Using current standings: Chicago: I must say a bit of a surprise for the main thought that this team would have never been the same since its dissolving Cup team. Credit to Quenneville and the top guys on the team. Hawks want a bis of Lord Stanley's Cup. Minnesota: Surprising. Everything seems to work perfectly for the Wild. No one is a major scorer on the team, but I've seen Heatley play a good team game, which is exactly what he needs. Goaltending has been phenomenal. So far Yeo and Dineen are going for Coach of the Year Awards. Dallas: Surprising. You would think that this team was ready to crumble and fall flat on the league's bottom. Lehtinen has been more than fantastic, and a shame he will miss a chunk of action. Ribeiro has, unexpectedly, stepped up his game since Brad Richards left Big D. Detroit: Neither. It is an aging team and at some point you figure that they will show signs of slow downs. They have played well, and not so well, thus making their position a projectable one. Datsyuk and Zetterberg may still be expected to step up, but it seems that this will be it for Detroit. Keeping it on cruise control in the middle of the WC standings. St.Louis: Before Hitchcock came in, I was going to say disappointing. It is a talented team, good young players, a good mix of veterans as well. Goaltending has been hot, but not with Halak. So, that was unexpected. Thumbs up to Elliot, though. I think Hitchcock is the right coach for this team for the time being. It seems that these guys are starting to believe in themselves and that they should be not just a playoff team, but a tough one too. I think Blues hockey will be back in the playoffs for the next few years or so. LA: Disappointing. Overall, they are playing average hockey. Expectations should be high for this team and they are not delivering. Coaching? Possible. The fact that both Maurice and Budreau are unemployed now should cross Lombardi's mind. LA has a very good roster, it should be in the top five of the West, and at some point a management decision has to be made. Being four games above .500 is nice for any decent team, but it is quite an underachievement for a team like the Kings. SJ: Disappointing. So far Minnesota is loving the trade they made. Brent Burns has been abysmal in San Jose. It seems like a curse for GM Murray. Whenever he gets a top name, it seems like the trade just won't work out. Sharks are not playing that badly, and everything is so tight in the conference, but really....this is a team of stars and it should be in the top three in the West. Obviously the panic button should not even cross anyone's mind. The Sharks can easily go on an 8 game winning streak and then take over the conference lead. Still, so far it has been disappointing. Phoenix: Surprising. Much like the Stars, this team was expected to crumble. The days are numbered in Phoenix for hockey. These players may be nervous to where they will be relocated. Turris did not even start the season. Their goaltending was dubious at best. But, never underestimate Dave Tippet. He is absolutely one of the best coaches in the league. How he can take a team with minimal depth and just reach a playoff seeding 20 games is in incredible. The Yotes have something to prove this year and they are playing good hockey, inspired hockey, and the results show. Vancouver: Disappointing. They are starting to recover, so it seems, and although a bit late than I expected (I said mid November), the overall play is worrisome. Uninspiring at times. Other times just unable to play any good hockey. Schneider is on a hot streak, and Luongo will find it too. While their start to the season has been disappointing, I think this is exactly what Vancouver needs. They need to face these obstacles to build more character and mental toughness for the playoffs. The playoffs are an obvious event for the Canucks, but still....the playoffs don't come knocking on your door. Nashville: Neither. I think it is typical for Nashville to jump around in the standings. In the middle of the conference is where they are expected to be. Edmonton: Surprised. It is a talented team, but of inexperienced young forwards who are either teenagers or are early in their 20s. One point behind 8th seed for such a young team is quite impressive; however, some of their young stars are not developing as well and it is a concern if they are maybe brought in too early at the NHL level. Edmonton has a GREAT thing going for them, but it is also risking it if they keep drafting high and rushing these prospects at the NHL level. Colorado: Disappointing. Frankly, I think GM Sherman has no idea what to do with this team. I did not see a good reason for him to trade Shattenkirk and Stewart for Erik Johnson. He has not improved the team all that much, although I think Varlamov will be a solid starting goaltender for many years to come. Still....i am not understanding the game plan here for the Avs. It seems like they make moves to be a better team, and then they stop short and look quite reserved. Of course Sherman won't take the blame, but unfortunately I think Sacco will with Maurice and Budreau available. This team should be battling for the 8th seed, and it clearly is not. Calgary: Disappointed. Not that I am surprised at their current standing, but it is a team of highly paid players and also underachievers, and the work ethic looks pathetic. The Sutters killed this team, and Feaster has a lot of work to do in 2012. I think he will put up a fire sale when the time is right. He will not keep Sutter once the season is over (or at least, he may jump at the opportunity to hire Bruce Budreau soon before someone else does), and he will also get a high draft pick. The Flames organization deserves better than a depressing atmosphere. The team has a lot of pros and they are simply not giving it their best. Is it time to let Iginla go? It depends on the deal that Feaster may be offered with, and the money he is willing to spend in future free agencies. Lose because you are not good enough, but don't lose because you don't care. Disappointing. Anaheim: Disappointing. Three top notch scorers, with an aging vet that apparently can still net 30 goals. Goaltending is respectable. The defense is tragic. I can understand losing games due to the defense, but the abysmal goal scoring and the effort on the ice speaks volumes. Carlyle is a smart coach, but so was Laviolette and he was fired. He won Cup as well. It just happens that coaches need to be replaced, even if they are good. The Ducks GM cannot afford many more losses. We are not looking at 13 losses out of 82 games, but the Ducks need to make up 7 games just to reach .500. The Ducks have played 23 games. There is no chance that they will reach .500 by game 35, or maybe even by game 40. It is time to get to work for the GM. Unfortunately, Carlyle has to go, but also very important is to make a deal to fix the defense. Should he trade one of his top three forwards? I would not even think about it. This is a mental issue. It is the GM's job to address the team's needs, and it starts with replacing a coach and improving the defense. It can be done, and it has to be done. Columbus: Disappointing. The top team that has no cap room is the bottom team in the league. It is tough to blame the coach, but sometimes coaches are just so easy to fire and replace. It may be what will happen with this organization, but the reality is that GM Scott Howson has failed. You simply cannot spend that much money and be in last place, ever. Absolutely embarrassing, and the ownership should be fuming.