PHT Power Rankings: Blackhawks hit bottom
If you turn on any random Chicago Blackhawks game on any random night against any random opponent it is a good bet they are already going to be losing by two or three goals 10 minutes into the first period. It has been a constant trend for about two months now.
Sometimes they are able to push back a little and tie the game only to lose in backbreaking fashion, just as they have done in their most recent losses to the Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens.
Sometimes they never push back and just get completely run out of the building.
Either way the result is the same -- a loss. Those losses keep piling up at an alarming rate and are sending the Blackhawks toward what is looking to be their worst season in years.
Thanks to the seven-game losing streak they are carrying into the week the Blackhawks officially have the worst record (based on points percentage) in the entire league and are just 3-11-2 since firing Joel Quenneville.
In other words, things are bad. Really bad.
The problems are obvious. The good players that were part of the core that won three Stanley Cups in six years are older, more expensive and not as good as they once were (if they are even still on the team). Those larger contracts, combined with the salary cap, once again ripped apart the depth that always made the Blackhawks such a strong team.
The latter point is where a lot of the problems really start to show up. The Blackhawks went through salary cap purges before but were always able to find ways to restock the cupboards, often times to the point of them still being able to compete for, and even win, championships.
They have not done that over the past few years.
Just consider this question: Who is the last truly impactful and useful the Blackhawks have added to their organization through free agency or a trade? Have there been any over the past three or four years? The re-acquisition of Brandon Saad is probably the answer you could come up with because he is a fine, decent player. But when you had to give up an even better player (Artemi Panarin) to get him back that does not really help things.
Big contracts, an aging core, and no fresh talent entering the organization is a bad combination, and for this week it has the Blackhawks at the bottom of the PHT Power Rankings. They may be there for a while, too.
On to the rest of the rankings!
1. Tampa Bay Lightning -- Quite simply the best hockey team in the NHL. Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point are early season MVP candidates, Steven Stamkos is a point-per-game player right behind them, and they are 11-3-0 since their Vezina Trophy finalist goalie has been injured. That includes the six-game winning streak they carry into the week. They also are coming off of a dominant 7-1 win against a really good Colorado Avalanche team.
2. Winnipeg Jets -- The Jets are 10-4-1 in their past 15 games and are averaging more than four goals per game during that stretch. There may not be a better collection of top-line forward talent anywhere in the league.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs -- Not too worried about the fact they haven’t won since William Nylander returned. The biggest concern here, just like last season, is that Frederik Andersen gets worn down from the workload he is being asked to carry. His play will determine how far they go in the playoffs.
4. Nashville Predators -- They have cooled off a bit in recent weeks but that has coincided with the team being crushed by injuries. When healthy this is still one of the league’s best teams.
5. Washington Capitals -- The champs are starting to get on a roll and Alex Ovechkin is still scoring goals at an unprecedented pace given his age.
6. Colorado Avalanche -- Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon are both on pace for more than 120 points this season. Doubtful they will maintain those numbers over 82 games, but the fact they have done it over even 30 games is incredible.
7. Calgary Flames -- Have to be honest, did not see the Flames being the team to crawl to the top of the Pacific Division at any point this season. How long will they remain there?
[Related: Are the Flames ready to contend?]
8. Buffalo Sabres -- When every game you play is decided by a single goal sometimes you are going to get the breaks, and sometimes you are not. Thirteen of the Sabres’ past 15 games have been one-goal games, a stretch that has seen them win 10 games in a row and then also lose five games in a row. They are not as good as they looked during the winning streak and they are not as bad as they have looked during the losing streak. Things balance out.
Strong Playoff Teams
9. Boston Bruins -- They are still going to have to find some secondary scoring if they are going to be a serious threat to win the Stanley Cup.
10. Columbus Blue Jackets -- Sergei Bobrovsky picked a terrible time to have his worst season as a starter. How good would the Blue Jackets be this season if he was playing at his normal level?
The Middle Ground
11. Vegas Golden Knights -- They might still be the best team in the Pacific Division and when all is said and done will probably end up winning it.
12. Dallas Stars -- The rapid emergence of rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen has helped make up for the absence of John Klingberg.
13. Anaheim Ducks -- John Gibson should be a finalist for MVP at this point, while Daniel Sprong has made a nice little impact in his first few games with the team. Nice move in the shootout on Sunday night to help pick up the win.
14. Edmonton Oilers -- If this team makes the playoffs Connor McDavid should be a unanimous MVP winner. He is doing even more than he did a year ago.
Related: Seven stunning numbers from the first two months of the NHL season]
15. San Jose Sharks -- They have won three out of their past four and they don’t have a tough schedule coming up this week. Is this where it starts to turn around?
16. Montreal Canadiens -- The P.K. Subban for Shea Weber trade gets ripped (and deservedly so) which makes it kind of easy to forget that Weber is still pretty good. He is just older, has a worse contract, and might be starting to break down a bit physically. Still, he can play a little. He has five points in his first six games since returning to the lineup this season.
17. Pittsburgh Penguins -- Every time it looks like they are going to get everything together and go on a roll they put together a terrible showing. Still, they have picked up 13 out of a possible 20 points over their past 10 games.
18. Minnesota Wild -- They have some concerns right now, with the biggest potentially being whatever is wrong with starting goalie Devan Dubnyk.
19. New York Islanders -- Still not sure they have enough offense to emerge from the pack and make the playoffs this season.
20. Carolina Hurricanes -- The Hurricanes can not catch a break in goal. Curtis McElhinney came out of nowhere to solidify the position for a little bit, played extremely well, and then ended up injured. Now it is back to the Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek duo that was not working earlier this season.
21. Arizona Coyotes -- It is really tough to see the Coyotes hanging around in the Western Conference playoff race given the injury situation with Antti Raanta.
22. Detroit Red Wings -- Dylan Larkin is on track for the best season of his career and several of their potential trade chips (Gustav Nyquist, Jimmy Howard) are having productive seasons. So they have that going for them.
23. New York Rangers -- Henrik Lundqvist is still getting it done, he just doesn’t have enough around him for it to really matter.
24. Philadelphia Flyers -- Now that they have a new general manager in place it will be interesting to see where this team goes from here and where “bias for action” takes them.
[Related: Chuck Fletcher’s plate will be full as new Flyers’ GM]
25. Ottawa Senators -- Losing Matt Duchene and Bobby Ryan to injury for the foreseeable future is really going to hurt what has been a surprisingly good offense this season.
26. Florida Panthers -- With better goaltending this season they may not be needing another second half surge just to get back into playoff contention.
Lose For Hughes
27. Los Angeles Kings -- The worst goal scoring team in the league by a huge margin and the third-fewest shots on goal per game. They are redefining what bad offensive hockey is in this era.
28. Vancouver Canucks -- Since starting the season 10-6-2 the Canucks have managed to go only 3-10-1 over their past 14 games. Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are still studs, though.
29. New Jersey Devils -- Taylor Hall has to be having flashbacks to his Oilers days.
30. St. Louis Blues -- After getting blown out on Sunday the Blues sounded like a completely broken team. They are still better than their rivals.
31. Chicago Blackhawks -- Maybe Jeremy Colliton goes on to be a good NHL head coach, but right now the decision to fire Quenneville just looks comical.