Thursday, November 3, 2011

NHL 2011-12: Contender of pretender?

We're far enough into the NHL season (every team has played at least 10 games...except the Islanders) where we can begin to seperate the contenders from the pretenders.  These are the teams that we're not really used to seeing in prominent positions in the NHL standings.  I think you know where this is headed: I've created a guide to help you decide whether a team is a contender of pretender.

Toronto Maple Leafs: 8-3-1 (17 points: 2nd in NHL)

Why they're contenders: The magic of Phil Kessel, who leads the NHL in every category other than most goaltenders injured.
Why they're pretenders: Kessel's 23.8 shooting percentage and MacArthur's 26.7 shooting percentage is as inflated as the real estate market was four years ago.
Verdict: Does the Leafs' planned parade route stop by the Hockey Hall of Fame? ... Sorry, force of habit...

Dallas Stars: 8-3-0 (16 points: Tied for 3rd in NHL)

Why they're contenders: Dallas has revived Sheldon Souray and Jamie Benn scores goals that make Blue Jackets players wonder why they're even in the NHL.
Why they're pretenders: Didn't they get off to a good start last year too?
Verdict: Even if they lose every game for the rest of the season, they'll be the 3rd best team of the 4 major sports in the Dallas area.

Edmonton Oilers: 7-2-2 (16 points: Tied for 3rd in NHL)

Why they're contenders: Two first overall picks in a row probably will make your team better, eventually.
Why they're pretenders: Linus Omark was sent down to the AHL, so the Oilers have no incentive to win shootouts now.
Verdict: Nail Yakupov could really help them long-term...

Phoenix Coyotes: 6-3-2 (14 points: Tied for 8th in NHL)

Why they're contenders: As long as they're coached by Dave Tippett and have a goaltender who knows what pads are, they'll be decent.
Why they're pretenders: The Coyotes' owners apparently tend to cancel things and lose a lot of money for a lot of people.
Verdict: The team's shooting percentage is 9.7%, which is approximately the percentage of seats that have ever been filled for hockey games at Arena, give or take 9%.

Colorado Avalanche: 7-5-0 (14 points: Tied for 8th in NHL)

Why they're contenders: Ryan O'Byrne has already scored a goal this year.  To clarify, it was a goal for the Avs...
Why they're pretenders: If they keep waiting on the potential of Erik Johnson, they'll be waiting longer than Islander fans waiting for Brian Rolston's stick to strike the puck when he loads up.
Verdict: Somehow, the Avs are 7-5, but the team is a combined -37 in terms of +/- rating.

Ottawa Senators: 7-6-0 (14 points: Tied for 8th in NHL)

Why they're contenders: They've played 13 games, and they don't have 13 losses yet.
Why they're pretenders: Sens players have reportedly talked about winning some huge silver Cup this year.  C'mon, the Calder Cup isn't that big...
Verdict: Losing to the 2nd worst team in the NHL normally wouldn't be unusual for Ottawa, since they're usually right behind that team.  That wasn't the case this week.

Florida Panthers: 6-4-1 (13 points: Tied for 12th in NHL)

Why they're contenders: They renovated their roster coming into this season by signing every free agent available.
Why they're pretenders: Their signings of guys like.......oh, so they didn't really sign anyone good?!
Verdict: It's about quality, not quantity...unless you're talking about getting fans to attend home games.
Minnesota Wild: 5-3-3 (13 points: Tied for 12th in NHL)
Why they're contenders: They've had some dramatic moments already this season, and even Dany Heatley seems exciting to be on the team.
Why they're pretenders: Heatley hasn't experienced a Minnesota winter yet.  That's when trade rumors could surface.
Verdict: They're still the only team in NHL history to have never outshot their opponent in any game.  Okay, that's a minuscule exaggeration...
Carolina Hurricanes: 5-4-3 (13 points: Tied for12th in the NHL)
Why they're contenders: They're always in least until the last day of the season when all they need to do is win one home game to make the playoffs.
Why they're pretenders: Eric Staal is a -13 and Tomas Kaberle still thinks he's good.
Verdict: As a side note, Jeff Skinner told his team he was participating in No-Shave November.  The team is still laughing at him.