still have the talent to do some damage in the playoffs. It’s just a matter of whether they’re motivated because they didn’t seem to be in last year’s post-season. The team’s biggest question coming into this year was Roberto Luongo. Everyone thought he was leaving, but Bobby Lu has been extremely valuable for the Canucks. The goaltending has done well with Eddie Lack carrying the load during Luongo’s injury.

Matt Duchene Avalanche

Matt Duchene is having his best season in a Colorado Avalanche uniform. (Icon SMI)

9. Colorado Avalanche

The Avs and coach Patrick Roy have been the biggest surprise of the year. They caught on fire winning 11 of their first 12 games. Then the young team hit a bit of a wall and played .500 hockey after a 14-2 start. Semyon Varlamov has himself in Vezina contention with a 21-8-5 record. He’s been the anchor for the Avs. Matt Duchene is having his finest season and leads the team with 39 points. The Avs have a talented young squad that has bought into Roy’s tough mentality. They are a good team and they believe it.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning

What a Cinderella story the Lightning have been this season. Once Steven Stamkos went down with a broken leg, the season was thought to be over for the Bolts by many. While the team had to adjust to life without Stamkos and struggled for a few games, they’ve proved to the rest of the league that they’re no joke. They are 15-10-4 in the absence of their elite sniper and sit third in the Eastern Conference. Ben Bishop, the front-runner to win the Vezina Trophy, has carried the team. Bishop is 22-5-3, with a 1.86 GAA, and .935 SV%.

Dustin Brown and the Kings were all smiles as they won their second straight game (Photo by Chassen Ikiri).

Dustin Brown and the Kings have hit a major scoring drought but are still a team to be reckoned now that Jonathan Quick has returned to the line-up. (Photo by Chassen Ikiri).

7. Los Angeles Kings

Before Monday night’s victory, the Kings had struggled mightily with two regulation wins in their last nine games. They’ve been quite a streaky team this season. They won 9 out of 10 when third-string goalie Martin Jones made a name for himself across the hockey universe. Following their best patch of the season, L.A. lost five straight contests. Right now the Kings are experiencing some scoring woes. Goal-scoring has always been this team’s biggest problem, but they’re built as a tight-checking playoff team. Jonathan Quick recently returned from an injury and will find a groove soon, along with the rest of the team.

6. San Jose Sharks

The Sharks made some changes a year ago which saw them finish the lockout shortened season as a 6th seed in the West. Those moves have paid dividends this season where the Sharks are right back where we’ve become accustomed to seeing them during the regular season. The Sharks have two winning-streaks of six games. Joe Thornton is still proving he’s a premiere playmaker. Tomas Hertl is a new face who made an impact before being injured. Antti Niemi leads the league in starts and is second in wins. The Sharks will be a lock for the playoffs, but time is running out on their aging corps to win a Stanley Cup.

(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Tuukka Rask collected his 5th shuout of the season Saturday night in San Jose. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

5. Boston Bruins

The Bruins hit a bit of a bump in the road when they went on a tough three-game road trip. They were rudely welcomed to the west coast by the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. The Bruins salvaged a 1-0 victory in San Jose Saturday night on the shoulders of Tuukka Rask. He posted his 5th shutout of the season. Rask  and Zdeno Chara lead the second-best defensive team in the league with a 2.13 goals against average per game. The Bruins return home Tuesday where they have a 18-4-2 record.

The Chicago Blackhawks captured their second Stanley Cup in four years. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

The Chicago Blackhawks captured their second Stanley Cup in four years last season. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

4. Chicago Blackhawks

Have to give respect to the defending Stanley Cup champions. They haven’t experienced a hangover as they did in the season after their 2010 Cup win. The Blackhawks have lit the lamp 14 more times than any other team this season. They’ve been led by Patrick Kane who has 56 points to rank him second in the league. He has solidified himself as a superstar and the best U.S. born player in the show. Patrick Sharp has also pitched in. Sharp is second in the league with 25 goals. He recorded two hat-tricks in a five-game span. The Blackhawks will finish top-three in the West at season’s end.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have earned respect by establishing a commanding lead in the East with a plethora of injuries. They have the most man-games lost in the league. While everyone knows Sidney Crosby is the leading point scorer in the league (67), Marc-Andre Fleury has carried the team. Fleury leads all goaltenders in wins with 26, three better than second place. The Pens are getting healthier and this could propel them to a Presidents’ Trophy. The Pens are expected to clean up in the East, but can they only obtain regular season success or are they’re good enough to make a Cup run?

Elliott made 20 saves in the Blues' 2-1 win against the Jets on Tuesday (Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)

Brian Elliott made has solidified himself as the best backup goalie in the league. His numbers are starter worthy. (Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)

2. St. Louis Blues

Alex Steen has come out of nowhere to lead the Blues in scoring and rank among the league’s elite in scoring. Despite the Blues losing Steen in late December, the team didn’t miss a beat. Brian Elliott dominated the league winning seven straight starts and is 13-2-2. The Blues have dominated their biggest rival going 3-0 against the Blackhawks this season. They’re trying to send a message that they’re the beast of the Central Division. Right now they are more than that going 8-1-1 in their past 10 games and just coming off a seven game winning-streak.

1. Anaheim Ducks

The top ranked team has to do one thing to prove they deserve the top spot. They must win on a consistent basis more than any other team. The Ducks have done just that leading the league with 75 points. They are the only team without a regulation loss at home this season (19-0-2). While Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry carry the team up front ranking 4th and 6th in the league in scoring, the Ducks have three, possibly four NHL-caliber goalies in their organization. Jonas Hiller, the net-minder most known for being their starter, has won 14 straight decisions. There’s no question who the best team in the NHL is at the midway point of the season.


Justin Glock
Justin Glock has covered the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers since 2011. As a lead writer, his Penguins knowledge traces back over two decades. For any requests, please feel free to contact Justin via email: JGlock10@gmail.com.
Justin Glock
Beau Bennett may be a waste of a pick. #Pens should've prepared for this. Who didn't see this coming. http://t.co/SAfxok33tE - 3 days ago
Justin Glock

3 Comments

  1. Happy to see the Isles get some love in the top 20. That’ll change now that Strome has gotten sent down; if they fall apart before Sochi break, playoff hopes are done.
    Pens definitely top 3 team; but when don’t they dominate in the regular season? I’m interested to see how they play as they begin getting their injured guys back. Who stays, who goes? Can they mesh? Another early exit (which for Pens fans will be anything short of the Stanley Cup finals) and Bylsma is in trouble.

  2. A fair assessment…it is hard to get excited sometimes about this Canucks team, but they still aren’t a bad team.

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