In the thick of the season, an interesting trend has emerged in the past three weeks or so: the haves and have-nots in the American divisions have become incredibly stratified. Like, if you didn't know any better, you'd swear the bottom-half teams had given up, based on their records in the past 10 games. And maybe some of them have? We're getting into trade deadline time and it's better to know you're a seller than to think you still have a chance when you don't.
With about three weeks to go until that April 12 trade deadline, the action will likely start heating up soon thanks to quarantine rules. In the meantime, let's rank all those NHL teams.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning: The rulers of the Central are basically leading a Southeast revolution alongside Carolina and Florida, as the rest of the division is getting killed. Having Victor Hedman on your blueline never hurts.
2. Vegas Golden Knights: Max Pacioretty is scorching right now with nine points in his past five games and that puts him on pace for his best NHL season ever. It's fun playing with Mark Stone, isn't it?
3. Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes keep popping up the rankings like Dougie Hamilton on a Zoom call. Speaking of which, Dougie is Carolina's second-leading scorer right now behind Sebastian Aho - and it's a contract year for the big D-man.
4. Colorado Avalanche: Fear the Avs, for they are healthy and on a roll. Colorado has points in nine of its past 10 games and Nathan MacKinnon has nine points in his past five outings. This is the Stanley Cup contender we all expected.
5. New York Islanders: Losing Anders Lee for the rest of the campaign was a bummer, but the Isles have responded with wins - and that's all a captain can ask for, right? Oliver Wahlstrom has a tidy little four-game point streak.
6. Washington Capitals: The Caps are trying to score their way out of trouble this season and honestly? It's working for them. With Nicklas Backstrom in a renaissance and Alex Ovechkin being Alex Ovechkin, they've got the weapons necessary.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs: Jack Campbell was always Toronto's starting goaltender. Who is this Frederik Andersen you speak of? We do not care for such talk. Jack is a good boy who stops a lot of pucks.
8. Florida Panthers: Imagine being 7-3-1 in your past 10 games and losing ground in your division. Anyway, the Cats are really good and Aleksander Barkov remains a Beastmaster down the middle.
9. Minnesota Wild: With St. Louis struggling, the Wild officially become the third member of the West's Big Three with Vegas and Colorado for now. How about Mats Zuccarello turning back the clock and ringing up a point per game?
10. Edmonton Oilers: Is Darnell Nurse getting enough love this season? Because he's been really good for the Oilers during a time they needed someone to step up. Tyson Barrie has obviously been fantastic on the back end as well.
11. Winnipeg Jets: With five points in his past five games, Kyle Connor continues to hover around point-per-game territory. During his draft year, a scout described him as having "jersey-flapping speed," which always sounded pretty cool.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby continues to do Sidney Crosby things, with six points in five games. Whenever I get to road-trip to Pittsburgh again, I'm going to the Grove City Primanti Bros. on the way.
13. Boston Bruins: The B's are having a tough time scoring goals this year but on the plus side they're really good at preventing goals, too. So basically don't expect much to happen when they play.
14. St. Louis Blues: If you're wondering how things are going right now in St. Louis, the Blues have a worse goal differential than Los Angeles. Having said that, the Blues are still a playoff team because the division is mostly terrible.
15. Montreal Canadiens: With all the havoc in the North right now, Montreal's best strategy might be to hide under some coats and hope it all works out. A lot of games against the Senators coming up...
16. Philadelphia Flyers: It's actually somewhat helpful that we were all asking the question "Is Philly going to turn it around?" and the Flyers responded by going in the tank the past 10 games. It's very considerate, really.
17. Chicago Blackhawks: The footsteps are getting louder behind the Hawks, who are still in a playoff position, but an increasingly tenuous one. Do they have another Kevin Lankinen somewhere? Maybe in the back of the linen closet?
18. Columbus Blue Jackets: One of the teams currently stalking Chicago, the Jackets have basically pulled even with the Hawks. Oliver Bjorkstrand is doing his part with four points in his past three games.
19. New York Rangers: The Rangers are in a perfect development spot right now where the post-season isn't gonna happen, but New York can give great pressure-free reps to the likes of Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko and K'Andre Miller. It's not a bad thing in the long-term.
20. Los Angeles Kings: I'm not gonna lie, the Drew Doughty Revenge Tour is kinda fun. None of it matters in the grand scheme of things and no matter what happens, some group of hockey folks are gonna lose their minds.
21. Calgary Flames: There's a gun that, no matter where you point it, fires a bullet directly into the shooter's own foot and every team in the North except Ottawa gets to use it. This week, it was Calgary's turn.
22. Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks are red-hot right now, but they've also played five games more than the team they're chasing (Montreal) and three more games than the team right behind them (Calgary). This might not end well.
23. Dallas Stars: Dallas is the opposite of Vancouver: lots of games in hand, but not playing well enough right now to take advantage of it. At least Jake Oettinger is getting some great experience in net.
24. Arizona Coyotes: You'll always have Conor Garland, Arizona fans. Otherwise, it's looking like a non-playoff year in the Desert. You'll always have that bubble post-season win over Nashville, Arizona fans.
25. Nashville Predators: The Predators are no longer tragic and in their division, they might even have signs of life. They can't stop the puck and they don't score much, but otherwise there's a sliver of hope.
26. San Jose Sharks: Kurtis Gabriel and coach Bob Boughner just got fined by the NHL because Gabriel tried to start something during warmups against the Kings. I wonder if Boughner was like, "Dude! Stop messing with my money!"
27. New Jersey Devils: This Devils' season would be a lot more fun with more Nico. Like, lots more Nico - all the Nico, if you will. Hischier has only played five games and the new captain has three points in that span.
28. Anaheim Ducks: Jamie Drysdale and Trevor Zegras make all the pain go away. They are the zen rock gardens of Anaheim.
29. Ottawa Senators: The Senators are fun because they keep pulling out new goalies like there's a clown car full of them in Belleville. Filip Gustavsson just got his first NHL win and Calgary begrudgingly gave him the game puck.
30. Detroit Red Wings: The less Detroit comes up this season, the better. All the good news is centered on players who aren't in the NHL lineup yet, so let's just think about Moritz Seider for a bit and move on.
31. Buffalo Sabres: Ralph Krueger is gone but the Sabres keep losing. It's getting to the point where I think they should just push this losing streak as far as it can go: pull a reverse Major League. Have some fun with it.