Well this week marks the first quarter mark of the 2015 NHL season. There has been some interesting happenings to begin the 2015-2016 NHL season. We highlighted our top 5 NHL stories from October and some of those stories remain some of the biggest surprises at the quarter point of the NHL season. As always we have seen some NHL teams that were projected to have success having difficult starts to the season. Others that were expected to struggle have over acheived and remained competitive. Players we thought would dominate have not ans there have been some emerging stars. Here is a look at the seven largest surprises in the NHL this season as we hit the quarter mark.
7 Biggest Surprise in the NHL
As we hit the NHL’s quarter way point in the 2015-16 hockey season, we have compiled what we feel are some of the largest surprises thus far.
- The play of Patrick Kane – Kanner is a great player but off the ice he has had his share of incidents and mishaps. Such was the case this summer with another alleged scandal involving the young Blackhawk forward. The fact that Patrick Kane is off to such a great start is a bit of a surprise. His on-ice talents speaks for itself, Patrick Kane is after all, a three-time Stanley Cup champion, Conn Smythe winner and former No. 1 draft pick. He’s scorrd some big goals in his young career already. This season, Kane’s relative Corsi For Percentage, per Hockey-Reference.com, is at even strength of 11.9 is higher than last season’s 10.5. At the quarter mark of the season, Patrick Kane is the NHL’s leading scorer with 13 goals and 19 assists through 21 games. His line is the highest scoring line in hockey. Dare we say that Patrick Kane is the NHL MVP at the quarter mark of the season? The off-ice issues have not affected his play, in fact he seems more focused than ever.
- The NHL’s Best defenseman – The NHL’s best defenseman is not Erik Karlsson or Duncan Keith of PK Subban, it is John Klingberg from the Dallas Stars. The Stars are off to an amazing start (17-4-0) with Klingberg, their hot young 23-year-old defenseman leading the NHL in defensman scoring. He has thrived in his second season and leads all NHL defensemen with 23 points (four goals, 19 assists) in 21 games. He had 40 points in 65 games last season. Dallas was already stacked at the forward position and now they have the league top point scoring D-Man. In fact, as of November 25th Dallas players Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg are #’s 2, 3 and 4 in League scoring with 32,31 and 24 points respectively. For the record I did try to draft all three in my hockey pool but was unsuccessful.
- The poor start of the Anaheim Ducks – Projected by many as the favorite to reach the Stanley Cup Final from the Western Conference this season, the Ducks have struggled. They are fifth in the Pacific Division, mainly because of an inability to generate offense. Corey Perry leads the Ducks with five goals in 21 games; Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler have one goal each. These guys are not scoring with any consistency. At the quarter mark the Ducks sit third last in the Western Conference.
- The lack of firepower from the Pittsburgh Penguins – everyone thought that Phil Kessel would score 40-50 goals playing with Sidney Crosby and Gino Malkin. Well at the quarter mark of the season, Kessel is on pace for 28 goals. After twenty games in a Penguins Kessel has seven goals and seven assists for 14 points. What may even be more surprising is that Sid the Kid has a mere three goals and eleven points in twenty games. He’s also a minus nine. Ouch. Whats interesting for the Pens this season is the fact that their defense and goaltending is what is winning them games, not their scoring. After 17 games into the 2015-16 NHL season, the Penguins had the fifth worst offense with only 35 goals scored. Not what we expected as the NHL heads into the second quarter of the season. The Penguins have 44 goals in 20 games this season. Yup NHL scoring is definitely down.
- The play of the Ottawa Senators – does anyone even talk about this team? How many of you knew that the Sens were fourth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Atlantic Division behind the Montreal Canadiens? Not many of you I would think. Craig Anderson has been playing well as have some of the young forwards on the Senators. Erik Karlsson is still a point per game defenseman (no surprise there) but the Sens are getting some decent point production from players like Bobby Ryan, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman. Perhaps the Sens realize that they have competition in the sports world as the second year Ottawa RedBlacks will play for the Grey Cup in the CFL championship game this weekend vs the Edmonton Eskimos. The Sens have been quietly putting together a solid NHL season. For the record we picked the Sens to finish third in the Eastern Conference, so maybe they are not that big of a surprise to us.
- The fact that the Edmonton Oilers are last in the Western Conference – ok yes I am an Oilers fan, but I am utterly surprised that the Oilers are once again in the bottom of the Western Conference standings. The Oilers made some great changes with their management this past summer. They have a ton of young talent, but they lack some critical pieces in the form of a couple of top four defensemen and solid goaltending. While goaltending has been moderately better, the Oilers still need to find a top two defensemen which they have never been able to replace since Chris Pronger left after the Oilers went to game seven in the 2006 Playoffs. In all fairness the Oilers have simply had some bad luck this season. The Hockey Gods appear to still have it in for the Oilers. Rookie sensation Connor McDavid was fifth in league scoring before suffering a broken clavicale in a game against the Flyers earlier in November. He will be out until the New Year (although possibly a little sooner than many think). The Oilers have lost a ton of one goal games. They are getting close but are not quite there yet. They have a had a number of questionable calls against them. I still can’t believe that blown icing call from a few weeks back against Calgary. For whatever reason, this team cannot catch a break. However, McDavid, prior to going down with injury performed as advertised for the Edmonton Oilers with 12 points in 13 games before fracturing his collarbone Nov. 3. A nice surprise has been the play of Leon Draisaitl, the third player selected in 2014, has been dynamite in McDavid’s absence; he has 17 points in 10 games, which includes three multipoint games. Factor in the solid play of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall and this team is better, they just need to get more wins in the “W” column. Looking for more reasons why the Edmonton Oilers are again in last place, read this piece from the Cult of Hockey.
- The resurgence of the Sedin Twins – one of the biggest surprises for us this season is the play of the Sedins. In recent years we saw signs of Daniel and Henrik slowing down, but perhaps we can chalk that up to coaching issues. Once again Daniel and Henrik Sedin are performing like the top players that they are. Daniel is seventh in NHL scoring while Henrik is twelfth. We have seen the guys play a few times this season and they looked pretty good, even if, surprisingly, three on three overtime has not been kind to them. They are in fact playing like they are 25 not 35 as Jason Botchford points out. These guys sometimes get a bad wrap, but we have to give respect where respect is due and Daniel and Henrik deserve it this season. Will it be enough to push the Canucks into the playoffs? That remains to be seen. Nontheless the play of the Sedins has been one of the top surprise of the first quarter of the 2015-2016 NHL season.
The start of the NHL season is always exciting for hockey fans. Look for the next quarter to provide even more surprises as we get closer to seeing who the real contenders are and who will be packing the golf clubs come April.