The Chicago Blackhawks are the fourth new No. 1 team in SI.com's NHL Power Rankings during the past four weeks.
Welcome to the latest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. For the fourth week in a row we have a new top team, and this time it's sleeping giant, a bona fide Stanley Cup contender, that has woken up and hit its stride. Our three scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Sam Page—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!
The middle of the pack is full of teams that are ready to implode or explode. The Kings and Bruins figure to eventually right their respective ships, but the Maple Leafs (scoring 3.42 goals per game, slightly behind Tampa Bay for top offense in the league, yet their 5-on-5 Fenwick is still in the NHL's bottom third), the Jets and the Flames will likely soon join the Senators and the Oilers in Canada's national disgrace. The Canadiens, once the hottest team in the NHL, have been tumbling, picking up just three points in their last seven games and dropping three in a row on a Western Conference swing last week. Goalie Carey Price has been just middling on the road this season, going 5-5-1 and averaging a 2.60 GAA in 11 games.
It's not that the Wild are a good team getting bad results—their +10 goal differential is the sixth-best in the West. They'd dominate in either Eastern division. In the Central, they need a little more goaltending and a mumps vaccine.
It's too soon to take Columbus off life support just yet, but three consecutive wins and some spectacular goaltending from NHL Second Star Sergei Bobrovsky give reason for hope. So does the imminent return of Brandon Dubinsky. The hyper-aggressive center epitomizes the Blue Jackets way, so he's been sorely missed on the ice and in the room this season while recuperating from abdominal surgery. His return strengthens them down the middle and in their own zone, an area where they've spent way too much time.
A string of five straight losses doomed coach Paul MacLean, who was dismissed on Monday after the Senators pulled out a win over Vancouver at home. Still, Ottawa—with poor possession numbers and a leaky defense—probably has bigger issues.
Meanwhile, in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, Buffalo faces some serious challenges from the usual suspects. The perfect ending to this Sabres' season would be them losing the tank battle too. After dropping seven straight at Gila River Arena, the Coyotes have rarely looked like a cohesive unit this season, riding the occasional strong effort of a player or two to steal a win while sinking steadily toward the cellar. GM Don Maloney's made some changes, trading away Rob Klinkhammer, calling up a couple of kids from the minors, but it's been a deck chairs exercise. This team is so far out of the playoff mix that Maloney needs to focus on the future. What's the market for Keith Yandle and Antoine Vermette?