The Best and the Worst of the NHL’s First Half

With midseason fast approaching, it is time to roll out my NHL Power Rankings, with everything based on season-long performance. Instead of all 30 teams, I have considered the 10 best and worst teams so far.

The Good

1) Ottawa Senators – The Senators are hands-down the best team in hockey. The Sens are tied with the Detroit Red Wings for the most points in the NHL with 38. They have scored more goals than any other team this season, and given-up the fewest. 40-year-old Dominik Hasek is the same old “Dominator’ in net, posting a league-leading 1.92 GAA.

2) Detroit Red Wings – Right behind Ottawa, Detroit has been a big surprise. Owners of the NHL’s highest payroll before the introduction of the salary cap, the Wings had to dump productive forwards Brett Hull and Sergei Federov. Regardless, it seems that the Motor City is still the golden standard in the NHL.

3) Nashville Predators – Tomas Vokoun, Tomas Vokoun, Tomas Vokoun. The Czech goaltender has stood on his head all season making saves, and the team responded by winning its first eight games. He possesses a solid, but not spectacular, all-around game.

4) Los Angeles Kings – Jeremy Roenick was the team’s big-name pick-up over the summer, but Craig Conroy and Lubromir Visnovsky lead the team with 27 and 25 points, respectively. I guess sand and ice can go together.

5) Philadelphia Flyers – Simon Gagne and Peter Forsberg: so hot right now. Philly’s dynamic duo are lighting up the scoreboard, though Forsberg recently sat out for two games. Despite a drop off in scoring from the other lines, the talent is still there.

6) Dallas Stars – Their top scorer, Jason Arnott, is 38th in the league in points. Goalie Marty Turco is not in the top 10 in either GAA or save percentage. Not much pizzazz, but the Stars are finding a way to win.

7) Carolina Hurricanes – Second-year center Eric Staal is red-hot, currently ranked fourth in the NHL with 18 goals. The ‘Canes are taking full advantage of Tampa Bay’s early-season inconsistency and are making a statement in a weak Southeast Division.

8) New York Rangers – Sometimes less is more. Predicted to be one of the Eastern Conference’s worst teams, the Rangers are first in the Atlantic Division after shedding a number of high-profile offensive players. The record is a little deceiving, having played the most games in the NHL, but the Rangers still have had a great season. Jaromir Jagr is a surefire MVP candidate.

9) Montreal Canadiens – Goalie Jose Theodore and winger Alexei Kovalev are having off years, but center Saiku Koivu has played well. A bit of a disappointment so far, this could be one nasty team if all the chips fall into place.

10) Vancouver Canucks – Markus Naslund is waiting for his old linemate Todd Bertuzzi to regain his old form after being banned from hockey following his sucker-punch to Colorado forward Steve Moore. Goalie Alexander Auld has played well for a team not known for its defense. Like Montreal, this squad is high on potential.

The Bad

21) Atlanta Thrashers – Among the top 10 in offense, Atlanta has a dismal defense. Marian Hossa has played well after being traded from Ottawa, but not as well as Dany Heatley, the man he replaced. Injuries have led to major issues in the net.

22) Minnesota Wild – Dwayne Roloson and Manny Fernandez have made the most out a bad situation playing as a goaltending tandem – the latter is second only to Hasek in GAA and save percentage. The offense needs some major work, though.

23) The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim – A very streaky team that began the year on a bad note. Teemu Selanne has fallen off in a big way after a great start. As Selanne goes, so goes the Anaheim offense.

24) San Jose Sharks – This was a very competitive team before the strike, but it just has not lived up to expectations this season. The recent acquisition of all-star center Joe Thornton might change all that, though.

25) Pittsburgh Penguins – This team had “overrated” written all over it from day one. Picking up aging forwards Mark Recchi and John LeClair was a mistake, and the team did nothing to fix its greatest weakness – defense. Rookie Sidney Crosby is the real deal though, and the Penguins have a good future ahead of them – just not this season.

26) Chicago Blackhawks – A slow start doomed the Hawks; but other than goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, Chicago never has had the talent to be very competitive anyway.

27) Washington Capitals – Alexander Ovechkin is giving Crosby a run for his money for Rookie of the Year honors. He is the only good thing the Caps have going for them right now.

28) Florida Panthers – Roberto Luongo is one of the NHL’s most underrated goaltenders, but even he cannot stop the bleeding on this young, inexperienced team.

29) St. Louis Blues – How the mighty have fallen. St. Louis has made the playoffs for record 25 consecutive years, but that won’t happen this season.

30) Columbus Blue Jackets – Columbus has a hockey team!? The Blue Jackets are making the right moves to make this team respectable, but they are still at least a year away from being competitive.