Monday, October 8, 2018

Weekend rankings: It is​ way​ too​ early​ for​ this

This​ is, admittedly,​ not a great time​ to be doing​ a power​ ranking.

For one thing,​​ it’s a holiday in Canada, so lots of hockey fans are in turkey comas and won’t ever see this. But more importantly, we can all agree that it is far too early to be power-ranking anything. Most teams have played twice. We’ve got roughly 80 games to go, spread out over six months and any attempt to evaluate teams based on what’s happened so far is guaranteed to look silly by then.

But that’s half the fun. And it’s why I wanted to debut this column today, rather than waiting a week or two for things to settle down. I’ve been doing Monday power rankings in some form for years now and the opening weekend edition is always my favorite one to write. It’s such a ridiculous concept that it’s pretty much irresistible. Plus it’s always worth a laugh to look back at the end of the season and remember how much we thought we knew and how little we actually did.

The caveat is that the early rankings will be based far more on preseason expectations than on what’s actually happened on the ice. That’s meant to keep things from going off the rails based on an upset here or a fluke there. It usually just makes things worse, because preseason consensus is so often wrong. Last year’s opening weekend rankings had the Oilers in the top five and the top-ranked team was the Blackhawks, fresh off a 10-1 demolition of the defending champion Penguins. Meanwhile, the bottom five included the Jets (who’d been shelled in both of their games), as well as the 2-0-0 Golden Knights and 1-1-0 Avalanche, because we all knew those feel-good stories couldn’t last.

You know, it’s possible I might be bad at this. Ah well, too late now.

In years past, these rankings would appear as part of a bigger look back the weekend. The full weekend wrap treatment isn’t really necessary now, since The Athletic’s roster of hockey writers now includes [checks notes] everyone, so you’re pretty much covered. But we’ll keep the Monday power rankings, and use them as an excuse to make observations, predictions and the occasional punchline.

While most these rankings will be wrong, this week’s will be really wrong. That’s the fun, so don’t say you weren’t warned.

Road to the Cup

The five teams that look like they’re headed towards a summer of keg stands and fountain pool parties.

If you went into the season without a clear Cup favorite – and you should have – then the first few games didn’t do much to help you. Most years there’s at least one team that looks unbeatable early on. Not this time; we’re already down to just six teams left in the league who don’t have at least one loss, and that includes teams like the Stars, Devils and Avalanche who aren’t getting anywhere near the top five based on one week.

So yeah, figuring out who’s actually good is already confusing. Don’t worry, things usually start to clear up sometime around mid-June.

5. San Jose Sharks (1-1-0, -2 true goals differential*) – They got pushed around by the Ducks and needed overtime to beat the Kings and so far Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns have combined for a single point. I still think they’re the best team in the Pacific, but I’ve already got one eye on the bandwagon’s emergency exit. If they lose to the Islanders tonight, it will be both eyes.

4. Washington Capitals (1-0-1, +6) – We’ll give the defending champs this much: They’ve been lots of fun. Both of their games have featured football scores, as we’ve seen a 7-0 win and a 7-6 loss. No doubt Todd Reirden will get the memo from the coaching fraternity that fun is bad and cannot be allowed under any circumstances, but in the meantime let’s hope they can keep it for Wednesday’s Cup rematch with the Golden Knights.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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