Season’s greetings: Teams have given NHL coaches a head start on holiday wrapping. The Leafs kicked out Mike Babcock first, then Bill Peters resigned following accusations of racism and physical abuse and the Devils ended John Hynes’s five-year tenure last week. The Stars fired Jim Montgomery, blindsiding the team, for “unprofessional conduct.” There aren’t too many other coaches who have to worry—Bruce Boudreau’s hot seat has chilled with Minnesota’s winning spurt and Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill should win an award for the league’s best tank.
How have interims faired in the past? It’s a mixed bag: Craig Berube, of course, lead the Blues to the Stanley Cup, but all other interims combined for a 129-133-31 record and zero playoff appearances in 2018–19. So far, the Leafs have played well under Sheldon Keefe, but Toronto’s defense remains a massive problem. The Flames have won five straight under Geoff Ward, but Alain Nasreddine hasn’t lead the Devils to a win in his first four attempts. With some coaching turnover, here’s how we see team’s stacking up this week:
31. Detroit Red Wings | 7-22-3 | Previous Ranking: 31
The Red Wings had an eight-game losing streak in October, and that was bad. Then Detroit one-upped itself by losing 12 in a row—the fourth losing skid of at least six games in the last two seasons. Since the NHL moved to an 82-game schedule in 1995, only three teams have finished the season with a lower points percentage than .274. That’s where the Red Wings are at.
30. New Jersey Devils | 9-16-5 | Previous Ranking: 29
The biggest question surrounding the Devils is not if they can make the playoffs, but what life after Taylor Hall will look like. Not ideal.
29. Los Angeles Kings | 12-18-2 | Previous Ranking: 28
Sit back and build for next season. Despite taking the second-most shots per game in the league, the Kings are scoring the third-fewest goals. On the positive front: prospect Gabriel Vilardi, back from injury, has notched five points in his last four games for the Ontario Reign.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets | 12-14-4 | Previous Ranking: 27
Columbus didn’t need any reminder, but the Blue Jackets went 0–2 in their first games against Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Panarin collected the game-winning goal while Bobrovsky got himself back on track by stopping 33 of 34 shots en route to his first win in over two weeks.
27. Ottawa Senators | 13-17-1 | Previous Ranking: 30
If owner Eugene Melnyk hadn’t imploded and diminished good will last season, there would be more optimism surrounding the Senators. Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk—the team’s two most important pieces—have played as well as anyone could hope for during a rebuild, and Ottawa has still been competitive and hasn’t fallen too deep into the dumpster.
26. Anaheim Ducks | 13-14-4 | Previous Ranking: 26
The Ducks failed to exact retribution for Washington winger Garnet Hathaway’s spitting incident, and then couldn’t complete a comeback in Winnipeg. Both games should feel like positive efforts, but it’s tough to be cheery when Anaheim has lost 12 of its last 16.
25. Chicago Blackhawks | 12-13-6 | Previous Ranking: 25
Since the shootout was introduced in 2005, no goalie who has faced at least 20 shots has a lower shootout save percentage than Robin Lehner (0.510). He has only stopped two more goals than he’s allowed. That didn’t get any better in a 4–3 shootout loss to the Coyotes.
24. New York Rangers | 15-12-3 | Previous Ranking: 24
There’s an invisible S.O.S. signal coming from the Rangers netminders: New York has allowed less than 30 shots just three times in 27 games. But, that’s been the case for almost all of Henrik Lundqvist’s career, and now Alexandar Georgiev is getting a taste of that.
23. Montreal Canadiens | 14-11-6 | Previous Ranking: 21
Press pause on those Taylor Hall trade fantasies. The Canadiens rank first in shots per game, 11th in goals per game and 13th in power play percentage. On the other end, Carey Price has struggled behind a lackluster blue line and a team that has the league’s fourth-worst penalty kill and allowed the fourth-most goals.
22. San Jose Sharks | 15-16-2 | Previous Ranking: 10
Pete DeBoer has unwavering, if not misplaced, trust in his goaltenders. It worked in the last week of November. Now? The Sharks have been blown out 23–7 in their last four games, and Martin Jones has a .859 save percentage in December. At some point, San Jose has to try somebody not named Jones or Aaron Dell.
21. Minnesota Wild | 14-12-5 | Previous Ranking: 26
The Wild went from feeling hopeless to placing themselves back in the playoff picture, following an 11-game point streak that featured a rejuvenated Mats Zuccarello and Alex Stalock holding down netminding duties while Devan Dubnyk spends time away from the team. Minnesota’s streak ended with Mikko Koivu and Jared Spurgeon sidelined by injuries, but the team can enjoy playing 20 of its next 27 games at home.
20. Buffalo Sabres | 15-11-6 | Previous Ranking: 22
With 25 points in his last 14 games, Jack Eichel owns the league’s longest-active point streak. He has single-handedly prevented the Sabres from nose diving too far down the standings.
19. Nashville Predators | 14-10-5 | Previous Ranking: 20
Nashville sputtered in November—posting a 4-7-2 record—but secured a much-needed 6–4 win against the Devils in P.K. Subban’s return to Nashville. The Predators’ power play fell off completely, converting 8.8% of its chances in 13 games from Nov. 7 to Dec. 7.
18. Tampa Bay Lightning | 15-11-3 | Previous Ranking: 14
“Are we there yet?” The Lightning recaptured some of last year’s dominance and trounced the Sharks 7–1 behind four third-period goals before losing 5–1 to the Islanders. The answer is: No.
17. Vegas Golden Knights | 16-12-5 | Previous Ranking: 18
While Marc-Andre Fleury took a leave of absence following the death of his father, the Golden Knights rallied with a 4-0-1 record behind backup Malcom Subban’s .934 save percentage and 2.14 goals against average. And then … all that turned to ash in a 5–0 loss to the Rangers.
16. Toronto Maple Leafs | 15-13-4 | Previous Ranking: 7
After a short honeymoon with Sheldon Keefe, the Leafs defense returned to its depressive state and the team’s back-to-back problem hasn’t gone away. Toronto has a 1-6-1 record on the second game of back-to-backs, and shoddy backup goaltending has only exacerbated the problem.
15. Florida Panthers | 15-10-5 | Previous Ranking: 15
The rest paid off: Sergei Bobrovsky returned from the bench to notch two wins in back-to-back starts, stopping 63 of 65 shots along the way.
14. Vancouver Canucks | 15-12-4 | Previous Ranking: 12
J.T. Miller—not Elias Pettersson or Brock Boeser—leads the Canucks with 13 goals and has more than made up for the first round pick Vancouver sent away to acquire him. Aided by Quinn Hughes’s strong rookie season, the Canucks have scored at least five goals more than any other team in the NHL.
13. Calgary Flames | 17-12-4 | Previous Ranking: 21
After losing six straight, the Flames mounted a six-game point streak and are 5-0-0 under interim coach Geoff Ward. The offense has come alive, scoring three or more goals in seven of their last eight games, while 21-year-old winger Dillon Dube has helped spark Calgary’s depth scoring.
12. Winnipeg Jets | 19-10-2 | Previous Ranking: 17
Since the beginning of November, the Jets have a 13-3-2 record and have allowed the second fewest goals in that stretch behind Connor Hellebuyck’s staunch goaltending. Even though Winnipeg’s power play has dropped off, the Jets have managed enough 5-on-5 offense to come out on top in one-goal games.
11. Arizona Coyotes | 18-11-4 | Previous Ranking: 11
For the first time this season, the Coyotes temporarily moved into the Pacific Division’s top spot after a 3–1 win against the Flyers. Arizona ended its four-game road trip with a come-from-behind victory against the Blackhawks, one game after Phil Kessel’s return to Pittsburgh. That trade hasn’t exactly helped anyone.
10. Philadelphia Flyers | 17-8-5 | Previous Ranking: 16
The Flyers are up again: Philly has won six of its last seven, including a dominant 6–1 win against the Leafs, and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has notched three goals since he was benched on Nov. 23.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins | 17-10-4 | Previous Ranking: 13
How many players can the Penguins lose and remain a winning team? The Penguins are finding out as Jake Guentzel has thrived next to a red-hot Evgeni Malkin.
8. Edmonton Oilers | 18-11-4 | Previous Ranking: 6
The Oilers rocketed to the top of the West, strapped onto Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s scorching starts, but Edmonton is losing steam. In the team’s last 14 games, the Oilers have a 6-6-2 record while being outscored 51–42.
7. Dallas Stars | 18-11-3 | Previous Ranking: 9
Out of nowhere, the Stars dismissed coach Jim Montgomery for unprofessional conduct, adding uncertainty as Rick Bowness takes over coaching duties. On the ice, Ben Bishop has returned to Vezina-level goaltending with a .944 save percentage and 1.82 goals against average since the beginning of November.
6. Carolina Hurricanes | 19-11-1 | Previous Ranking: 5
Sebastian Aho notched his first career five-point night in a 6–2 win over the Wild, benefitting from fellow Finn Teuvo Teravainen’s stellar playmaking. Carolina collected consecutive wins for the fifth time this season, but it’ll play six of its next seven games on the road before settling in for the New Year.
5. St. Louis Blues | 18-8-6 | Previous Ranking: 3
The Blues, after compiling a four-game win streak, dropped three straight to the Penguins, Leafs and Sabres, going 0–10 on the power play. Five forwards (Sammy Blais, Zach Sanford, Alexander Steen, Oskar Sundqvist and Vladimir Tarasenko) are injured and it’s starting, finally, to take a toll on St. Louis’s depth.
4. New York Islanders | 20-7-2 | Previous Ranking: 5
The Islanders have fallen since they won 15 of 16 games, but there aren’t a lot of negative signs even during a mediocre stretch. They could actually be buyers ahead of the trade deadline.
3. Colorado Avalanche | 19-8-3 | Previous Ranking: 4
Cale Makar has dazzled as a rookie, Nathan MacKinnon has played at MVP-levels, the Avalanche are scoring the most goals per game … and Colorado might still add Taylor Hall. That doesn’t seem fair.
2. Boston Bruins | 20-5-6 | Previous Ranking: 1
It took 30 games for the Bruins to lose in regulation at home. Boston is good, but scoring from players not named David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand would help.
1. Washington Capitals | 22-5-5 | Previous Ranking: 2
The Capitals, fully healthy, surrendered five goals to the Blue Jackets, of all teams. Washington previously won six in a row to climb into first place in the NHL, and they’ll look to get back on track in a marquee matchup against the Bruins on Wednesday.