Who’s Hot and Who’s Not (1.15.16)
The NHL season is essentially halfway over. January 1st and the Winter Classic have come and gone. The Stadium Series games and the Trade Deadline are fast approaching. Teams are falling out of the playoff hunt, and others are jockeying for position. Welcome to this week’s version of Who’s Hot and Who’s Not.
- Florida Panthers (26-13-5, 57 pts, 1st in Atlantic Division) – Father Time, someone Jaromir Jagr has yet to meet. The 43-year-old Czech, and captain of the Atlantic Division All-Star squad has been lighting it up. He leads the team in goals and points with 14 and 30 respectfully. The Panthers are winners of 11 straight which include wins over the Canadiens, Wild, Rangers and Islanders. Aaron Ekblad and Roberto Luongo were announced to join Jagr in Nashville for the All-Star game. All things are pointing in the right direction for the Panthers so far this season.
- Washington Capitals (33-7-3, 69 pts, 1st in Metropolitan Division) – The three-headed monster of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin have propelled the Capitals this season. Washington finds themselves with the best record in the Eastern Conference posting 9 more points than the second place Florida Panthers. Not only are they winning, but they are getting balanced performances across all lines. I haven’t even mentioned Braden Holtby, who essentially has been a brick wall all year (26 wins, .933 save percentage, 1.90 GAA). The Capitals are for real, and added a two-time cup winner in Mike Richards this week. Washington is a forced to be reckoned with this season.
- Chicago Blackhawks (29-13-4, 62 pts, 1st in Central Division) – Led by the Hart Trophy front-runner Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks are on fire. 8-2-0 in their last ten games, and Corey Crawford (biggest All-Star game snub) has been standing on his head lately. The Blackhawks are still relying an awful lot on their top two lines. However in the past couple weeks the scoring has started to trickle in from other places. Trading Trevor Daley freed up some cap room, but look for Stan Bowman to make some more moves to bolster the scoring depth. Every team in the league should keep an eye on the defending cup champions. Especially with the emergence of Artemi Panarin who is the favorite to win the Calder this year.
- Los Angeles Kings (27-12-3, 57 pts, 1st in Pacific Divison) –The Kings have taken a stranglehold on the weaker Pacific Division. Going 7-3-0 in the past ten games, LA has only strengthened their lead. Not only have they been winning games, but they have made noise throughout the league with their acquisition of Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn. Schenn should help bolster their defense, and LA seems to think he has some untapped potential they can reach. While Lecavalier brings even more depth up front. Tyler Toffoli has been lights out for the Kings and Jonathan Quick is looking like the goalie of old. The Kings are clearly royalty out west right now.
- Arizona Coyotes (22-16-5, 44 pts, 2nd Pacific) – Yes, the Pacific Division is weak, however the Yotes have managed to go on a little run here. In their last ten they have managed to snag 14 of the available 20 pts. The future is bright in Arizona, due to them being led by the young guys so far this season (Boedker, Domi, OEL, Rieder, Duclair). They may not make much noise in the playoffs this year, but look out for them moving forward.
Honorable Mention – Colorado Avalanche (6-2-2 past ten), Toronto Maple Leafs (6-3-1 past ten), Dallas Stars (5-3-2 past ten)
- Montreal Canadiens (23-18-3, 49 pts, 3rd Atlantic Division) –Yes, the Canadiens are still in great playoff position. Yes, they dismembered the Bruins in the Winter Classic. Yes, they don’t have Carey Price. However they are 3-7-0 in their last ten which is the worst in the league during this stretch. They are not only cold, but if they continue this trend then they will be in trouble come playoff time. It doesn’t get easier as Price is still injured, they just traded Dustin Tokarski to the Ducks, and Condon and Scrivens haven’t been world beaters by any means. The lone bright spot is Brenden Gallagher, who returned from injury and looked very good in the Winter Classic. The Canadiens are a team to keep an eye on in the next few weeks to see if their slide continues.
- Ottawa Senators (20-18-6, 44pts, 6th Atlantic Division) – The Sens are 3-6-1 in the past ten, which is the same as Edmonton and Buffalo, however they are just one point outside of a playoffs spot. The Sens are in the race, the Atlantic Division is tight and the Metropolitan Division isn’t running away with it either. Ottawa can still make the playoffs but with how the last few games have gone, they will fall out of the hunt very fast. Erik Karlsson is the only all-star for the Sens this year and he has looked like the best d-man in the league so far this season. The Sens need to turn things around quick.
- Edmonton Oilers (17-23-5, 37 pts, 7th Pacific Divison) Like previously mentioned, the Oilers are 3-6-1 in their last ten. I placed them ahead of the Sabres though, because this was supposed to be a season where the Oilers made a jump up the standings, however as things currently stand they are on their way towards another top three pick. Not to mention Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle’s names have been swirling in the trade discussions lately. The Oilers need help on the back-end, but only time will tell if they sacrifice one of their young talented forwards to achieve that.
- Buffalo Sabres (17-22-4, 38pts, 8th Atlantic Divison) The Sabres aren’t good right now, however they are building things the right way. They have added pieces this year that will help them moving forward, not to mention the young pieces in Jack Eichel, Rasmus Ristolainen and Sam Reinhart. All three of which are in the top 5 on the team in scoring and none are older than 21. The Sabres are doing things the right way, but this season is one to forget rather than remember.
- Columbus Blue Jackets (16-25-4, 33pts, 8th Metropolitan Division) “Train wreck” best describes this season for Columbus. Throwing John Tortorella into the mix only compounds the problem. The damaged relationship between Torts and Ryan Johansen eventually led to Johansen getting moved to Nashville for Seth Jones. Personally I would have rid myself of Torts instead of RyJo but maybe that is just me. Now they find themselves in a sticky situation. They have traded their top line young center, which was coming off an All-Star season. They did acquire a young d-man with a ton of potential in Seth Jones, but I have no idea what Columbus is doing right now. I don’t think it is going to get better anytime soon. Do you think Brandon Saad is regretting his decision to chase the money now?
Dishonorable Mention – New York Rangers (4-5-1 past ten), New Jersey Devils (4-5-1 past ten), San Jose Sharks (4-5-1 past ten), Boston Bruins (4-5-1 past ten)