With the 2017-18 NHL season currently underway, teams and players are excited for a new opportunity to make this season one to remember. Their plan is to work hard, win as many games as possible, make the playoffs, and hopefully hoist the Stanley Cup over their heads.
While the season is only a few weeks in, we can already get a sense of how well prepared (or lack thereof) each team is and we can also get a sense of how successful they will be or how much they will struggle. For example, the Montreal Canadiens usually have no problem making the playoffs, and even though it’s only the beginning of the season and it’s hard to predict how the remaining 70+ games will go, it doesn’t look promising for them. They are certainly struggling so far this season and have yet to post a regulation win in their first five games so far.
A different example is the Vegas Golden Knights who are doing phenomenally well for a first-year franchise as they have won four of their first five games of the season and look as though they will have a successful year.
This article will detail the eight teams who will choke this season, as well as the seven teams who will surprise us by dominating the league.
15 Choke: Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild are having a rocky start to their season thus far. They are currently ranked 10th in the Western Conference with just one win in their first four games. They have scored a decent amount of goals against their opponents so far with 15; however, they have also let in a total of 15 goals. Devan Dubnyk was in the net for 11 of those goals is which is very surprising as he was one of the best goalies in the league last season. Their best player on the team right now is Chris Stewart who has 6 points (including 4 goals) in 4 games.
While the Wild have scored a decent amount of goals, they need to work on their defense if they want a shot at making the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
14 Dominate: Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche are enjoying a good start to their season with four wins in their first six games which ranks them 4th overall in the Western Conference. They are averaging over three goals per game, while letting in slightly over two per game. In fact, their goaltender Semyon Varlamov has a fantastic 1.76 goals against average which is one of the lowest in the league. Matt Duchene leads the Avalanche with 6 points in 6 games.
There is no doubt that the Avalanche have struggled in recent years. They have only made the playoffs one time in the last seven years. However, if they keep racking up wins, there will be little doubt that they will finally earn a spot in this season’s playoffs.
13 Choke: New York Rangers
The New York Rangers are not off to the great start they were hoping for. Last season, they finished 5th in the Eastern Conference and got eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. But this season so far, they have the worst start in their conference with just one win in their first six games, ranking them 16th in the Eastern Conference. They have scored a total of just 13 goals, while they have had 21 goals scored against them.
As for their players, not one of them is in the top 50 scorers in the league. In fact, their top point producer is Mats Zuccarello who has 5 points in 6 games is ranked 78th in the entire NHL. What’s even more disappointing is that only two guys on the Rangers roster have a plus/minus rating in the pluses. Unless they can figure out how to score goals and win games, they will continue to choke for the rest of the season.
12 Dominate: Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators are doing fantastic so far this year. They are one of just two NHL teams (the other team is the Los Angeles Kings) who have yet to record a regulation loss. The Senators have three wins and two shootout losses in their first five games. And while they are averaging a very decent 3.80 goals per game, they are doing even better with only eight goals scored against them which averages out to 1.60 per game which is the lowest in the entire league. Their best player so far is Kyle Turris who has 7 points in 5 games.
While the Senators have missed the playoffs four times in the last nine years, last season they made it to the Conference Finals. And if they keep doing what they’re currently doing, they may very well make a good run for the Stanley Cup again this year.
11 Choke: San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks are not looking good so far this season. They are currently ranked 14th in the Western Conference with just one win in their first four games. They have scored a total of just 8 goals so far this year, while they have had 14 scored against them. The best player on their team right now is Kevin Labanc who has 4 points (including 3 goals) in 4 games.
The Sharks have only missed the playoffs six times since joining the NHL in 1991-92, which includes just one time in the last twelve seasons. Although it is very possible that they will rebound, start winning games and have a successful year, they are currently choking badly at this early point of the season.
10 Dominate: Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings are enjoying a great start to their season with four wins in five games which ranks them 1st overall in the Western Conference. In fact, they are one of only two NHL teams (the other team is the Ottawa Senators) who have yet to lose a game in regulation so far this season – the Kings’ only loss was in overtime. They are one of the toughest teams to score against with an average of just 1.80 goals scored against them per game which is the second lowest in the league. They also have a phenomenal penalty killing unit with a 95% percentage while a man down. Anze Kopitar is the best player on the team right now with 8 points in 5 games which ranks him 12th in the entire league.
After winning two Stanley Cups in three years, the Kings have struggled the last three seasons, but it looks as though their luck is changing for the better.
9 Choke: Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens are off to a terrible start. They are currently ranked 14th in the Eastern Conference with just one win in their first five games. They are struggling to produce goals with just 7 goals scored against their opponents, while they have had 17 scored against them. In fact, they have the lowest average of goals scored in the entire NHL with just 1.40 per game. Their best player is Jonathan Drouin who has 3 points in 5 games. And what’s even more disappointing is that not one person on the entire Canadiens roster has a plus/minus rating in the pluses.
The Canadiens have missed the playoffs once time in the last five years, and if they don’t start producing goals and winning games, it is very possible that they will be missing it this season as well.
8 Dominate: New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils are having a great start to their season so far with four wins in their first five games which ranks them 2nd overall in the Eastern Conference. So far they have scored 21 goals which averages out to over four goals per game and ranks them as one of the highest scoring teams in the league. Their best player currently is Will Butcher who has 8 points (all assists) in 5 games.
There’s no doubt that the Devils have struggled over the past several seasons and have failed to make the playoffs for the last five consecutive years. But this fantastic start to their season is a great change of pace for them and if they keep it up, they may very well keep themselves near the top of standings and earn a spot in this season’s playoffs.
7 Choke: Arizona Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes are off to a terrible start to the season. They are currently ranked last in the entire NHL with no wins in their first five games. While they scored 11 goals against their opponents, they had double the amount scored against them with 22 goals. In fact, they have highest goals against in the league with an average of 4.40 per game. The best player on their team right now is Clayton Keller who has 4 points (including 3 goals) in 5 games. And they have just one player on their entire roster who has a plus/minus rating in the pluses.
The Coyotes have missed the playoffs for the last five years and it would not be surprising if they miss it for the sixth year in a row.
6 Dominate: Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights are doing exceptionally well for a first-year team. They are currently ranked 3rd in the Western Conference with four wins in five games. While they are averaging 3 goals a game which is pretty good, their goals against is one of the lowest in the league with just 2.20 goals scored against them per game. And while they haven’t been great on the power play, they are the third best team in the entire league on the penalty kill with a fantastic 92.8% penalty killing percentage. Their best player by far is James Neal who has 6 points (all goals) in 5 games.
Although, statistically speaking, it’s rather uncommon for a new franchise to dominate in their first ever season, but if the Golden Knights continue to rack up wins like they have been doing, they may very well finish at the top of the standings.
5 Choke: Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks are not having a very good start to their season with just one win in their first four games, ranking them 12th in the Western Conference. They have scored just 9 goals so far this season, while they have let in 13 by their opponents. Their best player so far this season is Bo Horvat who has just 2 points (both goals) in 4 games. What’s even worst is that only three players on the entire roster have a plus/minus rating in the pluses.
The Canucks have only made the playoffs one time in the past four years, and if they don’t start scoring goals and winning games, they will make it three years in a row without making a run for the Stanley Cup.
4 Dominate: Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning are currently ranked 1st overall in the Eastern Conference with five wins in their first six games. And they are ranked 6th in the league with an average of almost four goals per game. They are also one of the top ten teams during the power play so far this season with a 26.9% percentage during the man advantage. Nikita Kucherov is currently the best player on the team with 10 points (including 7 goals) in 6 games which ranks him 4th overall in the entire league.
Although they just barely missed the playoffs last season, it looks as though they’ll have a good shot at making it this season. And with their captain Steven Stamkos back in the lineup after missing the majority of last season with a knee injury, I think the Lightning will be a pretty decent team this year.
3 Choke: Buffalo Sabres
Although it’s only the beginning of the season, it looks as though the Buffalo Sabres will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year. They are currently ranked 15th in the Eastern Conference with just one win in six games. They have scored a total of 14 goals against their opponents, while they have had 22 scored against them. As for their players, Evander Kane leads the team with 7 points in 6 games which ranks him 26th among all NHL players.
In the last six seasons, the Sabres have only finished in the top ten in the Eastern Conference one time (9th overall in 2011-12) and finished in last place twice (2013-14 and 2014-15). If history continues to repeat itself – and based on their terrible start – it’s very likely that they will finish low in the standings again this year.
2 Dominate: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are having a fantastic start to the new season with four wins in their first five games which ranks them 3rd overall in the Eastern Conference. They have so far scored a total of 26 goals which averages out to over five goals per game. They also have the best power play in the NHL right now with a 30.8% percentage during the man advantage. And they have the best faceoff win percentage at 57.8%.
Auston Matthews leads the team right now with 8 points in 5 games which ranks him 10th overall in the entire league. The Maple Leafs have an extremely talented young team. In fact, last season all Leafs rookies produced a combination of 304 points between them. This young team is sure to dominate this season.
1 Choke: Edmonton Oilers
After a successful season last year, the Edmonton Oilers are definitely struggling so far in the beginning of this current season. Last season they finished 4th in the Western Conference and made the playoffs for the first time in eleven years where they lost in the second round. But so far this season, they are off to a rocky start with just one win in their first four games, ranking them 13th in the Western Conference. They have scored just 8 goals against their opponents and had 14 scored against them.
Connor McDavid is their best player with 5 points in 4 games. And only four players on the entire team have a plus/minus rating in the pluses. The Oilers need to figure out how to win games and score goals if they want another shot at making the playoffs.