We have finally entered the month of November and plenty of interesting narratives have been developing this hockey season. Minnesota has been dominating October and once again hit the top of this week’s rankings. San Jose, Boston and Chicago have hit various states of panic mode (don’t worry folks, they’re ok), along with Los Angeles (uh-oh!!!). Lastly, the curse of Elliote Friedman has poisoned four NHL teams. Three of them are Edmonton, Carolina and Arizona, while the other is the first team that will be covered in this week’s Nerdy 30.
30. Buffalo (82 game standings points pace: 44 points, Last Week: 30)
- 29. Carolina (Pace: 49 pts, LW: 29)
- 28. Arizona (Pace: 67 pts, LW: 23)
- 27. Columbus (Pace: 60 pts, LW: 18)
- 26. Florida (Pace: 100 pts, LW: 28)
- 25. Edmonton (Pace: 67 pts, LW: 24)
- 24. Colorado (Pace: 64 pts, LW: 27)
- 23. Winnipeg (Pace: 89 pts, LW: 26)
Poor Columbus! Their injuries are really catching up to them in the worst way imaginable. Now they are one of the worst possession teams in the league and Nathan Horton might have no choice but to retire at age 29 due to a degenerating lower back. A top line of Scott Hartnell, Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson is still serviceable, but if that’s the long-term answer, there is no way Columbus advances past the first round of the playoffs. On the second line, Nick Foligno is off to a brilliant start with 11 points in 10 games, but he is with career AHLers Brian Gibbons and Jack Skille. Last time I checked, Penguins fans are not shedding tears that Gibbons is no longer in Pittsburgh. Players like Marko Dano, Alexander Wennberg, Michael Chaput and Jared Boll are getting way too much playing time and Matt Calvert is starting on the defensive zone more than he has ever done in his entire career. Even if players like Dano and Wennberg have bright futures, they are still raw prospects being told to play roles that they have no business being given at this point in time. Oh, and Sergei Bobrovsky is out with a broken finger, Ryan Murray injured his knee again and bottom-line possession wizard Mark Letestu is on long-term injured reserve with a groin injury. This team needs to be healthy in some capacity if it ever wants to get back in the playoffs and perform better than they did last year.
- 22. Montreal (Pace: 116 pts, LW: 13)
- 21. Philadelphia (Pace: 75 pts, LW: 19)
- 20. New Jersey (Pace: 104 pts, LW: 21)
- 19. New York Rangers (Pace: 90 pts, LW: 12)
- 18. Ottawa (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 22)
- 17. Toronto (Pace: 97 pts, LW: 25)
- 16. Los Angeles (Pace: 96 pts, LW: 6)
Yes, the best team in the Atlantic division should be one of the worst. Even though the Canadiens have started off really well this season, they have one of the worst close-score shot attempt percentages (aka Fenwick Close) in the league and their goal differential is at a minus-2. That being said, three of their four losses have been by three goals or more, their PDO and overall puck possession (aka Corsi) are not anything out of the ordinary and they pulled the same analytical team numbers as last year. Still, it should be a little nerve-wracking to see Tom Gilbert not being utilized correctly by Michel Therrien, especially if he is the exact opposite of whom he is supposed to replace in Josh Gorges from an eye-test and analytical standpoint. To solve this issue, Therrien is putting Gilbert with Alexei Yemelin on the second pairing and tried to stack the deck with Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban as the top pair. This is something that has worked very well last season and something that should be beneficial to Markov himself. However, the bottom pairing of Mike Weaver and Nathan Beaulieu are getting smashed to pieces. Would it be beneficial to replace the aging Weaver in for Jarred Tinordi, especially considering that he is handling the tough zone starts pretty well this season? I think it’s time that a defenseman with such potential (22 years old and the #2 prospect according to hockeysfuture.com) and size (6-6, 227) comes in and adds to his 30 career NHL games.
- 15. New York Islanders (Pace: 89 pts, LW: 11)
- 14. Calgary (Pace: 101 pts, LW: 16)
- 13. Vancouver (Pace: 109 pts, LW: 20)
- 12. San Jose (Pace: 101 pts, LW: 15)
- 11. Dallas (Pace: 89 pts, LW: 14)
- 10. Boston (Pace: 88 pts, LW: 17)
- 9. Washington (Pace: 75 pts, LW: 9)
There will be plenty that would rather vandalize their computers and laptops and belt out the most xenophobic things imaginable towards Alex Ovechkin and company than see them in the top ten of these rankings, but at the end of the day, this is a top-seven possession team and one of only two teams in the Metropolitan Division with a positive goal differential. As I mentioned in the divisional preview, the one thing that is pretty obvious so far is that nothing seems set within the forward groups at all. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Eric Fehr has to be set as the top pairing, no matter what head coach Barry Trotz thinks. Afterwards, it’s throwing darts blindly as far as it’s concerned. Yes, Brooks Laich, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera could be an awesome shut-down line, but Brooks Laich is hurt again. Plus, what on earth do you do with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson and Andre Burakovsky, three of the team’s four most recent first round picks? Trades have to happen with this team, but all those that are under expiring contracts will guarantee to give you nothing in return. My initial thoughts are sending Chimera, Jack Hillen and Buffalo’s third round pick (from the Vitek Vanecek trade) to Florida for Scottie Upshall. Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner are better players to acquire, but call me whenever GM Lou Lamoriello has ever thought of being in rebuilding mode. No, my biases are not popping up one bit!
- 8. Tampa Bay (Pace: 116 pts, LW: 8)
- 7. Anaheim (Pace: 126 pts, LW: 3)
- 6. Detroit (Pace: 112 pts, LW: 10)
- 5. Nashville (Pace: 119 pts, LW: 7)
- 4. Chicago (Pace: 89 pts, LW: 5)
- 3. St. Louis (Pace: 107 pts, LW: 4)
- 2. Pittsburgh (Pace: 123 pts, LW: 2)
- 1. Minnesota (Pace: 115 pts, LW: 1)
Just as soon as you thought they would be out of the playoff picture, they come back from the dead! It is incredible to see the Red Wings go from one of the oldest teams in the NHL to one of league-average age within less than twelve months and see them party like it’s 2008 all over again. The amazing feat this season is watching Jonathan Abdelkader get promoted on the first line and watch him dominate with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The second line of Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar is also amazing to think about, especially considering that none of these guys had an important role on the team last year and that Nyquist is (so far) proving that he won’t endure the curse of Jiri Tlusty and become a top-50 point getter. What will be interesting to see is whether Stephen Weiss and Johan Franzen have roles on this hockey team. Weiss’ injuries (sports hernia last year and now a groin injury this year) seem to prove that it will be a struggle for him to ever pick up a sweater for this team, even if he has three years left on a contract that gives him a $4.9 million cap hit. For Franzen, he is back and healthy but he is getting more sheltered minutes by head coach Mike Babcock than he ever has in his NHL career. The majority of his minutes were with the top line, but that was before Datsyuk returned from a shoulder injury and now he is down to the third line with Tomas Jurco and Darren Helm. It’s one thing to be on a very above-average third line that is dominating puck possession so far. It will be another thing if super-prospect Anthony Mantha is chomping at the bit once he comes back from a fractured tibia and begins to dominate in the AHL. Like Weiss, Franzen is getting up their in age and has a contract that no team would like to have. But hey, if Detroit does Detroit things, Mantha will stay in the minors for a year or two and then begin to dominate the Red Wing way just like the rest of them.