The start of the 2017/18 NHL season has been a strange one. There are teams we thought would do well that are struggling, while others, who’d already had their chances written off are surprising us. Here are three NHL teams that we believe are exceeding expectations.
After finishing second to last in both the Western Conference and the league last season, and despite some reasonable off-season acquisitions, the Canucks didn’t look like a team that would hit the ice this season and achieve anything. In our preview, we said that the Canucks would miss the playoffs.
Of course that can still happen, but as it stands the Canucks are 6/3/1 and are holding third in the Pacific division having taken 13 points from a possible 20. After many, many different failed systems, GM Jim Benning and Head Coach Travis Green seem to have finally settled on an offence that isn’t Sedin-centric. Brock Boeser is leading the team with nine points, while Derek Dorsett has six goals and on current form, is heading for a career season.
For those of you experiencing deja vu, you’re not alone. The Canucks were the last team to go undefeated last season. Of course it didn’t tale long to return to form and fall down the standings. It’s too early to tell if that’ll happen again, and there’s talk of Vancouver starting to look like a playoff team.
Along with the Arizona Coyotes, the Avalanche have been the league’s perennial whipping boys for a while. After failing to win the draft lottery earlier this year, many of the Colorado faithful have quietly resigned themselves to another forgettable season.
Despite the forever-impending trade for Matt Duchene on the horizon, Head Coach Jared Bednar is doing a good job with the bad hand he’s been dealt, and the team who finished dead-last in the division last season are now in second place. That place is precarious though, the Avs have 12 points, as do the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks. The Central division is definitely competitive.
The Avs are a team who are winning games by committee. 16 different skaters have found the net, there are only four skaters on the roster who have ice time and don’t have at least one point to their name. Duchene has certainly been a big part of the Avs’ strong start to the season and holding onto him will be key, although it’s only a matter of time until he leaves.
Vegas Golden Knights
Since the franchise was first announced, the Golden Knights’ debut season was written off by everyone outside of Las Vegas. Expansion teams have a tradition of struggling, and expansion draft pickings were generally pretty slim, aside from a few notable exceptions.
This ragtag team of unloved spare parts is currently 8-1-0 and second in the Pacific division. Admittedly most of those games have been at home, against easier opposition, but the Knights are holding their own so far. Former Predator James Neal is leading the team with goals and points. There are clouds on the horizon though, we’ve written before asking how long this streak can last, especially as the opposition toughens up.
The injuries are piling up too, face of the franchise Marc-Andre Fleury is hurt, as is Malcolm Subban. Reid Duke will also be out for few months. The real test over the next week weeks will be how the Golden Knights’ roster depth can pick up the slack.
The Canucks, Avalanche and Golden Knights are definitely exceeding expectations, but recent history tells us that the Canucks and Avs aren’t good enough to maintain these. Vegas is a complete unknown but there’s a big cliff on the horizon and all three teams are perched on it. Especially if other teams up their game. The west is incredibly competitive right now and a few losses could see any of these teams drop out of contention.
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