Man, I am really glad that hockey is finally starting.
What’s that, you say? Already playing? For three months? No, that can’t be right. I know that the NHL begins every new year with two things: This really fun, now five (five!) year old tradition, and a random standings generator.
What’s that? I’m crazy, you say? The NHL has already played nearly 50 percent of the season?
Well, now’s who’s the one spewing all of the crazy talk? That would be you. Any real hockey fan knows that the NHL doesn’t really start until right after the new year. You don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a look at last year’s standings and we’ll see who’s right and who’s in desperate need of some soul searching and rehab.
As of January 1, 2011 your Conference seedings looked like this:

1. Pittsburgh (53 points)

2. Tampa Bay (51)

3. Boston (46)
4. Philadelphia (51)
5. Washington (51)
6. NY Rangers (47)
7. Atlanta (46)
8. Montreal (44)         
9.Carolina (40)
10. Ottawa (37)
11. Buffalo (36)
12. Florida (34)
13. Toronto (32)
14. NY Islanders (28)
15. New Jersey (22)
1. Detroit (53)
2. Vancouver (51)
3. Dallas (48)
4. San Jose (47)
5. St. Louis (45)
6. Los Angeles (45)
7. Colorado (45)
8. Anaheim (44)         
9. Columbus (43)
10. Chicago (43)
11. Nashville (42)
12. Phoenix (41)
13. Minnesota (39)
14. Calgary (39)
15. Edmonton (31)


(Above: the NHL’s likely MVP on Jan. 1, 2011)
And now, let’s look at last year’s final standings:

1. Washington (107)

2. Philadelphia (106)
3. Boston (103)
4. Pittsburgh (106)
5. Tampa Bay (103)
6. Montreal (96)
7. Buffalo (96)
8. NY Rangers (93)    
9. Carolina (91)
10. Toronto (85)
11. New Jersey (81)
12. Atlanta (80)
13. Ottawa (74)
14. NY Islanders (73)
15. Florida (72)
1. Vancouver (117)
2. San Jose (105)
3. Detroit (104)
4. Anaheim (99)
5. Nashville (99)
6. Phoenix (99)
7. Los Angeles (98)
8. Chicago (97)          
9. Dallas (95)
10. Calgary (94)
11. St. Louis (87)
12. Minnesota (86)
13. Columbus (81)
14. Colorado (68)
15. Edmonton (62)


Again, the standings as of January 1st can only be the product of a random generator, otherwise little of this makes sense. Sure, seven of the eight playoff teams in the east remained the same, but only one, the division winning Boston Bruins, retained its same seed. And as of Jan. 1, the ATLANTA [REDACTED] THRASHERS were in the playoffs. Yes, this year’s feel good, happy-go-lucky Winnipeg Jets were poised to make the playoffs as the original team that Dany Heatley forced his way out of.
In the west, things are even more ridiculous. Only five of the Jan. 1 playoff teams found themselves in the dance at the end of the season. Of those left on the outside looking in were the Dallas Stars who began the new year as the NUMBER THREE SEED, only to see themselves eliminated on the last day of the regular season (thanks in part to the efforts of the local club). None of the seeds remained the same and some rather radical shifts took place. For instance, there was the aforementioned Dallas, which dropped six spots, Anaheim, which jumped four spots, and Nashville, which crawled up a whopping six slots within the conference. And then there was Colorado, which began 2011 in the playoffs as the seven seed and then proceeded to only earn 23 more points the rest of the season and plummeted an amazing seven spots, barely cushioned in its free fall from the rock bottom of the NHL by a truly young and inept Edmonton squad.
So there you have it. These three months of glorified exhibition hockey have been nice and everything, but none of it all really means all that much. The real regular season is only just beginning as teams are just coming to terms with who they are and where they stand in the new year. Take one more good look at today’s standings, folks, because they sure aren’t going to look anything like that in early April.

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