Grading Every NHL team at the Quarter Mark of the 2022-23 Season

Adam GretzNovember 26, 2022

Grading Every NHL team at the Quarter Mark of the 2022-23 Season

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    BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 13: Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) follows through on a shot during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks on November 13, 2022, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Believe it or not, we have already seen a quarter of the 2022-23 NHL season go by.

    We are starting to get a sense for which teams are good, which teams are not and which teams should probably start preparing their lottery balls for the Connor Bedard sweepstakes.

    It is also report-card time again.

    A handful of squads are exceeding expectations and overachieving, with Boston, New Jersey and Vegas leading the class.

    But we also have a few teams lagging behind and in danger of falling out of the race.

    Here are some team marks for the season's first quarter.

Atlantic Division

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    Boston's David Pastrnak
    Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Boston Bruins: A

    The Bruins have been one of the league's most dominant teams, and what makes their 18-3-0 start even more impressive is the fact that they spent a significant amount of time without Brad Marchand (hip surgery) and Charlie McAvoy (shoulder surgery).

    They also don't really have a weakness.

    The returns of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci have given them their one-two punch at center, Hampus Lindholm, acquired via trade last March, has been a huge addition to give them two top-pairing defenders (along with McAvoy) and Linus Ullmark is having a career year in goal with a league-leading 93.5 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against average.

    Buffalo Sabres: C

    If you are a Sabres fan, there are some things to be encouraged by. Tage Thompson looks to be for real, and maybe that seven-year, $50 million contract extension gamble will work out.

    Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is having a true breakout year with 23 points in his first 19 games, and along with 2021 No. 1 overall pick Owen Power they have a great foundation on defense. But the team itself is still lagging behind nearly everybody else in the division. They are not a playoff club yet, but some pieces are in place.

    Detroit Red Wings: B

    The Red Wings spent big this offseason, and a lot of those additions are paying off, especially David Perron, Dominik Kubalik and Ville Husso. Detroit would probably like to see a little more production from young core players Lucas Raymond (six goals, six assists) and Moritz Seider (one goal, eight assists), but they should eventually come around.

    If they do, that might keep this team in playoff contention all year with the help of the additions. The Red Wings were in postseason contention early on a year ago before falling off the map around the halfway point. It is time for real progress in this rebuild, and they might have the personnel to finally make that happen.

    Florida Panthers: C

    The Panthers were the NHL's best (and most exciting) team during the regular season a year ago, winning the Presidents' Trophy and averaging more than four goals per game—their 4.11 average being the highest since the 1995-96 Penguins.

    And while they did add winger Matthew Tkachuk in the offseason, they also lost a lot of talent. Jonathan Huberdeau, Claude Giroux, Mason Marchment and MacKenzie Weegar all went out the door, while Anthony Duclair has been sidelined through the first part of the season with an Achilles injury. That is a lot of talent to lose, and the 10-8-2 club is feeling it.

    This is still a good roster, but it is not matching the performance from a year ago.

    Montréal Canadiens: B

    The Canadiens had zero expectations entering this season, and while they do not have the horses to be a playoff team, they have at least been very competitive at 11-9-1. The most encouraging sign is that their top young players (winger Cole Caufield and center Nick Suzuki) are playing great, while 21-year-old center Kirby Dach looks like he might have a chance to be a real part of their future.

    Stay competitive, see real development from the young core and at least be interesting. That would be a successful season in Montreal.

    Ottawa Senators: F

    They had one of the NHL's biggest offseasons, adding Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux and Cam Talbot, while also locking up several of their core players to long-term deals. There were real expectations that maybe they'd be competitive for the first time in more than five years and finally put the rebuild behind them.

    Instead, they have been dreadful and are off to one of the league's worst starts, sitting last in the division. The names and faces change; the results stay the same.

    Tampa Bay Lightning: B

    After three consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances, including back-to-back titles, expectations were understandably high for Tampa Bay. Through the season's first quarter, a lot of the usual suspects are excelling, especially Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point.

    Defenseman Victor Hedman and superstar goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (3.00 GAA through Thursday) are off to slower-than-expected starts, however, and it is holding them back a little. It's not time to be overly concerned, because they both have the track record to bounce back. And once Vasilevskiy does, they will start to be a force again.

    Toronto Maple Leafs: B

    The Leafs had an uninspiring 4-4-2 start that made it seem like head coach Sheldon Keefe might be on the hot seat. But since the start of November they have been playing like a contender and have moved to 12-5-5.

    The most surprising (and important) development is that the goalie duo of Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov has been really good, with both of them owning a save percentage north of .920 heading into Friday. That was the big question coming into the season, and so far they have been exactly what the Maple Leafs needed.

Metropolitan Division

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    The Devils rode a 13-game winning streak to a strong first quarter.
    Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images

    Carolina Hurricanes: B

    The Hurricanes have been one of the top Eastern Conference teams for a few years, but there always seems to be something missing that you can't quite put your finger on.

    They would probably like to see more from centers Seth Jarvis and Jesperi Kotkaniemi and their goalies, but they are still in a good position and still have Max Pacioretty's return from a torn Achilles looming before the playoffs. They still have another level they can reach.

    Columbus Blue Jackets: F

    It's been a disappointing season across the board. There was some excitement going into the campaign following the free-agent signing of Johnny Gaudreau, but the goaltending has not bounced back, they really miss Oliver Bjorkstrand after essentially giving him away to Seattle in July, and now top defenseman Zach Werenski is out for the year with a shoulder injury. The season is quickly slipping away from them.

    New Jersey Devils: A

    Everything is clicking for the Devils. Their young stars are shining—Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt each having passed the 20-point mark—they dramatically improved the defense with the addition of John Marino and they are even getting the kind of goaltending they lacked in recent years.

    Their 13-game winning streak propelled them near the top of the league standings. But was that just a hot streak against a mostly soft schedule? Or is it a real turnaround for a team on the rise? We will soon find out.

    New York Islanders: B

    The Islanders were banking on the fact that a new coach in Lane Lambert and a season not interrupted by COVID issues would be enough to get them back on track. So far, they have been right.

    The biggest factor in their early success, though, remains the fact that Ilya Sorokin is a game-saver in goal (2.20 GAA heading into Friday). He masks a lot of flaws and is a top-five goalie in the league. That can take a team, even a flawed one, a long way.

    New York Rangers: C

    They have been fine at 10-7-4, but based on the preseason expectations, "fine" won't be good enough. Their underlying numbers (shot attempts, scoring chances, etc.) are much better than they were a year ago, but it is still a top-heavy team offensively that puts a ton of pressure on its goalie to be better than the other team's netminder every night.

    Fortunately for them, Igor Shesterkin (2.38 GAA) usually is. They really need to get more production from top-two draft picks Alexis Lafrenière (nine points in 21 games) and Kaapo Kakko (eight points) if they are going to become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

    Philadelphia Flyers: D

    Head coach John Tortorella has Philadelphia playing hard, and Carter Hart has stolen some games in goal, but this is just not a good team. Tortorella will squeeze a few extra points out of the Flyers, but they simply have too many holes from top to bottom to compete. It should be a rude awakening for general manager Chuck Fletcher, who's on the hot seat.

    Pittsburgh Penguins: C

    They started the season with an impressive 4-0-1 mark and then lost seven games in a row. Then they went 6-1-1 over an eight-game stretch.

    So they have not been terribly consistent. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel have been great (as expected), but the rest of the roster has had some highs and lows early on. The talent is still there for this to be a playoff team, and a good one, but the Penguins need to find the consistency.

    Washington Capitals: D

    The Capitals have been a postseason near-lock for the past 15 years and a constant contender, but their eight-year playoff streak seems like it is in danger. They won just eight of their first 21 games and have not been impressive in any aspect.

    Big-money goalie Darcy Kuemper had a great start but has since cooled, while the team in front of him is not giving him much support offensively or defensively. Injuries that have sidelined center Nicklas Bäckström (hip) and winger Tom Wilson (torn ACL) are not helping. It is still early, but they are starting to get themselves into a big hole that will be difficult to climb out of.

Central Division

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    DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 23: Mikko Rantanen #96, Artturi Lehkonen #62 and Cale Makar #8 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate a goal  against the Vancouver Canucks at Ball Arena on November 23, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

    Arizona Coyotes: D

    Say this for the Coyotes: They are fulfilling expectations. They are deep into a long-term rebuild, and they have put all of their focus and energy into stockpiling as many future draft picks and future assets as they can. The only expectation this season, as in recent seasons, has been to lose. The one bright spot has been Clayton Keller returning and looking like an impact player on offense again.

    Chicago Blackhawks: F

    The Blackhawks had a four-game winning streak early in the season that gave hope that the season would not be a total disaster. That hope was short-lived. Outside of those four games the Blackhawks are 2-10-3 and look every bit as bad as they were expected to be. That's what happens when you completely gut your roster of veteran players and make no effort to improve it. If your rebuild does not have room for somebody like Alex DeBrincat, you know you're in for a long few years. Just imagine how bad this will get when the Blackhawks trade Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

    Colorado Avalanche: B

    The Avalanche appear to be taking the same path as they last season. They got off to a slow start through 10 games, and then flipped the switch and turned into a powerhouse. This roster is still loaded, and the Avs are still winning despite some significant injuries to Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin. The biggest development has been new starting goaltender Alexandar Georgiev excelling behind the NHL's best defense and more than filling the void left by Darcy Kuemper in free agency.

    Dallas Stars: A

    The Stars have the potential to make some noise in the playoffs. Their top line of Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski, and Roope Hintz is one of the best in hockey. Tyler Seguin and free-agent addition Mason Marchment have provided some much-needed secondary scoring. They also have a legitimate No. 1 defenseman in Miro Heiskanen and a blossoming franchise goalie in Jake Oettinger. They have star-level players at every level and are producing results. Do not sleep on them in the Western Conference.

    Minnesota Wild: C

    The Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts are going to handcuff the Wild's roster construction in the coming years, and it cost them two significant players this offseason in Kevin Fiala and Cam Talbot. They were unable to adequately replace them, which hurts. As long as they have a healthy Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, they'll have a chance. But depth is a concern, and they don't have much wiggle room under the salary cap to fix it right now.

    Nashville Predators: C

    The Predators are starting to play their way out of a bad start, but there are some real problems and concerns here. They needed to rely on an All-Star-caliber season from Juuse Saros and some big shooting-percentage spikes from a handful of forwards just to sneak into the playoffs last year. So far this season, Saros has not played to his normal level, and there has been some shooting-percentage regression for Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, Mikael Granlund and other top forwards. They are a fringe playoff team.

    St. Louis Blues: C

    The Blues have been through extreme highs and lows this season. They immediately followed an eight-game losing streak (all in regulation) with a seven-game winning streak. The Blues lost a lot this offseason with David Perron and Ville Husso both leaving, but they still have a lot of talent up front. They lack a No. 1 defender, and Jordan Binnington is a huge question in goal, but there should be enough talent here to be a playoff team. Anything less than that would be a massive disappointment.

    Winnipeg Jets: B

    The Jets were one of the bigger disappointments in the league a year ago, but they are off to a much better start this season. A lot of that is due to starting goalie Connor Hellebuyck putting the team on his back and carrying it. Hellebuyck has been one of the best goalies in the league over the past six years, and he can be a game-changer when he is on top of his game and at his best. The Jets have some high-level forwards and a superstar goalie. While that might not be enough to win a Stanley Cup, it can take a team pretty far.

Pacific Division

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 23: Mark Stone #61 of the Vegas Golden Knights skates during the third period against the Ottawa Senators at T-Mobile Arena on November 23, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

    Anaheim Ducks: F

    It took the Ducks 20 games (20!) to get their first regulation win of the season. Their first five wins came in overtime (three) or shootouts (two). That is not a sign of progress for a team that should be getting better. Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry are emerging stars, and the Ducks had a busy offseason in adding veterans Frank Vatrano, Ryan Strome and John Klingberg, but the team is not showing improvement as a whole. John Gibson continues to be a major concern in goal, especially given the size of his remaining contract.

    Calgary Flames: C

    Even though they lost their two best players from a year ago (Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk), the Flames looked like they'd have a chance to be better this season after they replaced them with Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and Nazem Kadri. Combined with a strong defense and a very good goalie (Jacob Markström), the roster had a lot to like. The Flames have been mediocre, though. Huberdeau has not made a huge impact yet, and Markström is off to a slow start in net. If those two get back on track, this season can turn around quickly. But Calgary cannot do it without them.

    Edmonton Oilers: D

    Stop me if you have heard this one before. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are dominating and on top of the NHL's scoring leaderboard but are being held back by the mediocrity of the rest of the team. The Oilers (10-10) are still too top-heavy offensively, and their big investment in goaltender Jack Campbell has backfired. This should be a Stanley Cup contender with a duo like McDavid and Draisaitl, not a fringe playoff team.

    Los Angeles Kings: C

    It is impressive that the Kings are winning as often as they are considering how bad their goaltending has been and how little production they have received from some key forwards. Viktor Arvidsson, Arthur Kaliyev and Anze Kopitar have combined for just 12 goals, while neither goalie (Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen) has a save percentage higher than .892. Despite those numbers, the Kings are one of the top teams in the Pacific Division and playing well. Once Arvidsson, Kaliyev and Kopitar break out of their scoring slumps, the offense should be very good, but the Kings still might need to address the goalie position.

    San Jose Sharks: D

    Erik Karlsson has been prime Erik Karlsson for the Sharks this season, and that has been a joy to watch. The rest of the team, though, has not. The Sharks are in transition with a new coaching staff, a new front office and an aging roster that has a lot of long-term weaknesses. They are not rebuilding yet, but it is only a matter of time before that happens. This looks like it'll be their fourth consecutive non-playoff season, the worst stretch in franchise history.

    Seattle Kraken: A

    The Kraken had a disappointing debut season but are doing a lot of work to make up for that. A strong offseason with the additions of André Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand, the arrival of Matty Beniers and dramatically improved goaltending mean the Kraken may compete for a playoff spot in a wide-open Pacific Division. Seattle wasn't likely to replicate the expansion success Vegas had when it arrived in the league, but the Kraken still look to be ahead of recent expansion teams.

    Vancouver Canucks: F

    This might appear to be a harsh grade, but the Canucks seemed like they could compete for a playoff spot, especially given the way they finished the 2021-22 season. But their defense has been a mess, they haven't held on to multiple-goal leads and too often they look unstructured and undisciplined. Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson have been great at forward, but that is where the positives end.

    Vegas Golden Knights: A

    The bitter disappointment of the failed 2021-22 season feels like a distant memory as the Golden Knights again seem like a bona fide Stanley Cup contender. Jack Eichel looks healthy and is playing like the superstar the Golden Knights expected and needed him to be, while Logan Thompson has solidified the goalie spot with Robin Lehner sidelined for the season. Eichel's health and Thompson's ability to play in goal were the two big question marks, and their play is a big reason the Golden Knights have one of the league's best records.