Power Rankings: Upstart Predators pounce on top spot
Welcome to the latest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. For the third week in a row we have a new top team, and once again it's a squad that few people before the season would have expected to be as successful as it has been to this point. Our three scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Brian Cazeneuve—submitted their choices for the league's Top 10. The rankings for the all 30 teams have been weighted according to how high each club 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. Weekly movement up or down has been noted. So without further ado, commence to stew!
Again, the Bruins and Kings, two of the league's powerhouses of the past half-dozen years, occupy spots outside the top ten, where the surprising Flames have fallen. Obviously Mark Giordano has been the heart of the Calgary's strong start, leading NHL defensemen with 16 points and earning the league's First Star honors last week. But the Flames are getting more help up front from Jiri Hudler, who has five goals in the last four games. The 30-year-old winger has never scored more than 25, but with 11 already, he seems to be on his way to a career year.
After capturing five of six points on a swing through the Eastern Conference, the Jets return home this week for three games at the MTS Centre. The question is: Do they have a new No. 1 goaltender? Ondrej Pavelec entered the season as their go-to guy, but Michael Hutchinson could be front and center as the Jets host the Oilers, Avalanche and Ducks. After stealing a point in Boston last Saturday, Hutchinson leads the league in both save percentage (.947) and goals-against average (1.56). Coach Paul Maurice says he wants to see both goalies this week, but you have to wonder how long that'll last. With the Jets sitting in eighth and everyone from ownership on down desperate to see them hold onto a playoff spot, there's no reason to rotate. Time to give Hutchinson a chance to show what he can do as the starter.
Who would have imagined a few weeks ago that we’d consider listing the Sabres ahead of the faltering Flyers, but Philadelphia has been in a free fall lately as players and management are starting to express their frustration with trying to find solutions. Expect a shake-up of some kind there soon. And here we are into the first week of December and the Oilers have yet to manage a single win against a Western Conference foe. Now, we're no experts in advanced analytics but our math says that's an excellent formula for an early grave. The folks over at Sports Club Stats agree, placing Edmonton's playoff chances at a stunning 0.1 percent. Again, in the first week of December. So what do the Oilers do when the rest of the season is essentially meaningless? Fire the coach? Trade a front line forward? Replace their goalies? None of those moves would matter short term. What they need is to create a belief that the front office knows what it is doing and that, long term, there's reason for hope. Because right now, there's none in Edmonton. Winless in nearly a month, the Oilers are in dire straits and in need of upheaval. What, oh what, will Craig MacTavish and Co. do?