It’s Week 9 in the NHL, and that means it’s time for your weekly power rankings.
30. Calgary Flames (10-14-2) Last Week: 28
The Calgary Flames have arguably the worst goaltending group in the NHL, as Kari Ramo, Jonas Hiller, and Joni Ortio (who is now in the AHL) have gotten shelled in the vast majority of the games that they’ve played. The team’s save percentage at 5 on 5 is the lowest in the league, and it’s hurting the team’s chances to win games immensely. When combined with the team’s terrible possession numbers, it’s led to the Flames giving up the most goals in the entire league at 5 on 5.
The magic is gone this season, and it looks like there’s plenty of work to be done in Calgary before this team is competitive again.
Read of the week: Mark Giordano’s early season struggles have hurt the Flames immensely, writes Sonny Sachdeva.
29. Colorado Avalanche (11-15-1) Last Week: 30
The Colorado Avalanche probably aren’t the worst team in the NHL this year, though they certainly are close; despite having plenty of talent, they also have giant, gaping holes in the roster that aren’t going to filled easily. As a result, the Avalanche have the worst possession numbers in the league, and likely won’t be improving for the rest of the season.
Let’s take a big picture look at the Avalanche. They are not going to be making the playoffs this year, especially given the current state of the Central Division. Even over the next two or three seasons, they are two or three big roster pieces away from competing for the playoffs, and even then, there’s not guarantee that they get in. Why try to get good now? It would almost take a miracle for the team to get competitive in the current Central Division, and almost all of their elite roster pieces are young.
As much as the NHL may hate it, the best long-term move for the Avalanche is to tank. A last place finish this year almost guarantees the team gets another top line forward (Auston Matthews) or a top pairing defenseman (Jakob Chychrun), and right now, getting one of those players is probably better in the long-term than struggling to compete. Just some food for thought.
Read of the week: Semyon Varlamov is playing terribly this season, writes Will Radke of Mile High Sticking.
28. Edmonton Oilers (10-15-2) Last Week: 29
Just how bad were the Oilers last season? Well, despite Taylor Hall returning to point per game form, Connor McDavid playing at a point per game pace before his injury, and Leon Draisaitl coming up from the AHL to post 19 points in 17 games, the Oilers are still tied for last in the league, with one more game played than the other two teams they’re tied with (the Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames).
A fun thought, though; could the Oilers be closer to playoff contention than the Avalanche? We already discussed how hard it’s going to be for Colorado to make the playoffs again, but the Pacific Division is kind of weak and old, and the Oilers only need to finish in third in order to make the postseason. They might need a couple more key pieces, like the Avalanche, but they might also have more pieces (well, they’ll have more if they don’t make any dumb trades), and be in a weaker division. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how this shakes out over the next couple of seasons.
Read of the week: Carolyn Wilke continues her amazing NHL front office breakdown with a look at some changes in the Pacific Division (including the Oilers) over the past couple of seasons.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (11-16-1) Last Week: 27
The Blue Jackets are showing the hockey world just how overrated they were coming into the season, as they currently as the second worst team in the NHL in terms of points percentage. Their underlying possession numbers are also on the lower end, and have been trending downward ever since John Tortorella took over behind the bench.
What did people see in this team? Sure, there were some elite pieces up front in Brandon Saad, Ryan Johansen, and maybe Nick Foligno, as well as solid secondary pieces such as Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson. But the defense is terrible, and none of those forwards are really elite enough to carry a team for an extended stretch of time. Regardless, it’s very unlikely the team makes the playoffs now, and they’ll have some work to do over the offseason if they want to make a return in 2016-2017.
Read of the week: Kristyn Repke has the story on Scott Hartnell’s return to the lineup against his former team.
26. Toronto Maple Leafs (9-13-5) Last Week: 26
The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t have any high end forwards, are lacking in truly elite defensive talent, and have league average goaltending. They’ve still become one of the best teams to the NHL to follow, simply because management really doesn’t seem to mind losing games this season if it will benefit the team in the long term. As a result, you get things like 22-year-old Garrett Sparks making his NHL debut, despite spending most of last season in the ECHL. The game ended pretty well for Sparks.
Moments like these are we watch the game.
Read of the week: Speaking of sparks, here’s Cat Silvermann looking into the young net minder for the Leafs Nation.