In SI.com's NHL Power Rankings the Anaheim Ducks are locked in a battle with the Los Angeles Kings for the top spot.
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 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.
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.
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.