CFN – NHL seasons are interesting. Out of the gate I find softer teams have an advantage as skill and speed have a bigger impact. Teams generally don’t get as mean and while every game and point counts for some reason as it gets closer to Spring the intensity picks up.
Each quarter the games get a little bit grittier.
But at the half way mark points are in the bank. Yes injuries and player moves can make a difference, but a team has to over come or fail to a larger degree at that point.
Look at the impact Thomas Vanek had for Montreal last season or the weird fall out of the play offs for the Leafs as examples.
Here are today’s standings as of January 12, 2015 using the Wild Card format.
Tampa Bay 58 points +29
NY Islanders 57 points +15
Pittsburgh 56 points +24
Montreal 55 points +16
Detroit 53 points +11
NY Rangers 52 points +29
Washington 52 points +18
Boston 50 points +2
Florida 49 points -5
Toronto 47 points +7
Ottawa 42 points -3
Columbus 39 points -27
Philadelphia 39 points -14
New Jersey 38 points -28
Carolina 31 points -24
Buffalo 31 -66
Nashville 60 points +32
Anaheim 60 points +3
Chicago 58 points +39
St.Louis 55 points +31
Winnipeg 50 points +4
Vancouver 49 points +9
San Jose 49 points -2
Los Angeles 48 points +7
Calgary 47 points +9
Colorado 44 points -10
Dallas 43 points -9
Minnesota 41 points -10
Arizona 36 points -39
Edmonton 29 points -48
Stanley Cup Contenders
Tampa Bay is having a great year. A mix of stars, young and upcoming players. Solid goal and the only major injury is to one of my favers, Radko Gudas. Victor Hedman is in Norris Trophy territory and Anton Stralman has solidified the defensive corps.
Nashville is healthy. Pekka Rinne is a man on fire with a 1.98 GAA and .930 save% with 36 starts in the bank. That’s Vezina time. James Neal has given Nashville, but the low dollar free agent pick up of Mike Ribeiro has seen the centre put up 36 points in 41 games. Filip Forsberg coming into his own means Nashville is finally scoring up front.
With Shea Weber playing like Shea Weber and some depth and health Smashville has to be considered a front runner for coach Peter Laviolette.
Chicago has it all. Brad Richards showing he has something left in the tank and contributing has taken some of the load off the team. While they may have cap trouble for next season, for this year they should have a long deep run. Reclamation project David Rundblad has quietly put up 7 points in 24 games with a +11 in less than 12 minutes per game.
Pittsburgh has been battling injuries. Crosby and Malkin are earning their keep although not having their usual stellar seasons. Kris Letang has been relatively healthy and is producing. Injuries, depth, and Mr. Fleury keep Pittsburgh from being at the top of the list at this point.
Montreal has been an interesting team this year. The team seems to be falling back into leaning too heavily on Carey Price. Max Pacioretty and PK Subban are having good years so far, but not great. Alex Galchenyuk is finally at Centre. Picking up Sergei Gonchar has been a great pick up, but the team is missing a forward. While there’s talk of grabbing a Jaromir Jagr, which probably wouldn’t hurt, they need a power forward desperately as Brandon Prust will wear down if the team runs deep. The Habs are very close.
The New York Islanders have been surprising this season. The pick up of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk have stabilized the D, Grabovski and Kulemin helped stabilize the offense, but Jaroslav Halak has stolen a bunch of wins and is a man on a mission. He has 3 shut outs so far and has won 22 out of 30 starts. The Islanders are getting secondary scoring this season and are a move or two away from being a contender this season, especially if Halak gets hot.
St. Louis is having a very odd season. They are getting some great seasons out of some of their players while others are struggling. It shows how deep the team truly is. If the ship rights itself in time for the play offs the Blues have the ingredients to go deep.
The worst place to be. You don’t get the cup. You don’t get the draft pick. If you’re really lucky you get a round or two in the play offs.
Anaheim. Rene Bourque is your solution to your first line? Really? The Ducks have a great core and have amassed a bunch of points so far this season, but if any team looks like it’s running out of steam it’s the Ducks. The Kesler pick up was a great move, but team is still at least one forward and one dman away. The Ducks have secondary scoring issues as well.
Detroit, Rangers, Boston, Washington, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose. All these squads have issues of one sort or another. All would need major surgery to make the final round.
2016 or bust!
Florida, Toronto, Ottawa, Columbus, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Winnipeg, Calgary, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Arizona. Florida has had a dramatic upturn, Toronto is a hot mess that actually might have a chance at making the play offs this season, and most of the rest will re calibrate.
Connor McDavid Race
It’s rare to get a near sure bet franchise player. Buffalo was the clear choice, but Edmonton gets the Brendan Gallagher diving award for season tanking! Carolina just seems lucky. It’s odd how Jim Rutherford’s brutal signings in Carolina have him lined up in Pittsburgh. Arizona and New Jersey may fall into this race depending on which players get dumped.
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