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Wild take this week's top spot

There was a lot of news in the NHL, but too much of it was bad. Sidney Crosby out with concussion symptoms again? Terrible for everyone who follows the game, and it was sad to see a classy man and good coach like Terry Murray be let go in Los Angeles on Monday. Nonetheless the SI.com NHL power rankings must carry on.

A DISCLAIMER (of sorts): These rankings are based not just on each team's record at the moment, but on empirically tested formula based on a) realistic near-term future expectations; b) consensus talent level and payroll considerations and; c) whatever the Magic 8-Ball I've had since I was seven years old tells me will happen.And one more thing: Rest assured, I don't have it in for your team. OK, so I once hated the Philadelphia Flyers with a passion bordering on the psychotic, but that was thirty-something years ago and Dave Schultz has long since retired. I welcome your emails to the link attached to my name here, and I always respond -- even to the ones that start with "Dear Idiot?")

NHL Power Rankings
1Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 5
OK, OK. I give in. For this week, at least. I'd love to see this team outshoot an opponent for a change -- the Wild average 25.8 shots per game, but face 32.1 coming the other way. Yet, their record can't be ignored any longer. The Wild hath proven resilient (.667 winning percentage when trailing after one period) and their goaltending has been tremendous. Rookie Matt Hackett rightly earned the NHL's Second Star of the Week honors, giving Minnesota a three-headed goalie "controversy" for the moment. One word of caution, Wild fans: You hectored me all week to make your lads No. 1, and so you must now accept what comes with it. That means my semi-legendary power of reverse-jinxing. So don't blame me if things go bad from here. Last week: 3-0-0
 
2Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 8
Claude Giroux is out indefinitely with whiplash/concussion symptoms, which is bad news. But the kind of depth that has allowed Philly to withstand other injuries (Chris Pronger, James Van Riemsdyk, Jaromir Jagr) should help get through his absence. Rookie Sean Couturier will take Giroux's place at center on a line with Jagr and Scott Hartnell. "Just based on the way he finished the game (subbing for Giroux vs. Tampa Bay on Saturday night], we thought he did a good job, so we put him there in practice," coach Peter Laviolette told Philly reporters on Monday. Last week: 3-0-0
 
3Boston Bruins
Last Week: 1
Boston Bruins (18-9-1)
If you Googled "Tyler Seguin" last week, "oversleeping" unfortunately came up with it. Otherwise, "tremendous" remains the more frequent adjective for the sophomore Bs forward. But there's no question that his mysterious missed morning skate/benching in Winnipeg was an unwelcome distraction for what had been the Good Ship Lollipop to that point. The B's 15-game unbeaten streak is over, but things remain solid in the Hub. "[Seguin] missed a game, paid his dues. He's 19 years old and he's fine with the organization. He's a good professional. The page is turned and we move on," coach Claude Julien told reporters. Last week: 1-2-0
 
4New York Rangers
Last Week: 6
The Blueshirts have the fewest regulation losses in the league and points in 16 of their last 19 games (14-3-2) while outscoring their opponents 67-42 in that span. Their 6-1 home win over Florida during the weekend was most impressive. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto is quietly having a terrific season, (14 points, +15 in his first 27 games). If Marc Staal comes back at some point, this team may have an honest-to-goodness shot at something big. Last week: 2-0-1
 
5Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 3
Nick Lidstrom continues to defy explanation. Folks, he'll be 42 YEARS OLD in April. He had 20 points and was plus-12 in his first 28 games. He's got to be the smoothest player in league history from the blue line. Some guys were faster, had bigger shots and were tougher to play against physically. But when you combine everything, Lidstrom is in the pantheon of all-time greats and STILL among the very best. Consider: he ranks 51st on the all-time NHL scoring list (1,128 points). Last week: 2-1-0
 
6Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 7
They still sleepwalk through a period or two, but having won 11 of their last 14 games, things are getting back to where they should be for this talented squad. What it still lacks, though, is a big, All-Star caliber defenseman. But that's what the trade deadline is for. Nice to see forward Mason Raymond back from a serious neck/back injury suffered in the Cup final against Boston. Raymond scored a goal and added two assists in his first four games. Last week: 3-0-0
 
7Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 9
After stumbling a little bit, they had a good week and appear to be in good shape again. Question is: when will goalie Corey Crawford be back in coach Joel Quenneville's good graces? Ray Emery has started three of Chicago's last four games, including a 35-save effort in their 3-2 overtime win over San Jose on Sunday night. Quenneville, a notorious Captain Hook with goalies, is likely to go back to Crawford at some point. No matter who is in net, he will be well-supported offensively. Entering Tuesday's action, the Hawks led the Western Conference in goals (99). Last week: 2-0-0
 
8Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 2
The Sid Watch is back. On Monday, it was announced that Crosby is suffering from post-concussion symptoms, possibly due to an elbow to the head from Boston's David Krejci, and will be out indefinitely. "After talking with everyone, I just figured it was better to be cautious here and not take any chances," Crosby told a media mob. A lot of people were skeptical when the Pens said he'd miss two games after Boston with a leg ailment caused by a collision with teammate Chris Kunitz. Let's hope this absence isn't anywhere near as long as the last one. Last week: 1-1-0
 
9St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 10
It remains probably the biggest masterstroke by any team this season, the decision to bring in Ken Hitchcock as coach early on. His philosophy is to push everything off to the side, create a turnover and go quickly the other way. If mistakes are made defensively, better to make them away from the more dangerous middle of the ice. It's a fairly easy system for players to grasp, and why more teams don't embrace it, I have no idea. Right now, the Blues aren't making many defensive mistakes anywhere. Their 62 goals-against as of this writing are tied with Detroit for fewest in the Western Conference. Last week: 3-0-0
 
10Florida Panthers
Last Week: 4
An ugly loss to the Rangers dulled some of the fervor, yet the fact that we're talking about a top-10 team in Sunrise remains one of the more amazing statements of the season. Former Hart Trophy-winner Jose Theodore is quietly having a good season in net. Before the tough outing against New York, he posted his 32nd career shutout with a 40-save gem over Boston. The recent return of forward Mikael Samuelsson will be a boon. Last week: 1-1-1
 
11San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 11
San Jose Sharks (15-10-2)
Martin Havlat has only one goal in his first 23 games while this vastly talented team continues to sort of hang around the periphery, yet almost everyone believes it will make a big run in the second half or sooner. "They see the light at the end of the tunnel which is starting to approach, and they just dial it up," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told Comcast Sports Bay Area. "They have the ability to do it, the skill, the personnel. The rest of us are just trying to catch up and [keep] pace here." Last week: 1-2-1
 
12Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 13
Goaltending remains the worry in Hogtown, with James Reimer 0-2-1 since returning from concussion-like symptoms. Coach Ron Wilson is now in that "We'll go with whichever guy wasn't terrible last game" predicament. Jonas Gustavsson is the other alternative, not a comfort to Leafs fans. Wilson was asked the other day if he's cognizant of the team's slippage in the standings. "Of course I'm cognizant - jeez, I coach the team," he told Toronto reporters. "We've still got two-thirds of the season left and it's going to be, I think, a battle all the way." Last week: 0-1-1
 
13Washington Capitals
Last Week: 23
A couple wins in a row for Dale Hunter's squad dispelled some of the gathering gloom, though a test with the Flyers on Tuesday night figured to tell whether there is some real momentum here. Defenseman John Carlson certainly has some: eight points in his last four games, good enough to earn the NHL's Third Star of the Week laurels. Last week: 2-0-0
 
14Dallas Stars
Last Week: 14
Dallas Stars (16-11-1)
Not many believe they are for real, though they keep grinding out break-even or winning weeks. When/if captain Brenden Morrow gets some offensive touch back, the Stars might gain a few converts. Morrow had just four goals (11 points) in his first 22 games after potting 33 last year. In fairness, he's been dinged up, including a recent stint on IR with an upper-body injury. Goalie Kari Lehtonen (knee) probably won't be back until after Christmas. Last week: 1-1-0
 
15Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 15
Buffalo Sabres (15-12-2)
They've unquestionably been one of the league's more disappointing squads so far, after all that money spent over the summer by new owner Terry Pegula. But defenseman Mike Weber was slated to return from injury Tuesday against Ottawa, and blueliner Tyler Myers (broken wrist) has resumed skating and could be back in a couple weeks. Talented young forward Tyler Ennis (22 goals last year, a strong playoffs) needs to get going. He's been back from injury for a couple weeks now, but has yet to find his scoring touch. Last week: 1-1-1
 
16Calgary Flames
Last Week: 24
Calgary Flames (14-13-2)
Every time it looks like these guys are about to implode, they go on a little run and renew the hopes of the faithful. Give credit to coach Brent Sutter and his crew, Who are 6-3-1 in their last 10. Jarome Iginla has started to really heat up. After a two-goal performance in a 3-0 win over Edmonton on Saturday, the NHL's First Star of the Week stood at 495 for his splendid career. "Sometimes, it just clicks. I think a big part is when you have the team success, everybody does feel better. It's lighter on everybody, and it just rolls from there," Iginla told Calgary reporters. Last week: 3-0-0
 
17Nashville Predators
Last Week: 17
After a semi-miraculous win over Columbus last week -- in overtime after trailing 3-1 with under two minutes left -- coach Barry Trotz believes his team got the kick start it needs for a good rest of the way. "That's a game that can catapult you in a lot of ways," he said after the game. "Tonight we found a way to get it done. That's more like the Predators I know." Last week: 2-1-0
 
18Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 12
Phoenix Coyotes (15-11-3)
They're starting to fade a bit, but not veteran Ray Whitney, who has quietly turned into one of the NHL's better stories. He'll be 40 next May, but continues to put up close a point per game. He's just 49 away from 1,000 in a career that began in 1991 with San Jose. Last week: 1-2-0
 
19Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 19
Edmonton Oilers (14-13-3)
Defenseman Andy Sutton was suspended for another eight games by Brendan Shanahan and certainly took Shanny's words to heart after a previous five-game ban a few weeks before didn't he? The Oilers are in win-one, lose-one mode now. They just don't have enough defensive depth to handle teams consistently, and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin has seen his play slip. But Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is doing just fine. His 32 points are already like 52 in 1982 "dollars." Last week: 1-2-0
 
20Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 21
They've been mediocre, but mediocrity is OK as long as it comes early in the season and leaves plenty of time for a good second half. Defenseman P.K. Subban is playing a more controlled game. Last season, he fell in love with end-to-end rushes that, while pretty to watch, sometimes resulted in costly vacancies in the defensive end. "For my team, you look at the amount of minutes I'm playing, they don't need me rushing the puck every shift or extending my shifts or leading the cycle in the offensive zone," Subban, who is plus-4 (minus-8 last season), told the Montreal Gazette. "The offense will come. I know I can jump in the rush and create more, but it's picking your spots." Last week: 1-0-2
 
21Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 22
Winnipeg Jets (13-12-4)
Coach Claude Noel, a man who has a very apt name for this time of year, got some early Christmas presents from his team, which is 6-3-1 in its last 10 outings. Still, the Jets have allowed 10 more goals than they've scored so far (82-92). More consistent goaltending would be a good thing because these guys do have some offensive weapons. Third-year forward Evander Kane continues to shine, with 15 goals and points in seven of his last eight games. Last week: 2-1-0
 
22Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 16
The NHL's most puzzling team is now in the hands of interim coach John Stevens, the former Philly bench boss, though the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that signs point to Darryl Sutter taking over soon. Sutter and GM Dean Lombardi built the San Jose organization before going their separate ways. The Kings' performance has been one of the league's deeper mysteries. Many players on other teams had them pegged as a top-two or three club in the conference, perhaps in the league. It never coalesced that way under coach Terry Murray, who was axed Monday. Murray made the Kings better during his tenure, as Lombardi pointed out, but things regressed too much this season. Last week: 0-3-0
 
23New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 26
Thank goodness for the shootout, otherwise these guys' record would look a lot worse. The Devils are 6-1 so far in the best-of-three tie-breaking format. Otherwise, they are minus-8 in overall goal differential, and aren't as good as their record indicates. Last week: 3-1-0
 
24Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 18
Ottawa Senators (13-13-4)
The slow fade in Canada's capital has begun. Coach Paul MacLean's team is 3-4-3 in its last 10. Having veteran defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba would help turn things the other way, but each remains out a few more days with injuries. It would also help if Craig Anderson ? who signed a pretty expensive four-year deal last year ? could get his saves percentage over 90 percent and goals-against under 3.40. Last week: 0-2-1
 
25Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 20
Speaking of slow fade, the Avs had some momentum going into a three-game Western Canadian road swing last week -- then went out and lost all three by a combined 13-3 score. They just aren't scoring enough. Erik Johnson is still looking for his first goal of the season. "I know I need to produce more offensively," said the prime piece of the Avs' blockbuster trade with St. Louis last season -- the one that Peter Stastny, father of Paul, said "destroyed the team" on a St. Louis radio show a couple days after it was done. Good times. Last week: 0-3-0
 
26New York Islanders
Last Week: 27
At least these guys are battling again, after the franchise's heart was questioned following ghastly losses to Boston and Pittsburgh, the latter coming on Sid Returns Night. The Isles continue to get good showings from Matt Moulson (points in six of his last seven game) and goalie Al Montoya. If they can get back to .500 somehow, then maybe we can start talkin' about something goin' on around here again. Last week: 1-1-1
 
27Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 25
One lousy goal and these guys would have been the ones battling Vancouver for the Stanley Cup last spring. The fall from such lofty heights has been hard for Guy Boucher's team, which found a way to lose another one -- on Monday to the Devils, the Versus game of the night. And now, they have to carry on without team leader Martin St. Louis, who took a stick to the eye from teammate Dominic Moore's errant shot follow-through. "I couldn't wait to see him, I felt so bad," Moore told the St. Pete Times. "I gave him a hug and he gave me a hug. I'm grateful he's been forgiving. He's a class act." Last week: 1-3-0
 
28Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 28
OK, so it's probably not too soon to start poring over those early lottery draft list projections for next spring, when the Jackets figure to get a top pick -- possibly the top one. But the current on-ice product has remained respectable, despite completely blowing a game to Nashville last week. Last week: 1-1-0
 
29Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 29
Anaheim Ducks (8-16-5)
Bruce Boudreau continues in his honeymoon period as coach, though there haven't been much in the way of good tidings. The Ducks lost two in a row, but did get a nice win at Los Angeles last week. These guys can still get red hot, so we're not counting them out of a playoff run just yet. But the sooner they get started on one, the better. Last week: 1-2-0
 
30Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 30
At least new coach Kirk Muller finally got his first win, in Edmonton last week. Otherwise, things have been no better than they were under Paul Maurice. Usually, teams get something of a dead-cat bounce after a coaching change. So far, this dead cat in Raleigh just refuses to bounce. Last week: 1-2-0
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