Monday, October 25, 2021

Weekend rankings: Panthers keep rolling, Hawks keep losing, and the Maple Leafs get embarrassed

It’s week two, it’s still too early, and some of the power rankings out there are already losing their minds.

OK, Sean and Dom didn’t quite phrase it that way. They went with “embracing the chaos”. But the Sabres as the league’s second-best team? The Sharks in the top five? The Red Wings ahead of the Lightning? The Senators and Blue Jackets ahead of the Avalanche and Islanders? Vegas at 25? The Habs in dead last?

Well, yeah, maybe that last one works. But the rest of it is madness. It’s been two weeks! You can’t overreact to two weeks.

Except… what do you do, then?

It’s one thing to hand-wave away the occasional weird early-season results. But two weeks into this year, it feels like nothing makes sense. Hardly anyone is playing the way we expected, and the standings look like somebody took a snow globe full of little hockey logos and gave it a good shake. Not all of it will matter. Most of it won’t. But some of this has to mean something, right?

I’m not sure. And that’s a problem, since I’m the guy who does the “let’s think long-term” rankings, meaning I’m in way more danger of embarrassing myself than Sean and Dom are. If the Sabres don’t win another game the rest of the year, well, they were still 3-0-0, so maybe they deserved that ranking, if only briefly. I’m trying to predict the future here, so if I jump on a bandwagon too quickly then I have to wear it all year long.

It’s very possible that we’ll look back on a snapshot of the week two standings in a few months and laugh at how none of it held up. Welcome to the parity era, where anyone can beat anyone and it takes months to get any idea of what’s really happening, am I right? But maybe we look back and see that some of it was real, and some of those surprise teams on either side of the ledger were trying to tell us something.

Fair warning: For this week’s rankings, I’m still going to mostly stay conservative, and continue to lean more on preseason expectations than what’s happened on the ice so far. If that’s going to bother you, then hit up the Friday rankings and embrace that chaos. For now, I’m going to (mostly) step carefully for one more week. But after that, it will be time to start considering some bigger moves for the team’s that are surprising us, and things might get weird

Road to the Cup

The five teams with the best chances of becoming the first franchise in three years to win a Stanley Cup that we have to admit probably counts

We got an early-season Avs/Lightning matchup on Saturday, and in true pro wrestling style they left us wanting more by delivering a non-finish. Well, we call them shootouts in the hockey world, but it’s the same thing. Colorado took the extra point in the coin flip contest, and we’ll have to wait for December for the rematch – and then maybe June for the big showdown.

OK, seriously, final warning, a couple of the teams in this week’s top five have bad records – if you can’t get your head around the whole “long term” concept, this is your last chance to bail out while you can.

5. Edmonton Oilers (5-0-0, +10 true goals differential*) – Two reasons. First, and most obviously, they’re 5-0-0, and even with a weakish schedule that’s impressive. But they also get a boost because Vegas is struggling. We all kind of penciled the Knights in as the Pacific winner before they even dropped the puck, but the Oilers have already yanked that status away from them. It’s Edmonton, so of course we’re all waiting for the other shoe to drop, but maybe this is the year that it doesn’t. Just a team with two superstars, enough supporting talent, adequate goaltending, and a path to winning a weak division. Add it all up, and start looking way too far ahead, and it could at least get them to home ice in the second round.

4. Carolina Hurricanes (4-0-0, +11) – I’ve only got one spot for the Metro this week, and I’m giving it to the undefeated Hurricanes, who’ve won four straight plus tonight’s guaranteed Freddie Andersen shutout against the Leafs. But with the Penguins, Rangers, and Caps all looking strong, it won’t take much of a wobble to put this spot up for grabs.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-2-1, -4) – In hindsight, the early schedule was tough, but this week brings the Sabres and Coyotes so we should see the Lightning remind us of what they can do. Still, the long-term loss of Nikita Kucherov means we have to bump them down at least one slot.

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