The Western Conference hasn’t been a complete surprise during the season’s early going. The Blackhawks stand atop the standings, after all, and the Blue Jackets rank 15th.
But the rest of it is jumbled, causing no small amount of angst among would-be contenders.
The young Oilers may be coming of age a year or two early. They are tied with Chicago and Dallas for first place in the conference with 16 points after 11 games.
On the other hand, the mighty Red Wings sit in 12th place after going winless in their last five games.
“We feel we're close, we're right there, but you can't allow yourself to get too frustrated,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom told the Detroit Free-Press. “We know we have to push through it and try to stay with it.”
The Stars earned their 16 points in 11 games despite losing top center Brad Richards to free agency. Given the team's ownership limbo and resulting financial constraints, many expected it to miss the playoffs this season.
On the other hand, the Ducks, the conference’s fourth-best team a year ago, sit in 11th place with just 12 points in 12 games. In their most recent defeat, Anaheim blew a 3-0 lead while losing 5-4 at Washington.
That prompted this rebuke from Teemu Selanne, via the Orange County Register: “You need everybody. There's no room for passengers right now. Especially when the team is struggling. Everybody has to play their best and the effort has to be there every night. If not, it's bad news.”
The next 10-game segment of the 2011-12 season could be telling. Which of the frontrunners are for real? And which of the also-rans are ready to make their move?