NHL Power Rankings: Week 15

Another week, another set of the NHL Power Rankings. A new team sits on top of the Power Rankings this week. The Vancouver Canucks may be the hottest team in the NHL right now but a loss on Saturday night means I get to use one of my favourite Power Rankings rules on them. While the top five might have changed around, no team moved in or out of it.

#1 Detroit Red Wings (LW #4)
To be the man, you have to beat the man! And Sting, I’m the man! Woooooo! Wait… That’s not the right shtick for this post. The Wings topped the Canuckleheads on Saturday night without Brad Stuart (more on that later) so they get to move ahead of Vancouver in the Power Rankings. Rankings that didn’t swap places with some influence from head-to-head matchups was always a bit of a pet peeve of mine. So to Vancouver fans who have been happy with sitting up top for the last two weeks: To be the man, you have to beat the man! Woooooo!

#2 Vancouver Canucks (LW #1)
Yes, I realize that the Canuckleheads are still the hottest team in the NHL but it’s my Power Rankings so my Ric Flair rule (Wooooo!) stands for this week. I’m sure I’ll swap the rankings next week. Between the Sedins and Luongo, Vancouver is looking very good this season. I can’t help but think that the Olympic tournament drained the Vancouver players last year which led to the short playoff run. Without the Olympic break, this team might be set for their longest playoff run since 1994.

#3 Philadelphia Flyers (LW #3)
I’m kinda completely amazed how many Penguins and Blackhawks made the All-Star Game. Four Pens made the game as starters while two Hawks were voted in as starters with two more coming in as reserves. So how many players from the last two Stanley Cup runners-up made the game? Two: Claude Giroux and Nick Lidstrom. Very deserving All-Stars but not nearly enough. Where are Zetterberg, Howard, Richards and Carter on the rosters? The new concept is fun sounding but it doesn’t work without the right players.

#4 Tampa Bay Lightning (LW #2)
For all we hear about Crosby, Ovi and the Sedins, how little do we hear about Steven Stamkos? I was always a firm believer in his talent but knew he wouldn’t make a splash in his rookie year. However, it seems almost as if the TV media in Canada doesn’t know he exists even though he’s second in points and goals this season to Crosby. And what about Marty St. Louis? Never hear anything about him but he’s second in the league in assists to Hank Sedin. It’s a very unheralded group they’ve got in Tampa but they’re looking good for a division crown.

#5 Washington Capitals (LW #5)
Of course, don’t tell the Caps that. I’m willing to bet that Bruce Boudreau is telling his boys to get their asses out of their heads and fucking go out there and fucking want it. Shit hasn’t been going well for them for big chunks of the season. Somehow they’re staying up in the standings but without Ovechkin leading the way with scoring, you have to wonder how high a seed they can get in the playoffs. Without Ovi, this team doesn’t have very much to make up for a lack of offence.

#6 Pittsburgh Penguins (LW #6)
Time for the NHL to face scrutiny over its handling of concussions. If any other player was knocked silly by David Stackel in the Winter Classic, it would have been a non-story. But it was quite obvious after the hit and from HBO’s NHL 24/7 that Crosby wasn’t all there after the hit. That Victor Hedman hit in the Tampa Bay game definitely didn’t concuss Crosby for the first time. I think it just aggravated the concussion enough that he couldn’t play. It makes you wonder what the NHL’s policy regarding playing after a suspected concussion is. The NFL has gone out of its way to inform us all what the policy is. However, like every other NHL rule, the concussion one is shrouded in secret.

#7 New York Rangers (LW #9)
The Rangers made a trade with Phoenix that doesn’t make sense for either team near as I can figure. They’re top ten in the league in both goals for and goals against. And yet they traded Michal Rozsival to the Phoenix Coyotes for Wojtek Wolski. I know this is a reaction to Alex Frolov going down for the season but it’s not like they’ll miss Frolov. The Russian was averaging one point every three games. Not exactly an offensive powerhouse. So Glen Sather, in his infinite wisdom, trades a second-pair defenseman for a third-line winger to replace another third-line winger. Apart from the savings in cap hit, is it worth it? Probably not but the rest of the media likes it so I must fall in step.

#8 Boston Bruins (LW #13)
The CBC is re-running the Don Cherry bio movie/mini-series last Sunday and this upcoming Sunday. I was a bit thrown off by the fact it was sort of dropped into the lineup unannounced but not as thrown off as I was when I found out they weren’t playing the parts of the movie on back-to-back days as is the typical CBC style. Instead, the CBC ran a show about getting a village of 600 people to lose one tonne of weight in a month. And who says public broadcasters don’t run trainwreck TV.

#9 Dallas Stars (LW #10)
So with the Auburn win, there’s still one question left from this college football season: Is TCU the real national champion? They finished the season undefeated too. What makes them any less deserving than Auburn or Oregon to be named national champion? Let’s face it, Cam Newton is more than likely to be found to be ineligible at some point in time in the near future by the NCAA. That means that we could see Auburn stripped of their national title. Since TCU is the last undefeated team, they could end up as the champions. Wouldn’t that be a fitting “fuck you” to the BCS.

#10 Nashville Predators (LW #19)
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before but Barry Trotz should probably get the Coach of the Year award renamed in his honour. The Preds are definitely not a stellar team but Trotz coaches these boys to be a perennial playoff contender. This year, for example, Nashville is in the bottom ten in goals for but rank second in the league in goals against. It’s a combination of your classic Trotz defence and the play of Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback. And because of the seasons Tampa, Dallas and Atlanta are having, Trotz might not even get nominated for the award this year. That would be a travesty.

#11 Atlanta Thrashers (LW #16)
If Chicago was to come to Atlanta for a game tomorrow, what song would the Hawks be forced to come out to? With the number of former Blackhawks on the Thrashers, I’d have to think that the obvious choice would have to be Cee Lo Green’s Fuck You. After all, the girl the ex-Hawks love would be the Stanley Cup. It makes sense to me. Though, it makes me think that the Miami Heat should have been introduced to Fuck You when LeBron returned to Cleveland.

#12 Chicago Blackhawks (LW #17)
I wanted to mention this somewhere but all of his ex-teams’ spots were taken up so it fills up Chicago’s space. Denny Lambert was fired from his job as coach of the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds. That would be my hometown team. I’m surprised that his firing took this long. Back when he was first hired, a source with an OHL team told me that folks in the league felt he was too interested in getting his own face time to properly coach his team. His coaching skills were also questioned by folks around the O. Would explain the two last place runs in three years.

#13 Anaheim Ducks (LW #12)
Isn’t San Diego closer to San Jose than Anaheim? Well, no matter, I’m going to talk about the new coach of the Michigan Wolverines here. Brady Hoke comes back to Michigan where he was an assistant coach for eight years. He was also a head coach at Ball State and San Diego State. He’s no Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles but he has a better track record than the former and can read a clock better than the latter. He couldn’t be a step down from Rich Rod, that’s for sure.

#14 St. Louis Blues (LW #8)
I just can’t seem to figure out the Blues. One minute they’re up, the next they’re down. I’ve had them in the top spot and down below 16th place. I’m not sure that the Blues have even figured out how good they’re supposed to be. At the half way point of the season, they’re one of the better teams in terms of goals against but are still in the negative in goal differential. I really want to say that the Blues can be a playoff team but they need to think of themselves that way in order for it to happen.

#15 Los Angeles Kings (LW #15)
I can’t help but feel sorry for the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron completely screws over the team with his Decision TV mega-event then they get absolutely demolished by the Lakers. Actually, the phrase “absolutely demolished” doesn’t even begin to describe what happened to the Cavs. The Lakers nearly doubled up on the Cavs 112-57. Two more LA points or one less Cleveland point would have meant a double-up. I’m not sure we’ve come this close to a double-up happening in the last 20 years. The 57 points was also the fewest allowed by the Lakers since the shot clock was introduced. It’s tough to be a fan in Cleveland.

#16 San Jose Sharks (LW #7)
Strange celebrity birthday factoid that should interest everyone if only for the sake of irony: January 12th is the birthday of both Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern. I’m not sure I can think of two radio personalities farther apart on the spectrum than those two. I’m not talking about the political spectrum but just the sort of stuff they talk about. Okay, maybe Sean Hannity would be farther off from Stern than Limbaugh. It’s like comparing Fox News to Live Orgasm Radio on iTunes.

#17 Montreal Canadiens (LW #18)
This week’s factoid that may only interest me and Leafs fans: After the weekend set of games, Montreal had 105 goals for in 42 games. Toronto also had 105 goals but managed it in only 40 games. The Habs are still in the playoff hunt solely because of the play of Carey Price. I’m still not convinced that they kept the right goalie but it’s certainly not burning them as badly as I thought it would. However, that decided lack of offence will get them eventually. A couple of weeks ago, I thought they were safely in the playoffs. Now they’re only three points up on Carolina and the Canes have a game in hand. Time for some more trades?

#18 Minnesota Wild (LW #22)
Speaking of the BCS Championship game, it was horrid until the final quarter. Of course, it was on so late for viewers in the eastern time zone that I’m pretty sure the game ended after midnight. Well, I say pretty sure because I dozed off during the third quarter when it was a dull, dry and dreary game. I woke up after 11:30 and it was sometime in the fourth quarter (before halfway) with Auburn still up by more than a field goal so I went to bed. Turned out that I should have stuck it out because Auburn won with a field goal as time expired. The point is that TV is so concerned with west coast viewers that they’re making games inconvenient for anyone in the other time zones. Hockey Night in Canada is on at 7:00 and their ratings are just fine. What’s wrong with 7:00 then?

#19 Colorado Avalanche (LW #11)
Speaking of All-Star snubs, I can think of two from Colorado that were huge omissions from the line-up. Matt Duchesne made the game but Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart. I realize that Stastny was out for a tiny bit in late December but you can’t hold that against him. And Stewart has missed half the season after he broke his hand on a dude’s face. Before that, he was a point per game player. Sure, he wouldn’t play in the game but it’d be nice to be named to the team.

#20 Carolina Hurricanes (LW #14)
So the NHL All-Star Game rosters were announced with one puzzling omission above all the rest. We still don’t know who the captains are. Okay, we don’t know who will officially be named the captain of each All-Star team. We have an idea of who the two most likely contenders for the jobs are: Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. The only problem is that NHL fans who will watch the game, who will far outnumber casual fans, might just be sick of Crosby vs. Ovechkin. Darkhorses for the job would have to be Eric Staal (home-ice advantage) and Nick Lidstrom (because he’s Nick fucking Lidstrom). I’d rather the latter than the former pair.

#21 Phoenix Coyotes (LW #24)
By the way, if the All-Star teams aren’t divided by conference, why are the two jerseys done up in conference colours? The away jersey is white with that sort of red colour that is used in the Eastern Conference logo. The home jersey is mostly in Western Conference blue. The official NHL story is that red, blue, white and silver are on the majority of NHL jerseys. The unofficial story has to be that Reebok come up with these jersey designs and couldn’t be bothered to change them when the format changed from conferences to captain’s picks. Only logical explanation.

#22 Buffalo Sabres (LW #25)
For spot #22, I figured I would drop a cheap plug for The Lowdown video game of the year which is coming out next Tuesday. Yes, Mass Effect 2, the game I decided would be our 2010 Game of the Year, is coming out on PS3. If you have a PC capable of handling of the requirements, you’d be far better off getting the game for the PC. The only downside is that you almost have to get ME1 to get the full experience of ME2. But trust me when I say that playing both ME games is well worth it. Oh, and LittleBigPlanet 2, an early favourite for 2011 Game of the Year, drops the same day.

#23 New York Islanders (LW #26)
Maybe I was a touch quick to write these guys off. Granted most of their last ten games had Dwayne Roloson in goal but the Isles have also gotten good performances out of Rick DiPietro and Kevin Poulin recently. However, the star has really been the offence. When Rick DiPietro is the #1 goalie, the offence will have to step up sooner rather than later. And if you look at the most recent box scores, it’s been John Tavares and Matt Moulson who have done the majority of the goal scoring for the Isles. Suddenly Burke looks like an idiot for not sending Luke Schenn to Long Island and sending everything to the Islanders for Tavares.

#24 Columbus Blue Jackets (LW #20)
I’ll level with you, folks. I really haven’t had much time to right the Power Rankings this week. I’d like to say that I have something funny or insightful to say about the Blue Jackets or something happening in or around Columbus. Maybe I could mention the short-lived desire of Michigan Wolverines fans to have Ohio State coach Jim Tressel coach their football team. It would have been a classic case of if you can’t beat him, join him.

#25 Florida Panthers (LW #23)
Your strange All-Star Game roster selection note of the week: The Panthers don’t have anyone in the All-Star Game. They have one guy in the rookie game and that’s it. Meanwhile, we have token selections for Nashville, Minnesota, St. Louis, New Jersey, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa but not one for Florida. And here I thought Bettman really loved hockey in places where ice is non-existent. You know, the Coyotes are also in the same boat.

#26 Toronto Maple Leafs (LW #27)
The best parody song I’ve heard so far this year has to be “Love to Hear the Boos.” It’s a parody of Eminem and Rihanna’s Love the Way You Lie about the Toronto Maple Leafs. It name checks Dion Phaneuf, Kris Versteeg, Phil Kessel, Brian Burke, Hulk Hogan and Joey Votto in a matter of seconds. And it even references paper bag wearing fans and people throwing waffles. This just isn’t the best sports parody song of the year so far but an all-timer.

#27 Calgary Flames (LW #21)
At the risk of alienating my newly grown Power Rankings reading audience: Fuck Jay Feaster and fuck Tom Kostopoulos. The pair have come out against the six game suspension levied against Kostopoulos. How long until hockey gets reamed out like the NFL for hits to the head, especially when the NHL’s old boys club seems to be so against any punishment for dangerous hits. Kostopoulos  delivered a blind side hit to Brad Stuart’s head which broke his jaw. Kostopoulos charged in, targeted the head of a defenseless/unexpecting player and knocked Stuart out for up to eight weeks. For disagreeing with the suspension itself, both Feaster and Kostopoulos should be banned from all NHL-affiliated facilities for the Flames’ next 12 games.

#28 Ottawa Senators (LW #28)
Just when things couldn’t get worse for the Sens, it looks as though they finally got the break through they needed. Alex Kovalev went down for at least a week with a knee injury. He’s scored 8 goals this season but has only one in his last 18 games. I’m sure that Cory Clouston would like Kovalev to be out for more than just a week so he can be put on the LTIR. It took 112 games in an Ottawa uniform for Kovalev to match his 65 point output from his 2008-2009 season with the Canadiens which just happened to be his contract year. Bryan Murray got well and truly duped.

#29 Edmonton Oilers (LW #29)
Anybody heard of this Gabriel Landeskog dude that topped NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings for North American skaters? All we’ve heard about in the run up to this edition of the rankings is Couturier, Nugent-Hopkins and Larsson. Now this Landeskog guy, who apparently is Swedish, is atop the rankings. We’ve heard of the Swede Larsson but not this guy with a name you need a calculator to pronounce. If you’re interested, Landeskog is described as a power forward who can skate, score, lead and play physical. In other words, he’s too big and mature a player to fit in Edmonton.

#30 New Jersey Devils (LW #30)
I think it’s safe to say that the Devils have given up on the season. They just traded their captain Jamie Langenbrunner to Dallas for a conditional draft pick. As I noted last week, Brian Rolston is in the minors. Martin Brodeur is no longer the starter and I would imagine will be traded by the deadline and/or retire at season’s end. And don’t forget that Zach Parise hasn’t re-signed with the team yet. He’s an RFA at season’s end but I think compensation picks are a small price to pay for a team to sign the star of the 2010 US Olympic hockey team and a point-per-game player with the Devils of all teams. It’s a good thing that the Devils don’t have to forfeit this year’s 1st round pick because of Kovalchuk.

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