So we are now a quarter of the way through the NHL hockey season and it is time to take stock of each of the teams and re-rank everyone on how they performed in the first 20 or so games of each of their season. Being a fan of Eastern Conference teams (and being those are the majority of games I get to watch) this will be a crit primarily of them as the pre-season predictions get re-aligned.
Not a lot separates many of the teams and the parity the league was looking for with the salary cap continues to dominate the play. As the season progresses, there will surely be a few run-aways, but in the meantime the pogo-stick standings will continue with early surprises and some interesting storylines.
I’ve written about the teams in the order I think they are playing right now and included their current standing, my original prediction and my revisted prediction.
current: #1 NED #2 AC – preseason predict: #10 EC revised predict: #2 NED #4 EC
Ok, so far, I was off in my prediciton about the Bruins not being able to hold up the powerful ending to their season and are showing they are a much stronger team than originally thought. They passed some critical early season tests including a 10 games in three weeks run against some tough teams. The forwards play well together and the goaltending acts as a solid backstop. They are also one of the teams both the injury bug and lockerroom chaos has not hit and that benefits them greatly in their early run. If they continue to play as a team they should continue to roll along
current: #2 NED, #5 EC; preseason predict: #1 NED, #3 EC revised predict: #1 NED, #3 EC
There is still a lot of time left for the centenial celebration to fully come together in the standings beyond the early dominance and the huge all star voting shows. The biggest challenge with the Canadians is in consistancy. When they play well, they play very well. However, when they are off the mark, they look terribly average, especially considering the talent. If they can convert better on the power play and cease taking unnecessary penalties it might help, but mostly, it is about playing a full game each game that will improve their standing and ultimately put them in the position to win that cup necessary to continue being the last team in professional sports to win consistantly once a decade in every decade of their existence. I still say this is a team on a mission and a franchise to be reckoned with, especially after putting to bed the ghosts of Pat Roy.
Current: #2 AD #4 EC; – preseason predict: #1 AD, #1EC revised predict: #1AD, #1 EC
Pens are better than what their record says in the standings and they are managing to put up really good road numbers early on. Last season ended when they couldn’t springboard plays successfully out of the defensive zone and control the puck and the loss of Gonchar seemed as if it was going to plague them this season with him being the biggest asset for that, but they seem to be figuring out to move the puck effeciently and effectively. A recently injury to Flury also doesn’t seem to be hurting them between the pipes and the aversity will only serve them that much better through the season.
Current: #1 AD #1 EC; preseason predict: #2 AD, #4 EC revised predict: #2 AD, #5 EC
Their rank in the standings is a little misleading because of the extra games they’ve already played comparred to the rest of the league but even that said, they are still underrated in the balance and poise they show night in and night out. The loss of the big names in the off-season only made them stronger, but they teeter on the balance of not carrying a lot of depth and in the end are only one injury away from going from first to medocre in their quest to redefine the franchise.
Current #1 SED, #3 EC; preseason predict: #1 SED, #2 EC revised predict: #1 SED, #2 EC
Seven men out including a good part defense (Poti, Green, Ernskine, Scultz and Pothier) plus Federov and Semin on the offense and their captain Clark, combine with a platooned corps between the pipes and it is hard to believe the Caps are not only in first, they are putting distance between them and the balance of the Southeast. Ovechkin got off to a slow start too, but the rest of the team (specifically Semin before the injury) carried on well and Fleishman is becoming a force along with the thundering resurgence of Kozlov are helping create balance. If the team can find a way to create stability and focus through a full 60 minute game night-in and night-out they will be a force to be reckoned with. If not, it could be a tumultous season finding an identity to build upon.
Current: #3 AD, #6 EC; preseason predict: #3 AD, #5 EC revised predict:#3 AD, #6 EC
They are not as physically dominating as what they would appear to be, but they are finding ways to win with finesse and determination and a little help from the Devils faltering while the other divisions struggle to find competitors above the division leader role. Injuries to key players thus far including Briere, Hatcher, Richards and others created inconsistency within the lines but the aversity seems to only force the Philly team to focus more. If they can figure out the post-Hextal goalie curse the way they figured out the Palin curse and a rocky start they will continue advancing and a confident Flyers team could be trouble in the EC.
Currnet: #4 AD #7 EC; preseason predict: AD #4, EC #7 revised predict: #4 AD #8 EC
Unsung. Despite a severe lack of offense and a thinning defense, the Devs are still right in the thick of things. They also played the least number of games of all the top teams and are doing it without their most important asset, Marty Brodeur. Add in losses to Rolston, Maddan, Holik and others is not helping provide consistency. As unlikely as it seems the Devs are putting together wins and finding out who they really are as a team and if they get back everyone healthy they are poised to show a new face to an oft-critisized franchise.
Current: #3 NED, #9 EC; preseason predict: #3 NED, #8 EC revised predict: #3 NED, #7 EC
There is not a lot really wrong with the Sabres, but there is not a lot right either. They subsist. Winning games and losing games in fits and bursts without much of a personality, including the defense which was touted to be a foundation for them to build upon. The lack of scoring looks hauntingly like the Devils but that winning mentality the Devs have it is difficult to really rally to success in the short term. Given the opportunity, there is potential for the Sabes to come into their own.
current: #2 SED, #8 EC; preseason predict: #2 SED, #9 EC revised predict: #2 SED, #9 EC
About where I anticipated them to be, but not quite how I expected them to get there. After the slow start, it was anything but a surprise bring back Paul Maurice and fire Peter Laviolette, but the real question is, will the coaching change spark the surge they need, or will they need to fill in desparate gaps in their transitional play and special teams going through mid-season. The tighter defense Maurice should bring is not only desparately needed for the ‘Canes, but a key for all teams in the East to differentiate themselves (save maybe the Devs), but can a team not built on that foundation learn it quick enough to overcome.
Current: SED #3, AD #9; preseason predict: #4 SED, #11 EC revised predict: #3 SED, #10 EC
Certainly did not see this one, though, I did say they would be a surprise. There is more to this team than meets the eye and with Anderson in goal making most people shake their heads it only lends itself to the astoundment. Continuing this trend will mean finding goals now that Richie Zednick is out along with gunners Horton, Stillman and Booth, but considering how the team continues to perform without the normal expectations it is an anything is possible scenario.
Current: #5 NED #12 EC preseason predict: #2 NED, #6 EC revised predict: #4 NED, #11 EC
Only NJ played as few games as the Sens and they are averaging a point a game. Considering the lockeroom strife the team is enduring and the monumental collapse of this franchise time-and-time again, it isn’t difficult to understand how they’ve fallen from grace. Personally, I thought the fall would be slower and less pronounced but they are performing at about the level one should expect considering what they have to work with to begin with.
Current #4 NED #12 EC preseason predict: #5 NED #12 EC revised predict: #5 NED #12 EC
Surprisingly better than initally predicted. Schenn has been a bright spot, Wilson has worked the teams weaknesses into strenghts/ The lack of Mats Sundin did not have the negative effect some anticipated. Any chance the team completely collapses is thin, if they can find a way in the front office to develop for the future there’s something to build upon. The real question is if the front office is really ready for that.
current #5 AD, #13 EC preseason predict: #5 AD, close to last revised predict: #5 AD, close to last
To say the Isles are overachieving is disrespectful to the teams under them. The franchise balances on one name only, DiPietro. And in as such, no Rick means again, no Isles season. And here we are again, debating on how low they can go and still be above teams that are trying to find ways to lose. Should they be worse then they are, probably with with a Southeast as bad as it is, they are finding a way to scrape together the necessary wins to not flounder but they are languishing at the bottom about where they belong.
Current #4 SED, #13 AD preseason predict: #3 SED, #12 AD revised predict: #4 SED, close to last
Swiss cheese, just like they were supposed to be. Holes all over the D. No backstop between the pipes. No consistancy on offense. Already through a coaching change. Need we say more?
current preseason last and last predict: last and cose to last revised predict: last and last
Exactly were they were expected to be, pulling up the rear. There’s nothing to say that hasn’t already been said, a team devoid of any identity and even when handed the occasional win they still find a way to relinquish it and give up even the point for a tie.