Well here we are, as of tonight - January 9, 2011 - every one of the 30 teams in the NHL have played 40 or more games with most having played 41 or more, so I think it's fair to say the NHL current 82 game season is halfway complete. So what can we say about the NHL this year? Here's my thoughts and conclusions:
#1) The Salary Cap/Post "Lockout" Era is a mature concept and the result appears to be parity. Right now, halfway through the season out of 30 teams in the league I look at the standings and to me it seems we can only point to two, possibly three teams who have virtually no hope of a playoff spot. Only two teams in the Eastern Conference and one team in the Western Conference are more than 5 games out of a playoff spot when the games in hand are accounted for. Those teams are New Jersey with a league worst 24 points; the 29th place New York Islanders who have just 32 points, despite having a 7-3-0 record in the last 10 of their 40 games played to date; and the Edmonton Oilers whose 33 points in 40 games has them in last place in the Western Conference. Right now the eighth place team in the Eastern Conference is the Montreal Canadiens with 49 points in 42 games played, while the eighth place in the Western Conference is the Los Angeles Kings with 47 points in 41 games played. So here we are with every team having about a half of a season to play and the battle for every point mattering to 13 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference.
In the Eastern Conference the are six teams battling for position in a band separated by eleven (11) points while at the top of the Conference there are six teams battling for Conference supremacy in a band separated by six (6) points. Here's what the Eastern Conference Standings look like this morning:
In the Western Conference it's even tighter. Only ten (10) points separate the 4th place Nashville Predators with 50 points and 14th place Calgary Flames with 40 points. The Western Conference standings this morning are:
#2) There's no doubt that that Winter Classic should be played in prime time from this point forward in anybody's mind, save possibly Gary Bettman's. Of course yet another reason why the NHL needs a new Commissioner that will likely be ignored by the Board of Governors.
#3) In addition to the three teams at the very bottom of the standings, the following seven additional teams should probably step back now or no later than the middle of January and consider this a "rebuilding year": Calgary, Columbus and Saint Louis in the West and Toronto, Ottawa, Florida and Buffalo in the East.
#4) Until the Capitals win a Stanley Cup, Hockey Pundits will continue to question everything about them and talk about how they aren't built right and/or don't play right - even when they play like everyone else in the league.
#5) This could be the year when in June, Hockey Pundits stop questioning everything about the Washington Capitals.
Next up the Florida panthers in Sunrise FL on Tuesday.
LETS GO CAPS!!!