Parity is as relevant as ever in the early goings of the NHL season. While some teams have established themselves as great (Pittsburgh) and terrible (Buffalo), most fall somewhere in the middle. Which makes it really damn hard to make a power rankings.
For example, all but five teams have between 18 and 31 points. One of the teams that doesn’t is Montreal, who has 33 in a league-high 23 games played.
Eight teams have between 20 and 22, 12 teams have between 24 and 29. The teams are all bunched up, which isn’t too surprising this early in the season. It just takes a little more digging to find out where each team belongs.
- Pittsburgh (Last time: 2): Coming off a big win over Boston, Pittsburgh has the NHL’s best goal differential and the league’s leading scoring (tied for the lead in points, albeit).
- Louis (7): RIP Michael Brown.
- Tampa Bay (1): Eight guys with at least five goals. 77 goals total. This offense is deadly.
- Montreal (5): Six regulation losses. All by at least three goals. It might take a while to figure these guys out, stellar record and all.
- Anaheim (4) – Five overtime losses in nine games, seven OT games total. Strange few weeks for them.
- New York Islanders (8) – No contest - they had the best offseason in the NHL.
- Nashville (6) – The Filip Forsberg trade is shaping up to be the most lopsided since Chara and Spezza pick for Yashin.
- Vancouver (3) – I bet Radim Vrbata is enjoying his Sedin line point boost.
- Chicago (13) – This probably seems a little high right now, but they’re playing better and are too talented to not be top-10.
- Los Angeles (10) – Not really much to look for until April. So…uh…how ‘bout those Lakers?
- Calgary (12): It’s early but they feel like the Phoenix Suns of the NHL. The young talent and offensive potential were overlooked. Mark Giordano is Goran Dragic in that example, for the record.
- Boston (9): Geez, I feel just terrible about Milan Lucic getting embarrassed in a fight. Just terrible. Really. My heart aches for him.
- Detroit (11): I like Detroit’s chances to make an 87th consecutive playoff run this year. Nice mix of veteran and young talent. Plus, Jimmy Howard is excellent.
- Toronto (14): Get blown out by Buffalo and Nashville. Beat Tampa Bay and Detroit. Yolo.
- San Jose (18): Man, do they love losing to the Sabres.
- Minnesota (21): I really think this is a playoff team. Time will tell, but the scoring has to pick up soon.
- Ottawa (16): /Shrugs shoulders.
- New York Rangers (20): They could be this mediocre all year and wind up third in their division. Ladies and Gentlemen, the METRO!
- Washington (17): Ovechkin breaks a short, goal-less drought. Just a reminder he’ll likely hit 500 goals before his 31st
- Winnipeg (15): Their success relies completely on a goaltender who’s never been great to continue being great. A fall is coming.
- New Jersey (22): Bad possession numbers, mediocre goaltending. Something isn’t right here.
- Florida (23): Bjugstad had a nice week. Not much else going on down in Sunrise.
- Dallas (25): They can’t keep the puck out of the net but man, Tyler Seguin is making Boston look stupid.
- Philadelphia (19) – Not good enough to make the playoffs. Not bad enough to justify tanking. Highest payroll in the NHL. I’m not sure what they do from here.
- Arizona (27): Well, maybe Devan Dubnyk isn’t terrible.
- Colorado (28): They’ve won three out of four but still can’t climb out of last. Just not their year.
- Carolina (24): Eric Staal is closing in on 300 career goals.
- Buffalo (30): Last week I wrote that the Sabres were all alone in pursuit of last place. A three-game win streak by them and six losses in a row by Edmonton and here we are.
- Columbus (29): Bobrovsky’s back but even that hasn’t helped.
- Edmonton (26): The Oilers are a middle of the road possession team but they’ve faced some bad luck (lowest PDO in the NHL) and some have had some bad goaltending. Things should turn around, but, until they do, this spot is their’s.
Let’s talk about goals. While there is a bevy of newly-created stats teams are taking heed of, putting up high goal totals is still the most sure-fire way to earn a fat new contract or an All-Star Game nod.
However, at this point in the year, the top of leaderboard for goals can look pretty strange due to luck, new guys emerging and old familiars either falling off or starting slowly. Let’s take a look at this year’s top five through a quarter of the season and see if they belong.
1. Tyler Seguin – 15 goals
Seguin is former second overall pick who scored 37 goals last year and put in 29 at age 19. After being traded from Boston last summer due to “maturity” issues (LOLOLOL), he’s put up more regular season goals than anyone not named Corey Perry or Alexander Ovechkin. And he’s still only 22 years old. His shooting percentage is an unsustainably-high 18.8 percent, but he’ll generally shoot better than the average player.
Does he belong? Definitely
T2.) Steven Stamkos – 14 goals
Stamkos has already had seasons of 60, 51 and 45 goals so it’s not too surprising to see him up here. The former first overall pick was injured much of last year but still managed to put up 25 goals in 37 games (for context, no Buffalo Sabres player scored 25 last year). Does he belong? Of course.
T2.) Rick Nash 14 goals
Nash famously scored just three goals in 25 playoff games last spring, earning “goat” moniker for the Rangers falling in five games to the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. So far, he’s regressed wayyyyy past the mean. His shooting percentage is nearly 20 percent, so he’s sure to regress. But he’s playing well and is likely on his way to his eighth 30-goal season. At age 30 he has 350 goals. Despite struggles in recent years, he’ll likely get to 500 goals before he retires. Does he belong? In the top five? Maybe, maybe not. It sure seems so at the moment.
4. Vladamir Tarasenko 12 goals
The soon-to-be-23-year-old has thrust himself onto the hockey landscape by scoring some of the prettiest goals of the year. Playing with international free agent Jori Lehtera has been kind to Tarasenko, who has been able to shine with the play-making center. Tarasenko has the hands and skating ability to score at will. Does he belong? You tell me.
5. Phil Kessel/Corey Perry 11 goals
Kessel has shot an only mildly-unsustainably 15 percent this year while Perry has shot a wild 22 percent in the 17 games he has played. Both have goal-scoring pedigrees as Kessel has five thirty-goal seasons and Perry has scored both 43 and 50 in different seasons. Do they belong? For sure.
It seems the top five (six, really) belong where they are, which seems unusual at this point in the season. Beyond the top five, there are some regression candidates. Brock Nelson, Nick Foligno, Patric Hornqvist and Nino Niedereiter all have more goals than Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin. Regression is coming, NHL. Be ready.