NHL Power Rankings Season Begins: Western Conference welcomes non-lockout schedule

Stopping the Coyotes, literally. - Bruce Bennett

With only a few games in the books, all "power" is deceiving, but...

Ah, the new season. Everyone starts 0-0, and hope springs for all. Well, all except the Flyers, apparently.

Anyway, with the new season usually comes preseason power rankings, leading to predictions on who will hoist the Cup nine months from now.

Except very few publications actually started their weekly rankings posts in the opening week, probably with good reason. Nonetheless, here is a look at how a few outlets started off last week (we'll post an update this week as more outlets chime in), as well as a quick look at potential conference inbalance:

Site Ranking Prior Comments
1 CBS 17 --- Two games, two shootouts. At least they're getting points every game but they gotta hold onto two-goal leads at home against division foes.
2 THN --- --- (No rankings this week)
3 ESPN 11 --- The Isles are getting off to a decent start as they hope to prove last season's playoff trip was no fluke.
3 SI 8 --- Tuesday's whipping of the lifeless Coyotes left the Isles with their best start since a 3-0-0 beginning to the 2001-02 season. Perhaps the rout is a sign of better things to come at home, where they went 10-11-3 last season, the worst record among the 16 teams that made the playoffs. Michael Grabner (six points) and Frans Nielsen (five) are unlikely top-10 scorers.
5 TSN 17 --- A playoff team last season for the first time since 2007, the Islanders will have to make up for the loss of D Mark Streit, but they have managed to operate effectively on a budget, thanks to bargain pick-ups, like RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and promising youngsters, which this year include forwards Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson as well as defencemen Matt Donovan.
6 Fox Sports --- --- (No rankings this week)
Average 13.25 ---

I guess they wanted to wait until a little more data comes in. I can't really blame them. I won't publish our own rankings just yet, because the current paltry amount of data won't really tells us much.

Here at Lighthouse Hockey, we've done power rankings in the traditional sense: Not based on our own from-a-dark-place opinions, but rather on using which teams have beaten which teams, how often, etc. -- similar to how football power rankings were once done with schedules and settings where it was impossible for every team to play each other.

On the subject of non-opinion-based power rankings, over at Oilers blog Copper & Blue, Derek Zona is doing them based on a combination of factors (while noting that about 38% will always be unaccountable luck), including:

... points earned, special teams, even strength play and goaltending, so they were constantly in flux. I'm still playing around with the model, and I've added opponent's remaining this season. Ive also updated the special teams evaluation so it's shots-based, not solely conversion based.

Zona's initial power rankings post notes it's of course way too early, but the East is really having its coastal bias lunch handed to it by the West, with eight of the top 10 teams coming from the triple-time-zone conference. The Islanders have played their own part in this by losing to both Chicago and Nashville this weekend, though earlier they defeated Phoenix.

With all four NHL games Sunday night featuring Western teams defeating Eastern teams (Phoenix over Carolina, Los Angeles over Florida, Winnipeg over New Jersey, and Anaheim over Ottawa), the early trend only deepened.

Zona sums up the current environment:

The East must be begging for the closed-conference schedule from last season. The West must be thanking the hockey gods that the conference is so rural and un-metropolitan, because the Metropolitan Division has been pretty awful so far.

With your Metro brothers struggling, it's your move, Isles.

Portions of this write-up provided by Dominik, so yell at him too.

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