The first month of the 2022-23 NHL season is officially in the books. With the campaign still being in the early stages, there have been several teams that have surprisingly risen to the top of the standings and some that can be categorized as underachievers.
Teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, Seattle Kraken and Winnipeg Jets have been extremely competitive out of the gate. However, it's likely they won't continue to be near the top of the standings as the season progresses.
With the season being a month old, we decided that it was only fitting to provide our overreactions to what has transpired thus far.
Johnny Gaudreau made a mistake by leaving the Flames
When Johnny Gaudreau chose to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets in July, it was a perplexing move to say the least. After deciding to leave the Calgary Flames, many expected Gaudreau to sign in the Metropolitan Division with either the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders or Philadelphia Flyers so that he could play closer to his family in New Jersey. However, he caught everybody off-guard when he signed a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with the Blue Jackets.
It's only been 13 games, but perhaps Gaudreau made a mistake by choosing to leave Calgary. Out of the gate, Gaudreau only has six goals and six assists playing on Columbus' top line alongside Patrik Laine and Boone Jenner. Now, it is worth noting that Laine missed two weeks last month due to an upper-body injury. Still, the Blue Jackets have gotten off to just a 4-9-0 start with an Eastern Conference-low eight points. It's obviously too early to tell whether Gaudreau made the right decision, but the early returns haven't been great for the star winger after nine phenomenal seasons with the Flames. -- Chris Bengel
Logan Thompson is playing like a Vezina Trophy candidate
The Vegas Golden Knights have gotten off to a hot start over the first month. This is a group that has compiled an 13-2-0 record (26 points) thus far, which has earned them the best record in the NHL. It's been a surprising start for a team that was surrounded by quite a bit of uncertainty once it was announced goaltender Robin Lehner would miss the entire 2022-23 season after undergoing hip surgery. However, goalie Logan Thompson has been spectacular in between the pipes for Vegas so far this season.
Thompson currently has a 8-2-0 record to go along a 2.32 goals-against-average and a .925 save percentage. The Golden Knights netminder has only allowed more than three goals on two occasions this season and has recorded a pair of shutouts. Thompson did have 17 starts under his belt throughout the 2021-22 campaign, but the pressure is a lot different when a netminder is "the guy" on a nightly basis. Thompson has established himself among the league's best in the crease through one month of play. If this stellar level of play continues, this Golden Knights team can certainly make another Stanley Cup run. -- Bengel
The Devils are a playoff team
After appearing in the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, it's been a rough stretch for the New Jersey Devils. The Devils have only qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs once over the past 10 seasons, including missing the postseason in each of the last four campaigns. With those struggles, the team has stockpiled a large amount of young talent, and they're finally seeing the fruits of that labor.
Through their first 12 games, the Devils have amassed a 11-3-0 record and lead the Metropolitan Division with 18 points. Yes, you read that correctly. The Devils are leading a division that features the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. One of the biggest reasons for that is New Jersey's goal-scoring prowess. The Devils are currently averaging 3.64 goals per game, which is good for sixth in the NHL. Jesper Bratt has been playing out of his mind, registering at least one point in each of the Devils' first 11 games to set a franchise record. Nico Hischier has also gotten off to a tremendous start centering the team's top line and has thrived in the face-off circle by winning 58.3 percent of his draws (seventh in the NHL).
Obviously, it's extremely early, but the Devils have tallied wins over the likes of the Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames thus far in the young season. The team is going to be forced to be without starting goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood for three to six weeks due to an MCL sprain. However, if the Devils can keep producing offensively, they should do just fine and be in the thick of the playoff race late in the regular season. -- Bengel
The St. Louis Blues are in big trouble
Last season, the St. Louis Blues confounded me by playing a style of hockey that allowed them to win games despite getting beaten in statistical areas like shot attempts and expected goals. Essentially, St. Louis was more selective with the shots it did take. Instead of settling for point shots, the Blues preferred to generate truly dangerous scoring chances by attacking off the rush or trying to funnel pucks into the slot.
Through 11 games this season, that strategy has failed them. The Blues have registered just one win over their last nine games in regulation, and they find themselves in the basement of the Central Division. Thus far, the process isn't much different from last year. St. Louis ranks 22nd in expected goals share at five-on-five (47.57 percent), per Natural Stat Trick, but the team has put an emphasis on shots from between the circles.
The difference is regression. In 2021-22, the Blues rode the wave of an incredibly high shooting percentage. They led the league with a team shooting percentage of 12.4%. Through 11 games this year, they are dead last at 7.9 percent. The Blues' style of play does leave them at the mercy of puck luck, even more so than other teams. Because of that, it's probably too early to smash the panic button, but St. Louis needs to snap this losing streak in a hurry. You can't make the playoffs in November, but you sure can miss them. -- Austin Nivison
The Panthers won the Matthew Tkachuk trade
When the Florida Panthers shipped Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar to the Calgary Flames in a blockbuster trade for Matthew Tkachuk, it was fair to wonder whether they overpaid. Tkachuk was coming off a career year, but the Panthers were losing two top-flight players in exchange for one. Huberdeau had just tallied 115 points and Weegar had emerged as a first-pair defenseman.
Huberdeau and Weegar haven't performed poorly in their first dozen games with the Flames, but the production hasn't been anywhere near where it was last season. They have combined for one goal and 10 points between them. With those two struggling to make a mark on the scoresheet, Calgary has lost seven straight games.
The Panthers' start has been far from perfect, but Tkachuk has not been the problem. In fact, Tkachuk has been excellent. He has 17 points in 12 games played, and Florida has dominated possession with Tkachuk on the ice at five-on-five. Factor in the fact that Tkachuk's contract situation is much more favorable than that of Huberdeau or Weegar, and the deal is starting to look very good for the Panthers. -- Nivison
Rasmus Dahlin is a Norris Trophy contender
What a story Rasmus Dahlin has been so far this season. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Dahlin has struggled to live up to that billing in his young NHL career. Just last season, Dahlin posted some decent point totals, but he still had trouble keeping his head above water at five-on-five. With Dahlin on the ice in those situations, the Buffalo Sabres scored 59 goals but allowed 68.
Things have changed in a big way early on in the 2022-23 season. With seven goals and 17 points in 13 games, Dahlin ranks second to Erik Karlsson in both of those categories among defensemen. On top of that, the Sabres are controlling play when Dahlin is in the game at five-on-five. According to Natural Stat Trick, Buffalo has an expected goals share of 55.49% in those situations. There is time for Dahlin to come back to Earth, but he has thrust himself into the Norris Trophy discussion at this point. -- Nivison