In an article written by Dan Rosen, the NHL released its “first in-season ranking” of the top sixteen teams in the NHL on October 27th. The Super 16, as it’s called, is updated every Thursday and it is compiled from numerous NHL.com writers. The flavor of the week, according to the weighting from numerous writers, are the Tampa Bay Lightning. TB enter Thursday as a 5-1-0 team that currently sits 2nd in the Atlantic Division.
The Lightning certainly are not a discrediting pick as they only have one bad result to date. Tampa Bay lost to Colorado 4-0 on home ice earlier this month. However, due to scheduling, they haven’t beaten a top team yet, and I made them 5th in my own power rankings earlier this week. Since the publication of those rankings, they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-3 in a game from Toronto, a solid result for sure but one that doesn’t sway me much due to the fact that Toronto aren’t exactly solid competition.
Tampa Bay play the Canadiens on Thursday in a game from Montreal, the first tough team test of TB’s season. The Canadiens themselves are 2nd in the Super 16. On Wednesday night Montreal won on the road against the New York Islanders, a result that further adds to their impressive resume so far this season. If Carey Price stays healthy, then Montreal are clear favorites for the Atlantic and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern conference.
When it comes to third, fourth, and fifth picks the ‘experts’ at NHL.com really drop the ball. Other teams that finished high were No. 3 Pittsburgh, No. 4 Washington, and No. 5 St. Louis. Interestingly enough those three teams combine for a straight-up record of just 10-9 on the season. Whatever it is that the ‘pundits’ are considering, on-ice results between teams seems to be peripheral.
One question that could be asked is what does Edmonton have to do to get on the radar with some of the NHL.com writers? That’s not to say that they aren’t already on some of their radars already as Tim Campbell, Brian Compton, Adam Kimelman, and Robert Laflamme all ranked Edmonton 3rd. That’s a position that is credible in my view, although I had them second in my own rankings on Monday. Truthfully, I might bump them to first next Monday following a three-goal win against Washington. However, there are other games to be played between now and Sunday night still.
But let’s look at the “ever-critical” Shawn Roarke’s Super 16. He rated Edmonton 15th of the 16 teams, the lowest of any of the contributors. That’s a 6-1-0 team that just beat Washington 4-1 in a showdown on Wednesday. Nonetheless, the Capitals remain ranked 5th with Roarke while the Oilers barely remain on his radar. Edmonton also have a win over St. Louis, another fine example of how results are not considered to be overly relevant in the Super 16.
The Chicago Blackhawks are another mishandled team. They finished 10th in the rankings despite a losing straight-up record of 3-4. Most recently, the Blackhawks hosted Calgary and lost, a poor result at home against a low-rated team.
With Chicago and Edmonton rated where they are it’s pretty clear that the Super 16 is based on shadows and ghosts more heavily than anything of substance. The Blackhawks are rated 10th despite being 3-4 straight-up, because the Cups in recent memory buoy them even though they kind of suck this year. Meanwhile, Edmonton, playoff no-shows since 2006, are rated low because of the accomplishments of former leadership in E-town that is now largely disempowered (i.e.,. Craig MacTavish, Kevin Lowe).
If you don’t think that’s true, then let me ask you this: if Chicago was 6-1-0 would they not be first? Likewise, if Edmonton was 3-3-1 would they not be out of the Super 16 and a huge afterthought? Prejudice prevails, but I think if you just stick to this year’s results so far this is what you get for a top five: (1) Montreal Canadiens (2) Edmonton Oilers (3) New York Rangers (4) Tampa Bay Lightning (5) Pittsburgh Penguins.