With the first month of the season complete, here is a look at the Winners and Losers from October around the NHL.
Winner: Western Canada
Although each of the Western Canada teams have had spurts of success, the names of the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers have been synonymous with losing. While the Flames finally found success last year, this year the Oilers and Canucks could join the party.
Western Canada is now overflowing with some of the game’s most exciting superstars. The Oilers’ tandem of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisitl is likely the best duo in the league. Draisaitl is second in the league with 26 points, while McDavid is tied for third with 23 points. In Vancouver, Elias Pettersson, the reigning Calder trophy winner, has instantly become one of the most beloved players in franchise history. The youngster brings a combination of speed and skill that not even greats like Daniel and Henrik Sedin could match. Calgary’s feisty bunch is built around a young core of Johnny Gaudrea, Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan.
These young stars will make this trio of teams all Stanley Cup contenders in the near future. It remains to be seen which of these teams will last atop the league throughout the season, but as of now, they are all maintaining playoff spots.
Loser: Kaapo Kakko
Proclaimed by many to be a front-runner for the Calder trophy prior to season, Kakko has struggled early in his first NHL campaign. The Finnish winger has shown flashes of electricity such as when he scored his first NHL goal on a nifty backhand. But most of the time, Kakko has appeared overmatched as he has proven to be a defensive liability. He has provided just three points over his first 11 games, making his offensive contributions barely worth the mistakes.
Kakko vented his frustrations to Finnish media, and his comments were later translated to English. He said “Hockey isn’t very much fun for me right now.” Kakko also expressed his displeasure with the amount of ice time he had been getting, saying that he wanted to get an opportunity to play on the first line.
Winner: Barry Trotz and the Isles
Critics thought after some unexpected success a year ago, the Islanders would regress in Barry Trotz’s second season behind the bench. After a 1-3 start to the year, the Islanders have soared to nine consecutive victories.
The loss of goaltender Robin Lehner was anticipated to be a huge loss, both on the ice and in the locker room. Lehner, who signed with the Chicago Blackhawks this summer, has had a fantastic start to his season, ranking third in the league with a .939 save percentage. But the Islanders have not skipped a beat with Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlmaov sharing the net. Greiss has posted a .933 save percentage, while Varlamov has recorded a similar .929 mark.
A year ago, this team proved that they did not need John Tavares to contend, and they have continued to prove doubters wrong this October.
Loser: San Jose Sharks
Has time finally run out for this perennial playoff team and Cup contender? Every year, the Sharks seem to fall short during the playoffs, creating the reoccuring mantra that the next year will be the year they win. But as they sit near the league basement with nine points and a 4-10-1 record through 15 games, they may have run out of chances.
It is still far too early to count them out, but their dismal start is certainly alarming. Martin Jones has been atrocious in goal for San Jose, and the loss of captain Joe Pavelski in free agency has also hurt. They hope that bringing back long time Shark, Patrick Marleau, reignites the squad.
Right now, it is impossible to find a better line in the NHL. The Bruins have not gotten much production from lines two through four, but they certainly have not needed it thanks to these three.
The line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastranak has been lethal in Boston, leading the team to a 10-1-2 start. On their backs, the Bruins appear hungry to avenge their Stanley Cup defeat last June. The three stars have a combined 64 points through the team’s first 13 games of the season.
Loser: Tampa & Toronto
While Boston looks ready to put their Stanley Cup loss behind them, the Lightning and Maple Leafs seem to be having nightmares of their failures last spring. The two Atlantic division foes, expected to be two of the best teams in the league, are off to slow starts for their standards.
Tampa Bay’s consistent defensive breakdowns that led to them to being swept in the first round of the playoffs last year continues to be a problem. They are only 6-5-2 to begin the year, putting them 22nd in the NHL.
Toronto has only been a hair better with a 7-5-3 record that will keep fans restless. Although these sluggish starts are nothing to be worried about, the pressure will heighten due to the major expectations for both of these teams. Since they have constantly been bested by the Bruins over the past few years, urgency will become especially high as they fall farther behind.
Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @dylan_barrett_.