The 2011-12 NHL regular season is now in full swing.
Sure, it's early, but there have already been a number of highlight-reel plays, suspensions, you name it. There's a ton of talent in this league, and it's on full display right now.
Each new campaign arrives with a new set of expectations for the players and teams. Some of them don't pan out, while unexpected players and teams emerge and excel.
Here are some of the biggest surprises of this new hockey season.
Jeff Carter, arguably the most significant acquisition in team history, hasn't done much, and neither have the Jackets.
The offseason acquisitions of Carter and James Wisniewski, combined with Rick Nash and other fine young talents on this Blue Jackets squad, signaled an apparent change of direction.
And yet, the Jackets find themselves dead last in the National Hockey League, sporting a 0-5-1 record through the team's first six games.
No one necessarily expected them to make the playoffs this season, but they weren't supposed to be horrendous either.
Matt Read was one of those anonymous hockey players.
Unless, of course, you happened to be part of the Philadelphia Flyers' scouting staff.
They've been high on this kid for quite some time, and Read is showing exactly why, with two goals and four assists (six points) in five games this year.
When Simon Gagne left Philadelphia for the Tampa Bay Lightning, we didn't expect much from the once-upon-a-time premiere sniper, and rightfully so.
For all intents and purposes, Gagne's production has fallen off the map.
This season however, it would appear he's hell-bent on shaking off the rust, and he's off to a strong start, potting three goals and notching four assists (seven points) through the Los Angeles Kings' first five games.
No Brad Richards? No problem.
The Dallas Stars are 5-1 through six games, and that's in large part due to their goaltender, Kari Lehtonen.
He's won five games for the Stars (and is the league leader in that category), sporting a 1.58 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage.
How about Marc-Andre Bergeron?
With two goals and six assists (eight points), Bergeron's already matched his total output from last season, and we're just six games in.
Even more impressive, he doesn't have a negative plus/minus rating (yet).
He's red-hot right now, showing little indication of slowing down anytime soon.
While Marc-Andre Bergeron sits near the top of the league, the Bolts find themselves at 25th.
The Lightning have just one win thus far, and they've given up 26 goals in their first six games. That's more than four goals against per game.
Dwayne Roloson has not been playing well, and that's a reason for legitimate concern in Tampa right now.
When John Tavares signed a six-year extension with the Isles this summer, he was making a statement that this team has, after years of disappointment, finally arrived.
They've won three straight, largely thanks to Tavares, who has five goals and three assists (eight points) through four games, including a hat trick against the New York Rangers.
He's tied for second overall in that department.
P.A. Parenteau has quietly put up seven points (one goal, six assists). He's a legitimate player in this league, and has come a long way since joining the Isles last season.
Al Montoya's also been a big part of the story. He's been sharp, as was Evgeni Nabokov in his first start as an Islander, this past Saturday night against the Blueshirts.
The clock may eventually strike 12 for the Isles, but they're on fire right now.
Speaking of fire, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been playing with it too.
They're 3-0-1 so far, and Phil Kessel has had a lot to do with that. He's been scoring goals (six of 'em) like they're going out of style.
Kessel sits at the top of the NHL with nine points through four games this season. Nice gig if you can get it.
Dion Phaneuf is playing like the days of old (well, relatively speaking), and that's been a major factor in the Leafs' turnaround as well. When your captain's confident, it makes the entire team better.
And of course, the (for the most part) steady play of goaltender James Reimer has given Toronto a tremendous boost. This kid's the real deal, just ask any player from the three teams the Leafs have beaten thus far.
The Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks haven't done much of anything this season.
The Sharks and Canucks have just three wins combined thus far, and that's hardly where anyone expected them to be, even early on.
Both teams have struggled mightily, and while I expect them to bounce back and maintain their top-tier status, the slow start definitely comes as a surprise.
David Legwand has recorded eight points in five games this season. For the Nashville Predators.
For a guy who plays on an offensively anemic team like the Preds, and who last scored 60 points half a decade ago, eight points isn't too shabby.
I don't expect him to maintain this pace, but his hot start is definitely a pleasant surprise.
Colorado Avalanche GM Greg Sherman is looking pretty smart these days.
The acquisition of goaltender Semyon Varlamov has turned out to be a huge plus for the Avs, who find themselves 5-1 through their first six games.
Better yet, everyone's been contributing, from young studs Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog to some of the more under-sung players like Ryan O'Reilly and David Jones.
It's all hands on deck, and so far, the Avalanche have been nothing short of excellent, tied for first overall in the entire league.
Not bad for a team that finished 29th last year.
I predicted the Avs would make the playoffs this season, and I see no reason to believe they won't do so, especially considering how well they've played so far.
Comments are welcome.
Follow me on Twitter: @nyifaceoff360