While some might choose to select Alexander Ovechkin over Sidney Crosby for the NHL's best player, right now there's simply no debate.
Now through more than a third of the season, the league's elite are really beginning to separate themselves from the playoff pretenders.
Pittsburgh Penguins: 24-11-2
Crosby extended his point streak to 25 straight games, and the Penguins don’t appear ready to slow down any time soon.
Vancouver Canucks: 22-8-5
The Canucks handed it to the Flyers, and it’s about time they start to receive the recognition that they legitimately deserve.
Philadelphia Flyers: 23-9-5
A talented team that plays with a ton of heart, watching one Flyers game makes it easy to see why they’re near the top of the rankings.
Detroit Red Wings: 22-9-4
Pavel Datsyuk’s injury is going to hurt, but the Red Wings always seem to find a way to fight through the injuries.
Tampa Bay Lightning: 21-11-5
Steven Stamkos is good, but he’s not quite Sidney Crosby just yet. The Lightning will have to become a more consistent squad if they have serious title hopes.
Boston Bruins: 19-11-4
Claude Julien is one of the most underrated coaches in the league, and this Bruins’ squad defines the term “team chemistry”.
Dallas Stars: 22-11-4
Andrew Raycroft is enjoying a resurgence. Keri Lehtonen is making people forget Marty Turco’s name and all is very good in Dallas right now.
Washington Capitals: 22-12-5
Bruce Boudreau might be making Rex Ryan’s vocabulary look harmless, but the Caps are much improved over the last two weeks.
Los Angeles Kings: 21-12-1
The Kings’ youth movement seems to be paying significant dividends as the young talent is providing a phenomenal ROI (return on investment).
San Jose Sharks: 19-11-5
The Sharks are playing a solid (albeit unexciting) brand of hockey that has them firmly entrenched in the playoff race.
Chicago Blackhawks: 20-15-3
Jonathan Toews suffered an upper body injury that may sideline him for the foreseeable future, which is too bad considering the defending champs were just finally fully healthy.
New York Rangers: 20-14-2
Despite the lack of big-name players on the team, John Tortorella seems to extrapolate the most that he can out of every single skater.
Montreal Canadiens: 20-15-2
Thanks largely in part to a rebound season by goaltender Carey Price, the Canadiens are looking like possible playoff contenders.
Atlanta Thrashers: 19-14-6
The Thrashers are going to fall out of the hunt if they continue to have trouble scoring goals; they don’t have a single skater with 15 or more on the team.
Colorado Avalanche: 19-12-4
Playing through a plethora of injuries, the Avalanche continue to stay in the hunt. However, the defense must improve if they hope to sustain all season long.
St. Louis Blues: 19-12-5
Sure, they’re playing well now—but how long can this team realistically keep it up? That’s still to be determined.
Phoenix Coyotes: 16-12-7
Just two points out of the final playoff seed in the West, the Coyotes are going to have to step it up if they’re going to make any noise in a crowded conference.
Nashville Predators: 17-13-6
The Predators might be the most up and down team in the league, and that’s not how any team wins a Stanley Cup.
Anaheim Ducks: 19-17-4
Beyond the big three (Perry, Ryan, Getzlaf), the rest of the team isn’t doing a whole lot.
Ottawa Senators: 16-17-4
Jason Spezza’s shoulder injury really hurts the Sens’ long-term outlook.
Florida Panthers: 16-17-0
The exact opposite of the Avalanche: good defense, poor offense. I’m sure they wish Nathan Horton was still skating alongside them.
Columbus Blue Jackets: 17-25-3
These guys are getting pulverized on the regular and it could be a long season in Columbus.
Minnesota Wild: 16-14-4
Another season with a meager offensive attack means another season missing the playoffs.
Carolina Hurricanes: 16-15-4
The ‘Canes will most likely hover right around .500 for most of the season, and that’s just not good enough.
Calgary Flames: 15-18-3
It’s been a whirlwind season for Calgary already and we’re not even halfway through.
Buffalo Sabres: 15-17-4
With the injury to Derek Roy, it’s probably time to start exploring trades for this franchise as they look toward a re-building effort.
Edmonton Oilers: 12-17-6
The good news in Edmonton is that this team is extremely young and has a promising future. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much for their prospects this season.
Toronto Maple Leafs: 13-18-4
How has that Phil Kessel trade worked out?
New York Islanders: 9-18-6
They might as well be stranded on Long Island, because they’re a long way away from seeing any hopes at a playoff berth.
New Jersey Devils: 9-24-2
Everything about the Devils’ season has become a laughing matter. After firing their coach John MacLean and bringing back Jacques Lemaire, the team responded by losing to Toronto and the Islanders. Solid.