NHL Power Rankings: Stars Illuminate Western Conference

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 25: Sheldon Souray #44 of the Dallas Stars celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a first period power play goal against the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on October 25, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Stars ascend to the top of our Western Conference Power Rankings, while the Minnesota Wild jump six spots on the back of outstanding goaltending. The Sharks are lurking and the Oilers refuse to go away.

Through one month of the 2011-12 NHL season, the biggest story throughout the league is ... still Sidney Crosby

But there are a number of other excellent storylines the media could run with if they chose to do so. An unheralded rookie from Wisconsin, drafted in the 4th round by the Nashville Predators, has wrested the rookie scoring lead from the No. 1 overall pick CBC called the next Gretzky. The Dallas Stars have done what many teams before them couldn't -- ignore ownership drama -- and have stormed out of the gates. 

A defenseman exiled to the minors by the worst team in the league is now a top-pairing guy on the best team in the league. Nikolai Khabibulin is playing like he thinks he's in the 2002 Olympics. Nicklas Lidstrom, now 41 years old, has 6 goals and 11 points in 13 games. 

And those are just the Western Conference non-Crosby storylines. Things remain startlingly odd in the West with the Stars and Oilers sitting atop their respective divisions and not showing signs of slowing down.

Our power rankings are based on ballots submitted by each of our Western Conference blogs. Each week, we tally the votes and deliver the results with insight on each team. Eastern Conference Power Rankings are coming in later weeks.





Dallas Stars
4 The Stars walked into Washington and handed the Capitals their hats, but they know there is plenty of season left. Sheldon Souray is back to being a tough-minutes defender and he's become an unofficial spokesman for the club.
San Jose Sharks
2 Like James Neal in Pittsburgh, Joe Pavelski is "back" from his slump, and scoring at a ridiculous clip in San Jose.  Will the media learn their lessons about luck and variance? Probably not.
Chicago Blackhawks
1 Two losses in a row drop the Blackhawks from the top spot in the rankings. The Hawks were bombarded by the oncoming Canucks and smothered by the Hitchcock-led Blues. Joel Quenneville is still juggling his lines and pairings in search of the best combinations.
Edmonton Oilers
5 Nikolai Khabibulin's .964 save percentage has the Oilers on top of the Northwest Division. Tom Renney is using Shawn Horcoff to protect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' minutes and the resulting matchups create some weird numbers. Edmonton's top line of Smyth-Horcoff-Hemsky is one of the best in the league right now.
Detroit Red Wings
7 Five straight wins. Six Straight losses. Complete destruction of Anaheim and Colorado by a combined score of 10-2. Which Red Wings team is the real team? Their next two games, against the top two teams in the Western Conference, might give us an indication.
Vancouver Canucks
6 Despite Roberto Luongo's early season hiccup and David Booth's horrendous run of bad luck, the Canucks are playing good hockey. Even with the dice coming snake eyes, they're still near .500.
Minnesota Wild
13 Almost as surprising as the Oilers, the Wild have turned pre-season prognostications on their head. Things are going so well in Minnesota that the backup goaltender was named 1st star of the week.
Los Angeles Kings
3 After starting 3-1-1 on the back of Jonathan Quick's goaltending, the Kings have gone 4-4-2, slipping 5 spots in the rankings. They're still on pace for 93 points, but will need to be better in the Western Conference and Pacific Division and 25th in scoring isn't good enough. If Dustin Penner has himself back on track, he should be able to help get the Kings offense going.
Nashville Predators
9 Just as they started to get healthy once again, the Predators now have Nick Spaling on IR, Kevin Klein & Sergei Kostitsyn out for the short-term, and David Legwand got rocked by Dustin Brown Tuesday night. The MVP might end up being the team doctor.
Phoenix Coyotes
10 The Coyotes are on pace for 101 points, fueled by strength up the middle and a collapsing defense. But fans still can't shake concerns about the ownership, or lack thereof, situation.
St. Louis Blues
11 The Blues pull the trigger on the early coaching change in hopes of turning the season around before it was too far gone. The happiest man in St. Louis? Jaroslav Halak.
Colorado Avalanche
8 I mentioned how good the Daniel Winnik - Ryan O`Reilly - Gabriel Landeskog line has been in last week's power rankings, and here are the numbers to prove it. The more match-up headaches this line creates, the more Matt Duchene benefits. If they keep it up, Duchene will put up some big offensive numbers.
Calgary Flames
14 Roman Horak has been the Flames most unsung player, but the Flames' biggest boost might come through addition by subtraction.
Anaheim Ducks
12 The road has not been a friendly place. The Ducks have played the least amount of home games in the entire league and it shows in the numbers. Combine that with a top line that has parlayed a cool start into a frigid November and Jonas Hiller's uneven start and you've got a team that's thankful for Scott Howson's Columbus Blue Jackets.
Columbus Blue Jackets
15 Things aren't getting better in Columbus, and Mark Letestu is a decent player on a great contract, but he's not going to fix things on his own.. The Blue Jackets still desperately need goaltending help.

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