Dynasty Hockey League

Western Conference Power Rankings – Divisional Edition

Half of Season 23 is in the books and the future is clear for many of the conference’s 14 teams.  There has been some movement in each division and the sim seems to have swung back toward the middle, no single team has achieved undisputed dominance yet.

Howe Division

1. Minnesota (2)

The Wild roll two solid scoring lines, boasting two of the league’s top seven centers and top of the top four left wingers in terms of scoring. And Mike Hoffman keeps defenders on the left side honest by tallying 19 goals so far this season, good for eighth in the league. Minnesota owns the sixth best goal differential in the league and has highly ranked special teams. The only knock on the Minnesota team is their ability to keep the puck out of their own net, ranking 16th overall in Goals Against. But when you can score goals at will, does it matter?

2. St. Louis (1)

The only challenge in the division to the Wild comes in the form of the Blues, a team whose top two lines should likely all be in the top 15 in scoring in their respective positions but have looked relatively pedestrian through 41 games. St. Louis ranks sixth in Goals For and eighth in Goals Against, numbers that show the Blues can compete with the league’s best. The Blues own a highly effective penalty kill, and when their average powerplay bounces back, the Blues should rise to the top of the Howe Division.

3. Chicago (3)

The Blackhawks can prevent goals much like an elite team, but their collective struggle to score is why Chicago remains the third best team in the Howe. Level with the Blues on points, the two squads have yet to meet this season, meeting tonight for the first time. Attempting to mirror the success of the top two lines of the Wild and Blues, the Blackhawks need Robby Fabbri to come into his own and increase his production more than the 0.5 points-per-game he is currently averaging on the second line. John Gibson has been stellar in goal, and the Blackhawks blueline is built for success. I think the sim has been slightly cruel to Chicago this season, rolling out nine straight wins early and then winning only two in a row (twice) since then. If the Blackhawks right the ship in the third quarter of the season, they could give the Wild and the Blues a run for the Howe crown; if not, they will need to watch out for Dallas.

4. Dallas (5)

Dallas has found their identity. While the penalty has not improved and still ranks near the bottom of the league, the power play has dropped off and is near the bottom-third of the league in efficiency. However, that’s not what defines the Stars. The tale of the Stars seems to be their ability to roll three lines that have begun to chip in offense — Dallas’ top nine forwards are all contributing offense at around 0.5 points-per-game. Dallas has spread out the scoring responsibility and is beginning to create some separation from the playoff contenders. Should this trend hold, Dallas may have have a de facto claim on a playoff spot weeks before the end of the season.

5. Nashville (4)

Nashville lost their composure. The Predators have seen their time on the penalty kill rise substantially during the second quarter of the season, and the special teams unit has not been able to rise to the challenge. Anthony Mantha still has yet to find his scoring touch, but the second line of Frans Nielsen, Brock Nelson, and Boone Jenner has picked up the slack, with those three ranking first, second, and fifth in team scoring. Nashville is quickly losing ground for a playoff spot and could potentially find themselves looking up at Detroit at the end of the season.

6. Detroit (7)

Detroit’s special team play has slightly improved, allowing the Red Wings to move up the league standings to a respectable 24th overall, with the top 20 not being completely laughable at season’s end. The impetus for the optimism? The surprising goaltending change from Ondrej Pavelec to Michael Hutchinson. Pavelec hasn’t earned a win in the second quarter of the season, mostly because Hutchinson has started nearly all of the last fifteen games, earning seven wins. Allowing half a goal less and with a much better save percentage, Pavelec will sit on the bench until his comrade’s glove cools.

7. Columbus (6)

Losers of 11 in a row during this quarter of the season, the Blue Jackets have found the league’s basement, but have they hit rock bottom yet? Jake Allen’s play still remains solid, but his support is lacking. With Columbus’ top two scorers on the market and likely to find a buyer prior to the trade deadline, the Blue Jackets have made clear their desire for the first overall pick in the upcoming draft.
Gretzky Division

1. Colorado (2)

Though the power play and penalty kill have cooled, Pekka Rinne has been up to the task. The Avalanche have not lost in their last eight games and have not lost more than two in a row all season. A mid-season six-game winless streak saw the Oilers gain some separation for the Gretzky lead, but solid play the last two weeks have seen that lead all but vanish. Combined with Edmonton’s struggles, the Avalanche may well be the team to beat in the division.

2. Edmonton (1)

Eight goals for Jamie Benn? Only 14 for Joe Pavelski? The power play will continue to determine the fate of these Oilers. Still near the bottom of the league, Edmonton’s special teams have allowed the Oilers to find themselves on the cusp of losing their division lead and slipping to the middle of the playoff picture if the trend is allowed to continue. Cam Talbot remains a strong Vezina candidate, but can he and his Oilers hold off Rinne and the Avalanche over the course of 82 games?

3. Vancouver (3)

Slight improvements in special teams and goal scoring have put the Canucks on the fringe of conversation about the Gretzky crown. Vancouver is still shooting at one of the highest paces in the league, and the team’s shooting percentage is beginning to match that. As predicted, the sim has righted itself and, coupled with Sergei Bobrovsky getting the vast majority of the starts over Chad Johnson this quarter, the Canucks have improved their standing. Only a recent three-game losing streak puts them behind the Oilers in this edition of the Power Rankings.

4. San Jose (5)

Two dominant lines have finally been supported by solid goaltending. The Sharks’ ability to prevent goals is slowly improving, and so too is their standing. The Sharks are playing neck-and-neck with the Canucks in their race up the standings and could see them top Vancouver if the sim plays out to the potential of San Jose. Getzlaf’s scoring pace has dropped and his second line hasn’t been matching up well against opponents, but the improvement of the team’s play without changing personnel gives hope to San Jose fans.

5. Anaheim (4)

Two wins in the last eleven games is no way to secure a playoff berth, and the Ducks can attest to that. Laying claim to the league’s second-best defense — the only team in the top 15 in Goals Against without a winning record — and still maintaining the best penalty kill in the league, Anaheim needs goal scoring if the team intends to make the playoffs, ranking in the bottom five in Goals Scored. Scott Darling has regained his status as starter, as Antti Raanta’s play, while solid, was unable to help the Ducks squeak out additional wins. Still amongst the least penalized teams in the league, the Ducks could see their playoff hopes waylaid by a rut of undisciplined hockey.

6. Calgary (6)

Cory Schneider is still shining. Phillip Danault still has the team’s scoring lead. The power play has dropped off to nearly unspeakable numbers, but the penalty kill is slowly improving. The Flames look like a funhouse mirror version of their divisional rival Anaheim, taking the struggles of the Ducks and exacerbating them with even worse goal scoring and even longer stretches without a win (17 straight games). Having secured five wins in their last nine games, though, has Calgary figured out a way to win without scoring goals? The Flames have allowed just five goals in six games.

7. Los Angeles (7)

In the three-way race between Buffalo, Columbus, and Los Angeles for the league’s worst record, the Kings do not help themselves by icing a particularly efficient power play (good for ninth-best in the league courtesy of Elias Lindholm’s six PPGs). Los Angeles has not significantly improved or worsened their standing in any category, though Nathan MacKinnon continues to shine on the right wing, amassing 41 points through 42 games. With Andrew Hammond out with injury for a week, Jonathan Bernier will likely get the nod in a crucial game against Buffalo in the race for the bottom.

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