Well - after the Hawks win in Vancouver their coach seems to think so. From Tim Sassone's article today:
"That team right now is the best team in the NHL," said Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault following Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Hawks at GM Place. "They've been perfect in December (8-0-1). Their game is real good."
I don't think you need to tell any of this team is good - we've seen enough shitty teams to realize that this is much different. The Hawks will try to tie an all-time record of 8 wins in a row on Friday but how good are they?
What follows next is my very basic understanding of some of the sabermetrics of hockey - so forgive me for any mistakes...
Well to start - after 31 games they are 18-6-7.. with 43 points. Obviously, that's not the best in the league. They trail Detroit by 5 points with a game inhand. After a bit of a slow start 43 points ain't a bad place to be.
They're the 4th seed in the Western Conference but if we're looking just at points - they're in 3rd since they'd lead the Northwest division as Sam crowned them the other night.
43 points is also good enough for a tie with two other teams (Washington and Philly) for 5th most overall in the league. Only Boston, San Jose, Detroit and the Rangers have more points than the Hawks right now.
It's hard to say the Hawks would be better than any of those teams since they've lost to all 5 of them, though their record in the 6 games is 0-2-4 and the Hawks could have won any one of them with the exception of the Rangers game to start the season. The Hawks are a much different team than they were when the season started though.
So lets look at the CORSI ratings of the top teams (note - I only used players with a minimum of 10 games played to look at these stats. For an explanation of CORSI - go here
The Hawks only have one player with a negative CORSI rating (surprise.. it's Sopel at -4.3 although his time on the kill lately could explain part of that). A team like the Bruins have 8, Rangers have 5, Red Wings 2 and the Sharks have none.
The Hawks average CORSI rating is 5.48... which puts them close to the Rangers at 5.85 and far ahead of the Bruins whose average is only .35. All three of these teams though are very far behind the Scum and Sharks who are kicking ass with an average at 12.47 and 11.79 respectively.
Where the Hawks man strength lies - is in scoring goals. Right now they're second in the league in goals per game. They're scoring 3.61 per game and are 5th overall in the league in total goals. They've played less games than those in front of them and should get up to second once they've played the same number of games. Only the Bruins are scoring more.
They're 4th overall too in goals against but what I think might be the most interesting of all stats is the percentages of wins after trailing in the first period. After being down in the first intermission, the Hawks have won 6 games, leading the NHL. They're tied with the Sharks in that stat but have 3 OTL while the Sharks don't have any.
One of the biggest weaknesses I see this team having is their tendency to lose one goal games. When games are won by just a goal - the Hawks lose two-thirds of the time which puts them at 28th in the league. Not counting the shootout loss in Detroit though - that hasn't happened since the day after Thanksgiving. So things are looking up.
Are the Hawks the best team in the NHL? No... Although after this great christmas gift of a winning streak to us all.. they're close.