10 Biggest Surprises at the NHL’s Half-Season Mark

The 2022-23 NHL season has just come up on its halfway mark and it has been an interesting first half.  Explosive starts by teams such as the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, and Seattle Kraken to equally surprising slow starts by teams such as the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers.  The 2022–23 NHL season is the 106th season (105th season of play) of the National Hockey League (NHL).  As the NHL reaches the halfway point, the league is gearing up for the mid-season all-star game which is scheduled for February 4, 2023, at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida, the home of the Florida Panthers.

We wanted to take a look at the biggest surprises that took place during the first half of the 2022-23 NHL season.

Top 10 NHL Surprises: First Half of 2022-23

Here is a look at ten items that have turned heads in the NHL in the first half of the season.

#10. Digital Board Advertisements – After previous trials during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and 2020 NHL All-Star Game, the NHL has deployed digital rink advertising on the boards provided by Supponor technology. If you have watched an NHL game on television, you will probably have seen the advertising that is flashed on the rink boards.  Personally, not a fan.  I actually find the board advertising quite intrusive and immensely annoying.  The board ads sure do not make me want to go out and purchase the product or service.  From a subliminal aspect the products do not even register.  Speaking with many hockey fans and other hockey dads they have a similar sentiment.  I get the potential revenue impact, especially after the Covid impact on the NHL’s bottom line, but these ads are annoying as hell.

#9. Sponsored Jersey Patches – 40% of NHL teams have added sponsored jersey patches to their NHL uniforms.  Teams with the jersey ads include: Arizona, Boston, Columbus, Florida, Minnesota, Montreal, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Toronto, Vancouver, Vegas, Washington and Winnipeg.  I watch a lot of hockey and there have only been a few of the sponsors that I recall.  TRIA on the Minnesota Wild jerseys (to which I had to ask “what is Tria”), Rapid on the Bruins jersey and TD Bank on the Canucks jerseys.  Brand recall is low at best, at least from this hockey fan.

#8. Fail Hard for Bedard – it’s quite surprising that more teams are not in tank mode yet in an attempt to secure the first overall pick in the NHL entry draft and select WHL whiz kid Connor Bedard.  Check out Connor Bedard’s Top Ten WHL Games.

I guess teams were waiting to see how the first quarter of the season went.  As it stands now, teams like Chicago, Columbus, Anaheim, San Jose Arizona and potentially Montreal look like the favourites in the Bedard sweepstakes.  The Athletic has provided their first pick probability of which team will land Connor Bedard.

Teams in the Connor Bedard Hunt based on First-Half Performance: Courtesy: The Athletic

#7.  The Vancouver Canucks Saga – if you live in Western Canada, one of the top stories has been the debacle that is the Vancouver Canucks.  You’ve got JT Miller yelling at teammates and third string goalies, you have fans and hockey pundits doubting one of the winningest coaches in NHL history in Bruce Boudreau, you’ve got the Bo Horvat vs. JT Miller camps, the list goes on and on.  Canucks GM Jim Rutherford held a press conference the other day only to suggest that he needs to perform “major surgery” to get this team to where it needs to be.  As the piece cited suggest, there’s a segment of the fanbase that wants a full tank and if there’s ever a year to try, this is the one — with Canucks’ fan Connor Bedard as the pot of gold prize at the end if the rainbow.  Lots of questions are being asked:

  • Why didn’t the Canucks sign Bo Horvat before JT Miller? (Why didn’t the Canucks trade Miller?)
  • What will the Canucks get in return in a trade for Bo Horvat who seems on his way out.  For the record, Horvat has been a great Canucks during his tenure in Vancouver.  He’s currently enjoying the best season of his career.
  • What’s really going on in the Canucks dressing room?
  • Have the players quit on Bruce Boudreau?  Did they even buy in when he came aboard last season?
  • Is Rick Tocchet the right replacement for Boudreau?
  • What happened in terms of the decision making with Tanner Pearson’s surgery?  Did team doctors not communicate properly?  Regardless the NHLPA is conducting an investigation.

Sorry Canucks fans, it sounds like it will get worse before it gets better.

#6. The Boston Bruins – On the flip side to the Vancouver Canucks we have the Boston Bruins.  We know that the Boston Bruins are a good hockey team, but did anyone really think that they would only have 5 losses (and 4 OTLs) through 43 games?  Did anyone see their goaltender Linus Ullmark as having the NHL’s bets save percentage at .936 and the most wins with 23 as of mid-January?  As a team, the Bruins lead om Goals For per game with 3.81, goals against average 2.12 and as mentioned winning percentage.  They’ve only given up 91 goals in 43 games and have a league leading .929 save percentage.  Hard to score on this team, and hard to prevent the Bruins from scoring.  Recipe for success if you ask us.

Boston Bruins Winning Percentage Stats First-Half of 2022-23 NHL Season (StatsMuse)

#5.  The Re-Emergence of Erik Karlsson – within the first week or two of the season, I pulled a trade in my hockey pool for San Jose blueliner Erik Karlsson.  Karlsson has always been a favourite of mine, but little did I know that he would put up 58 points by the halfway mark of the season and be on pace for 100 points (as a defenceman).  The Sharks are in rebuild mode and were not expected to be a strong team this year, but Erik Karlsson leads all NHL defenseman in assists and points.  In fact, Karlsson is currently third in assists with 44 trailing only McDavid (46) and Kucherov (45).  Over his last five games he is averaging nearly 28 minutes per game in ice time.

Erik Karlsson First-Half Stats: 2022-23 NHL Season (StatsMuse)

#4.  Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup Hangover – in terms of on-ice play, Stanley Cup hangovers are a thing.  Look no further than the Colorado Avalanche.  Through the halfway point of the 2022-23 NHL season, the Avalanche rank 16th in wins, 18th in points 24th in goals scored and 17th in winning percentage.  They currently sit out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.  Yes they have had their fair share of injuries but this team has struggled in the first half of the season and we are surprised that they haven’t yet started to climb in rankings.  Half a season left, expect the Avs to make a strong push for a playoff spot.

#3. Kraken the whip – the strong play of the Seattle Kraken in the Pacific Division in only their second year is quite amazing and a surprise to many in the hockey world.  As of mid-January the Kraken sit fourth in the Western Conference and second in the Pacific Division with 56 points.  They are the third highest scoring team in the NHL (did anyone see that coming)?  They recently went on a seven game road trip and won all seven games (no other NHL team had ever done that).  The Seattle Kraken have the sixth best winning percentage in the NHL at .605 (Statmuse.com).  We keep waiting for the Kraken to fall, but they are not letting up, and look strong to secure a playoff position in only their second season of play.

#2. Emergence of the Tage Thompson Era – anyone remember the last Buffalo Sabre to score five goals in a game prior to Tage Thompson doing it in early December?  (For those who don’t recall, it was Dave Andreychuk).  Thompson scored five goals, including the second-fastest four goals to start a game in NHL history, and had an assist when the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 9-4 in early December.  As of mid-January, Thompson is sixth in league scoring with 58 points in 42 games.  His 31 goals trail only Connor McDavid (37) and David Pastrnak (35).  Safe to say that he Tage Thompson era has arrived in Buffalo.

#1. The Incredible Play of Connor McDavid – Last year we predicted that Connor McDavid should win the Hart trophy as the league’s most valuable player.  This knowing that Auston Matthews might score 60 goals.  We knew that the eat-coast bias in voting would work against Connor McDavid.  There were, apparently voters who never even had Connor McDavid in their top five (looking at you Pittsburgh market).  We’ve stated this before that Conor McDavid is so elite that he does not get the respect he deserves.  When Matthews won the Hart trophy and the Ted Lindsay awards last season, we felt that Connor McDavid was snubbed.  We knew that Connor McDavid would use this as motivation in his next season… and that is exactly what he has done.  At the mid-season mark, McDavid leads the NHL in goals (37), assists (46) and points (83).  He is on track for the highest single season totals since the early to mid-‘90s.  He is putting up numbers that rank amongst the games’ greatest players ever in Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Bobby Orr.  Sure, Matthews scored 60 goals last year.  Guess who is on pace for 70?  Yup Connor McDavid.  (For the record Mathews currently has 21 goals this season).  They said Connor McDavid wasn’t a goal scorer.  Well folks he set himself a goal of shooting (and scoring) more this season and he’s done just that thus far.  The guy scores highlight reel goals.  See: Ranking Connor McDavid’s Top 10 Goals (Thus Far).

Connor McDavid is the best player in the game.  He’s the most dynamic player we have ever seen… and I mean ever.  He works harder at perfecting his skills more than anyone I have ever seen.  His strong defensive play this season has also been noticeable.  Elliot Friedman said it best when he said that McDavid has already wrapped up the Hart trophy for this season.  He will also win the Art Ross trophy and should win the Ted Lindsey and Rocket Richard trophies as well.  If he keeps playing the way he is, the Selke trophy may not be out of the question either.  Bravo Connor, bravo.  Connor McDavid Stats courtesy of Statmuse.com.

Connor McDavid First Half Stats 2022-23 NHL Season (StatsMuse)