NHL Power Rankings: Things We Never Saw Coming Edition

Mark Borowiecki collided with Tyler Ennis, Ennis ran over Elias Lindholm, and Derek Forbort crushed Colton Sceviour.

They’re mostly exercises in pointlessness, those pre-season prediction pieces we all write. Fun but flawed, like the game itself.

Sure, some trends can be mapped and some improvements are predictable. Surprise! The Maple Leafs are better with Auston Matthews than without! A healthy Connor McDavid is an Art Ross threat!

Most predictions look either foolish or easy by this time of year. So it’s the falls and climbs we didn’t — couldn’t — see coming around the bend that keep us crawling back to this thing. Sports.

In light of this week’s surprises — 14-year pro Antoine Vermette thinking it’s OK to slash a zebra, Montreal becoming the fifth team in playoff contention to fire its head coach this season, me opening but not finishing a bag of Doritos Roulette — we present the NHL Power Rankings: Thing We Never Saw Coming Edition.

Teams are ranked 1-30 according to current levels of awesomeness, and the write-ups focus on one (un)pleasant shocker from each of the NHL’s 30 clubs in 2016-17.

Rank Team Previous
1

We’re surprised just how dominant the Capitals have been in the regular season, again. By scoring five or more goals in 11 straight home games (all wins), they tied an NHL record set by the 1970-71 Bruins.

1
2

Eric Staal already cruising past last season’s totals in goals and assists with more than a quarter season still to play.

2
3

Michael Grabner: 26 goals in 55 games. (Also: Rick Nash, eighth in team scoring.)

4
4

Artemi Panarin not getting an all-star nod in favour of Jonathan Toews — an elite talent, to be sure, but one who is having another down year statistically.

7
5

The continued emergence of Justin Schultz, who lingered on the open market until July 13 but is now the Penguins’ highest-scoring defenceman.

3
6

The 16-game win streak, the impact of Zach Werenski, the 27 goals already for Cam Atkinson, the steal of a deal that is Sam Gagner….

6
7

Brent Burns tied with Sidney Crosby for second overall in scoring through 57 games while still playing defence. Incredible.

5
8

Ryan Kesler becoming the Ducks’ best centre at age 32. Eight more goals than Corey Perry, more points than anyone in an Anaheim uniform, while being the most impactful forward on both special teams. We thought he was an excellent No. 2 centre; he’s currently the team MVP.

10
9

Patrick Maroon (20 goals) finding the net nearly twice as often as a healthy Milan Lucic (11 goals) and more often than a healthy Connor McDavid (18 goals).

8
10

The Blues’ save percentage dropping from first overall in 2015-16 (.919) all the way to 28th in 2016-17 (.896).

16
11

Claude Julien getting canned while the Bruins boasted the best possession metrics in the league.

22
12

Peter Budaj, 46 starts (and counting), .917 save percentage.

19
13

Ryan Dzingel, 27 NHL points; Curtis Lazar, one NHL point.

13
14

Leafs rookies now have 210 points on the year. Already a franchise record (no surprise) but on pace to tie the NHL record set by the 1992-93 Winnipeg Jets (wow).

12
15

Not unprecedented, but firing your head coach when you’re leading the division despite a rash of injuries and your goalie playing just OK is a bold move.

9
16

Fourth-round pick Viktor Arvidsson leading all Predators in goals and rewind-worthy plays.

11
17

Nick Bjugstad’s stat line. We had the big centre pegged as a star in the making. Granted he was hit hard with an injury, but he has four goals, three assists and is a minus-9 through 27 games.

15
18

Free agent afterthought Dennis Seidenberg and free agent priority Andrew Ladd being neck-and-neck in scoring.

14
19

Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau each getting separate stints on the fourth line because of poor play.

20
20

It’s mid-February and Tampa Bay is six points and six teams away from a playoff spot.

24
21

We’re not shocked that Shayne Gostisbehere isn’t rolling at his incredible rookie pace, but no way we saw him falling off quite this far (four goals, minus-20, frequent scratch).

18
22

A team so stingy on the penalty kill (second overall, 86.1 per cent) also being so porous the rest of the time (21st overall in goals against).

23
23

Even after the Taylor Hall trade — so widely viewed as a win for Ray Shero — the Devils operate the worst offence in the East (2.29 goals per game).

17
24

The concerning underachievement of so many youngish players: Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Dmitry Kulikov.

21
25

Even with five head coaches of better-performing teams already fired this season, there are multiple reports that Paul Maurice is in line for a contract extension.

26
26

The Canucks’ resilience keeping them in the hunt despite key injuries, soul-crushing slumps, and a generally bad-on-paper roster.

28
27

The defence and goaltending are worse than expected, but it’s the offence that’s shocking in Big D, as we’ve seen the Stars fall from being the NHL’s most dangerous attacking team to middle-of-the-pack.

27
28

Yes, decline was expected in several areas. But at 11.8 per cent, the Red Wings’ power play is atrocious.

25
29

Not that we predicted a drastic turnaround, but we figured Arizona might still be relevant when we decided to go Christmas shopping.

29
30

They were better off when Patrick Roy was coaching.

30

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