NHL Power Rankings: Phoenix Coyotes Emerging As Western Contender

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 15: Goaltender Mike Smith #41 and the Phoenix Coyotes celebrate their 3-2 shoot out victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on November 15, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Coyotes and Wild are the hottest teams in our Western Conference Power Rankings, and though the Stars are stumbling, the voters did not punish them. The Avalanche have collapsed.

As has been the case in the previous few years, the best teams in the Western Conference are the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and the ... Phoenix Coyotes?

The 'Yotes replaced $51 million goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov with Mike Smith, one of the five worst goalies in the league in 2010-11, and they're amongst the top three in the Conference in goaltending this season. They've got no superstars and a significant portion of their roster is comprised of leftovers, but they've been outstanding at 5-on-5 hockey, Smith is playing the best hockey of his career, and their penalty kill is third in the West. 

The Coyotes have shocked everyone with their start and should be a much bigger story.

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.

Rank

Team

Last

Note

1
Chicago Blackhawks
3 The Blackhawks waived Rostislav Olesz, meaning their return for Brian Campbell is headed for the AHL.  And the Hawks are still perched atop the power rankings. 
2
San Jose Sharks
2 The Sharks have one of the best top 4 defensive units in the league.  But the emergence of Justin Braun and the return of Jason Demers gives Todd McLellan more options and more flexibility.
3
Phoenix Coyotes
10 The Coyotes are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, all because they didn't pay eleventy billion dollars for goaltending.
4
Nashville Predators
9 The Predators have battled injuries by jumbling lines and may have stumbled upon a competitive scoring line with Colin Wilson, Craig Smith & Patric Hornqvist
5
Dallas Stars
1 The Stars have lost three in a row and are feeling the effects of Alex Goligoski's absence.  Aside from Kari Lehtonen, the Stars have struggled at 5-on-5 and can't afford to have Goligoski out of the lineup for long.
6
Minnesota Wild
7 Spurred by a 3-2 road trip, the Wild are 7-3 in their last 10 and are about to get more help on defense from Mike Lundin.
7
Detroit Red Wings
5 Every fanbase has complaints about the All-Star Ballot, but the Red Wings have a serious beef.  Jimmy Howard, the glue that's held the Wings together, was left off of the ballot, and like Rory Fitzpatrick, the fans want to write him in.
8
Vancouver Canucks
6 The Canucks are even better at 5-on-5 this year, but they've suffered terrible shooting luck and terrible goaltending so the results are worse.  Both Minnesota and Edmonton are in front of them in the Northwest and carry games in hand.
9
St. Louis Blues
11 Brian Elliott is playing far above expectations and has propelled the Blues to a 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games.  Their fans are loving life, maybe a bit too much.
10
Los Angeles Kings
8 Terry Murray switched up the Kings' pairings in the hopes of protecting Jack Johnson.  It's a big responsibility for Drew Doughty, but thus far he's been up to the task.
11
Edmonton Oilers
4 The Oilers had a tough go of it on their road trip through the Original Six, but things are about to get much better in Alberta -- Cam Barker is out for three months with an ankle injury.
12
Colorado Avalanche
12 In spite of the play of the Landeskog-O'Reilly-Winnik line, the Avs are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, and have plummeted to the bottom of the conference. The biggest reason for the fall into lottery land is the goaltender they got in exchange for a first-round pick.
13
Calgary Flames
13 Allan Maki says the Flames are relying on notoriously slow starter Jarome Iginla to pick them up.  It's a great thought, but there's a small problem - Iginla isn't a slow starter.  Whoops.
14
Anaheim Ducks
14 The Ducks are awful at this point, in fact, they're the worst 5-on-5 team in the Western Conference.  But there is no savior on the horizon for the Ducks, they're scrounging through the waiver wire.
15
Columbus Blue Jackets
15 There is no relief in sight for the Jackets and now the Captain is starting to take some heat.  Blaming Rick Nash for this mess is like blaming the shark for "Happy Days"

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