09 December 2009
Teams are now starting to move into the 30+ game range of how much of their season they've played. We're past the halfway point but not quite yet to halfway, and with the Olympics sitting in the middle of February waiting to pause the season, now's a good time to review some teams and their performance thus far. Today I'm going to look at teams who probably aren't where most people expected them to be in the standings at this point of the year. We'll start with the East.
Atlanta Thrashers-15-9-3-33 points-6th in East-No one saw this coming, then add Kovalchuk getting injured early on in the year, and really no one saw this at all. But Ondrej Pavelec has played quite well in goal and the Thrashers are somehow sitting in the top half of the conference. Plus in their favor, their 27 games played is tied for the fewest with Buffalo. In a league where a handful of points separates fourth place and home ice in the first round from tenth place and watching the playoffs at home, to be sixth with the fewest number of games played is pretty impressive for a team with little expectations entering the year.
Philadelphia Flyers-14-13-1-29 points-10th in East-28 games into the season and the Flyers are only one point about .500. A coaching change has already taken place for a team that added the likes of Pronger and Emery to an already strong team during the offseason. And there were a great deal of people who felt the Flyers could, should and would win the Stanley Cup this year. Now they're on the outside of the playoff race while trying to get used to a new coach and system. This is a team that could be in panic mode 50 games into the season if things don't turn around soon.
Carolina Hurricanes-7-17-5-19 points-15th in East-Wasn't this team in the Eastern Conference Finals seven months ago? Now they're last in the East and last in the League. This team is playing just awful, but they don't really look as bad as they are because they have the Maple Leafs keeping (a poor) pace with them. They've almost switched roles with the aforementioned Thrashers; if people were told two teams from the Southeast would be in playoff position, they'd guess the Canes and Caps. And no one would have been surprised to see the Thrashers last. Role reversal. Unless there is a miracle brewing in Raleigh, this team will pick in the top five in the 2010 draft in LA.
Positive mention-Ottawa Senators Negative mention-Florida Panthers
Now the West
Colorado Avalanche-17-9-6-40 points-2nd in West-This team finished dead last in the West last season but got off to one of the hottest starts of any team this year. Sakic may have retired, but a ton of injured players that missed time last year came back healthy and ready to go. And go they have. Craig Anderson has been great for them in net as well and looks to be one of the best offseason acquistions. Second place in the West is a bit deceiving though; their 32 games played is the most in the league, and they're only one point ahead of division rival Calgary and the Flames have played three less games. So just as easily this team could fourth or fifth in the West, but even that is higher than most would have predicted they be this late in the year.
Phoenix Coyotes-18-11-1-37 points-6th in West-As easy as it was to type "Phoenix" I could have, had things gone different this summer, typed "Hamilton" or any other city just now. But after months of turmoil, the Desert Dogs stayed in Phoenix. And while Bettman was running his mouth about a better on ice product meaning more attention and ticket sales, fans were laughing at the notion that this team could actually succeed. Questions about the franchise ran well into training camp, and Wayne Gretzky mysteriously disappeared and then was no longer the coach. But all of this just goes to show that hockey players are hockey players and are in no way worried about schematics. But there are still worries to be had about this team; they were in a better position in the standings 20 games later in the season last year than they are in right now, and that team fell apart after the all-star break and missed the playoffs.
Anaheim Ducks-11-13-6-28 points-15th in West-This team was three minutes away from overtime in Game 7 of the second round last year before Dan Cleary scored and pushed Detroit into the Western Conference Finals. And despite trading away Chris Pronger in the offseason, this was still a team with a solid defense, more than its fair share of offensive talent, and two number one goaltenders. Now, the team is so bad that fans get into fights over hockey sticks after an overtime victory. Nothing can explain why this team has underperformed as much as they have this year. Granted, several teams in the West have had better than expected starts, and good teams have started off worse than they'd have liked to, regardless, Anaheim still isn't even close. They are the second worst road team in the league and are barely above .500 at home. A lot of personnel and players may be on the way out come the trade deadline and season's end if they don't get this thing turned around quick.
Positive mention-Los Angeles Kings Negative mention-St. Louis Blues
And finally, here is a shout out to the Islanders fan who made my sub at Subway this afternoon. Whether a reader of this website or not, I come across few other hockey fans in Central Florida, and that he happened to be an Islanders fan and I write for an Islanders site, it's worth the mention.
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