Before we get to the usual power rankings, I just want to acknowledge Gary Bettman’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. I have never known a league not run by the Boo-miser, though I’ve often wished I had. His is a mixed legacy which saw three momentum halting lockouts, the league voluntarily leaving an ESPN TV deal to play half the games on a station that no longer exists, and saw several towns lose their franchises. If it wasn’t for Gary though, our first two teams in the rankings this week wouldn’t exist. The league, and hockey in America would be worse off if that was the case. Here are your power rankings:
1) Nashville Predators: (13-4-1)
It’s getting to the point where I can’t get by just saying “Uh, guys... this team is like, really good.” How good are they? They’ve allowed one goal or less eight times this year. How good are they? Pekka Rinne is rocking an insane .951 save percentage. How good are they? They have eleven people with at least seven points through eighteen games. And if any stat can let you know that this team is truly ready to take over Chicago’s title of “Best in the West” it is their twelve percent success rate on the power play. Only elite teams can be this good, play this bad on special teams and still be in first place.
Upcoming Games: @ARI, LA, TBL, STL
What’s Gonna Happen: The Preds have more winnable games on the horizon. Even with Viktor Arvidsson and Dan Hamhuis on the shelf, this team should continue to roll. Arizona seems like a real trap game. I think Nashville goes 2-2.
2) Minnesota Wild (11-5-2)
Hey, does anyone know where to find some good crow to eat? This team has surprised me, especially after their rocky start to the year. Minnesota is currently the second-best team in the Western Conference, they’ve gone 7-3-0 in their past ten. Now the quality of their vanquished is debatable (two wins over STL, two wins over LA) but they are full of confidence and have a hot tendy. Do I think this is a Stanley Cup team? Hell no! The Wild do have some mojo working though, so ask me again at Christmas time. My answer might be different.
Upcoming Games: VAN, BUF, @CHI, OTT
What’s Gonna Happen: Jeez… look at this week ahead. If they don’t win every single one of these games, the week has been a disaster. Yeah, yeah I know the modern NHL is rich in nutritious parody, but seriously, this team should at least get a point out of each game.
3) Winnipeg Jets: (10-5-1)
The time off did the Jets well. Very well. Winners of four of their last six, Winnipeg looked dominant against Colorado and New Jersey. Blake Wheeler has been stupid as of late. The captain is on a ten-game points streak. He has 19 points in that span. It’s not just Wheeler. This team is money on the power play, sitting at a 34% conversion rate, top of the league.
Upcoming Games: WSH, BUF, @VAN, @CGY
Whats Gonna Happen: It’s been a good run as of late and the week ahead is an opportunity to prove that the Jets can put a decent streak together. I think they will. Winnipeg goes 3-0-1.
4) Colorado Avalanche: (8-6-3)
It appears the Avs are going to play a similar role in the Central to the one they played last year. Tough losses to Nashville and Winnipeg extended their losing streak to five games before snapping it against the Oilers. Tyson Barrie notched is 200th assist of his NHL career, a milestone reached in only 423 games played. Nick Leddy and Victor Hedman are the only other defensemen from the 2009 draft to reach that milestone.
Upcoming Games: BOS, WSH, @ANA, @LA
What’s Gonna Happen: This week’s slate is much better for Colorado than last week was. They should at least go .500 on the week. The Avalanche will look to build on the solid play from their second and third lines during their trip to Edmonton.
5) Dallas Stars (9-7-2)
Every time Jamie Been throws fists, my heart leaps into my throat. HIS HANDS, PROTECT HIS BEAUTIFUL HANDS!! Though this team currently sits in 4th, they haven’t been playing inspired hockey. Missing John Klingberg for up to a month isn’t going to help them snap out of their slump either. Dallas has been in six one-goal games so far in November. They’ve only won two. Gotta pull out the close ones, boys.
Upcoming Games: BOS, @NYI, @NYR @PIT
What’s Gonna Happen: Oh boy, more road games. Although on the road, the games against both New York teams must be wins. Bishop is likely to start but I’d love to see Dobby get to face his former masters when the Bruins come to town. Let him earn his Galleon for the week!
6) St. Louis Blues: (6-6-3)
Either this team is playing for Mike Yeo’s job or they are trying to put on one hell of a tryout for Joel Quenneville. Though they still find themselves last in a very competitive division, there have been signs of hope from the Blues. The power play has grown into something legitimately threatening, ranked 4th in the league and St. Louis is winning more than 55% of their faceoffs. Big back-to-back wins over Carolina and San Jose as well as a well-fought loss to Minnesota tell me that this team is trying their best to climb up the rankings in the Central while there is still time.
Upcoming Games: @CHI, @VGK @SJ, LA @NSH
What’s Gonna Happen: Well… at least they have plenty of chances to get out of the basement. Road games against Vegas, San Jose, and Nashville usually spell doom, but those Pacific teams haven’t been able to find much footing as of yet this season. Who knows, maybe the Blues are able to walk away with three wins? If not, this might be the week that finally gets Mike Yeo fired.
(Insert Poop Emoji) Chicago Blackhawks: (6-8-4)
So… looks like Firing Joel Quenneville didn’t solve Stan Bowman’s garbage roster problems. Losers of eight straight, Chicago’s last win came on October 25th, against the Rangers. The defensive play of this team has been borderline unprofessional and my heart goes out to Corey Crawford, who has been playing some inspired hockey during this stretch. Crawford’s .901 save percentage does not do his play justice. Gustav Forsling has been recalled from Rockford to attempt to inject some youth (or passion) into the blueline. Good luck, buddy.
Upcoming Games: STL, LA, MIN, @WSH
What’s Gonna Happen: Something tells me this Hawks-Blues game is going to be rough. I’m personally intrigued by their upcoming tilt against the Kings. Who will have more giveaways? Who will skate slower?? Who will care less??? Gripping stuff.
There you have it folks. Happy hockey and if you haven’t listened yet, make sure to check out our latest episode of Central Divided on iTunes, Google Play or Sound Cloud.