NHL Power Rankings: Week 18

Alright, there’s been two whole days of action since we last did the Power Rankings last Thursday. That means we don’t have a lot of movement in the rankings. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have things to talk about thanks to the CBC/NHLPA player survey. It also doesn’t mean that I wasn’t able to move a new team to the top of the Power Rankings.

#1 Tampa Bay Lightning (Last Week #3)
The Lightning have unveiled their new jerseys and logos for use starting in the 2011-12 season. As one person on Twitter referred to the team after the jersey reveal, they’re now the “Toronto Bay Maple Bolts.” I could easily see a maple leaf on the chest of the jersey. They’ve gone blue and white with their new jerseys. I’ve mentioned a few times that I like the blue on their alternate jerseys but never liked their alternate jerseys. I can’t say that the crest on the front is any worse than “BOLTS” but they’re very plain new jerseys and logos.

#2 Philadelphia Flyers (LW #1)
I know that there haven’t been many games since my last edition of the Power Rankings. So how can I justify a new team at the top and moving Philly down? Well, Tampa is on a six game winning streak. Sure, the Flyers and Bolts share the same record over the last ten games but the Lightning are red-hot right now. Well, white-hot since that’s what lightning sorta is. Anyway, the Flyers are still my pick to take the top seed in the East come playoff time. They’re just not the team of the moment.

#3 Dallas Stars (LW #2)
It’s Super Bowl week! We’ve had two weeks of build up telling us that the Packers are going to win because… Well, I’m not sure anyone has really come up with a reason why the Pack are superior to the Steelers. I think the Steelers D will make Rodgers’s life harder than Green Bay’s will for Big Ben. Personally, I like the Steelers and the under. But I’m not our football gambling expert. Don’t worry, though. Scott says he’ll be back to cover this one for us.

#4 Detroit Red Wings (LW #4)
So the 300+ NHL players surveyed for the CBC poll have a seemingly consensus #2 player in the league. (We’ll get to #1 fairly soon.) The final tally has Pavel Datsyuk of the Wings as not too far off Sidney Crosby for tops in the league. He topped the survey for hardest to take the puck off of, was second for toughest forward and smartest player and was 7th for most underrated player. Imagine someone rated that highly and still considered underrated. There’s a quality player.

#5 Boston Bruins (LW #10)
You have to be worried about Tim Thomas after his All-Star Game performance. He was outperformed by Lundqvist in the third period. His save percentage in the game was over 0.200 lower in the All-Star Game than the rest of the regular season. And I know that he leads goalies in all major statistical categories (GAA, save percentage, wins and shutouts) but stranger things have happened. Maybe an All-Star shelling might get in his head. Then again, maybe I’ll slip, fall, dislocate my elbow and wake up with a 100 MPH fastball.

#6 Pittsburgh Penguins (LW #7)
And not surprisingly, the NHL boys are drinking Gary’s kool-aid when it comes to determining the league’s best player. Sid the Kid was voted as the toughest forward to play against, smartest player, active player that players would build a franchise around and best role model. It’s the last one that really kills me. Anyone that watched 24/7 on HBO knows that Crosby is a non-stop whiner on the ice. There’s pleading your case and there’s being a whiner and Crosby always looks like a whiner. Sounds like a whiner too when he’s miked up. If he’s a role model for hockey fans I fear for how our society will end up.

#7 Anaheim Ducks (LW #8)
The Ducks really got screwed on recognition during All-Star Weekend. Corey Perry’s breakaway challenge shootout trick competition routine was far superior to Ovechkin’s. I’d even rate it just ahead of Subban (though he was far better than I expected). Ovi got a reputation win and Perry got screwed. And Hiller was the real MVP of the game itself. He made 15 saves on 17 shots. He completely changed the momentum of the game with his second period performance. That’s MVP worthy.

#8 Nashville Predators (LW #6)
According to members of the NHLPA, the most underrated team in the NHL is the Preds. They picked up 18% of the vote which was just ahead of the 16% that voted for Dallas. I wonder if I still have the Preds underrated when they’re 8th here. I know that I haven’t underrated the Stars seeing as they’re 3rd in the Power Rankings. Now if only the mainstream hockey media would notice these guys so casual fans would realize that they’re good teams, maybe they could grow a fan base.

#9 Vancouver Canucks (LW #5)
I’m probably going to take some shit for this. The Canuckleheads are the top team in the NHL right now. And they have the best playmaker and defending Hart Trophy winner in Henrik Sedin. But I think that the eight teams above Vancouver here are playing better hockey right now. Even though they have the league’s best goal differential, I still think that there’s some piece missing from the Vancouver puzzle right now. They shouldn’t be playing 0.500 hockey over the last ten games at this point of the season.

#10 Montreal Canadiens (LW #9)
The Habs weren’t left out of the fun on the CBC/NHLPA survey. They didn’t make any waves in the important categories but the Bell Centre took home top prize as the players’ favourite rink to play in. I’m guessing it has almost entirely to do with the passionate Montreal fans. They could still be in the Forum and they would probably still be the favourite rink to play in. Should be a hint to MLSE that they need to do more to get real fans in the door instead of the suits.

#11 Phoenix Coyotes (LW #14)
I really hate having to rank the Coyotes every week. Tomorrow, they could be a team that I want to put in the 20s. After the weekend, they could be in the Top 10. This team just hasn’t found any consistency yet. They’re just all over the place. They’re in the playoffs by two points over 9th. But the Western Conference is so tight that five points separates 4th from 12th. If Phoenix can’t find some consistency, they’re far more likely to end up 12th than 4th.

#12 New York Rangers (LW #12)
One of the bigger surprises from the CBC/NHLPA survey was that Marian Gaborik was voted the league’s best and fastest skater. I’ve never really been overwhelmed with Gaborik’s skating but how much Gaborik do we actually see on Canadian TV. Fastest skater surprised me even more because guys like Helm and Cogliano move so fast that I swear they have vapor trails. Granted, Gaborik’s standing isn’t nearly as surprising as Crosby. He was named the league’s 2nd best skater. A strong skater? Yes. A good skater? I’m not sold.

#13 Washington Capitals (LW #11)
I’m not sure if this is a compliment or an insult but Bruce Boudreau was voted the easiest coach to play for in the NHL. The CBC analyzed the results of each of their questions on their website except for this one. I don’t think they know what to make of those results either. Boudreau seems like a good guy based on HBO’s NHL 24/7 but I’m not sure he’s much of a tactician based on the show. That might be why he’d be easy to play for. I wish CBC was a little more clear on that question so we knew what it meant.

#14 Chicago Blackhawks (LW #13)
If you were to put money on which Hawk was going to be named All-Star Game MVP, I don’t think many people would have thought Patrick Sharp. I figured that Toews would have been the most likely to win the car with Kane, Sharp and Keith rounding out the list. Two goals and an assist in the first two periods was enough to get him by the late-game heroics of Danny Briere and Loui Eriksson. I’m not knocking Sharp but I have a hard time thinking that an MVP comes from a losing team.

#15 Carolina Hurricanes (LW #16)
Well, the reviews are mixed on the execution but most folks feel that the changes to the NHL All-Star Game were for the positive. Hell, the players even started playing in the 3rd period because they wanted to win. The skills comp was fun with players and goalies having a laugh the whole way along. The draft might have been a bit too much of a love in but Staal and Kane had a bit of fun screwing with guys. But this format is definitely a step up over the old conference format. Hopefully we can get some stuff ironed out for the 2012 game.

#16 Minnesota Wild (LW #15)
The one thing that everyone seemed to agree on was that the last pick of the draft probably shouldn’t get a car and a donation for charity for being the last pick. It just seemed as though they were trying to placate the bruised ego of an All-Star. You were picked last in an All-Star game, you should be motivated more than Phil Kessel was to show everyone else up. Instead, Kessel got his car and charitable donation so he played as well on Sunday as he has the rest of the season. They’ve really got to rethink the way they treat last pick.

#17 Colorado Avalanche (LW #17)
And, by the way… TEAM LIDSTROM, bitches! The new format gave me more rooting interest in the game than the conference or nationality based formats did back in the day. I cheered more for Team Lidstrom than I did for the Western Conference or Team North America. At least it looked like players wanted to play for Team Lidstrom. Hell, the fans were really behind Team Staal. It was almost like it was their own team playing. And that’s why Team Crosby vs. Team Ovi will never work unless they play the game in Washington or Pittsburgh.

#18 Buffalo Sabres (LW #19)
As the Sabres climb their way up the Power Rankings, I saw this interesting tidbit of info about their popularity on Twitter. The Nielsen ratings people say that the Buffalo Sabres have the second-highest local TV ratings among US-based NHL franchises. Not surprisingly, the Penguins were tops. Detroit, Chicago and Boston rounded out the top five. It seems as though free agents don’t really want to go to or stay in Buffalo but it doesn’t seem to be about lack of fan support.

#19 San Jose Sharks (LW #18)
As a very bottom end of the scale blogger, I have no right to tweak other bloggers. However, as a regular reader of Gawker’s Gizmodo technology blog, I am annoyed by the fact that they don’t want to ever talk about apps for BlackBerry. They often take lengthy looks at iPhone and Android apps and profile the best of different types of apps for both phone types. RIM must really have pissed them off because almost never see them mention a thing about BlackBerry software. At least they like the PlayBook. Ironic since that’s all RIM is working on these days.

#20 Atlanta Thrashers (LW #20)
I think we have further proof that the NHL has no future in Atlanta (again). As you might have heard, the superheroes of the NHL Guardian Project were revealed based on fan votes. More votes meant that your team’s Guardian was revealed sooner. The last one revealed was The Thrasher. Even then, you could tell Stan Lee was struggling for ideas with this one. It’s a dude in a fighter jet suit. It’s like Iron Man only far less cool. Poor Stan. This isn’t the sort of thing I’d want to sign my name to.

#21 Los Angeles Kings (LW #22)
I love this logo on the left. It’s known as the Burger King logo to Kings fans and I’ve posted it here because it made its fateful debut fifteen years ago last week. It was part of the NHL’s push to have every team wear one of those youth-centric third jerseys… Or something like that. I’m not sure why the NHL felt compelled for every team to have a third jersey but that was the result of it in LA. Gretzky had to wear it. And I mention all this because the LA Burger Kings jersey is 15 years old last Wednesday. Now that’s a happy anniversary.

#22 Calgary Flames (LW #24)
The Canadian city that NHL players thinks most deserves a new NHL franchise? Quebec City with a resounding defeat of Winnipeg, Toronto and Hamilton with 53%. Apparently Quebec’s popularity has less to do with the fact that it has a larger population than Winnipeg and Hamilton than it does with the nightlife. I went to Quebec City when I was around 10 and I remember the food was good. I’m not sure about the rest of the nightlife but if it’s half as good as Montreal, it’ll quickly become a favourite stop on the NHL circuit.

#23 New Jersey Devils (LW #27)
Almost inexplicably, the hottest team in the league heading into the All-Star break was the New Jersey Devils. They were 6-1-1 over their last eight games. That seems almost otherworldly good for a team that’s been otherworldly bad for the first 41 games of the season. And, not so shockingly, writers are already talking about the record comeback that the Devils would need to make the playoffs. It’s like they’re predicting the Devils will make the playoffs because it would be a great storyline for them. The coverage is really a bit much if you ask me.

#24 Florida Panthers (LW #25)
The Panthers didn’t escape mention in the NHLPA/CBC survey. They were 5th on the list of teams that player least wanted to play for. However, with DeBoer and Tallon in charge, they’re going to plummet down that ranking. One thing unlikely to change is their rink’s ranking on the worst ice list. About 20% of players said that the Bank Atlantic Center had the league’s worst playing surface. Four of the top five teams on that list were in warm climates. Maybe Gary should take that as a sign that hockey in the south doesn’t entirely work.

#25 Columbus Blue Jackets (LW #21)
Sadly, I’m about a day late with this post. That’s because you could have gone to an exclusive party in Orlando, Florida, hosted by LeBron James. Well, not “LeBron James” because the promotional poster had him listed as “King James.” And the party was billed as the biggest party to ever take place at the establishment that hosted King James. And most of the poster was occupied by LeBron’s massive ego visage. And the party was called “My Way 2011.” I should have stopped at three things because I could have called this the Bermuda Triangle of douchebaggery. Sadly, I’ll have to call LeBron’s party a wretched hive of scum and douchebaggery.

#26 St. Louis Blues (LW #23)
Is it just me or is the Blue both the coolest and evilest of the NHL Guardians? I know, there’s something screwed up about me analyzing comic book superheroes created on contract by Stan Lee but hear me out. The Blue is essentially a black shadow in a black cape with blue flame hair. That just looks like a classic cartoon/comic book villan. And in the All-Star Game video, it was carrying a saxophone. That was just a bit out of place. Well, slightly less so than The Duck in a scuba suit.

#27 Toronto Maple Leafs (LW #26)
Remember Maple Leafs waffler Joe Robb? He was the guy that got arrested for throwing waffles on the ice at ACC. Well, he fought the law and the law lost. The Crown Attorney’s office has dropped charges against Robb stemming from the December 20th Leaf’s game. The Crown wanted him to plead guilty and serve 30 hours of community service but he wasn’t willing to go down quietly. Unfortunately, the ban from the ACC isn’t lifted because it’s private property and the notice of trespass is still in effect. Actually, right now, being banned from the ACC isn’t so bad.

#28 Edmonton Oilers (LW #29)
And speaking of the Leafs, they weren’t left unmentioned in the NHLPA survey. The coach that NHL players least want to play for is Make Me Laughs coach Ron Wilson. Apparently attempting to motivate your players by slighting them in the media doesn’t go over that well with the players. I’m sure the lack of playoff success with the Sharks and lack of success at all with the Leafs isn’t helping his position. This is only going to increase calls for the Leafs to turf Wilson and hire a Kirk Muller or Bob Boughner.

#29 New York Islanders (LW #28)
Here’s the absolute shock of shocks from the CBC/NHLPA poll. The team that players least wanted to play for was the New York Islanders. I wouldn’t call it a runaway victory in that category. The Isles tallied 27% of the vote while Edmonton trailed closely with 20%. I can’t imagine why players wouldn’t want to play for sad sack frachises like those two. Maybe we should ask Evgeni Nabokov for his opinion on the matter.

#30 Ottawa Senators (LW #30)
I think I know why the Sens haven’t turned up on any of the worst team or worst coach lists on the CBC player poll. See, the Sens are willing to overpay people (see Alex Kovalev, Sergei Gonchar, Milan Michalek, Mike Fisher, Filip Kuba, Chris Phillips, etc.) and trade them on demand (see Dany Heatley). How could you not want to be part of a franchise that is willing to guarantee your lifetime financial security? Well, if you’re a coach, you’re screwed in Ottawa because the players don’t play. But it’s great if you’re a player.

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3 thoughts on “NHL Power Rankings: Week 18

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