Posted on: August 21, 2009 6:59 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2009 5:15 pm

Warped NHL Power Rankings (pre-season)

premature articulations:

Greetings, sports fans!  You've read the rest -- now read the best non-Favre related sports article this side of I-94.  Yep; it's time for Warpy's pre-season NHL power rankings!  These rankings are brought to you by the guy who correctly predicted the rise of the Nucks and Hawks last year, and also by the guy who correctly predicted the fall of Minnesota and Montreal.  When's the last time y'all got four quality experiences from one eunit?  OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I did miss badly on my Sens prediction last year -- but so did almost everyone else, so what you're about to see here is still as good as it gets, suckas.

Rankings are broken down into the six quark flavours that my readers (all three of 'em:) have grown to know and love, but I've included arabic number rankings in parentheses after each team's name for the benefit of the rest of you peons out there.  But hey, enough with the fogitated condensation, eh?  It's time to fire up the Warpy Psychlotron and disCERN the order of this season's NHL teams.

dangling sub-atomic participles:

Top Quark(s):  The Pittsburgh Penguins (1) may not pile up the most points in the regular season this year, but Warpy's rankings also take post-season intangibles into account -- and all the Pens have done in the last two seasons is go from Cup finalists to Cup champs.  Like 'em or not, any power rankings post worth reading has gotta have Pittsburgh ranked numero uno.

The San Jose Sharks (2) probably will finish the season with the highest point total again this year.  But expect the Sharks to draw a lot more blood in the playoffs this trip around the sun (sorry; I couldn't resist the chance to work in a subtle lyrical reference there for my bicoastal musician friends in California and Maine:)

Unless the Boston Bruins (3) make some serious Risebrough-like personnel moves -- or get decimated by more than their share of key injuries -- Beantown will see some serious quality hockey this season (and will do so for a few years running, I suspect.)

The Detroit Red Wings (4) are an aging team with more talent approaching retirement than they have replacements coming in to carry the proverbial torch going forward.  But a Wings team firing on six cylinders is still a match for most teams running on all eight -- which is probably why you don't see too many six-legged octopi out there, eh?  A rubber match finals would not surprise the Warped One too greatly, but if that happens, Ozzie may finally come down to earth and prove that he's mortally human in the playoffs after all.

The Washington Capitals (5) and the New Jersey Devils (6) round out the list of Top Quarks in what looks to be a Patrick Divison-heavy year for the NHL's upper class this year.

Up Quark(s):  The Vancouver Canucks (7) will prove that last year's division title was no fluke by being right there again this season.  The Philadelphia Flyers (8) make up yet another former Patrick Division team in the NHL's top ten this year -- even the Bettmanized version of this division promises to be a real doozy for longer than our favorite commissioner is likely to have a job.  BTW, is Daniel Carcillo the perfect name for a Broad Street Bully or what?

The Calgary Flames (9) will be the prohibitive favorites to win the NW division this season, tho warped minds expect Vancouver to give the Flames all they can handle; the Nucks rank slightly higher in Warpyland because I see more balance on that team.  One thing's for sure: it's gonna be a long way down from second place to third in the NW for the next season or three.

The Chicago Blackhawks (13), the Buffalo Sabres (16) and the St. Louis Blues (17) round out the Up Quarks list.  "Hey!  What happened to the numbers in between?!" you ask?  As any atomic physicist will be happy to tell you, particles don't always go in a straight line when they're smashed.  Heck, most of 'em can't go straight even when they're sober, but I digress (tho I can't remember now whether I'm talking about the particles, or the dudes who study 'em when we're talking about the ability to go straight --or the lack thereof:)  The Hawks, Sabres and Blues are all promising looking teams on their way up; most of the other missing teams ranked in front of them are on the way down (or sideways) which brings us to:

Down Quark(s):  The Anaheim Ducks (12) or the Mighty Ducks of Call Us Anything But Los Angeles (or whatever the heck they call themselves these days) will most likely see post-season play this year -- but it will most likely be of the one and done persuasion.  The Edmonton Oilers (20) were a trendy pick by some (actually, by many) to win the NW division last year, but it didn't happen then, and I don't see it coming close to happening this season either.

The Nashville Predators (24) showed some signs of life last year, but I still see too many pucks going in the wrong net for the Preds to be a serious playoff contender this season.  The Colorado Avalanche (25) and the Los Angeles Kings (26) round out the list of teams whose prospects for success appear to be on life support this year.

Bottom Quark(s):  Then again, being on life support is better than being clinically dead, which sums up the post-season chances this year for the New York Islanders (27), the Tampa Bay Lightning (28), the Atlanta Thrashers Thrashees (29), and the Hamilton Phoenix Coyotes (30).

Strange Quark(s):  "Strange" best describes the roller coaster performance of the Montreal Canadiens (14) over the last two seasons, as well as the Ottawa Senators (18) and the Minnesota Wild (19).  The Wild may do some damage this year if the up-tempo game plan comes to fruition, but if the Dany Heatley to the Wild rumors come true, warped minds suspect it'll happen at the expense of gutting what's left of our defense -- in which case Niklas Backstrom will have to stop everything bigger than a Higgs Boson in order to keep his team in the hunt.  If Josh Harding isn't traded for Heatley (or for someone else) expect him to see a lot more games between the pipes than he did under the previous regime.

Rounding out the list of Strange Quark teams is Erin Brown's beloved Florida Panthers (22) and the Dallas Stars (15).  Things were looking mighty good for Florida going into the final month of last season:  a playoff spot in their grasp, and a Panther-friendly schedule full of creampuffs to finish the home strecth.  But alas and alack, "easy" games are like games in hand: if you don't win 'em, you're still gonna get hosed worse than septic backup in Winston Rothschild's truck, eh?  Expect both the Panthers and the Wild to be bubble teams again this season.  On the other hand, the Sens and the Habs could end up anywhere in the standings, hence the Strange Quark designation.

Speaking of ending up anywhere, the Stars haven't changed their erratic ways much since the good old Norris Division days.  The Stars will have streaks where they look virtually unbeatable, but at other times they play like a team that could desperately use Martin Skoula on the roster.  Unfortunately for hockey fans in Dallas (I still say that's an oxymoron.. ha hah) the Stars will have to earn a post-season berth these days, since they no longer have the luxury of being able to bum a free ticket to the playoffs at Toronto's expense.

Charmed Quark(s):  The New York Rangers (10) make it five former Patrick Division teams in the NHL top ten this season.  Did I mention yet that this division will be a total barnburner?  The Rangers were looking pretty darn good last year, and adding Marian Gaborik's goals sure won't hurt them any (tho it might hurt their salary cap room big time if Gabby turns into The Groin Pull Of The Franchise...)

The Carolina Hurricanes (11) may have overachieved in last season's playoffs, but they look solid enough to punch a return ticket to the dance this year.  The Columbus Blue Jackets (21) are probably one more season from being a playoff contender, but they're definitely headed in the right direction, unlike the Dirty Ducks of Smog In The Suburbs (or whatever the heck The Team That Can't Even Goon It Up Like They Used To A Couple Of Years Ago calls themselves these days...)

The Invisible Higgs Boson Award(s):  Last but not least (in rankings or in quarkdom) comes the Toronto Maple Leafs (23).  Years of reflex action have caused warped minds to think of the Leafs last whenever the subject of hockey comes up.  But Toronto has some promising youngsters in their system now, so unless the franchise gets mismanaged (again) the days of the Leafs being the butt of jokes for Red Green fans may finally be over.

post-dramatic sin drones:

And in Kihnclusion:  Let's play hockey!!  It's almost time to drop the puck and drop the gloves.  GO WILD!!!!!  Whooooooooo!!

...and now, a word from our spawn's heirs...

If my wife to be or not to be is watching, the butterfly position isn't just for goalies anymore.  To the rest of you, thanx for tuning in, and remember: the sooner you fall behind, the more time you will have to catch up.

And if my old coach is reading this... Ah!  What a delight!  The proverbial Room of Life still brings back fond memories:)

Category: NHL
Posted on: March 18, 2008 2:12 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2008 2:16 pm

Good Win, Good Timing

Can you say "cemented a playoff spot"?  Warped minds can, and soon, so will the Minnesota Wild.  The good guys continued their mastery over the Colorado Avalanche, picking up two colossal (we're talking behemoth) points.  Better yet, they didn't give one back by letting the game slip into overtime.  The guys sure didn't make it easy on themselves, but a win is a win.  The Wild thoroughly outskated, outhustled and outplayed the Avs for two periods, but only had a 2-1 lead to show for it.  They looked Kihntent to sit on the lead for the final stanza -- a strategy that has cost them an odd point here and there -- but in the end, the team that played better and deserved to win did indeed get the big W.  And now, it's off to the sub-atomic awards:

Top Quark has to go to Brent Burns, the no-brainer #1 star of last night's game.  Aside from the sweet shots that resulted in both Wild goals scored when the Avs had a netminder between the pipes, Burns made other nice shots, passes and defensive plays.  This guy just gets better with each passing month, and will be a total monster in two or three years (and will just be reaching his mid 20s for age).  Even now, Burnsie makes more than enough positive plays while he's on the ice to earn a mulligan or three for his occasional brain farts on defense.  A couple more seasons of tutoring under guys like Nick Schultz and Keith Carney will have fantasy players drooling at the thought of adding #8 to their teams.

Lots of Up Quarks to go around: my favorite one was Todd Fedoruk's fantastic screen on the first Wild goal.  It's a shame that Fedoruk can't be credited with an assist on the play, because poor Jose Theodore never had a chance.  Branko Radivojevic gets an Up Quark for the sweet deflection on the second Wild goal.  Branko doesn't provide a whole lot of opportunities for fans to give him props, so we've gotta strike while the iron is hot.  Another Up Quark goes to Martin Skoula, who continues to keep improving his game -- it's getting easier and easier to mistake him for an actual, serviceable defenseman these days.  Skoula's recent collection of Up quarks, combined with his previous collection of Down, Bottom, and Charmed quarks, should make for an interesting, Tau neutrino-like structure with Higgs Boson-like properties (cough, cough, hint, hint for those of you attempting to theorize about Dark Matter and/or Dark Mass, although thanks to the Bush administration's sphinctering of the science budget this year, it looks like the Europeans will rape all the benefits..)

The only Down Quark I can think of would have to go to Kim Johnsson.  After Skoula made a sweet check to staple his man into the boards on an Avs power play (he actually threw a few good hits around last night, which made me wonder all the more who was really in the #41 jersey) Johnsson not only failed to clear the puck when he had a chance, but also failed to defend any meaningful piece of ice for the next several seconds, effectively allowing Joe Sakic to set up a camping and picnic spot in the high slot.

Bottom line: the Wild picked up two badly needed points in the race for the division title.  Now it's off to the road for a brutal, four game stretch.  How brutal is it?  The way the Oilers have been playing lately, the Canucks game will probably be the "easiest" of the four.  Man, that's brutal!  On the bright side, if the good guys manage to pick up three or four points on the trip, they'll be nicely positioned to take advantage of friendlier five games at the end of the schedule.  GO WILD!!!

Category: NHL
Posted on: February 1, 2008 2:06 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2008 3:27 pm

Boring is Good

Finally, the Wild win a game in cruising style, sparing the fingernails and blood pressures of edgy fans.  In some ways, the 5-1 win over the Ducks wasn't as impressive as it looks on paper.  In other ways, it was even more impressive.

Brian Rolston, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikko Koivu and Marian Gaborik all had nice performances, but my Warpy award for the game goes to Pavol Demitra.  Pav was all over the ice Wednesday night, setting up helpers on offense, and doing more than his usual share of coming back on defense.  Jacques Lemaire has got to be pleased with performances like this from his forwards.  Lemaire called out guys like Pav and Gabby a while back for their lack of two-way play -- a justified position in my book -- but if he's going to call them out in the press when they're not performing to expectations, he oughta be consistent and give 'em props in same media when they do respond with games like they've been playing recently.  Failing to do so will just make the tactic less effective next time he decides to push the same buttons.

The big Un-Warpy of the night goes to Kim Johnsson.  Johnsson did the impossible on Wednesday: making Martin Skoula look good.  Why Lemaire would pair the two worst defensemen on the team together as a tandem is beyond me.  Why he would do it when the Wild are already a man down is even more of a mystery.  Johnsson virtually singlehandedly cost Niklas Backstrom a shutout; his trademark turnover pass (on a penalty kill at that, and with plenty of time to clear the puck to boot) gave the Ducks a bonus minute of power play pressure with no chance to change players, and his poor positioning at the end of the shift gave Corey Perry an easy shot right in the slot.  The penalty killers were no doubt gassed by then, but they can thank #5 for robbing them of the chance to get fresh legs out there when the opportunity presented itself.  By default, that would make Lemaire eligible for a dishonorable mention award for insisting on giving Johnsson and Skoula Laurel and Hardy so much ice time.  One other Un-Warpy has to go to the Ducks for a singularly uninspired performance.  The guys clearly did not come ready to play hockey Wednesday night, and stayed flat-footed through most of the game.  Jean-Sebastien Giguere was the only Duck who showed any fire, and it took getting yanked from the game for him to do that.  The Ducks' lack of interest was no more apparent than in the final period, when they couldn't even work themselves up into a foul enough mood to engage in the usual chippy play and cheap shots they're known for when they get involved in a lopsided game.  To their credit, the Wild took advantage of the situation and gratefully collected two easy points in the standings.

Bottom line: the lethargic play of the Ducks makes the Wild victory less impressive than the 5-1 final would indicate -- it was far from the "perfect game" suggested in the papers.  On the other hand, the Wild only mustered up a couple dozen shots themselves, but managed to hit paydirt on five of them.  To put it in football terms, this was a fairly dull game where both teams had a handful of trips in the red zone, but the Wild cashed their trips in for touchdowns whereas the Ducks settled for one field goal on their drives.  The end result was a game decided by the halfway point.  I could get used to nice, boring wins -- boring is good.  Go Wild!!

Category: NHL
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com