By Adrian Dater
October 11, 2011

Like hot buttered buns from the oven, your first installment of's weekly NHL Power Rankings is here. Consume 'em while they're hot, because chances are by, oh, noon or so 48 hours from now, some of these teams are likely to look like Jack Nicholson at the end of "The Shining."

Since this is my first attempt at compiling this list, a couple of disclosures about my methodology are in order: 1. If your team's name was on the little piece of white paper that I grabbed last out of the paper bag, you and your team have my apologies. 2. Like a newbie to the dating scene, there was a ton of projection going on here: hopes, fears, fondest desires, amd most dreaded shortcomings that are sure to surface at some point. It's all about projection with power polls, especially one based on only three games or less.

As Wayne Gretzky said, and the late, great Steve Jobs loved to quote, and which I paraphrase: "It ain't where the puck is, it's where the puck's going to be" that we're interested in here with this thing.

NOTE: All stats and records through games of Monday, Oct. 10.

Without further ado:

NHL Power Rankings
1 Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: NA
They sure look like the same, dominating, puck-hogging team as ever. They blasted Ottawa on opening night, then went into Denver on Peter Forsberg Night 24 hours later and shut out the Avalanche with ease. Ponce de Leon, otherwise known as Nicklas Lidstrom, 41, is one of the top five defenders of all time and still playing like it. Amazing.
2 Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: NA
Thomas Vanek scored five points in his first two games, wins over the Ducks and Kings (no creampuffs) in Europe yet. So how does it feel to be big-payroll fatcats, Buffalo people? Not bad, eh? Pass the caviar and light up a Havana stogie because the good times for these ice men figure to last with Terry Pegula signing the checks.
3 San Jose Sharks
Last Week: NA
Not much to do because the sage schedule-makers gave them one game during the first week of the season, but the Sharks looked just fine in their opener, a 6-3 win over Phoenix. Methinks trading Brent Burns to the Sharks was a big mistake by Wild GM Chuck Fletcher.
4 Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: NA
See what a good goalie can do, Flyers fans? Two games, one goal-against, a .977 save-percentage for big free-agent signee Ilya Bryzgalov so far. Doesn't it feel good not to have to hear things like, "In goal, Michael Leighton" or "Brian Boucher" or any of the many other mediocre backstops your team tried to get away with for far too long?
5 Nashville Predators
Last Week: NA
Barry Trotz will get a few votes for coach of the year somehow. You know it, I know it. The Preds just do what they do for him: lace up their skates, put on their hard hats and go to work. And what's gotten into David Legwand? Five points in his first two games. Last season, he had five points after his first 13 games.
6 Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: NA
Not only did they get points in each of their first three games, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Rob Rossi reported on Tuesday that Sidney Crosby could soon be cleared for contact. We'll go out on a limb and guess that Pens fans are feeling pretty good about this.
7 Boston Bruins
Last Week: NA
Coach Claude Julien is already bemoaning their early-season, Cup-hangover complacency, especially after a home shutout loss on Monday to hardly fearsome Colorado. But the B's are going to be fine. They allowed only four goals in those first three games.
8 Washington Capitals
Last Week: NA
Aside from new goalie Tomas Vokoun looking terrible in his first game as a Cap (23 saves on 28 shots against Tampa Bay on Monday), there is nothing to worry about here. Or is there? The Caps scored 10 goals in their first two games (while allowing eight). Say this about it: this team still doesn't lack for excitement.
9 Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: NA
Let the goaltending controversy start to brew in earnest. OK, maybe that's a bit tongue-in-cheek after only two games, but not really. The radio talk shows in Vancouver are already chock full of callers wanting the Canucks to hand the starting job to Cory Schneider and let Roberto Luongo ride pine as the backup. This has "potential team distraction" written all over it.
10 Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: NA
Can the Leaves of Autumn last? Or will the tree be stripped bare again come late winter? If young James Reimer (101:42 shutout streak until the roof almost caved in against the fearsome Senators on Saturday) stays solid in net and Phil Kessel keeps averaging five points every two games, the answer will be the former.
11 Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: NA
Anze Kopitar appears to be fine after his broken ankle of late last season. Three goals in the first two games for the big center. Young goalie Jonathan Bernier didn't look so good in his first start of the year, though, a 4-2 loss to Buffalo in Berlin. But this team is going to be in the playoffs, not Europe, come spring.
12 Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: NA
So far, a split of two games with Dallas. Nothing to be ashamed of, but it's clear already that the Blackhawks still don't have anything resembling the quality of depth that propelled them to the Stanley Cup in 2010. But with that top-five in front of goalie Corey Crawford, this is still a team that can win on any night against anyone.
13 Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: NA
The Bolts will move up the chart as the season progresses. Too much smarts behind the bench in Guy Boucher and up in the GM's box in Steve Yzerman. Plus, there's an awful lot of offensive firepower on the ice.
14 St. Louis Blues
Last Week: NA
They suffered a disappointing opening-night loss at home to the Predators, but bounced back with a pleasing 5-2 win over the Flames. Power forward David Backes is one of the most underrated players in the league, so don't be surprised if he puts up 40 goals this season.
15 Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: NA
Netminder Carey Price has looked good so far(.939 SP), as has the defense overall. It's too bad, though, that Scott Gomez has to keep eating up vast cap space with his big, bloated, unworthy contract. Don't worry Habs fans, only three more years left on his deal, at a cap hit of $7,357,143 per.
16 Dallas Stars
Last Week: 2-1
They still have just enough of everything to give their opponents a tough time most nights. As long as Brenden Morrow is still wearing the 'C' for this team, it will compete and win its share. Now, if only somebody would buy this team and do for it what Terry Pegula is doing for the Sabres.
17 New York Rangers
Last Week: NA
Fiery coach John Tortorella is going to set the all-time record for F-bombs on HBO's Winter Classic special if the Rangers go much longer without a victory. Stud free agent acquisition Brad Richards was irked by the team's season-opening slog through Europe and the prolonged absence of defenseman Marc Staal (concussion) may prove problematic.
18 Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: NA
Let's give the tender young Oil some early-season love, expose the random nature of these first rankings and earn some vitriolic email, too. But come on, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the clutch tying goal in the waning minutes of their season opener and the lads went on to win in the shootout. This bodes well for down the road.
19 Florida Panthers
Last Week: NA
No, we're not jumping on the Jose Theodore bandwagon just yet. No, we're still not certain that signing Tomas Fleischmann to a four-year, $18 million deal was such a smart move by GM Dale Tallon. But these Cats do look better than the moribund group of the last few years.
20 Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: NA
This team seems stale to me, but that first line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan -- not to mention the wondrous Teemu Selanne -- is still going to win Randy Carlyle plenty of hockey games.
21 New York Islanders
Last Week: NA
Stop me if you've heard this before, but they really do have some good, promising young talent plus a handful of savvy, economical veterans like Brian Rolston and Marty Reasoner. Expectations are higher than usual, so their flat opening-night 2-0 loss to Florida was a downer. But they bounced back to nip the Wild, 2-1, in a Perils of Pauline performance (five penalty kills, 17 blocks, 20 saves by Al Montoya) that may be common this season.
22 Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: NA
Well, look at those pesty Avs, going into Boston on Monday and shutting out the Stanley Cup champs. OK, so it was just a 1-0 win and goalie Semyon Varlamov had to make a miraculous save on Milan Lucic to preserve the extra point. But the Avs do have a bigger, beefier defense, and rookie Gabriel Landeskog put 10 shots on goal in his first two games. That'll help.
23 Minnesota Wild
Last Week: NA
Dany Heatley promises he'll get back to the 40-50 goal mark this season with the Wild. One goal and nine shots on net through his first two games -- hmm, maybe he's serious about that. But the defense is kind of a mess on this team.
24 New Jersey Devils
Last Week: NA
Marty Brodeur looked washed up much of last season and nothing has changed so far at this early checkpoint. He'll turn 40 next May, just in time to watch the playoffs from the couch. The challenge has been laid down by a smart-aleck sports writer, Mr. Brodeur. Make me eat those words. (I have a feeling I'll be asked, "Would you care for some freshly cracked ground pepper on those words, Mr. Dater?")
25 Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: NA
A question after going 0-for-the Bolts, Caps and Devils: Is it just me or was giving GM Jim Rutherford a four-year extension last month more than just a little strange? No offense to the only GM the 'Canes have ever had, but really, a four-year extension to a guy whose team missed the playoffs last season and hasn't won more than 45 games in any season since 2005-06?
26 Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: NA
Coach Dave Tippett is already finding out that life without Ilya Bryzgalov probably won't be as much fun. If the Yotes had attendance problems the last two years as a playoff team, wait 'til next spring. Crickets and owls...
27 Ottawa Senators
Last Week: NA
Goalie Craig Anderson played his way into a big contract with the Sens late last season, and so far has returned the equivalent of my 401K from the years 2007-09. He's going to have to be the second coming of Frankie "Mr. Zero" Brimsek with this rebuilding squad in front him.
28 Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: NA
A 5-1 opening night loss at home to Montreal after a 15-year buildup of anticipation? Come on Jets, you're better than that. Or are you? Let us not forget that these are the former Thrashers.
29 Calgary Flames
Last Week: NA
Old and tired. That's what these Flames look like. And defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is turning out to be the biggest bust in recent NHL history after scoring a huge contract from former (and you can see why) GM Darryl Sutter.
30 Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: NA
Say, how you likin' C-Bus so far, Jeff Carter?

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