By Adrian Dater
January 17, 2012

For much of the 1990s and mid-2000s, the Original Six teams seemed lost in the league they helped found. Other than the Detroit Red Wings, Original Six cities were circled on opponents' schedules as an easy two points. But that was then.

Now, four of the Original Six are in the top six of this week's Power Rankings. The other two -- Toronto and Montreal -- well, not quite. But the Maple Leafs check in with a respectable ranking, and Montreal will always be relevant to any hockey discussion. So let's hear it for the old guard this week.

A DISCLAIMER (of sorts): These rankings are based not just on each team's record at the moment, but an empirically tested formula that includes 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. 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 30-something years ago and Dave Schultz has long since retired. I welcome your emails to the link attached to my name above, and I always respond -- even to the ones that start with "Dear Idiot."

And now, your list:

NHL Power Rankings
1 Boston Bruins
Last Week: 2
Boston Bruins (29-12-1)
They're not blowing the doors off teams as often, but they're still getting points in 70 percent of their games and they lead the league in goals for and fewest against. Brad Marchand's suspension will be over this week, so the B's have a good chance at going into the All-Star break on top of the league. Last week: 3-1-0
2 Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 4
Forget about beating them at the Joe. They improved to 18-2-1 at Joe Louis Arena with Monday's blowout win over Buffalo. It was their 15th straight win at home, besting the previous team record set in 1965. The two points improved the Wings' total to 59, one behind Chicago in the Central, and their goal differential (plus-43) is the best in the West. Last week: 3-1-0
3 St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 5
St. Louis Blues (27-12-6)
You just can't score on these guys. They've allowed four regulation goals in their last five games, with three shutouts. The latest came Monday night, a 1-0 victory over Dallas. Jaroslav Halak got the whitewash, but he's not the Blues' goalie who is going to Ottawa for the All-Star game. That would be Brian Elliott, the subject of a feature last week by my colleague Michael Farber. CLICK HERE to read it. The only reason why the Blues aren't ranked over Detroit: they have yet to prove they can beat the Wings. Last week: 3-0-1
4 New York Rangers
Last Week: 1
New York Rangers (28-11-4)
They looked great one night against Toronto, horrible 24 hours later at Montreal. They were also shut out at home by Ottawa, so their No. 1 ranking is no more. It's becoming clearer that these guys need another goal-scorer. They play a nice team game and all, but another big stick will be key come playoff time. GM Glen Sather will have to do something by the deadline. Last week: 2-2-0
5 Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 3
KISS bassist Gene Simmons and family took in the Canucks' Sunday night game with Anaheim, but the Canucks gave a performance akin to the band's 1981 flop "The Elder." Still, they?re well atop the Northwest, near the top of the Western standings, and will have home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Rock on. Last week: 2-1-0
6 Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 8
It was a good winning week, though the loss of Patrick Sharp for a month will be a tough test. Forward Viktor Stalberg's five goals earned him the NHL's Second Star of the Week honor. If he keeps scoring like that, Sharp's absence will hurt less. Last week: 3-0-1
7 San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 6
San Jose Sharks (25-12-5)
They're in a nice spot as usual, but GM Doug Wilson is already thinking about the Feb. 27 trade deadline. "What I try to do is keep in touch with every GM at least once a month, see how their team is performing, what their injuries are, and plant seeds," Wilson told USA Today. "Sometimes you plant a seed and it might take a year or so before a player becomes available. We did some deals with Minnesota this summer that were based upon that." Stay tuned. Last week: 3-1-0
8 Nashville Predators
Last Week: 9
They got a scare Monday when defenseman Ryan Suter was lost after the first period in Long Island because of the dreaded "upper-body injury". The Preds would not say how long he'll be out, but any time will not be good. They were 4-7-1 without him in the lineup last season. Last week: 4-0-0
9 Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 7
Post-"24/7", Ilya Bryzgalov isn't as adorable in Philly anymore. Coach Peter Laviolette put the $51 million man back in the net Saturday against Nashville only to see him surrender three goals on 24 shots in a 4-2 loss. Here we go again with the Flyers: no certainty in net as the playoffs get closer. Check out my colleague Michael Farber on the subject of gambling on goalies in this podcast. Last week:2-1-0
10 Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 13
Ottawa Senators (25-15-6)
Craig Anderson, the NHL's First Star of the Week, and the red-hot Sens were cooled off Monday night by Winnipeg, but has anyone noticed that Jason Spezza is having a -- yes, I'll say it -- Hart Trophy-worthy season so far? He might not win it, but he's in the conversation at four points off the league scoring lead. Last week: 3-1-0
11 Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 10
Anybody still want to second-guess the Darryl Sutter hire? How sweet it was for his Kings on Saturday night, going into Calgary and dominating the Brent Sutter-coached Flames. Of note: Jonathan Quick's six shutouts lead the league. Last week: 1-0-2
12 New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 11
They overcame a bad blowout loss in Calgary with tough 2-1 road wins over Winnipeg and Edmonton. Now, after 10 days away from the Prudential Center, they kick off a six-game homestand Tuesday night against the Jets. This is their time to put some points in the bank for the end-of-the-schedule playoff drama. Last week: 2-1-0
13 Florida Panthers
Last Week: 12
Florida Panthers (21-14-9)
One of the top teams early on, the Cats have been up and down for a while. They beat the Canucks at home, had four days off, and got blown out by injury-ravaged Pittsburgh. Now, they go North and West for road games at Colorado, Chicago and Winnipeg. Last week: 0-1-1
14 Washington Capitals
Last Week: 20
They've won three in a row and look ready to overtake Florida in the Southeast. On the downside, Mike Green needs abdominal surgery and will be out four-to-six weeks. But they've had to play without him much of the season already, so maybe they'll be able to better withstand his latest injury, find a way to win the division, and go into the playoffs with a healthy Green. That's the optimist's view. Last week: 3-0-0
15 Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 15
After a nice win in Dallas on Saturday, they looked awful Monday in Phoenix, a 6-1 setback. Goalie Semyon Varlamov has lost his last two starts by a combined 10-2 score. "He needs to be better," Avs coach Joe Sacco said with droll understatement. Indeed. One piece of good news: forward Peter Mueller made a surprise return from his latest concussion and put 11 shots on net his first three games. Last week: 1-2-1
16 Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 17
Their horribly distracted fan base got more horribly confusing news about Sidney Crosby over the weekend. He's headed to Florida to see chiropractic neurologist Ted Carrick, who was instrumental in getting him back to health from concussion symptoms the first time. Crosby said he's improved, but is still having balance problems. In other words, it's anyone's guess if he'll play again this season and the Pens' fortunes hang in the balance. Last week: 2-2-0
17 Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 21
Phoenix Coyotes (21-18-7)
Radim Vrbata's 22 goals lead the Western Conference, yet he was left off the All-Star team. That's a true snub. It obviously doesn't help that Vrbata plays in complete and total anonymity in Glendale. Last week: 1-1-2
18 Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 14
Well, it looks like it's back to James Reimer for coach Ron Wilson. Jonas Gustavsson was the man for a while, but he lost back-to-back starts to the Rangers and Sabres and so Reimer will get the next chance to grab the No. 1 job Tuesday against Ottawa. Center Tyler Bozak also will return for that tilt. Last week: 1-2-0
19 Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 19
Minnesota Wild (22-16-7)
Horrible news over the weekend: their top player, center Mikko Koivu, is out at least a month. (The Minneapolis Star-Tribune says he has a separated shoulder and could be lost for up to six weeks.) Now the Wild, who are 0-7-2 in their last nine on the road, must go to Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Last week: 1-1-1
20 Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 18
Winnipeg Jets (21-19-5)
A three-game losing streak ended Monday against the Sens, but scoring goals remains a problem. The Jets have scored three or fewer in their last nine games and have a tough game Tuesday in New Jersey. Good seats still available. Last week: 1-3-0
21 Dallas Stars
Last Week: 16
Dallas Stars (24-19-1)
They probably should be ranked a notch or two higher, but when taking into account the loss of forwards Jamie Benn (appendectomy; two weeks) and Mike Ribeiro (knee; probably as long), wins figure to be hard to come by for a team that was already struggling. Last week: 1-3-0
22 Calgary Flames
Last Week: 23
Calgary Flames (21-20-5)
After way too much furor over the Mike Cammalleri-Rene Bourque trade, they went out with their new player, who was given the awful number of 93, and got smoked at home by the Kings. Cammalleri did score a goal, at least, but anyone who thinks he'll turn the Flames around by himself is seriously deluded. Last week: 2-1-0
23 Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 22
Buffalo Sabres (19-21-5)
Lindy Ruff's team might have hit bottom Monday night in their humiliating 5-0 loss at Detroit. A team with a payroll in the league's top three is now seven points out of the eighth playoff spot. "The injury excuse isn't what this team is about," captain Jason Pominville told The Buffalo News. "We have enough guys in the lineup to win games and we're not doing it right now. We have to find a way." Last week: 1-3-0
24 Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 27
Anaheim Ducks (15-22-7)
They're 6-3-1 in their last 10, including a nice victory at Vancouver. The playoffs are probably still out of the question. Or are they? Anaheim got red hot down the stretch last season, you may recall. Last week: 3-0-1
25 Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 24
They got a very impressive win over the Rangers Sunday night, and are 3-2-1 in their last six games. Are the tough times over? Don't bet on it. Yet I've said it all season: with Carey Price in net, this team can always get on a roll. Last week: 1-2-1
26 Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 29
That was a nice victory over Boston last week, but they followed it up with a one-goal dud loss to Washington. That's the way the rest of the season is likely to go for the 'Canes. Last week: 2-2-0
27 Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 26
Edmonton Oilers (17-23-4)
Maybe the best news last week was the hiring of an arena construction outfit, ICON, the one that built other NHL barns in places like Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Phoenix. Meanwhile, the product in the current building continues to slide. Last week: 1-1-1
28 New York Islanders
Last Week: 28
Evgeni Nabokov got his 300th career victory Saturday night over Buffalo, and John Tavares has a point in nine straight games -- a career high. But the Isles are still near the bottom of the conference and, surprise, surprise, Rick DiPietro (hernia) is out for the rest of the season. Last week: 2-2-0
29 Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 30
Jeff Carter remains out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. What a disaster of a first season in Columbus for the former Flyer. Question is, will he be back for a second campaign? Last week: 1-2-0
30 Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 25
This team appears to have already packed it in for the season on coach Guy Boucher. The Bolts have allowed the most goals in the league (156), and a new goalie for 2012-13 has to be tops on the agenda for GM Steve Yzerman. Last week: 0-3-1

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