Line Change: Rangers thankful for hot start; Panthers making moves

Looking at who’s hot and who’s not in the NHL.

There’s nothing better than lots of food and lots of hockey. Luckily for us NHL fans, the past week was stuffed full of both. So without wasting any more time (and making more bad Thanksgiving puns), let’s talk about who had a week to be thankful for, and who is thankful the week is over.

On the Rise

New York Rangers

Under Jack Adams candidate, Alain Vigneault, the New York Rangers are having an exceptional first quarter.

After an offseason of roster moves, the Rangers have come out stronger, better and faster than most of us would’ve expected. Michael Grabner has been a star for New York, leading the team in goals (12), while teammates Kevin Hayes, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Vesey are also having great seasons.

Despite early season assumptions about the Rangers’ inability to make a run for the Cup, the Blueshirts have proved all doubters wrong.

The San Jose Sharks’ Blue Line

The San Jose Sharks’ blue line just got a big boost for the next eight years.

The team recently locked up superstar defenseman Brent Burns to an eight-year, $64 million extension. Burns has been a key piece in San Jose’s success these past few years, and this contract is a huge step in the right direction for the Sharks.

There’s no denying Burns is one of the best d-men in the league. This past week alone, he earned the NHL’s Third Star of the Week, scoring two goals and four assists in four games. San Jose made the right move this week. The Sharks are definitely on the rise.

Craig Anderson

It might be an understatement to say Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson had an incredible week.

The 35-year-old pushed his team to four victories over the past few days, recording a 1.25 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage in the process. He also earned his 36th career shutout, against the New York Rangers. Anderson’s stellar play helped boost the Sens into the top five teams in the league, and landed them only five points behind the Atlantic Division leaders, the Montreal Canadiens. I’d say that’s pretty good.

John Torchetti & Columbus Blue Jackets

If there was an award for Most Improved Team in the league, that award would likely go to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With the help of coach John Torchetti, the Blue Jackets have turned things around big time. The team has had a pretty incredible first quarter, as well as an impressive past week. Over the past week or so, Columbus beat teams like the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. That’s no small feat for a team that ended last season only a few spots away from the bottom of the league.

After a quarter of the season, the Blue Jackets and Torchetti find themselves with an 11-5-4 record and 26 points. The team is competing in a tough division and will need to keep up with rivals like the Penguins and Rangers down the stretch, but so far, so good for Columbus.

Jake Guentzel’s Family

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jake Geuentzel had a lot to be thankful for this week. So did his family.

The rookie played his first NHL game last Monday, but he didn’t stop with one milestone. He scored his first goal on his first shot, as well. Let’s just say his family was really excited.

The sport of hockey is great on its own, but it’s moments like this that really make the game something special. The cheering must’ve helped, because Geuntzel went on to score another goal minutes later. Now Geuntzel just needs to find a way to keep his family in the stands for every game.

Going Down

The Florida Panthers Ownership

I think I speak for the entire hockey community when I say I’m a little shocked to see Gerard Gallant lose his job as head coach of the Florida Panthers. The Panthers had experienced some trouble this season, but nothing that seemed alarming enough to justify Gallant’s sudden removal. To make matters worse, the former head coach had recently signed an extension through 2019. He was also a finalist for the Jack Adams last season.

Gallant hardly seemed to have a reason to be on the chopping block. Nonetheless, the Florida Panthers chose to move in a new direction this week. Maybe a coaching change will help, but I’m not convinced this was the right move to help Florida get things going.

Vegas Golden Knights

This week, the NHL’s 31st team revealed its name and logo with an event to be remembered (or maybe forgotten).

I don’t know about you, but I’m not all that impressed with the Vegas Golden Knights. Now I’m a little biased on the subject because I haven’t liked the idea of an expansion team in Vegas from the start. The unveiling of this new team name and logo didn’t really make me any more excited, either.

I know the Vegas Golden Knights don’t technically exist yet, and maybe having a team in Vegas will be great once it actually happens. But I’m a little skeptical. I’d rather see another team in Canada, or really, honestly anywhere but Vegas. As far as my opinion is concerned, I think this team is doomed before it even starts. But I’ll be interested to see what the rest of the hockey community thinks about the newest member of the NHL.

Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets have a lot to be thankful for this season. This past week is not one of those things.

The Jets have had a mediocre season so far, with silver linings coming in the form of rookie Patrick Laine, Mark Scheifele and the ability to play well in front of a home crowd. Those small positives haven’t been enough to keep wins coming consistently, however.

This past week, the Jets went 1-5, dropping every game on a five-game road trip. The team’s home ice advantage came in handy Sunday night when Winnipeg finally managed to snap the losing streak at home. Those losses still hurt the Jets badly, though. Winnipeg now sits just four points from the bottom of the league and is on pace to finish at the bottom of the Central Division. A quarter of the way through the 2016-17 season, things aren’t looking too hot in Winnipeg.

New York Islanders

One of New York’s hockey teams is having one hell of a season. The other two are kind of a disaster. Unfortunately for the New York Islanders, they fall into the latter category.

The Islanders are currently the worst team in hockey, sitting at the bottom of the league with just 18 points. The team has managed to win only three games throughout the month of November (against Vancouver, Anaheim and Calgary), and has made three and four-game losing streaks commonplace.

The Islanders have been falling all season long. It seems safe to say the downward spiral isn’t stopping anytime soon.

The NHL All-Star Game on NBC

The NHL announced this past week that its 2017 All-Star Game would be returning to broadcast television for the first time since 1994. While that’s a great step forward for the league and the sport of hockey, the All-Star Game is just not the best choice of game for national TV.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the All-Star Game isn’t a very good reflection of the sport of hockey. It’s a league-controlled, watered-down version of an actual NHL game. It’s certainly not what the sport of hockey should be known for. I understand the league wants to gain new fans and this is one way to do it, but despite the broadcast news, I don’t have much of an amiable feeling toward this year’s All-Star Game.

What do you think about this week’s hot and not list?

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