SB Nation NHL Power Rankings: Winds Of Change As Blackhawks Claim No. 1

The SB Nation NHL Power Rankings are back for the New Year, with a new look and a new format. Instead of ranking the Western and Eastern teams separately, we've voted on the overall top 16 teams in the NHL. Once again, all voting is done by our esteemed SB Nation hockey blogger panel, so please direct all criticism and snark in the comments in their direction.

This week's rankings feature the Western Conference in favor of the Eastern, with the West locked in a brutal battle for position from the #1 spot all the way down to #10 in the standings. With New Jersey, San Jose and Calgary all enjoying some big wins over the holiday break it's the Chicago Blackhawks who have grabbed the top spot in the first edition of our 2010 rankings..

The Power 16

1. Chicago Blackhawks: 30-10-3 overall; 4-0-0 in last week

SBN Blog: Second City Hockey

When the Blackhawks started the season 5-3-1, with the offense carrying some shaky goaltending, it was questioned (for a bit) whether this team really could live up to it's offseason potential. After some some slight ups and downs, Chicago is now tops in the NHL in points, leads the league in goals-against (2.05) and is top five in nearly every other major category. They are 11-2-0 in their past thirteen and it seems as if we've finally found a team that will actually knock the Red Wings off of their Central Division throne. And after (another!) loss to the Stars, Chicago has pounded four straight opponents into the ice.

2. San Jose Sharks: 27-9-7 overall, 3-0-1 last week

SBN Blog: Fear The Fin

The Sharks polished off an impressive eight-game winning streak with absolute destruction at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings at home on Monday. The Sharks have gone through this sort of hiccup already this season, losing five straight in early December and giving up the Western Conference lead. They'll have the chance to rebound against some cannon fodder teams (St. Louis and Detroit) before attempting to get immediate revenge on L.A. next week. 

3. New Jersey Devils: 30-10-1 overall, 3-0-1 last week

SBN Blog: In Lou We Trust

Jamie Langenbrunner was named to the U.S Olympic team, Martin Brodeur posted two more shutouts and the Devils continue to live it large in New Jersey. If it weren't for the fact that Patrick Elias broke my heart in 2000 and Doug Armstrong went insane and traded away Joe Nieuwendyk and Langenbrunner to this same team in 2002, I might actually like the Devils. Alas, I find no pleasure in seeing this classy and extremely impressive organization continue to dominate every year. None. At. All.

And look, the Devils just happened to celebrate their 2000 Stanley Cup victory over the Stars on the same night they clobber the Stars at home. See...classy.

4. Washington Capitals: 25-11-6 overall, 1-0-3 last week

SBN Blog: Japers' Rink

So the Capitals lose three in a row, Ovechkin is named the new team captain and they immediately win (although it was against Montreal). Problems solved!

5. Buffalo Sabres: 26-11-4 overall, 3-0-0 last week

SBN Blog: Die By The Blade

The Sabres are a team that is pedestrian and middle of the pack is so many ways. Not much scoring, not a great power play, a decent penalty kill, they allow too many shots. I challenge all of you to tell me, without looking, who the Sabres leading scorer is. Yet they are fourth in the NHL in points percentage and are 10-2-2 since December 9th.

Ryan Milleryou are our only hope.

6. Calgary Flames: 25-12-5 overall, 4-0-0 last week

SBN Blog: Matchsticks And Gasoline

The Flames carry the current moniker as "hottest team in the NHL", this coming after a stretch in which Calgary went 1-4-1 in mid-December. Since that bug, ugly blip on the radar the Flames have won five straight games by a total margin of 14-5 and haven't allowed more than one goal since December 27th. Now, if only Miikka Kiprusoff can somehow find a way to be this good in say, April and May.

7. Colorado Avalanche: 24-13-6 overall, 2-0-1 last week

SBN Blog: Mile High Hockey

After a blistering start to the season, Craig Anderson and the Avs have fallen back to earth. Sort of. They're still exceeding all expectations and are proving what having good goaltending behind a young and talented group of hockey players (with good coaching!) can do to turn around a team on a dime. The Avalanche are locked in see-saw battle as they jockey for position in the Western Conference, where on any given night they could go from 3rd in the conference all the to one point out of 8th.

8. Phoenix Coyotes: 26-14-4 overall, 1-1-1 last week

SBN Blog: Five For Howling

The Coyotes are the 'feel-good' story of the season so far, and no one is really paying attention. Sure, there's coverage of their ownership issues but did anyone know they set a franchise record last week with 10 straight home wins? Dave Tippett has turned this team into a proud group of hockey players that believe in what they're doing. Hear that, Marc Crawford?

9. Nashville Predators: 25-15-3 overall, 2-0-1 last week

SBN Blog: On The Forecheck

Does it speak more about the Western or Eastern Conference, when the Nashville Predators (8th overall in the West) are ranked higher than all but three Eastern teams? Is it just a sign of the 'parity' we've seen develop this season? Or maybe the Western Conference just flat out rules?

10. Pittsburgh Penguins: 27-16-1 overall, 1-3-0 last week

SBN Blog: Pensburgh

You wonder if the thought, even briefly, crossed into Penguins fans that perhaps the team should make another mid-season coaching change just to bring them out of that dreadful losing streak. Well, Maxime Talbot didn't think so at least. At least we have this:

11. Vancouver Canucks: 26-16-1 overall, 3-0-0 last week

SBN Blog: Nucks Misconduct

The Canucks have played in just four overtime games all season long, and have lost only one. They're scoring in bunches, are losing rarely and the Sedin twins are having yet another amazing season. The Canucks have a tough test ahead of them however, with four straight games against teams within just two points of themselves in the standings. Luckily, three of those are at home.

12. Los Angeles Kings: 25-15-3 overall, 3-0-1 last week

SBN Blog: Battle Of California

Four of the top 12 teams in this ranking are 'southern' teams, all in areas where most believe the sport of hockey should never belong. What's more, is you're starting to see these teams become successful not from spending big money in free agency but building through the draft (it helps when you have a lot of low picks). Anze Kopitar is leading his team to a surprising season, and this is a team that no one will want to face come playoff time.

13. Boston Bruins: 22-13-7 overall, 3-1-0 last week

SBN Blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder

What's the first sign that Bruins fans are not the same as Red Sox Fans? 

Ouch.

14. Detroit Red Wings: 21-15-6 overall, 2-1-0 last week

SBN Blog: Winging It In Motown

The Red Wings are in the middle of a five-game road trip that takes them from Phoenix to California and all the way across the U.S. to New York. They've split two games far, winning 4-1 before being dropped 4-1 by Anaheim Tuesday night.  The Wings are barely hanging on in the West and are slowly falling away from the pack as they are now five points behind 8th place Vancouver. 

15. Ottawa Senators: 22-17-4 overall, 2-2-0 last week

SBN Blog: Silver Seven

The Senators wish that every game could be played at home. Away from Ottawa they are near the bottom of the NHL with just six road victories; at home they are tied for the third-most with 16 wins. With six of their next seven on the road, the Sens are facing one of those 'crucial moments in the season' the will 'determine the direction this team goes on the year' and all that fun stuff.

16. Minnesota Wild:  20-20-3 overall, 0-0-3 last week

SBN Blog: Hockey Wilderness

Yeah....well. I guess there are about three or four other teams that could go in this spot but the Wild made the cut, oddly enough. They've lost four straight, are 11th in the West and ten points behind the nearest division opponent and Marty Havlat is still having a dud of a season. At least they've got the next four at home with easy games against Calgary, Pittsburgh and Chicago! Right? Right?

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