NHL Power Rankings: Washington Capitals Headline Teams with Bad Starts

Tom Schreier@tschreier3Correspondent IFebruary 4, 2013

NHL Power Rankings: Washington Capitals Headline Teams with Bad Starts

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    I've got to believe that the seat under Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates is searing hot right now.

    His Caps sit in the Southeast Division cellar only two years removed from the team’s dominance over its division under Bruce Boudreau.

    What has happened to this team?

    Is Alex Ovechkin really that much worse than he used to be? Did Alexander Semin have that big of an impact on this club? Or is the rest of the division really that much better than they are?

    This is still pretty much the same team that was considered a perennial Stanley Cup contender a few years ago. Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Mike Green and the aforementioned Ovechkin are all still in town. Sure, the Carolina Hurricanes have improved and the Florida Panthers won the division backed into the playoffs last year, but...really? Is that really why the Capitals are sitting in last place?

    I know that Boudreau never won a championship in Washington, and coaching decisions don’t have the impact in hockey that they do in football or baseball, but Boudreau’s Anaheim Ducks are looking pretty good right now.

    It’s hard to blame a coach in a short season where a rough start is much more devastating and players are more prone to injury, but the Caps weren’t really overhauled last year. They should be expected to compete with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the division right now.

    I’m not telling the Capitals to fire their coach—I’ll let their fans do that—but I’d be surprised if he’s around at the end of the year.

30. Calgary Flames

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    Last week: 27

    Record: 1-3-2

    It’s time for a reboot in Calgary.

    This team has put off a youth movement for a long time, and while that win against Edmonton is nice, it’s hard to see this team going anywhere until it undergoes a makeover.

29. Washington Capitals

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    Last week: 23

    Record: 2-6-1

    Has this team’s window closed? It’s too early to say, but things aren’t looking good right now.

    If things keep going this way, changes are going to have to be made in Washington ASAP.

28. Los Angeles Kings

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    Last week: 24

    Record: 2-3-2

    Can you say Hollywood Hangover?

    This team has only two wins and has to play seven of its next eight games away from L.A.

    The Kings woke up from their Stanley Cup parade with a tiger in their apartment; they better shake this headache soon or they will have no chance to defend their championship this season.

27. Winnipeg Jets

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    Last week: 13

    Record: 3-4-1

    This team needs to play some defense. They give up almost four goals per game and can’t kill penalties.

    That win over Pittsburgh had to be fun, but unless Winnipeg tightens up things in its own end, that victory is going to look like an anomaly rather than a reason to believe in this team.

26. Dallas Stars

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    Last week: 17

    Record: 3-5-1

    It’s hard to say because this is a do-or-die season for the Stars, but things are looking bleak now.

    Dallas has lost to upper-echelon teams like Minnesota, Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit, and had a big blunder in Columbus. For a while they could hold the “At least we haven’t lost to Phoenix" card, but that was ruined on Saturday in Glendale.

    Things aren’t going well in the Big D to say the least.

25. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Last week: 30

    Record: 3-5-1

    Hey, a win over Detroit is always impressive!

    If this team is really that good, it's got to beat Los Angeles, Calgary and Edmonton at home before it squares off with San Jose next week.

    Because after that it gets tough: Six games on the road with matchups against Anaheim, Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago.

24. Buffalo Sabres

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    Last week: 25

    Record: 3-5-1

    This is not the start the Sabres wanted.

    A 7-4 win in Boston is impressive, but losses to Washington and Florida, two weak teams right now, and a 6-1 whooping in Montreal is tough to swallow for hockey fans in Western New York.

    The Sabres need to reverse their fortunes sooner rather than later or they might miss out on a shortened season.

23. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Last week: 18

    Record: 3-4-0

    It’s always hard to put things together after a blockbuster trade when the team does not get a regular training camp and preseason games. Still, this team is underachieving big-time.

    This team began its six-game road trip with a loss to Philadelphia. Fortunately, this trip isn’t too bad. The Hurricanes should be able to beat Toronto, Ottawa and the Islanders, but they’re going to have trouble against Philly (again) and a hot New Jersey team.

    Botching this early test could spell doom for a team with large expectations this season.

22. Florida Panthers

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    Last week: 29

    Record: 3-5-0

    The only impressive win Florida has had this season is its opener against Carolina.

    I expected this team to be better than Winnipeg, which will benefit from a conference change and an aging of their core players in the future. The Panthers should also beat a struggling Buffalo club.

    They can make a statement by beating Philadelphia next week, and I’m sure they’d love to sweep a struggling Capitals club after that. It won’t be until they play Montreal and Tampa later in the month they can impress the rest of the league, however.

21. Nashville Predators

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    Last week: 26

    Record: 3-2-3

    A win in San Jose is huge, but it’s hard to think that this team has enough firepower to compete this season. St. Louis and Chicago are clearly better in their own division and Detroit probably also has an edge on them.

    With improvement in the Northwest, the Predators could get boxed out of the playoffs this year if they aren’t a top-three team in their division.

    It’s hard to tell this early, but the Predators really need to find more scoring if they’re going to be taken seriously this season.

20. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Last week: 28

    Record: 3-4-2

    I have a lot of respect for Dave Tippett and what he’s done out in the desert, but it looks like the Coyotes are starting to show their real colors right now.

    They’ve lost to Edmonton and a struggling L.A. club. They just recently beat Dallas, but that came after two prior losses in the Lone Star State.

    Sure, they’re better than Nashville and Columbus right now…but that’s not really saying much.

19. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Last week: 11

    Record: 3-6-0

    The Flyers may be hanging their hat on their win over the Rangers, but this club doesn’t look like one of the Eastern elite right now.

    They’ve lost to good teams (Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Tampa, N.Y. Rangers) and struggling teams (Buffalo, Washington) alike.

    I’m not sure people (in Philly, especially) are willing to call the Flyers-Bolts game a rivalry just yet, but Tuesday’s matchup on NBC Sports Network is looking pretty intriguing.

    That’s a must-win if the Flyers want to be taken seriously right now.

18. Detroit Red Wings

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    Last week: 14

    Record: 4-3-1

    The Elderly Men of the Winged Wheel are confusing me.

    They get beat up in St. Louis and then drop five on the Baby Blues in Motown. They can only muster one goal against Dallas and then a week later they hang four on them. They lose to Chicago in overtime…and then they lose to Columbus?

    Detroit looks like a clear No. 3 behind St. Louis and Chicago right now, and I’m not sure that’s going to change as the season goes on.

17. Colorado Avalanche

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    Last week: 20

    Record: 4-4-0

    It’s tough to hype the Avalanche right now.

    Yes, they are playing .500 hockey, but they’re not beating better teams like Minnesota, San Jose and Vancouver—and that win over a shell-shocked Los Angeles club is negated by a 4-1 blowout in Edmonton.

16. Edmonton Oilers

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    Last week: 19

    Record: 4-3-1

    Here is what I know about the Oilers right now: They are worse than the Sharks and about as good as the Avalanche. And, yeah, Devan Dubnyk is going to get tired if he keeps playing this much.

    Here’s what I don’t know: Are they better than Vancouver? If so, why did they lose to Calgary? And how do they stack up against Minnesota?

    Maybe the win in Vancouver and loss in Calgary are just random results, which happens in hockey. Maybe this team really has a chance to make it to the playoffs this year.

    Time will tell, I guess.

15. New York Islanders

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    Last week: 21

    Record: 4-3-1

    You know what? I’m going to give credit where credit is due.

    The Islanders have beaten Tampa, Pittsburgh and New Jersey this year. Now they’ve also lost twice to the Devils at home and lost to Winnipeg, so I’m not going to jump the gun.

    Do I think they’ll keep it up all season? No. But at the same time, maybe things are starting to turn around for this embattled franchise.

14. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Last week: 22

    Record: 4-4-0

    You know what? These Leafs aren’t half bad.

    Losses to the Rangers and Bruins indicate they aren’t really an elite team. It would have been nice for fans out in Toronto if they had come out ahead in winnable games against the Sabres and Islanders, but those games will get away from you occasionally.

    Upcoming games against Carolina, Washington and Winnipeg are all winnable and would really, really make that matchup in Montreal, which is on the NHL Network, must-see television.

13. New Jersey Devils

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    Last week: 6

    Record: 4-1-3

    I don’t want to be negative about New Jersey’s hot start, but losses in Montreal, Boston and Pittsburgh probably mean that this club isn’t going to back to the conference final this season.

    It’s always hard to win away from home; the Montreal and Boston games were close, but Pittsburgh completely blew them away. Furthermore, losing to the Islanders is never a good sign…especially at home.

    Upcoming games against the Rangers, Lightning and Penguins will tell us a lot about how good the Devils actually are.

12. Minnesota Wild

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    Last week: 15

    Record: 4-3-1

    Losses to Detroit, St. Louis and Anaheim indicate the Wild aren’t ready to hang with the big boys just yet, but that win over Chicago is certainly a teaser of how good this team can be.

    Minnesota needs to get the offense going—especially secondary scoring—against Phoenix, Vancouver and Nashville next week if they are going to be taken seriously in the West.

11. New York Rangers

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    Last week: 10

    Record: 4-4-0

    Wins over Boston, Philadelphia and in Tampa indicate this team hasn’t completely fallen off the face of the earth, but this is definitely not the start the Blueshirts wanted.

    They look like a clear No. 2 to Pittsburgh in their own division and are right on the same level as an injured Flyers club right now.

    New York has time to turn things around. Upcoming games against the Devils, Islanders, Lightning and Bruins will give the hockey world a clearer picture of what this team is really made of.

10. Vancouver Canucks

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    Last week: 17

    Record: 4-2-2

    The Canucks are still on top of the Northeast Division, but that lead seems a little less comfortable than it was in years past.

    Nobody can take that win over Chicago away from them, and the 5-0 win in Anaheim looks pretty good right now, but losses to Edmonton and against a struggling L.A. club have to be a bit worrisome for hockey fans in British Columbia.

9. Ottawa Senators

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    Last week: 12

    Record: 5-3-1

    Losses in Tampa, Pittsburgh and Montreal tell me that the Senators aren’t an elite team in the East just yet. The fact that Carolina blanked them is a bad sign.

    The Sens could go on a little run once they return home, however. Upcoming games against Buffalo (twice), Carolina and Winnipeg all look pretty winnable for Ottawa right now.

8. Anaheim Ducks

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    Last week: 7

    Record: 5-1-1

    The Ducks have jumped out to a hot start and may be the premier team in SoCal.

    A loss in San Jose, even if it came in overtime, makes them No. 2 in the Pacific right now, but they have a chance to redeem themselves at the Pond before going on a massive six-game road trip.

7. Montreal Canadiens

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    Last week: 8

    Record: 6-2-0

    Did anyone see this coming?

    The Habs are on a roll. Losses to Toronto and Ottawa are a bit unnerving, but the passionate hockey fans up in Montreal need to ignore that and soak it in right now.

    Suddenly that rivalry matchup against Boston on NBC Sports Network has become a giant statement game for the Canadiens. It should make for must-see TV for hockey fans everywhere.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Last week: 9

    Record: 6-3-0

    Ahh…Penguins, it’s nice that you finally arrived! I thought you were never going to show up this season. You came a little over-dressed for the occasion, though, and try to be on time next time.

    I’m not really sure who that team was that lost to Toronto, Winnipeg and the Islanders, but recent spankings of the Rangers, Devils and Capitals tell me that the real Penguins have finally arrived.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Last week: 5

    Record: 6-2-0

    The Lightning are scoring five goals per game…no big deal.

    Tampa’s got to figure out how to beat its brethren up in New York, though. The Islanders are playing a little better, but the Bolts should win that game. They then have to beat the Rangers if they are going anywhere in the Eastern Conference.

    We’ll see what this club is made of after its four-game road trip that will take them to Philly, Jersey, Beantown and Manhattan.

4. St. Louis Blues

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    Last week: 3

    Record: 6-2-0

    That loss to Chicago might mean that St. Louis is No. 2 in its division—and it’s always hard to win in Motown—but the Blues are certainly a force to be reckoned with.

    A rematch with the Wings on Thursday and a matchup with the Ducks should be pretty exciting next week.

3. Boston Bruins

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    Last week: 4

    Record: 6-1-1

    A loss to Buffalo isn’t looking too good, especially because the Sabres beat them 7-4 in the Garden, but otherwise Boston has played well.

    It should be noticed that, other than two games against the Rangers (win at home, loss on the road), the Bruins haven’t really been challenged too much.

    A game in Montreal, against Tampa and a rematch in Buffalo next week should reveal what this team is made of.

2. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Last week: 1

    Record: 7-0-2

    This team lost a game! Oh no! It’s the end of the world!

    Just kidding.

    The Hawks still remain unbeaten in regulation. They’ll be tested in San Jose (that’s going to be a great game), but finish up with two easier contests against Phoenix and Nashville before they begin their seven-game homestand.

1. San Jose Sharks

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    Last week: 2

    Record: 7-0-1

    Hey San Jose, you were supposed to be washed up! Your window was supposed to be closed! What the hell is going on?

    In case you missed it, the Sharks went undefeated in January. Not sure why this team lost to Nashville, but all will be forgiven if this team can win two pivotal games in Orange County and against Chicago.

    Those are huge games to say the least.

    Tom Schreier writes a weekly column for TheFanManifesto.com and contributes to Hockey’s Future and Stadium Journey.