As of November 1, the Edmonton Oilers were tied for first place in the Western Conference and the Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild were all in playoff positions while the defending Stanley Cup Champion Bruins were dead last in the Eastern Conference. This really is one of the strangest starts I can remember and the absolute worst by a Stanley Cup winner in NHL history.
I really am not very surprised that the Oilers are in their current position. First in the West is definitely higher than I predicted, but the skill that the team possesses is undeniable. The lines of Hall, Gagner and Eberle followed by Horcoff, Smyth and Hemsky (currently injured) are two top lines that will win any team a lot of hockey games. The Oil are still a little weak on the back-end, but they are getting strong goaltending out of Khabibulin and their players are commitment to their system. Last season Edmonton finished the year with 571 blocked shots. One month in they have 184. This speaks volumes about the change in the players’ attitude.
As for the Bruins, I have absolutely no explanation. Lack of effort and poor decisions are mainly to blame, but three wins and two losses to arch-rival Montreal in a one month is inexcusable. Every player on that team must be held accountable even if the media is willing pin the team’s troubles on only Lucic and Horton. Tyler Seguin’s emergence has been the bright light in the Bruins dismal first month posting 10 points in just 10 games.
The roller-coaster start of the Detroit Red Wings, a perrenial cup contender, has also been a shock. Five games into the season Detroit and Washington were the only two undefeated teams in the NHL. Both teams met on Oct. 22 and Detroit dropped the contest in a 7-0 rout. After that game the Wings lost six in a row, dropping to 12th in the West.
October in the NHL always brings questions and projections about how the season will finish. Simply put October is just another 30 days in a very long season. Good teams and good players will always find success in good time, just as upstart teams and players with holes in their game will eventually level off. Either way there is no arguing that this has been one crazy month.