Third of the way through the season, fam. Credit to the captains, there’s a lot of parity. Even the lowest ranked teams have a level of competency, so don’t feel too down in the dumps when I shit on you. And if I give you some praise, I'm just trying to be nice while I actually shit on you in my head. #1 LIBERTY BIBERTY I don’t see this as one of those teams predestined to win it all, and frankly they could disappoint if anything, but they deserve the top spot at this juncture. Their schedule has been weak, minus a tight series win over Appear Offline, but Liberty is 3rd in goals for/game, 2nd in goals against/game, 2nd in TOA/game, with the best combined special teams. They went for broke building their defense core, and it’s the best in the league; they have a true Hart-caliber player in Regretzkys. A major question mark, Pensfan is narrowly 2nd in the league in save %, even if he faces the 2nd fewest shots/game. They don’t need a Vezina season, but even baseline competency is a massive win given their BOD allocation. So far, with season left to burn, Pens has performed above and beyond. My biggest concern is on the wing. While Dom and Bryan did the best they could value-wise, is there enough creativity and passing and versatility to carry them through a tough playoff series? Certain people’s reputations precede them in that area. I don’t love the hit chasing either on this team. It’s a heavy burden when your best offensive player by far is your center, especially off the rush, so we'll see. #2 NOOOOOOOOOOOO It's a 6 game sample, including a strong win against Offline, but Pale banked his entire team on Good being the best goalie, with Cougar doing his Norris-caliber thing. So far, it’s gone according to plan. Small sample, but Good’s .868 save% is a mile above 2nd place with .786%. This team has pretty much done everything well through two series, and they still have PT Ozzy in the chamber if they want to pair him with Cougar, which I think is the play. I liked this team straight from draft night given how well-rounded they looked, but the biggest question I have long-term: is being well-rounded enough? While all above average, do they have an actually elite forward who can generate his own offense when things stall or in tough 1-on-1 matchups? Will they be so good at limiting goals does it matter? #3 APPEAR OFFLINE The penalty brigade, Dmart’s team simply can’t stay out of the box. Leading the league in PIMs — almost a minor more per game than the 2nd worst — with the 2nd worst PK is a losing combination. It’s mind boggling how many lazy reckless penalties they take, and it’s not even one person: they have the players with the 1st, 2nd, and 5th most PIMs. The silver lining is they also have the #1 PP, and they carry play and score well at even strength. Take away the elephant in the room, this is a top team. Veds is the most dynamic offensive defenseman in the league, Dmart knows how to win, Dali is 3rd in goals and 1st in shots. But this team can’t keep shooting itself in the foot because they can play every top team even. You know Dmart is at his breaking point. However, the penalties might mask the bigger issue they have: their pace of play and passing up front needs to improve. Too much stagnancy, not enough chained plays. #4 STRICTLY BUSINESS How can I have the only undefeated team in regulation this low? With the most skilled player in the league? Sustainability. They might very well crush their next series against Rubber Puckies too, but they’ve had quite an easy schedule to start with, before an eventually tougher 2nd half. But even in that relatively easier schedule, 7/9 of Business’ games have been 1 goal games. At .705%, Curdogg has the worst save % in the league. Jelly is a perennial Rocket favorite to pair with his BFF Kosmic, but this team is very much feast or famine off the rush (9th in TOA/game). What happens in a more defensive, cycle heavy game? Will they pass it well enough? SeeDew has done well part-time, Marty is obviously a defensive anchor for the younglings (although playing defense his last series speaks to uncertainties when Dew isn’t playing), but they don’t necessarily have a trap breaker either, sans Kosmic. There are more question marks than at face value. #5 BIG BROWN BEAVERS Dutch and Mashtopia are arguably the best center-wing combination this season, and they’ll live and die with them. That's the good and bad news. Getting jsquad off waivers, after spending BODs like Veds spends on Show bundles, and having him be competent so far has been a massive relief for this team. This team can’t survive with less from that position. Zer0 and KH as 3rd forwards provide more than enough firepower up front. This team’s issues stem from the backend: they don’t have an actual puck mover or offensive threat. Dutch spent 30 BODs to get his friend Bowser, but he’s probably best slotted as a #2 defensive guy to pair with a puck mover. Ditto Yambag, to lesser degree. I think it’s been proven over and over that without an elite #1 defenseman, a team will eventually hit a wall, and there’s too much responsibility for the forwards here. #6 GAME OF THROWS HallofFame must’ve had deja vu to last season’s tough start, with Throws opening to the tune of 1-4-1, before scoring a whopping 19 goals on Puckies. While that’s good for morale, I don’t know if that’s predictive. This team on paper should be a contending team, but they’ve underperformed in 3/4 series. Hall made blockbusters last season to get himself out of the hole, but this season is a week shorter, so urgency is at hand. He needs to quickly decide which version of his team is the real thing. Sejje, the Hart-type puck controller, with BigCee, the pure scorer, anchored by the always-elite Hall on defense is a top group on paper. Trading for Hoodler might be enough to put them on course. And Rage and Ace are good depth. But chemistry doesn’t always develop with time; sometimes you're less than the sum of your parts. #7 AIN'T NO SUNSHINE This bunch feels like the other side of the coin to Pale’s Nooooooo team. On paper, right out of draft night, they looked quite well-rounded. They still do in that no player is worse than average, with plenty well above. But they lack that elite punch someone like Cougar provides, and compared to Good’s dominant early start, Xx of a kind has been the 3rd worst goalie. While I do like their defensive core, especially Wick's rush capabilities paired with BLK, their forwards might not be fully meshing, but that could come down to (likely) lack of practice. But I don't see this team grinding, and that will not help matters. BLK’s squad got 3 points off Liberty, a win and some close games off Business, and in many ways they’re closer to average than poor, but I’m not sure BLK is any closer to finding solutions with certain moves.