NHLN Power Rankings: Feb. 21, 2017

Scott Maxwell
February 21 2017 03:09PM

It's time for your weekly dose of the NHL Numbers power rankings. I'll look at the five best and worst NHL teams thus far in the season, as well as the three best and worst players in the last week.

Note: All use of Corsi For and Expected Goals For are Score and Venue Adjusted, and at even strength. All stats come from Corsica Hockey, and NHL.com (don't worry, it's only the standings).

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Kris Russell: Trap or Opportunity?

Jonathan Willis
February 21 2017 11:00AM

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One of the larger individual decisions that the Edmonton Oilers have to make in the next few months is whether or not to sign Kris Russell to a contract extension. He is the team’s most prominent player bound for unrestricted free agency and handles key minutes on the blue line.

Before the Oilers make a decision on Russell one way or the other, a particular fact which should not escape their attention: Kris Russell’s reputation this season hinges on a single hot month.

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Top to Bottom — Trade Deadline Edition: Atlantic Division

Cam Lewis
February 21 2017 07:00AM

This is a four-part series analyzing where each NHL teams stands heading into the trade deadline based on the context of each division, and the short- and long-term implications of buying or selling with the expansion draft around the corner. 

The Atlantic Division is complete wide open. Every day, depending on who happens to have a game, the standings shuffle up and down, as only a whopping twelve points separates first from last in the division. The Canadiens have a closing window that their general manager will surely try to capitalize on, while the Red Wings, Sabres, and Lightning, have had disappointing seasons and could sell. In the middle are the Senators, who nobody expected to be playing so well, the Leafs who still have their eyes on the future, the Panthers who are finally playing at a high level, and the Bruins who, uh, who knows! 

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Digging Into Toronto's Recent Struggles

DragLikePull
February 20 2017 02:03PM

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Photo Credit: Brad Penner/USA TODAY SPORTS

Just over a month ago, on January 17th, the Leafs looked to be in a strong position in the standings.  They had just won four out of five games and were 7th in the Eastern Conference, one point back of sixth with four games in hand.  The standings were tight, with four teams beneath the Leafs within one game of them, but based on the way the Leafs had been playing and the fact that they'd played fewer games than most of the conference, it seemed like the Leafs would be able to build on their recent success.

Instead, in the sixteen games since, Toronto has gone 6-7-3.  The Leafs briefly fell to ninth in the conference after Saturday's loss to the Senators but have climbed back into a playoff spot after last night's win against the Hurricanes.  However, with the surging Florida Panthers, suddenly hot New York Islanders, and climbing Buffalo Sabres all right in the mix behind them, the Leafs' recent struggles have understandably led to concerns among a fan base that was riding high only a month ago, as their strong position has slowly deteriorated.  But how much concern should there really be?  Is Toronto's play slipping, or is there something else that explains recent results.  I decided to dig into the numbers a bit to find out.

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Will the Canucks sign Gaudette and Boeser before season end?

Ryan Biech
February 20 2017 01:54PM

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Photo Credit: Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

I've been having an internal debate over these last few weeks over why the Canucks have held at 46 salaried player contracts for the season.

At a glance, flexibility seems the most obvious reason. With 46 contracts, the Canucks can add players without too much handwringing. There's value in peace of mind, and by not overextending themselves it's likely the Canucks granted themselves just that.

However, another angle has come to the forefront. It's one I'd given consideration to but never credence, without definitive information to reaffirm it. What if the Canucks are saving contract spots for their NCAA prospects so that they might use games this season as an ace in hand and entice them to sign? With the possibility of burning a year of their ELC as a carrot to dangle?

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