For this week’s version of the Nerdy 30, I am introducing a new gimmick that you will see throughout the season. Once every NHL team hits every one-fourteenth point of the season (so in other words, every 5 and a fraction’s worth of games), one team will be completely removed and (hopefully) ignored in the rankings. Think of it as me giving you a suggestion not to watch this team anymore so you can avoid watching bad hockey being played. Yes, the salary cap has helped the NHL reach levels of parody that it has never seen before, but any sports fan can tell what a non-playoff team looks like, even after a small sample size like the 6-10 games that have happened so far. Now that every teams has played more than five games, there is already one team that we can cross off for good.
30. Buffalo (82-game standings points pace: 36 points, Last Week: 30)
- 29. Carolina (Pace: 23 pts, LW: 28)
- 28. Florida (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 27)
- 27. Colorado (Pace: 64 pts, LW: 24)
- 26. Winnipeg (Pace: 62 pts, LW: 26)
- 25. Toronto (Pace: 72 pts, LW: 25)
- 24. Edmonton (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 29)
The first team to knock out have been an obvious one from the get go. Even though the Sabres beat San Jose last Saturday, the Sharks still out-performed them or almost doubled them in any category regarding shots or shot attempts. In fact, the Sabres are dead last in shots on goal for AND against per 60 minutes. The Sabres are doing well in the goaltending department, but once again, they are struggling to score goals.
Once again, their top line is the worst in the league and head coach Ted Nolan has already broke them up by putting Chris Stewart in with Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson. Down went Drew Stafford, who is the team’s leading scorer but with only four assists in nine games. Oh and Tyler Myers, the team’s best defenseman, is now expected to be traded to Detroit. It’s one thing to trade veterans, but if Myers is the only player you can trade to get back any substantial value, that should say how terrible your hockey team is. Sure, you may not think Myers is one of the better blue liners in the league or has any potential to hit that mark, but he is still only 24 years old and defenders age longer than forwards do. If anything, you do whatever you can to keep Myers and have him be the face of the locker room.
As much as it was good to pick up a veteran captain in Brian Gionta, you would think that a player like Myers would be someone to give the captaincy to for the long haul. That being said, if you feel like Myers is not going to be a part of your core group of players, trade him. Just know that the Sabres will have to develop one some time, otherwise they will be exactly like Edmonton and never stop rebuilding. There’s a reason why there is irony that Buffalo keeps hosting USA All-America games and Erie Otters games.
- 23. Arizona (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 22)
- 22. Ottawa (Pace: 105 pts, LW: 20)
- 21. New Jersey (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 18)
- 20. Vancouver (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 12)
- 19. Philadelphia (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 23)
- 18. Columbus (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 13)
- 17. Boston (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 19)
- 16. Calgary (Pace: 90 pts, LW: 20)
- 15. San Jose (Pace: 90 pts, LW: 3)
- 14. Dallas (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 8)
San Jose is in a very peculiar place right now. They’re puck possession has been disgusting the first month of the season and they keep losing leads after dominating the first period. They did give Anaheim a beat down last Sunday, but things don’t seem right over there. Their defense has given up close to 30 shots per game and their bottom four pairings along the blue line have performed terribly, especially considering the amount of offensive zone starts they were given. Mirco Mueller is now experiencing one too many rookie growing pains and has now been a healthy scratch three times. In the forward ranks, Todd McClellan better hope Tyler Kennedy and especially Raffi Torres comes back soon, otherwise he will have to start proverbial slow pokes like Adam Burish, Mike Brown and John Scott. Sorry, but you’ll never win a Stanley Cup with those guys getting sweaters. Trades have to be in the cards for the Sharks if their thought process is to still contend for a Championship this season.
- 13. Montreal (Pace: 128 pts, LW: 17)
- 12. New York Rangers (Pace: 91 pts, LW: 13)
- 11. New York Islanders (Pace: 123 pts, LW: 10)
- 10. Detroit (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 16)
- 9. Washington (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 9)
- 8. Tampa Bay (Pace: 100 pts, LW: 5)
- 7. Nashville (Pace: 123 pts, LW: 15)
Now the one team that has surprised many the first three weeks of the season has been Peter Laviollete’s Nashville Predators. Despite having a soft schedule, Nashville has taken advantage of it and the way Laviolette has utilized their lines have been quite fascinating. His fourth line of Viktor Stalberg, Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom have not only gotten some of the worst zone starts in the NHL, but they have also dealt with some of the toughest competition any fourth line will be dealing with in the league. According to war-on-ice.com, only Calgary’s David Jones and Winnepeg’s Evander Kane have dealt with worse zone starts and tougher competition on every shift than Stalberg. This has allowed the rest of the lines to be a little bit more sheltered and utilize their offense to the best of their abilities. To no surprise, the forwards Nashville has will not dominate any form of competition this season, but the utilization has suited them to the best of their abilities so far.
In defense, Seth Jones and Anton Volchenkov are eating up all the terrible zone starts and the Roman Josi-Shea Weber partnership continue to chug along playing against their usual top-tier opponents and on roughly 45% of offensive zone starts. As a result, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis are allowed to attack at will and Ellis has been the beneficiary of that with five points in eight games. That being said, can these lines maintain their production when they have to play the rest of the division?
- 6. Los Angeles (Pace: 133 pts, LW: 2)
- 5. Chicago (Pace: 113 pts, LW: 1)
- 4. St. Louis (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 4)
- 3. Anaheim (Pace: 128 pts, LW: 14)
- 2. Pittsburgh (Pace: 105 pts, LW: 7)
- 1. Minnesota (Pace: 94, LW: 6)
Even if the Kings have started the season winning their first six games at home, it is really odd seeing them as one of the worst possession teams and one of the luckiest teams in the NHL. This is not how they usually win hockey games and their have been a few injuries that are preventing them from being at their best. Marian Gaborik is hurt again with another undisclosed injury and Trevor Lewis has only played one game all season due to an upper body injury. Even if he travels with the team, Anze Kopitar is another player that could be out or not 100 percent after being hit hard by Tim Erixon in Sunday’s game against Columbus. Now you have Dwight King playing in the top line and giving way too many minutes to 13th forwards Jordan Nolan and Andy Andreoff.
No matter what you think of Slava Voynov after he was charged for domestic violence, losing him indefinitely means more playing time to defenseman like the ever-aging Robyn Regehr and inexperienced Brayden McNabb. No matter what, that is a massive downgrade to what the King had at their disposal. What made Los Angeles great come playoff time was their amazing amount of depth coming together and not needing to have their top-tier talent shine through all the time. For the exception of Kopitar and Doughty, there are not a lot of skaters that will make you say that they can be current world beaters in the NHL. Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson have the potential to do that, but Mike Richards and Dustin Brown seem to be players that are aging way too fast to anyone’s liking and anything you can get out of Jeff Carter is a positive now that he is in his age-30 season. Challenges are coming at the champions.