As we are now through the first half of the season I thought I would take a look at how each team is doing so far. In my own unique way of course. I suppose I could have named this story after the epic Clint Eastwood film The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, because there is plenty of each to go around.
Ever since they dropped the “Mighty” they just haven’t been the same to me. Perhaps that’s because growing up watching Charlie Conway snipe goals for Gordon Bombay and the gang was a huge part of my childhood. I can’t say I foresaw them ahead of San Jose and Los Angeles at this point in the season though. Jonas Hiller is consistently improving between the pipes and Cam Fowler looks like he is going to be a real solid defenseman in the future.
It looks like all they needed to do to find some consistency was trade their most talented franchise player away. It’s fair to say most people would have expected the Thrashers to be where the Devils are right now. Even I thought moving Dustin Byfuglien to defense was a disaster waiting to happen. Now he looks like the second coming of Rob Blake.
No team looks like they are having more fun out there. They also have by far the coolest mascot in the league. Just saying.
Tim Thomas is the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL. He gets no respect and he has been written off more times than a business lunch. Every year he seems to slip through the cracks of our fantasy draft and my buddy picks him up off waivers in the first week. I will not be fooled again.
I don’t think there is a team that relies on a single player more then the Sabres do on Ryan Miller. As he goes they go.
Is there any team in more desperate need of a rebuild? Bringing back Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen was puzzling to say the least.
Jeff Skinner and Brandon Sutter have been pleasant surprises for a team not many people thought much of. Throw in Eric Staal and Cam Ward and they have the makings of a solid team down the road. Be patient, ‘Canes fans.
Getting rid of all that talent was easy this summer after they just won a Stanley Cup. It’s a bit harder to stomach now though when they are fighting for a playoff spot. They still should have enough to get in and do some damage however. Western Conference be wary.
A very young team still overachieving after last years surprising playoff appearance. Even with Craig Anderson’s injuries and inconsistent play, they are still competing in the West. Chris Stewart’s return from injury is imminent and shoot give them an offensive boost.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Steve Mason’s sophomore slump is now well into its second year. I wonder if Rick Nash regrets signing that huge contract extension a couple of years ago. The free agent waters probably look pretty tempting right about now. Sorry Leafs fans.
Arguably the most surprising team so far this season. I had them pegged for last in the Pacific and they’re my favorite team!
So far everything has gone right for the Stars but it’s a long way until April. Getting Brad Richards signed is a must and a new owner would be nice, too.
Detroit Red Wings
The Wings are simply the model franchise in all of sports, not just hockey. I am not even old enough to remember them ever missing the playoffs. Not only have they made the post season for the last 20 years, they have been legitimate Cup contenders for 20 years as well. They are right there again this year. Henrik Zetterberg being left off the All-Star team is an injustice.
Probably the most exciting team to watch unless you are Tom Renney. I’m sure he wishes he could fast forward about three years when the Oilers young talent is all polished and no longer mistake prone.
On a side note, if you haven’t seen a show called “Oil Change” you are missing out. It’s like a Canadian version of HBO’s 24/7 that follows the Oilers around for a behind the scenes look at their season. YouTube it and you won’t be disappointed, trust me.
A team without a real go to guy on their roster. It was once filled with a lot of potential but now just a lot of guys over 30. Dmitry Kulikov could be a huge bright spot down the road, though.
Los Angeles Kings
Could be dubbed one of the disappointments of the first half of the season. Right now they are on the outside looking in when many believed they could contend for the Western Conference title. Drew Doughty has only found the back of the net three times so far but Anze Kopitar is blossoming into a legitimate superstar.
They will be fighting for a playoff spot all year but will probably fall short. Even though Cal Clutterbuck has the best name in hockey, if he is your leading goal scorer you’ve got problems. No offense Cal.
I can just hear the Habs fans now: “See, I told you trading Jaroslav Halak was a good move. I knew Carey Price would pan out and have a stellar season.” Yeah right.
Definitely the most underrated team in the league on a yearly basis. Every year they ship talent out but still get better and make the playoffs. It doesn’t hurt that Coach Barry Trotz has been there forever providing consistency and stability to the organization. Their fifth in the West right now and they should be right in that vicinity come playoff time.
New Jersey Devils
They can’t win at home. They can’t win on the road. And Lou Lamoriello can’t find anywhere else for them to play.
New York Islanders
John Tavares looks like he will be a solid pro. The same can’t be said for the rest of the organization however. Highlight of their season so far: About a month or so ago a rogue army of a few thousand Quebec Nordiques fans showed up to an Islanders home game. Huh???? What year are we in????
New York Rangers
Why do I feel like it’s impossible for Ranger players to focus on hockey in that city? Every time I watch a Ranger game I notice two things: 1) Their ice is terrible; and 2) They seem to be going through the motions. Brandon Dubinsky was a solid fantasy pickup for me a few weeks ago on the waiver wire, though. Have a peek in your own pools and see if he is available. He’s having a solid year.
A big disappointment as their playoff hopes appear to be all but done. If Montreal doesn’t sneak in we could be looking at five of the six Canadian teams missing out on postseason play. The Sens are headed for a major shake up in the front office and behind the bench sooner rather than later.
Well it’s another year and the Flyers have another goalie between the pipes. I get the feeling that in two years if you want to track down Sergei Bobrovsky you are going to have to look in the KHL. They are leading the Eastern Conference though so they must know what they are doing.
Dave Tippett has done an excellent job of keeping this team focused on hockey amidst all the uncertainty of the franchise. A playoff berth last year and a strong first half of the season can hopefully provide some stability and improve the fan base.
The Pens are starting to slow a little bit from their torrid pace of the past few months. The return of a no longer concussed Sidney Crosby should again make them a force to be reckoned with.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues could very well be the streakiest team in the league. For stretches they look unbeatable and then just days later they look as if they will never win again. Their amazing run to the playoffs less than two years ago seems like a distant memory. Halak cannot do it alone.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks miss Evgeni Nabokov more then people realize. Antero Niittymaki has played ok but Antti Niemi has been fairly disappointing.
A lack of offense has to concern Sharks fans as well. They have gone on long stretches this year where they have really struggled to find the back of the net. Maybe a difficult road to the postseason will have them more playoff ready if they do find there way in.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Steve Yzerman did a great job building this team in the offseason and the recent acquisition of Dwayne Roloson has solved the goaltending issues. Guy Boucher is the early favorite for coach of the year and the Lightning are leading the Southeast finally giving the Capitals a worthy divisional adversary.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs have actually just returned from a pretty impressive road trip. After dominating Atlanta, they had come from behind wins against Los Angeles and San Jose. Following this unreal feat I raced to the television and flipped on the Weather Network. To my utter amazement I was surprised to learn that Hell had not frozen over.
They are a top of the standings at the half way point and just rounding into form. Roberto Luongo is as good as ever and Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, and Mason Raymond have gone from role players to major contributors on a nightly basis. Throw in the Sedins and one of the deepest defense corps in the league and the Canucks are scary good.
Is it me, or are the Caps becoming the San Jose Sharks of the East?
Bruce Boudreau’s F-bombs not withstanding, this team lacks intensity. It might be time to upgrade their goaltending as well. They may be well served to take a lesson from Tampa who picked up Dwayne Roloson and promptly shut them out twice in two weeks.