John Tortorella puts boot to Canucks in Week 11 Power Rankings

Tuesday December 17th, 2013

Torts in form: Vancouver's fiery coach ignited a rout of Boston and its petulant pest Brad Marchand.
Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

There are no guarantees of renewed vigor and purpose when a new coach steps behind the bench—see Dallas Eakins doing his best Sideshow Bob impression in Edmonton for proof of that. But handing the bullhorn to a fresh voice has had a demonstrably positive impact on several teams this season.

Consider the Vancouver Canucks, who took a bold leap into the Top Five this week on the strength of a seven-game winning streak. John Tortorella spent the first two months not just teaching, but figuring out exactly what he had on the team. Now that he has a better grasp, he's able to tailor his system, and expectations, to his players' abilities. He's also made a few changes to the way he approaches the guys in the room, so that when he blows up on the bench, as he did during the second period vs. Boston on Dec. 14, it will be an effective tactical strike and key to victory. (His tirade spurred the Canucks to break a 1-1 tie en route to a 6-2 blowout that gave Vancouver the last word after Bruins pest Brad Marchand had taunted them with his Cup raising and ring kissing antics.)

Elsewhere, Peter Horachek is quietly doing a very nice job with the Panthers, as is Ted Nolan with the Sabres. Both men are focusing on defensive responsibility, and the results have been striking. Maybe not on the scoreboard in Buffalo's case, but there are clear signs of progress in their own zone. Both men deserve to have the interim tag removed from their job titles.

You see these teams turning their fortunes around and you wonder what it's going to take for change to come to Winnipeg or Long Island. The situations in those places aren't equal—Jack Capuano deserves more rope with the young Isles than does Claude Noel with the underachieving Jets—but when teams are playing as poorly as those two, the pressure to bring in a new voice grows with each loss.

Here's how the rest of the league sorts out after Week 11:

Notable rise: Florida Panthers (28 to 20)

Notable fall: New York Rangers (15 to 24)

NHL Power Rankings
1Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 1
Anaheim Ducks (23-7-5)
It was a light week for the Ducks, who made short work of the Wild and Oilers to remain unbeaten in regulation at the Honda Center (13-0-2) and maintain their grip on top spot in the rankings. (Last week: 2-0-0)
2Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 4
That, ahem, hiccup in Toronto aside, the Hawks were back in prime form last week, toying with a pair of overmatched teams in Dallas and Philadelphia and then blowing the doors off a quality squad in Los Angeles during the first period before locking down a 3-1 win. The addition of veteran Jason LaBarbera was a smart move. (Last week: 3-1-0)
3Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 3
A combination of four games in six nights and a date with the Hawks on Sunday at the United Center put an end to L.A.'s six-game winning stretch. The defending champs also snapped one of the season's more impressive streaks: before giving up three goals to Chicago in the first period, the Kings hadn't allowed an opening frame tally in 18 (!) games. (Last week: 3-1-0)
4Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 6
By the time all the wounded had been carted off the ice, the Pens were forced to dress as many as eight AHLers last week. How young is this team? The 19-year-old rookie Olli Maatta boasted the third-most experience on the blueline, and he's played all of 35 games. But instead of feeling sorry for themselves, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Pens remained focused and clawed their way to three wins. Impressive. (Last week: 3-0-0)
5Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 10
A very satisfying win over the Bruins sealed Vancouver's sweep of its five-game homestand and moved the Canucks to 7-0 in December. The penalty kill has keyed the run, killing off all 20 chances this month and allowing just two shots total in wins over Boston and Edmonton. (Last week: 2-0-0)
6St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 8
They took seven-of-eight points from lesser competition to keep the Hawks within hailing distance, but may have lost David Backes in the process. The captain has played 274 straight, but left Monday night's game in Ottawa in considerable pain. No update yet on his condition, which sounds ominous. (Last week: 3-0-1)
7Boston Bruins
Last Week: 5
Boston Bruins (22-9-2)
Battling a vicious flu bug and a crippling string of injuries that forced six regulars out of action, the Bruins still managed to take three-of-four on their Canadian road swing. The 6-2 thumping they endured in Vancouver on Saturday made for a sour ending, but earning six points under those circumstances was a huge success. (Last week: 2-1-0)
8San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 7
They put an end to their four-game skid with a hard-fought win over the Wild, then fell back into the abyss with a sorry effort on the road against the Predators. Their offense is in a deep rut, having scored only 12 goals during the past six games. Logan Couture (two goals in his last 15 games) picked a lousy time to go ice cold. (Last week: 1-1-1)
9Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 9
They're not as sharp as they were earlier in the season, but the Avs are still a beast on the road. Their 11-4 record away from the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center is tops in the league, but they'll be put to the test with four of their next five on the road, including matches in L.A., San Jose and Chicago. (Last week: 2-1-1)
10Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 2
So much for that 10-game hot streak. An ice-cold offense (three goals in four games) has the Habs reeling. The power play has produced just one goal in its last 17 chances, and one player—Alex Galchenyuk—has scored the last three regulation tallies. At least the defense is hanging tough. Montreal's 2.06 goals-against average is second best in the league. (Last week: 1-3-0)
11Washington Capitals
Last Week: 12
Getting to the shootout in three consecutive games was no surprise to the Caps, the team that leads the league in free hockey. At least they've made the most of it, going 10-3, including a perfect 7-0 at home. Those bonus points are keeping them in the mix in the Metro Division. (Last week: 2-0-1)
12Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 11
Minnesota Wild (19-11-5)
We know Dany Heatley's hands have turned to stone ... so what's everybody else's excuse? Minnesota's popgun offense has generated only six goals in the team's past five games. Part of the problem: a power play that doesn't see enough ice. The Wild aren't playing aggressively enough to draw penalties, earning three or fewer chances with the extra man in 15 of their past 16 games. (Last week: 1-2-0)
13Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 16
You better believe that Steve Yzerman loves watching his new team beat his old one. The Bolts are now 3-0 against the Red Wings this season after Sunday's 3-0 win in Detroit. That's two wins in a row at the Joe for a team that had gone 1-13-1 there prior to this season. (Last week: 2-1-1)
14Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 17
Their hot start has the Coyotes within howling distance of a playoff spot, but they haven't been able to get any real traction in more than a month. That inconsistency is going to cost them in the long run. (Last week: 2-1-0)
15Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 21
They're down to third-string goalie Mike McKenna, but the Jackets are putting out an honest effort that's keeping them in the playoff hunt. Ryan Johansen has been solid up front, running up a nine-game scoring streak (4-7-11) that is one game shy of tying the franchise record. (Last week: 2-1-1)
16Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 23
The Canes have returned to the playoff picture after clawing points out of Edmonton and Calgary to finish off a three-game Western Canada swing. And Jeff Skinner's back in the groove, with eight goals in his past seven games. (Last week: 1-0-2)
17Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 18
They clearly weren't ready for their close-up. With HBO's cameras following their every move, Detroit has lost five straight, including two more at Joe Louis Arena where they've won just two of their past 15. Sure, they're dealing with injuries, but so are Boston and Pittsburgh. This is gut-check time. (Last week: 0-2-2)
18Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 14
Goalie Steve Mason has been the team's savior this season, stealing points on more than one occasion. But he's allowed four goals in each of his past four road starts, and he looked particularly bad in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Caps on Sunday. A regression to the mean, or just a rough patch? (Last week: 1-1-1)
19Dallas Stars
Last Week: 13
Dallas Stars (15-12-5)
Which Stars team is going to show up on any given night? Check how they did in their previous game and then bet on the opposite. Dallas hasn't put together back-to-back wins since Nov. 14-17 and that inconsistency has all but doomed the Stars to also-ran status in the West. At least Jamie Benn got the monkey off his back with a pair of tallies in a win over the Jets, snapping an 11-game goalless skid. (Last week: 1-3-0)
20Florida Panthers
Last Week: 28
Don't look now, but the Panthers are playing their best hockey of the season, having won five of six. They've done a nice job limiting opportunities in their own zone, holding all three of their opponents last week to 26 shots or fewer. Hats off to new coach Peter Horachek, who is 8-8-1 since taking over for Kevin Dineen. (Last week: 3-0-0)
21New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 19
They rebounded nicely from what they called their "worst period of the season" -- a 3-7-1 slide -- by shutting out the Bolts, 3-0, after building on a strong finish in their 3-2 loss to the Pens last Friday. Now they need to keep it rolling. They have only two wins in December and are falling off the pace in the Metro. (Last week: 1-2-0)
22Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 22
The good news for the Leafs, who have dropped four of five? Their schedule gets a whole lot easier through the end of December. They've put together a couple of decent games, including a surprising 7-3 beatdown of the Hawks, and kids like Jerry D'Amigo and Morgan Rielly are chipping in, giving them some hope. (Last week: 1-3-0)
23Calgary Flames
Last Week: 24
Calgary Flames (13-15-5)
During the press conference announcing the firing of GM Jay Feaster, Brian Burke was quick to compliment the coaching staff and the work ethic of the players. The Flames are competitive night in, night out, with seven of their last eight games decided by one goal. The trick now, as Burke said, is to convert a few of those close losses into wins. (Last week: 2-1-1)
24New York Rangers
Last Week: 15
New York Rangers (16-17-1) )
Their come-from-behind shootout win over the Flames isn't fooling anyone. The Rangers are a mess, losers of four straight before Sunday, and devoid of confidence in the attack zone. Brad Richards says they're not playing too conservatively, but an offense that ranks 27th says otherwise. (Last week: 1-2-0)
25Nashville Predators
Last Week: 27
Carter Hutton may not be Mr. Right for the Preds, but he's Mr. Right Now. The backup keeper stopped 97 of the 101 shots he faced last week to guide Nashville to three straight wins and earn NHL Third Star of the Week honors. (Last week: 3-0-0)
26Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 25
Ottawa Senators (14-15-6)
At some point soon, coach Paul MacLean needs to officially pass the torch to Robin Lehner. After a strong performance in Monday night's 3-2 OT win over the Blues, the youngster boasts a GAA that's a full goal better than that of veteran Craig Anderson (2.38 to 3.36). For a team averaging 2.8 goals per game, that's the margin between winning and losing. (Last week: 2-1-1)
27Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 20
Winnipeg Jets (15-15-5)
These are not happy times in Winnipeg. After a frustrating 6-4 loss to the Stars, captain Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler both went off in the media about the mental mistakes and lack of discipline that continue to dog this franchise. You get the sense that change is coming. (Last week: 1-2-1)
28Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 29
Ryan Miller is no longer the busiest goaltender in the NHL. A new focus on team defense has seen the Sabres cut down their shots-against by nearly 10 from earlier in the season and they limited their opposition to just four regulation goals last week. It's a start ... (Last week: 1-1-1)
29Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 26
Edmonton Oilers (11-21-3)
They aren't offering much resistance to the league's top teams, but they have been competitive this month against middle and lower-tier clubs. At this point, that's all you can ask of this bunch. (Last week: 1-3-0)
30New York Islanders
Last Week: 30
The Isles snapped a pair of 10-game losing streaks—on the road as well as consecutive—with last Tuesday's 3-2 shootout win over the Sharks, then promptly dropped their next two matches, reassuring everyone that they're still as lousy as ever, thanks largely to an offense that has mustered only 11 goals this month. (Last week: 1-1-1)

(Holiday note: Power Rankings will return on Tuesday, Dec. 31)

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