The Rises and Declines

By Bob Trask – As each NHL season gets underway, projections are made on which teams will improve their performance over the previous year and which will suffer a decline. The change in fortunes of each team are influenced by players returning from an injury list or being added to it, and off-season transactions including trades and gains or losses in the free agent market. Graduating prospects and the influence of a new coaching staff can also impact a team.

With Christmas approaching we can see which fans were rewarded by their team’s performance and which received a lump of coal. Let’s take a closer look.

Rising Teams

Of course when you finish near the bottom, it is much easier to improve on your previous year’s record than if you finished at the top of the heap. But even with that some very good teams have shown an improvement in their points percentage over last year. The ranking is derived by taking this year’s points percentage to date and subtracting last year’s points percentage earned over the course of the entire season.

Here are the top 10:

  • New Jersey +.402
  • Seattle +.282
  • Montreal +.201
  • Boston +.181
  • Winnipeg +.142
  • Detroit +.142
  • Vegas +.110
  • Arizona +.075
  • NY Islanders +.074
  • Philadelphia +.059

While New Jersey and Seattle stand out by virtue of their exceptional increase, Philadelphia was a surprise to me. They show up in the top ten most improved teams despite their horrible record. Their strong start surprised everyone but as the season wears on, it isn’t hard to envision that improvement over last year’s record eroding away.

Montreal fans can take heart with the third best improvement over last year.

Declining Teams

At the opposite end of the spectrum are those teams that have seen a decline in their points percentage earned.

Here are the bottom 10:

  • Florida -.227
  • St. Louis -.189
  • Anaheim -.173
  • Colorado -.149
  • Calgary -.143
  • Minnesota -.118
  • NY Rangers -.088
  • Columbus -.087
  • San Jose -.087
  • Edmonton -.082

This list is littered with teams that finished high in the standings last year which might prove the old adage that staying on top is harder than getting on top. Florida’s plummeting performance to date is of particular interest to Montreal.

The Mushy Middle

This group of teams have shown little improvement or decline. Some are good teams and remain so, some are weak teams that continue to languish and some are just average teams that seem stuck in mediocrity.

Perhaps the most disappointing team in this group is the Ottawa Senators who have virtually the identical record as last year after the work GM Pierre Dorion did in the summer.

Will the Trends Hold

These trends will likely change over the remainder of the season, particularly after the trade deadline when some teams will be loading up for a playoff run and others will be shedding assets as they plan for the future.

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