SI Staff
Tuesday October 28th, 2014

Herewith, the first full installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. Last week our three scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Brian Cazeneuve—submitted their choices for the league's Top 10 teams. This week we expand to all 30 with rankings weighted according to how high each one came in on our writers' ballots. In some cases a purely intuitive, wholly unscientific and no doubt deplorable method was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only one or two writers, and antagonize the general public. We've presented the 30 teams in groups, with the Top 10 receiving the most trenchant commentary. Overview paragraphs precede the Middle 10 and Bottom 10. An "NA" signifies that a team did not make last week's Top 10, but from here on out, all weekly movement up or down will be noted. So without further ado, commence to stew!

The Top 10
 
  • 1
    1Anaheim Ducks
    7-2-0 (Prior rank: 1)
    MUIR (2): The Ducks lost on Sunday for the first time since opening night, but they were due for a clunker after reeling off seven straight. The bigger worry is that Ben Lovejoy will be lost for 6-8 weeks after busting up his mitt in a scrap with Joe Pavelski. Lovejoy is not a guy who earns a lot of attention around the league but he's key to the Ducks' success, playing hard minutes against the opposition's top forwards. His absence could diminish the effectiveness of Cam Fowler and puts real pressure on Anaheim's young blueliners.
     
    KWAK (1): Their seven-game win streak was snapped by a highly motivated Sharks team on Sunday. But still, the Ducks remain at the top of the league for now. With a tough road trip ahead, including games in Chicago and Dallas, Anaheim faces its first real test this week.
     
    CAZENEUVE (1): The Ducks are off to a great start. Their stars, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, are playing like stars. Their starting goalie, Fredrik Anderson, has stopped 94% of the shots he's faced, and a team that needs the puck on its sticks to be successful has won a league-high 56% of its face-offs this season. That’s a great recipe for a No. 1 ranking.
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 2
    2Los Angeles Kings
    6-1-1 (Prior rank: 4)
    MUIR (1): Wait...the Kings know how to flip the switch before April? That's not good news for the rest of the league. L.A. has won six straight, powered by a Vezina Trophy-worthy start from Jonathan Quick and seven goals from Tanner Pearson, the early leader in the race for the Calder. The loss of Anze Kopitar will test their depth, but the Kings should be up to the challenge.
     
    KWAK (2): The Kings completed a perfect six-game home stand with a 5-2 win over Columbus on Sunday, matching their franchise record for best start through eight games. That 70s Line, which lifted them through the postseason last season, has picked up right where it left off as Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson have combined for 16 goals and 33 points this season.
     
    CAZENEUVE (2): Lets’ stay in Southern California for team No. 2. Granted, the Kings have played a top-heavy schedule, with seven of their first eight games on home ice, but they haven’t had it easy. Marian Gaborik has played just three games because of an upper body injury and Anze Kopitar (upper body) played through his dents and dings before finally being sent to the sideline. Those two stars have combined for four points. Yet coach Darryl Sutter has mixed lines and gotten outstanding play from second-tier forwards and goalie Jonathan Quick.
     
    Last week: 2-0-0

  • 3
    3Montreal Canadiens
    7-2-0 (Prior rank: 5)
    MUIR (3): Their four-game winning streak came to an inglorious end in Edmonton on Monday night, but there's no denying that the Habs have been the class of the East so far. They're getting hard miles out of their kids, especially Alex Galchenyuk, a player who is on the verge of a breakthrough season. He's always had the tools. Now he has the snarl to match.
     
    KWAK (3): Squeezing out two wins at home this week, including one against the Rangers, the team that finally felled them in the playoffs last spring, Montreal solidified its spot atop the Atlantic. Goalie Carey Price has started to come into form, averaging a 1.33 GAA and .959 save percentage over his last three games.
     
    CAZENEUVE (3): It’s funny. The Canadiens have scored the same number of goals (25) as they've allowed, yet their record is 7-2-0. Way to get those bad games out of your system and then eke out a victory or two. They've done it even though goalie Carey Price hasn't always been at his best and the bottom two lines haven't done much. If the goaltending and scoring depth come around and stay on track, the Habs could be positioned for another deep playoff run.
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 4
    4New York Islanders
    6-2-0 (Prior rank: 3)
    MUIR (6): The surprising Isles have yet to ice their ideal six-man defensive rotation, but that hasn't stopped the blueline from driving this team's early success. New York already has eight goals from the point, second only to Calgary's nine, and newcomers Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy have combined for 11 points. Now that Lubomir Visnovsky is back and Travis Hamonic is on the way, the real fun may be about to start although the Islanders head out West for a swing that will take them through the California gauntlet during the first week of November, a month that is also loaded with tilts against Eastern big boys like Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.
     
    KWAK (4): After a lackluster 5-2 loss to Toronto last week, the Islanders didn’t falter. They bounced back with two quality wins—over Boston and Dallas—showing that this year’s squad may be more resilient, consistent and talented than many believed.
     
    CAZENEUVE (5): Despite some pretty ordinary goaltending so far, the Islanders have gotten more than expected from forwards Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Frans Nielsen, who are giving the club some support for aces John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, as well as some depth at center that is a welcome surprise on the Island.
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 5
    5Chicago Blackhawks
    5-2-1 (Prior rank: 2)
    MUIR (7): This team leaves you wanting more on most viewings, but that's just Chicago. Good enough is good enough for them at this point in the season. They've managed nicely without starting goalie Corey Crawford (upper body injury), and they're getting a terrific start from Brent Seabrook. On Sunday night, the defender scored his 13th career game winner and he leads the team in blocks and hits.
     
    KWAK (5): The Blackhawks dropped two close games on the road this week, but stemmed the bleeding with a solid win over Ottawa on Sunday, giving goalie Scott Darling a victory in his NHL debut. The 25-year-old Illinois native made 16 stops in the third period to hold off the Senators.
     
    CAZENEUVE (4): The record doesn’t do justice to the way the Blackhawks have carried play for extensive portions of games. After seven contests, they are taking 38 shots per game and allowing 27, the highest disparity in the league. And they already have victories from three different goaltenders. Even when some parts of their game are lacking, this is a team that can still cruise through the regular season.
     
    Last week: 1-2-1

  • 6
    6Nashville Predators
    5-1-2 (Prior rank: 10)
    MUIR (4): Tough to say exactly how good the Predators are because they've spent almost the entire month of October camped out at Bridgestone Arena. Full marks, though, for making the most of their residency. They've gone 4-1-1 at home to power their way to the top of the Central Division. Now comes their first real test: a six-game road swing through Western Canada along with stops in Dallas and St. Louis.
     
    KWAK (7): The Predators became the last team to fall in regulation this season, dropping a 3-0 decision to Pittsburgh over the weekend. And though Nashville's offense is still limited—its 18 goals this season rank 22nd in the league—the Preds have 12 points, tops in the Central.
     
    CAZENEUVE (6): I agree that Nashville's six-game Western road trip will be revealing. Even though this team plays a more open game under coach Peter Laviolette than it did under Barry Trotz, it is still a club that will battle through a lot of low-scoring games. Through its first eight contests, Nashville has neither scored nor surrendered more than four goals in any one game. That is a formula for staying in games and winning your share of them.
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 7
    7Minnesota Wild
    4-3-0 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR (5): Monday night's third-period meltdown in Madison Square Garden aside, the Wild have been the league's best defensive team early on, allowing just 11 goals through seven games while pacing the circuit with a +12 goal differential. They're getting it done so far with depth—imagine what could happen if their top two centers, Mikko Koivu (one goal) and Mikael Granlund (three assists), get their games on track.
     
    KWAK (9): Outstanding rookie netminder Darcy Kuemper has helped the Wild with that league-leading goal differential. Before his 5-4 stinker in New York on Monday night, he had three shutouts and hadn’t given up more than two goals a game. But Minnesota's offense will need a serious boost if Kuemper’s numbers begin to sag.
     
    CAZENEUVE (9): If not for a blown three-goal lead against the Rangers, the Wild would rank much higher. They still own the league’s best goal differential after seven games, though they have just one player, Zach Parise, who is among the top 70 players in scoring. This is a strong skating team that usually wins by playing good defense. That combination makes Minnesota a pain to play against.
     
    Last week: 2-1

  • 8
    8Pittsburgh Penguins
    4-2-1 (Prior rank: 7)
    MUIR (8): Yeah, they gave away last Thursday's game in disheartening fashion to the Red Wings, but they rebounded nicely with their strongest defensive effort of the season to hand Nashville its first regulation loss. The Pens' game without the puck is still a work-in-progress, but when the power play is going like this (nearly 40% after connecting twice against the Preds), they've got time to work out the kinks.
     
    CAZENEUVE (7): At their best, the Penguins’ big guns are still scary. Consider that in eight games Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist have combined for 19 points on the power play alone. The club’s lack of balance is sure to cause it trouble at some point, but for now, the Pens are proving that they can outshoot any gunslinger in the NHL.
     
    KWAK (11)
     
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 9
    9Tampa Bay Lightning
    5-3-1 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR (12): The injury-plagued Lightning have been struggling to find a consistent level of play, but a return home for their next four games could help cure what ails them.
     
    KWAK (6): The Lightning finished off its Western road trip with a whimper, falling to Minnesota, 7-2, on Saturday. Still, considering the fatigue factor and the absence of injured defenseman Victor Hedman and winger Ryan Callahan, Tampa Bay is still doing enough to maintain its status as a top team in the East.
     
    CAZENEUVE (11)
     
    Last week: 2-1

  • 10
    10Detroit Red Wings
    4-2-2 (Prior rank: NA)
    KWAK (10): The Red Wings' penalty kill (96.2%) leads the league, but their anemic power play (6.7%) is near the bottom. It stands to reason that an improvement in that latter department could push Detroit into the top tier of the conference.
     
    MUIR (13), CAZENEUVE (12)
     
    Last week: 1-1-1

[pagebreak]

The rise of the Jason Spezza-Jamie Benn-Tyler Sequin line is powering the Dallas Stars.
The rise of the Jason Spezza-Jamie Benn-Tyler Sequin line is powering the Dallas Stars.
Andrew Dieb/Icon SMI

The pack in the middle of our rankings contains some surprising powers on the rise as well as a few perennial contenders that have been having a rocky go of it of late. On the surprise side, the Stars' top line of Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, has been electric, combining for 13 of the team’s 28 goals. That may become a shortcoming for Dallas next spring when opponents figure out ways to shut down top lines, but for now, the trio's excellence is just translating into wins. And how about tip of the cap to the NHL's least hospitable guests: The Devils are struggling at home (that dang shootout!), but they're 4-1 on the road after securing a hard-fought 3-2 win last week against the Senators, who have slipped out of our Top 10 after an 0-2 week. If the Devils could ever get their penalty kill in order (they've already allowed 11 goals to opposing power plays), they might extend this early success into a solid season. 

NHL
Notes: Best line and other early surprises; a most unusual GM; more

Like the Senators, the Capitals have fallen out of our Top 10 after their fast start, and the jury is still out as to which players will really buy into new coach Barry Trotz’s system. But with four of Washington's defensemen among the Top 10 in team scoring at this early part of the season, it is certainly a more integrated system that relies on players making contributions at both ends of the ice. The rumor mill spat out rumblings that Trotz and Alex Ovechkin were already feuding, but it hasn’t stopped the team from starting well. Meanwhile out in Calgary, coach Bob Hartley continues to get blood from a stone as the Flames' surprising start continues. Also among the big surprises, the Canucks look revived with their Sedin-Vrbata-Sedin line leading the way. 

How do you ignore the hottest team in hockey? No reason to cancel their annual April tee times just yet, but you have to give the Oilers credit for turning around their early defensive struggles in time to reel off four straight victories, and maybe save coach Dallas Eakins' job. Goalie Ben Scrivens was full value in Monday night's 3-0 shutout of the Canadiens. When he's going that well, the Oilers can't be taken lightly. Is it possible that at least one of those Alberta teams will make the playoffs?

One the down side, the Zdeno Chara-less Bruins put together a solid effort on Saturday night against the Maple Leafs, but they'll be hard pressed to rise about the riff-raff with the big man on the sidelines for the next six weeks. Boston's defense is looking thinner with the trade of Johnny Boychuk and the injury to Zdeno Chara. And out in San Jose, coach Todd McLellan is having a hard time getting a consistent three periods out of his Sharks, who got off to an impressive start before struggling.

Here's how the next 10 teams stack up according to our writers' ballots.

THE MIDDLE 10
 
  • 11
    11Dallas Stars
    4-2-2 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 15
    KWAK: 8
    CAZENEUVE: 14
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 12
    12New Jersey Devils
    4-2-2 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 9
    KWAK: 16
    CAZENEUVE: 13
     
    Last week: 1-0-2

  • 13
    13Washington Capitals
    4-2-2 (Prior rank: 8)
    MUIR: 18
    KWAK: 14
    CAZENEUVE: 8
     
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 14
    14Calgary Flames
    5-4-1 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 11
    KWAK: 15
    CAZENEUVE: 16
     
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 15
    15Vancouver Canucks
    5-3-0 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 17
    KWAK: 18
    CAZENEUVE: 10
     
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 16
    16San Jose Sharks
    5-4-1 (Prior rank: 6)
    MUIR: 16
    KWAK: 12
    CAZENEUVE: 17
     
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 17
    17Ottawa Senators
    4-2-1 (Prior rank: 9)
    MUIR: 14
    KWAK: 17
    CAZENEUVE: 15
     
    Last week: 0-1-1

  • 18
    18Boston Bruins
    5-5-0 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 19
    KWAK: 13
    CAZENEUVE: 19
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 19
    19Edmonton Oilers
    4-4-1 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 10
    KWAK: 25
    CAZENEUVE: 22
     
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 20
    20New York Rangers
    5-4-0 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 20
    KWAK: 20
    CAZENEUVE: 18
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

 

It's been a rough start for the Bruins and a frustrating time for the Maple Leafs.
It's been a rough start for the Bruins and a frustrating time for the Maple Leafs.
Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images

There's been some painful futility down at the bottom of the barrel, not to mention some real frustration in Toronto where the Maple Leafs can't seem to get out of their own way. But among the notables in the league's lowest tier, the Flyers started off miserably before taking points from five of their past six games. In Florida, Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya have helped the Panthers solidify their own zone, limiting the opposition to just 16 goals in seven games, but their offense might be even worse than last season. With just 10 goals scored, they've got their sights set on the record for futility set by the 1953-54 Black Hawks. Even so, who would have expected the Panthers to have the same number of points (7) as the Avalanche, despite playing two fewer games?

With 29 goals allowed in its first nine games, Colorado has been October’s biggest disappointment. The Avs are in danger of burying their playoff hopes if they can't reel off a pair of wins at home to finish out the month. Biggest problem: They're getting nothing from their second line of Ryan O'Reilly, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. The Hurricanes, the lone winless team this season, is the early front-runner for the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes and that just might be the only silver linings in Raleigh. Even former Conn Smyth-winning goalie Cam Ward has been a sieve, averaging 4.24 GAA and a .829 save percentage in just three starts. Backup Anton Khudobin has only been marginally better.

The Bottom 10
 
  • 21
    21St. Louis Blues
    3-3-1 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 22
    KWAK: 19
    CAZENEUVE: 20
     
    Last week: 0-2-0

  • 22
    22Philadelphia Flyers
    3-3-2 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 21
    KWAK: 21
    CAZENEUVE: 21
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 23
    23Columbus Blue Jackets
    4-4-0 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 24
    KWAK: 23
    CAZENEUVE: 23
     
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 24
    24Toronto Maple Leafs
    3-4-1 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 25
    KWAK: 22
    CAZENEUVE: 26
     
    Last week: 0-2-0

  • 25
    25Winnipeg Jets
    3-5-0 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 26
    KWAK: 28
    CAZENEUVE: 28
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 26
    26Florida Panthers
    2-2-3 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 23
    KWAK: 27
    CAZENEUVE: 25
     
    Last week: 1-0-1

  • 27
    27Arizona Coyotes
    3-3-1 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 28
    KWAK: 24
    CAZENEUVE: 24
     
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 28
    28Colorado Avalanche
    2-4-3 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 27
    KWAK: 26
    CAZENEUVE: 27
     
    Last week: 1-0-2

  • 29
    29Buffalo Sabres
    2-7-0 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 29
    KWAK: 29
    CAZENEUVE: 29
     
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 30
    30Carolina Hurricanes
    0-5-2 (Prior rank: NA)
    MUIR: 30
    KWAK: 30
    CAZENEUVE: 30
     
    Last week: 0-3-0

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