Ranking the Most Inconsistent NHL Teams in the 2013-14 Season

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2013

Ranking the Most Inconsistent NHL Teams in the 2013-14 Season

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    The Red Wings and Islanders are two of the most consistent teams in the league.
    The Red Wings and Islanders are two of the most consistent teams in the league.Al Bello/Getty Images

    There's little doubt that teams like Chicago, San Jose and Anaheim will be at or near the top in the Western Conference. The same holds true for Pittsburgh and Boston in the East. 

    Struggling teams like Florida, Buffalo, Calgary and Edmonton are right where most expected them to be. These teams don't win games very often and they have been consistently outplayed.

    Fans, coaches, executives and media members understand consistency. A high level of talent should produce wins on an every-game basis. Teams that don't have as many skilled players will lose most of the time.

    But what about the teams that have don't play to their talent level? The teams that don't play consistently are often maddening because their record does not indicate how well they can play.

    In this feature, we rank the most inconsistent teams in the league.

    There are seven teams that stand out. Notice that only two of them come from the Western Conference, which is clearly the stronger of the two NHL conferences this season.

7. New York Islanders

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

    Record: 8-11-3; tied for fifth in Metropolitan Division

    Last 10 games: 4-6-0

    Key stat: The Islanders rank last in the NHL in penalty killing, allowing goals on 28.4 percent of their short-handed situations.

    Analysis: The Islanders were one of the surprise teams last year as they got hot in the second half of the season and earned the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They extended Pittsburgh to six games, and they had the top-seeded Pens on the run several times in the series.

    John Tavares is one of the best players in the league and he is trying to lead the Islanders back to the playoffs. However, their defensive play and their goaltending often puts the team in a hole.

    That's not surprising because the Islanders lost defenseman Mark Streit during the offseason (traded to Philadelphia before he left as a free agent) and veteran goalie Evgeni Nabokov (groin; likely out four weeks) is injured. Nabokov was not playing well before his injury, and his 3.30 goals-against average and .892 save percentage often put the Islanders in a hole.

    Backup Kevin Poulin has been slightly better (2.79, .898), but it seems the Islanders are fighting a losing battle in their ability to keep the puck out of their net.

    Until they can improve their penalty killing and their overall defense, it doesn't seem likely that the Islanders will become consistent enough to get back to the playoffs.

6. Winnipeg Jets

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    Lance Thomson/Getty Images

    Record: 10-10-3; sixth place in Central Division

    Last 10 games: 5-4-1

    Key stat: The Jets ranks 29th on the power play, converting on 11.2 percent of their man-advantage situations.

    Analysis: There's nothing surprising to see the Jets included in a story about the most inconsistent teams in the league.

    They have flashed their talents and abilities in each of their first two seasons in Winnipeg, and they are doing the same this year.

    The Jets have a core of five strong players in Bryan Little, Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd, yet they have a hard time playing consistently for 60 minutes and stringing good games together.

    Hard-working and earnest Claude Noel may eventually have to pay for this inconsistency. He does not go off on his players in public and perhaps this makes them think that the status quo is just fine. It is not, and their loyal fans will eventually start to show their displeasure.

    The Jets are getting dominated in the faceoff circle, winning just 45.4 percent of the draws they have taken. It's difficult to win when they are constantly chasing the puck and their opponents have possession of it.

5. Montreal Canadiens

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    Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

    Record: 11-9-2; fifth place in Atlantic Division

    Last 10 games: 4-4-2

    Key stat: The Canadiens are averaging 2.59 goals per game, a figure that ranks 17th in the league. That's not terrible, but they were averaging 3.57 goals per game in their first seven games. 

    Analysis: The Canadiens have a long way to go if they are going to get back to first place in the division. They won the Northeast Division last year, but they are a middle-of-the pack team this year.

    The Canadiens had some injuries earlier in the year, and that prevented some early momentum, but they have gotten high-scoring Max Pacioretty and physical defenseman Alexei Emelin back in the lineup. This could help head coach Michel Therrien's team play more consistently over the coming weeks.

    Therrien is a no-nonsense coach, who regularly wears a look of disgust any time his team is not in a dominant position. This is tough for players to live with. Therrien has worn out his welcome in previous stints in Montreal and Pittsburgh, and he could be doing it again.

    On the positive side, the Canadiens had serious concerns about goaltender Carey Price at the start of the season, but he has performed quite well. Price has a 2.05 GAA and a .935 save percentage. He is giving the Canadiens stability in goal after finishing the 2013 season in a nasty slump.

4. Ottawa Senators

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    Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

    Record: 8-9-4; sixth place in Atlantic Division

    Last 10 games: 4-4-2

    Key stat: The Senators are struggling to keep the puck out of their net. They are averaging 3.05 goals against per game, and that ranks 24th in the league. A year ago, the Senators gave up 2.08 goals per game, which ranked second in the league.

    Analysis: No team in the NHL overachieved more than the Senators did last year. Head coach Paul MacLean's team was devastated by injuries and it appeared they were going to be buried in the Northeast Division, but they played hard all season and made the playoffs.

    While they could not get past the second round, it seemed the Senators had a solid roster and it looked like they had put themselves in a position to challenge teams like Boston, Montreal and Detroit in the Atlantic Division.

    Instead, the Senators are not a dependable team this year. Even though they have Erik Karlsson manning the point on the power play and directing the offense, they are not as dangerous as they were last year.

    The biggest factor, however, is the play of Craig Anderson. He was one of the best goalies in the league last year, but he is allowing 3.26 goals against per game with a .904 save percentage.

3. New York Rangers

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Record: 10-11-0; third place in Metropolitan Division

    Last 10 games: 6-4-0

    Key stat: The Rangers are averaging 2.05 goals per game, ranking 27th in the NHL.

    Analysis: It was no surprise that the Rangers started the season badly because the schedule maker hammered them with a nine-game road trip at the start of the season.

    The Rangers have been fighting an uphill battle since then, and part of their issue is getting used to first-year coach Alain Vigneault, who represents something of a culture shock after the demanding regime of John Tortorella.

    Vigneault is trying to give the Rangers more offensive freedom than they had in the past, but they simply can't score. 

    This point was driven home in their 2-1 home loss to the Boston Bruins Nov. 19. They outshot the Bruins 44-22 and held a major territorial edge, but they simply couldn't put the puck by Bruins' goalie Tuukka Rask.

    Additionally, Vigneault has not been overly impressed with Henrik Lundqvist, as the former Vezina Trophy winner is not performing at the level he normally reaches. Lundqvist's goals against average is 2.38 and his .918 save percentage, and that's not where he has been the last two years.

2. Vancouver Canucks

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    Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

    Record: 11-8-4; fifth place in Pacific Division

    Last 10 games: 3-4-3

    Key stat: The Canucks are scoring on 11.3 percent of their power play opportunities, ranking 28th in the NHL.

    Analysis: The Canucks were playing quite well through early November, but they are starting to struggle quite badly. They have lost five games in a row, and it's not sitting well with head coach John Tortorella.

    The former Rangers' head coach had been staying calm through the early part of the season, but when the Canucks dropped a 3-2 shootout at home to the lowly Florida Panthers, he could not keep his temper in check any longer. 

    "We sucked," Tortorella told the Canadian Press. "It was easily our worst game of the year. We didn't deserve a point."

    Tortorella said that he did not think his team showed enough "respect" for the Panthers, and that could lead to some tough practices in the next few days so his team becomes more prepared in future games.

    The Canucks are victimized currently by their geography. Their 26 points would have them tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. However, eight teams have more points than they do in the Western Conference.

1. Detroit Red Wings

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Record: 9-6-7; fourth place in Atlantic Division

    Last 10 games: 3-2-5

    Key stat: The Red Wings have a winning percentage of .182 when they trail after one period, a figure that has them tied for 22nd in that category. Their inability to come back from a deficit is a big reason they are struggling in the Eastern Conference.

    Analysis: Henrik Zetterberg (10 goals, 13 assists, plus-eight) and Pavel Datsyuk (11 goals, 11 assists, plus-six) are both having excellent seasons and they lead the Red Wings in scoring.

    When a team's top two stars are having excellent seasons, it seems likely that the team will also perform well. However, the Red Wings are slumping with seven straight losses in the Eastern Conference. While five of these losses are in overtime or a shootout, the Red Wings have been unable to make that one big play at the crucial part of the game.

    That's very surprising because of the way the Red Wings finished the season last year. They seemed to get it together as they earned a playoff spot, defeated the Anahem Ducks in the first round and extended the Chicago Blackhawks to overtime of the seventh game.

    They appear to have the talent, depth and know-how to win, but head coach Mike Babcock has not been able to pull his team out of their current malaise.

    Based on the coach's and the team's track record, this won't last. However, the Red Wings have been the most inconsistent team in the league based on their talent and expectations.