(Teams are listed in order of their points totals, as of Monday night.)
Washington Capitals -- I am waiting for a consistent defensive system from the Capitals. When I say "consistent," I mean a stretch of five-to-eight games where they play absolute shut-down defense. Then you can call me impressed.
San Jose Sharks -- There is only one answer here to the question -- the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We are all waiting for the playoffs to truly get a reading on this year's version of the Sharks.
New Jersey Devils -- I am waiting for someone to answer the question of how are the Devils doing it? You look at their lineup and not many players jump out at you, but they keep winning. Perhaps it really is a team game.
Pittsburgh Penguins -- I am waiting for the rematch of the rematch. Detroit vs. Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Final, one more time. Yes, I know, I may be waiting for something that may not happen.
Colorado Avalanche -- Just when I think the Avs are fading, they start winning again. Colorado has to be one of the biggest surprises of the early hockey season. Can they continue their winning ways? Why not, only 50 or so games to go.
Chicago Blackhawks -- As the media hype continues to grow, the Blackhawks will soon be "America's Next Great Hockey Team." I am waiting until June to climb on that bandwagon.
Calgary Flames -- "The Sutter Style" is growing on the Flames. The true reason for the success this season has been the play of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. Look for their defense to become even harder to play against as the season progresses, but also look for the Flames to try to find more offense from their forwards.
Los Angeles Kings -- I am waiting (give me another 20 games) to find out if the Kings have enough goaltending to take them deep into the playoffs. Plus, have the Kings found a way to play every game without taking a night off? If they have, credit goes to coach Terry Murray for a job well done.
Phoenix Coyotes -- I need to know how the Coyotes are this high in the points ranking? Seriously, did any of you expect anything from this team this season?
Boston Bruins -- Getting healthier may mean we will soon see a winning streak from the Bruins. They have survived early in the season and now I expect the "real" Bruins team to put their stamp on the season.
Buffalo Sabres -- Another one of those teams that are doing it with team play and great goaltending. The next 20 games are key for the Sabres and if they continue their winning ways, they may be a force come mid-April.
Nashville Predators -- It seems two weeks ago I had them listed as a "wait until next year" team. Now they are playing Nashville-style hockey. All they do is win; and the teams they are facing ask how.
Dallas Stars -- Marty Turco is having a bounce-back year and as long as he keeps it up, the Stars will be in the playoff hunt. Plus Brad Richards is very quietly having a great year.
Atlanta Thrashers -- Great goaltending and offensive outbursts have been the key to the Thrashers' success. Can they keep it up is the question that has yet to be answered.
Detroit Red Wings -- Injuries can't be used as an excuse for their inconsistent play, but it can be used as a reason for their sporadic play. Can the Wings get healthy enough to remain in the playoff picture is a question Wings fans want answered.
Ottawa Senators -- Owner Eugene Melynk is right, the Senators' top players have to improve their play. Without that happening, it could be a long season for them.
Vancouver Canucks -- They need to get on a roll right now. A long road trip due to the Olympics in Vancouver is fast approaching and the Canucks want to be in a playoff position before that trip starts.
Columbus Blue Jackets -- I am waiting for the Blue Jackets to improve their overall game. The goaltending needs to improve quickly, but at the same time, the overall team play must improve, too. It all goes hand-in-hand with this team.
Tampa Bay Lightning -- Right in the playoff picture as of today, even with Vinny Lecavalier off to a very slow start. I hate to put even more pressure on Lecavalier, but as he goes the team goes for the rest of the season.
Montreal Canadiens -- Still trying to find their style after a huge roster makeover. A healthy Andrei Markov on defense will certainly help the Habs and I look at the team finding their groove in the next few weeks.
Edmonton Oilers -- A team hit hard with injuries, depth has been an issue for them. A four- or five-game winning streak would be welcome right about now; but consistency has been an issue for the Oilers.
St. Louis Blues -- A great road record has kept the Blues in the playoff hunt, but a very bad home record has the Blues' brass scratching its heads. A home winning streak is not out of the question and if that does happen, look out for the Blues (remember last season?).
New York Rangers -- A team looking for more offense. Until they find it, the Rangers will be a team of many ups and downs.
Minnesota Wild -- A turnaround from a very bad early start is happening right before our eyes. Now 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, I would put an up arrow next to their name if I could.
New York Islanders -- No longer a pushover team, the Islanders come out hard every game. Fans are waiting for their youthful team to mature a bit and when it happens, watch out.
Florida Panthers -- One game good, one game bad, one game so-so. Need more of the first and less of the last two to get into the playoff picture.
Philadelphia Flyers -- I admit it and, probably like you, I did not see the Flyers this low at any time this season. They have a lot of work to do and it starts in their locker room. Their next move if they can't find their game is to start moving players to find the right attitude to play this game.
Anaheim Ducks -- I keep waiting for the Ducks to get on a winning streak, but time is running out. There are too many good players on this team to be where it is in the standings.
Toronto Maple Leafs -- The recent Leafs have been much better than the early Leafs of this season. Can they keep it up is the next question.
Carolina Hurricanes -- Win, win anyway the can; just win. Every game is a must-win for the Canes right now. They have to get hot and with goaltender Cam Ward returning from injury, it can happen. But it has to happen now for the Canes.