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Western Conference Power Rankings: New kids on the block

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We’re trying a new thing.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Dallas Stars
Oct 6, 2018; Dallas, TX, USA; Winnipeg Jets center Mathieu Perreault (85) checks Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen (4) during the first period at the American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough to keep track of the teams around you during a season. There are games every night, injuries have been occurring almost daily this month, and individual player production is constantly rising and falling.

Every Thursday, we will try to give a snapshot of how the Western Conference has looked and changed over the previous week, and to make it even more fun, we ranked them too!

Hardev will be posting the Eastern Conference Power Rankings at our sister site RawCharge.com, so check that out if you’re interested!

As always, we at Mile High Hockey Incorporated, we encourage your feedback and suggestions. Tell us what you want to see with these! If you have any hate mail, feel free to email Seldo (Elseldo01@gmail.com), he’ll love to hear from you.

1. San Jose Sharks

The Anaheim Ducks won the first game of the season, but they definitely weren’t the best team on the night. San Jose out-shot their fowl friends 33-15 in the game, and went 0/3 on the power play. They beat Philadelphia and Los Angeles pretty well, I don’t understand the loss to the Islanders, but I doubt Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin will score on the same night again.

This team is far too good, that defense is far too good, Martin Jones is far too good. The process is there, it’ll just take time.

2. Dallas Stars

Talking about new kids on the block, Miro Heiskanen is a heck of a player. Big, fast, smart, agile, they were very smart to draft and keep him, despite the Erik Karlsson rumors.

Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alex Radulov are undeniable, and the trio on the power play is scarily lethal. The defense depth is starting to arrive with Heinskanen, Connor Carrick, Mark Methot, Esa Lindell, and of course John Klingberg. The forwards are a little shallow, but Radek Faksa is slowly becoming a great matchup center. They’ve looked promising early.

3. Colorado Avalanche

Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog are right up there with the best lines in the NHL, but it’s been Jared Bednar’s second line with Tyson Jost, Alex Kerfoot, and Colin Wilson have had one of the best shot rates in the NHL.

Sam Girard looks amazing on defense, along with Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie. Ian Cole hasn’t been bad, and Nikita Zadorov is making a difference. Colorado has two goalies, which is better than one, and with incumbant Semyon Varlamov stepping up and winning his first two starts of the season will only push Philipp Grubauer even more.

4. Chicago Blackhawks

The old guys on the Blackhawks have been hot out of the gates, but a high-scoring game between the Maple Leafs coupled with generally higher scores than usual around the league may have bumped their production to unsustainable rates. Jonathan Toews is shooting 38% and Patrick Kane is at 20%. We will see how this team does once Corey Crawford returns, because Cam Ward suuuuuucks.

5. Calgary Flames

Going .500 against the Vancouver Canucks doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in this “new and improved” Calgary roster, but a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators is impressive. Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and Elias Lindholm have made a dynamic top line, but fans in Calgary are getting impatient with James Neal struggles and his demotion to the third line.

Still not convinced Mike Smith can survive a full season, and I’m definitely not confident in their backup situation. That might be the part of the team that fails them at some point.

6. Winnipeg Jets

A big win over St. Louis, followed by a big loss to Dallas, before finishing off the week with a 2-1 win over LW, despite a dominant performance. This Jets team flirted with their old self when they got destroyed in the special teams battle to Dallas (three power play goals against on five attempts, while going zero for three themselves).

One of the youngest teams in the league, Winnipeg is getting points from everyone, which is what one of the deepest teams in the league should be doing. Patrik Laine leads the team with 14 shots and sports a measly 7% shooting percentage. He finished last year with nearly triple the shooting efficiency (18%).

7. Nashville Predators

Regular season banners that aren’t the Presidents Trophy shouldn’t exist. Honestly, how dumb is it that Nashville unveiled a Presidents Trophy banner along side a “Regular Season Western Conference Champion” banner. One implies the other, guys. I dropped them a spot for that, and another for letting domestic abuser Austin Watson on the ice for the ceremony.

They play Winnipeg the night that this gets released, so that should be fun.

8. Los Angeles Kings

I’ve really liked Ilya Kovalchuk early on. Similar to San Jose, LA doubled down on being old and even if their long term outlook is bleak, they’re going to win some hockey games this year.

Oh, what’s that? Check the roster? Check their underlying numbers?

Oh, dear, Jonathan Quick is out indefinitely? And they’ve had terrible shot differentials, too?

Yikes.

9. Vegas Golden Knights

Not going to lie, that whole Knight in Shining Armor thing before games is old. Move on from last year, Vegas! Give us something new!

In terms of hockey, they’ve played well in terms of getting chances, but losses to Philadelphia and Buffalo aren’t nice. They destroyed Buffalo in shots 37-17, but still found a way to lose 4-2. Those will turn around, but two or fewer goals for in each game is a little concerning.

10. Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks may be at the top of the Conference, but it’s been on pure luck. Despite wins over San Jose, Arizona, and Detroit, the Ducks are near, or at the bottom of the league in terms of every shot differential metric (shots, shot attempts, fenwick, expected goals, all of them).

God bless John Gibson. He’s had to face more shots than anyone apart from Toronto’s Frederik Andersen, and he’s saved more goals above average than any starter in the league, according to Corsica’s expected save percentage.

Carlyle’s style worked last year, but it won’t this year.

11. St. Louis Blues

They were supposed to be a much better team, but two losses right out of the gate followed by four days without a game has really put a real brown note in the team’s tune. The addition of Ryan O’Reilly was supposed to bring this team into the positives when it comes to out-shooting other teams, but they’re below water in all the major shot categories. Honestly speaking, it’s probably been bad luck that has befallen the Blues only two games in. Blues fans are best friends with bad luck.

12. Minnesota Wild

Not good enough to be great, too talented to suck, the Wild have been in the dreaded middle of the NHL for almost a decade, and now they enter this season as the oldest team in the league.

They’ve been badly out-shot in both games they’ve played this season, and despite Devan Dubnyk looking good behind them, the team is awfuly inconsistent up front. Something’s gotta change here, right?

13. Vancouver Canucks

If your team is going to have one bright side to it, at least let it be the kids. Analysts online have been yelling for years that Elias Pettersson is going to be a star, and despite having a very sub-par team around him, he’s got three goals and six points in three games. They aren’t great now, but there is finally a definitive future ahead for fans in Vancouver.

But let’s make sure to keep those Wayne Gretzky comparisons to a minimum, kay? That got a little out of hand.

14. Arizona Coyotes

Tom told me not to put the Coyotes last in this power rankings because he didn’t want to deal with the paperwork to SBN that would come from Cat killing me.

Do the Coyotes seriously have zero goals after two games? Not one? At least they’ve shown well on the shot clock and Antti Raanta has played well on the defensive side of the puck. The results should come, but boy, is it dry in the desert right now.

[EDIT: THE ARIZONA COYOTES SCORED A GOAL WHILE HARDEV WAS ASLEEP! Dylan Strome scored a power play goal on the Anaheim Ducks, assisted by Clayton Keller and Richard Panik. Thought you ought to know. *faints* They even won the game!]

15. Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers don’t know what they’re doing. They almost lost to a team from Germany during the NHL’s tour through Europe, before getting their butts handed to them by New Jersey. They’re back in North America getting ready for a date with the Boston Bruins. That won’t be fun.

There was a quote going around that a player (roughly) said that without Connor McDavid, the Oilers are the worst team in the league. This player is right, they are terrible without McDavid. He had to single-handedly beat the Cologne Sharks last week, and he created the only two goals the Oilers have scored this season against the Devils two days later.

And then I bring you this. Essentially, it’s a snapshot of how the Oilers manage their prospects. The Oilers are putting 2017 first-round pick Jesse Puljujarvi on the fourth line and 2018 first-round pick Evan Bouchard is a healthy scratch. Yes, they’re both in the NHL, getting no ice-time, and being told they need to earn their spots. If I went up to a baby and told her that she needs to earn a diaper change, how would that go down?