More than half of the NHL's 30 teams have played either 12 or 13 games, meaning they're at or just past the quarter pole of this shortened 48-game season.
Heading into the season, one of the talking points came from folks wondering which general manager would be the first to panic. Would a coach get fired after an obscenely small sample of games? Would a veteran player end up being traded to try to jump start either the team he left, the team he joined, or both?
The season is a week short of one month old, but so far, nothing has happened, despite there being no shortage of candidates.
It probably helps that one of the best candidates for a panic move is a general manager whose reputation is just the opposite of "guy who panics and makes bad decisions."
The Washington Capitals are 15th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. They won just two of their first 11 games. They haven't won on the road yet. Yet rookie head coach Adam Oates is still employed, and the team hasn't been blown up yet by a huge trade.
Why? Because GM George McPhee doesn't operate like that, and everyone knows it. In fact, one of the rare moments where McPhee may have panicked and made a poor decision was where he fired Bruce Boudreau last season. Yeah, Dale Hunter won a playoff series, but the team lost its run-and-gun identity over a stretch of time under Boudreau and Hunter, and Oates isn't going to get the group pushing again by simply snapping his fingers. This is just another culture change for the organization, and one that could take a little time.
Who else is struggling in the East? Buffalo is 12th, off to a 5-7-1 start. The Sabres have been a model of stability under Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff, and while some have speculated Ruff could be on the way out, it hasn't happened yet. Thomas Vanek and the offense haven't been a problem, though Boston held Buffalo to just one goal Sunday night in a 3-1 win. The other end of the rink needs some work, though.
"Offensively, we're fine [third in the East, sixth overall with 30 goals). But defensively we have work to do. And when you think of where we are defensively, If I had a coach to pick to shore that up, Lindy is the guy. And it's not just all on Lindy by any means. We have to work together to get this turned around."
Minds change, but it sure sounds like Ruff is sticking around for the season, too.
In Minnesota, fans grumbled (some quite loudly) while the Wild started 4-5-1. After the summer signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Wild entered the campaign with high expectations. Well, the 20 goals they've scored in ten games since a 4-2 Opening Night win over Colorado aren't helping the team hit those expectations.
The Wild have called up two of their stud prospects -- defenseman Jonas Brodin and forward Charlie Coyle -- from AHL Houston. Neither has done a single thing to make management think they should go back to the Aeros anytime soon. Brodin has been paired with Suter lately, while Coyle is on the top line with Parise and Mikko Koivu.
Despite that, GM Chuck Fletcher doesn't sound like a guy who has any interest in firing second year coach Mike Yeo.
"Mike and the coaches are doing a very good job. We’re giving up almost five shots a game less than we did last year and we’re doing a good job. We’ve got a lot of pieces to juggle in a short amount of time. We’re trying to find chemistry and frankly we can’t get caught up in the angst and outside opinions and reaction. We just have to stay focused and concentrate on doing a better job and executing at a better level.
"If the effort is there, eventually things will turn."
The Wild have reportedly been at least dangling forward Devin Setoguchi on the trade market, but a sniper with zero (well, now he has one) goals is hard to trade for any kind of value.
Fletcher isn't going to panic, and neither are Regier nor McPhee. No one else in the NHL has either, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.
Sample sizes are much smaller than usual, but the urgency to make the playoffs is just as great as ever, and no team will leave any proverbial stone unturned in a quest to make the tournament.