Grades: Where all 30 teams stand

Updated: December 7, 2010, 12:56 PM ET
By Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

With the first quarter of the season in the books, Scott Burnside (East) and Pierre LeBrun (West) evaluate each team's performance:

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins

Grade: A
Trending: Up
Summary: The Penguins roared into the second quarter of the NHL season riding a nine-game winning streak and with captain Sidney Crosby playing as well as he ever has (he has put up points in 16 straight games as of Tuesday). Marc-Andre Fleury appears to have found his mojo, and the Penguins look like a team to be reckoned with come April.

Washington Capitals

Grade: A-minus
Trending: Up
Summary: The Capitals are still collecting points and vying for the conference lead, but are doing so without the usual dominant performances from captain Alex Ovechkin, whose goal and point totals are well off his usual pace. Is that a bad thing? Defensively more sound, the Caps added more blue-line experience in Scott Hannan, which can't hurt. Goaltending remains solid with Semyon Varlamov back in the fold and pushing rookie Michal Neuvirth. Alexander Semin also is having a monster season.

Philadelphia Flyers

Grade: A-minus
Trending: Up
Summary: The Flyers seem to have resolved their perennial goaltending question with the emergence of rookie of the year candidate Sergei Bobrovsky, and they boast one of the deepest lineups in the NHL, both on the back end and up front. Also, a breakout season for Claude Giroux has people thinking of a young Peter Forsberg.

Montreal Canadiens

Grade: A-minus
Trending: Up
Summary: The Habs don't get much in the way of offense, but with the way netminder Carey Price has been playing, they don't need to. One NHL GM said the Habs' play away from the puck is exemplary and is one of the keys to their success as they hit the quarter pole at the top of the Northeast Division. Likely no Andrei Markov for the rest of the season, but the Habs are among the league leaders in goals-against.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Grade: B
Trending: Neutral
Summary: There is a lot to like about the Lightning, one of the most dynamic teams in the NHL under rookie coach Guy Boucher. The Lightning should get Vincent Lecavalier back before the end of the month, but they will miss Steve Downie, who is out long term with a high ankle sprain. The real issue for the Bolts, though, is getting enough quality goaltending from the inconsistent duo of Mike Smith and Dan Ellis. They have to be better if the Lightning are going to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.

Boston Bruins

Grade: B
Trending: Up
Summary: The story of the Bruins' first quarter begins and ends with netminder Tim Thomas, who had offseason hip surgery and has returned to the form that saw him win the Vezina Trophy two seasons ago. GM Peter Chiarelli has salary-cap issues with Marc Savard returning to the lineup after battling post-concussion issues and Marco Sturm preparing to come back after a knee injury suffered in the playoffs this past spring. A deal to send Strum to Los Angeles fell through but could be revisited later in the month. The Bruins are also one of the top defensive teams in the NHL.

New York Rangers

Grade: B-minus
Trending: Neutral
Summary: Coach John Tortorella is getting lots of production out of young players such as Derek Stepan and Brian Boyle. Marian Gaborik, when healthy, remains one of the elite players in the NHL. But the reason the Rangers are going to stay in the playoff bracket is that they work hard pretty much every night. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist has had an up-and-down first quarter and will need to provide more consistent play as the season moves along.

Atlanta Thrashers

Grade: B- minus
Trending: Up
Summary: It's taken awhile, but new coach Craig Ramsay has the Thrashers cooking. The decision to put Dustin Byfuglien back on defense has been an inspired one as he is among the top point producers among defensemen. Credit netminder Ondrej Pavelec for coming back from a scary fainting spell in the first game of the season to give the Thrashers terrific goaltending. The playoffs are a distinct possibility for this long-suffering franchise.

Buffalo Sabres

Grade: C-plus
Trending: Up
Summary: After a dreadful start to the season, especially at home, the Sabres look as if they might be the only team not in the playoff bracket at this point yet capable of making a run at a postseason berth. Tyler Myers, last season's Calder Trophy winner, is enduring some growing pains, but Derek Roy is turning into the Sabres' go-to guy up front.

Carolina Hurricanes

Grade: C-plus
Trending: Neutral
Summary: This season promised to be a bit of a struggle for the youthful Hurricanes, and it has been just that. Carolina is traditionally a better team in the second half of the season, though, so don't be surprised if coach Paul Maurice keeps his squad within hailing distance of the playoffs. Jeff Skinner is having a Calder Trophy-worthy campaign straight out of junior hockey.

Florida Panthers

Grade: C
Trending: Neutral
Summary: The Panthers weren't expected to be a playoff team this season as new GM Dale Tallon begins the slow process of trying to build a winner in South Florida as he did in Chicago. It will be a major shock if they jump up in the standings in the second half, but the Panthers' team defense has been impressive and they manage to stay close most nights. Watch for Tallon to move veterans such as Tomas Vokoun and Cory Stillman as the trade deadline nears.

Ottawa Senators

Grade: D-plus
Trending: Down
Summary: Things have gotten ugly in the Canadian capital as the Senators are a team adrift. Rumors abound that Cory Clouston is on shaky ground as coach; the widespread belief is that if Clouston is fired, GM Bryan Murray would return to the bench. Alexei Kovalev has been a major disappointment, and Sergei Gonchar hasn't had the impact the Sens expected when they signed him to a three-year deal as a free agent this past summer.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Grade: D
Trending: Down
Summary: After a solid start to the season, the Leafs have been dismal, ranking near the bottom of the league in penalty killing and goals scored, two fairly important facets of the game. GM Brian Burke insists that coach Ron Wilson's job is secure, but this is a team that appears destined for a sixth straight season out of the playoffs. Perhaps even worse, the Leafs are looking at sending a second straight lottery draft pick to the Bruins courtesy of the Phil Kessel deal.

New Jersey Devils

Grade: D-minus
Trending: Down
Summary: The Ilya Kovalchuk signing is looking like one of the worst hockey signings, as the Devils staggered out of the gate and have yet to regain their footing. Kovalchuk has been a bust in this his first year of a 15-year deal signed in the offseason after the league rejected a 17-year pact. Martin Brodeur remains out of action with an injured arm, and Zach Parise is out long term with a knee injury. Ugly.

New York Islanders

Grade: F
Trending: Down
Summary: GM Garth Snow fired coach Scott Gordon, but in retrospect, he might have been doing Gordon a favor given how bad this team is. Injuries to Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo haven't helped matters, but this is a poorly constructed team from the goal on out. Rick DiPietro has struggled to deliver quality starts coming back from multiple knee operations; the defense is porous; and there isn't enough skill up front. Good thing Snow found time to ban writer Chris Botta from covering the team.

Western Conference

Detroit Red Wings

Grade: A-plus
Trending: Up
Summary: A second-round exit last season had some people wondering whether the NHL's model franchise was nearing a downturn after being one of the elite squads for 15 or so seasons. Um, scratch that thought. The Wings are back and apparently as great as ever, screaming out of the gates in the opening two months of the season with the best record in the Western Conference. Nicklas Lidstrom appears ageless at 40; Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg both deserve Hart Trophy consideration; and Jimmy Howard just can't lose a game. Life is grand in Hockeytown, USA.

Dallas Stars

Grade: B-plus
Trending: Up
Summary: Dallas couldn't have asked for a better opening two months to the 2010-11 season. The Stars are surprising everyone, including perhaps themselves, with a 16-8-1 record through Dec. 5. Too bad the locals haven't noticed (the Stars are 25th in league attendance). GM Joe Nieuwendyk's gamble on goalie Kari Lehtonen has paid off so far, and that's been a big part of the team's success. UFA-to-be Brad Richards has been lights-out in leading the club offensively, but his future could cloud the team's feel-good season. Nieuwendyk has a difficult choice to make come the Feb. 28 trade deadline: Do you keep Richards to help the team get as far as possible in this season's playoffs and hope you can sign him before July 1, or do you try to get as many assets as possible for him before the deadline and avoid letting him walk away July 1 with no compensation? Tough call.

Vancouver Canucks

Grade: B-plus
Trending: Up
Summary: It's hardly any surprise the Canucks are first in the Northwest Division two months into the season; that's what most of the pundits predicted before the season. Mind you, it hasn't all been roses so far, as the Canucks have had minor bumps. Still, the numbers suggest the team is indeed built to contend for the Stanley Cup: As of Tuesday morning, the Canucks were fifth in goals per game, sixth in goals against, second on the power play and third on the penalty kill. That's a lethal combination that translates into success.

Phoenix Coyotes

Grade: B
Trending: Neutral
Summary: Last season's stunning 107-point season, a campaign that shocked the hockey world, seemed like a distant memory by the time October had come and gone and the Coyotes had won only three of their opening 10 games. But a red-hot November (8-3-2) has Phoenix right back in the hunt, with the magic of coach Dave Tippett once again having its effect. Tippett can count on four balanced lines for offense and is benefiting from the excellent netminding of Ilya Bryzgalov (UFA July 1). The blue line isn't quite the same without Zbynek Michalek, and that's an area GM Don Maloney likely will look to bolster before the trade deadline. There is also word that the sale of the team to Matthew Hulsizer might finally be complete before the end of December, which hopefully will help sell more seats to skeptical fans who have largely stayed away despite the team's strong opening two months. The Coyotes were dead last in NHL attendance as of Tuesday.

Colorado Avalanche

Grade: B
Trending: Down
Summary: Giving these guys a break with a decent grade because no team has been hammered more by injuries so far this season. Last season's team MVP, Vezina nominee Craig Anderson, has twice been on the injured list, and the loss of this season's team MVP, Chris Stewart, is massive. But the Avs were keeping their heads above water at 13-10-3 as of Tuesday morning, getting contributions from unexpected sources. GM Greg Sherman gets props for making three trades in a league in which there are no trades before Christmas, adding blueliners Ryan O'Byrne and Matt Hunwick and top-six forward Tomas Fleischmann to his injury-depleted team. Can Colorado hang on to grab a lower seed in the tough West? The Avs had only one win in their past six games (0-4-2) heading into Tuesday night's game versus Florida.

St. Louis Blues

Grade: B
Trending: Down
Summary: On the morning of Nov. 8, the Blues were atop ESPN.com's Power Rankings with a lofty 9-1-2 record: a terrific story and deservedly so. But massive injuries -- especially to top-line forwards David Perron and T.J. Oshie -- sent the Blues to a 4-8-2 record since then with the team struggling to score goals, as underlined by its 26th-ranked power play. Goalie Jaroslav Halak also has cooled off after an out-of-this-world opening month.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Grade: B-minus
Trending: Down

Summary: Trending down because the Jackets had a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) before edging Dallas in a shootout Monday night. The sudden downturn came after a surprising first quarter, which saw the club go 14-6-0 in its opening 20 games before hitting its current skid. The Jackets were the league's most surprising team before being swept in a home-and-home series against divisional rival Detroit, a setback that began the current winless streak. A 7-2 rout at the hands of Pittsburgh this past weekend did nothing to help the sudden crisis in confidence. Going forward, the question is whether the Jackets are the team of the first 20 games or the one from the past five games that has fallen back to earth.

Nashville Predators

Grade: B-minus
Trending: Neutral

Summary: The blue-collar Preds have battled back from a five-game losing streak and a four-game winless skid to post a respectable 12-8-5 record through their opening 25 games. The team that placed seventh in the West last season with 100 points finds itself squeezing its sticks for goals (the Preds were 26th in offense as of Tuesday morning and 28th on the power play). Money is as tight as always in Nashville, and captain and franchise player Shea Weber is a restricted free agent as of July 1 -- one year from unrestricted status. It's the most important contract negotiation in franchise history. In the meantime, the club hopes to find more consistency and a few more goals as it strives toward the halfway mark of the season.

Los Angeles Kings

Grade: C-plus
Trending: Neutral

Summary: The tough grade here reflects the Kings' high expectations heading into the 2010-11 season, as the young core led by Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar looked to take the team to the next level after reaching the playoffs last season. An 8-3-0 record in October did nothing to dull the excitement among Kings fans, but a 5-7-0 November -- including the Kings dropping seven of eight to close out the month -- had people wondering whether perhaps the players had been guilty of reading their preseason press clippings. A big win over Detroit this past Saturday felt like a playoff victory, if for no other reason than to reassure the team that it is capable of playing like the elite squad many believe it is. The pressure is on GM Dean Lombardi to use the cap savings he earned by not signing Ilya Kovalchuk this past summer and add a big piece before the trade deadline.

Chicago Blackhawks

Grade: C-plus
Trending: Neutral

Summary: The Stanley Cup hangover has been alive and well in Chicago this season. With nearly half the roster turned over thanks to the salary cap, the Hawks had a predictably tougher time early on. A 4-2-0 record on a tough road trip in late November, including wins at Vancouver and Los Angeles, gave the Hawks hope that they had begun to turn the corner. Maybe. A battle in goal, meanwhile, has developed once again with youngster Corey Crawford threatening to take over the No. 1 job from veteran Marty Turco. The core remains strong, but many questions remain with the defending champs.

Anaheim Ducks

Grade: C-minus
Trending: Down

Summary: A 13-13-3 record through 29 games is just about right. So now what? Well, the return of top-six forward Joffrey Lupul and the eventual return of veteran winger Teemu Selanne (he has battled groin issues recently) should give Anaheim its most impressive depth up front in more than a year and will give GM Bob Murray a clearer indication of where his team stands before he decides whether it's time to take drastic action.

San Jose Sharks

Grade: D-plus
Trending: Neutral

Summary: The tough grade, as with Chicago and Los Angeles above, reflects higher expectations for a San Jose team that got the playoff monkey off its back last season by reaching the conference finals. But it's been a maddeningly inconsistent season so far for the Sharks, highlighted by the fact that the team's longest winning streak has been only three games, achieved only once, and its longest skid has been a pair of three-game winless streaks. Win one, lose one -- that's been the story. The glaring need in the wake of Rob Blake's retirement is for GM Doug Wilson to acquire a top-four D-man, and that's what his priority will be closer to the trade deadline.

Minnesota Wild

Grade: D
Trending: Down

Summary: The clock is ticking on GM Chuck Fletcher to either make a trade or two to shake up his slumping roster or perhaps consider a coaching change. After peaking at 10-6-2 after a Nov. 19 win at Detroit, the Wild have won only once in their past eight games (1-5-2) while continuing to show almost no ability to score goals. As of Tuesday morning, the team was 24th in offense and 27th in 5-on-5 goals. The return of top-six forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard might help eventually, but at this point it appears some form of change is in the offing.

Edmonton Oilers

Grade: D
Trending: Up

Summary: Seems almost unfair to grade Edmonton so harshly, given that the plan all along this season was to ride the young kids on a rebuilding team and learn from the losses. Taylor Hall, the No. 1 pick in this past June's draft, has really come on lately and is showing people what the fuss was all about. The future is bright for the Oilers, particularly if they can land another lottery pick in June. This season is all about development -- and perhaps a Calder Trophy for Mr. Hall.

Calgary Flames

Grade: F
Trending: Down

Summary: This team shouldn't be this bad. Some tough decisions are looming this season for an aging team devoid of top-notch prospects in the minor league system. At some point, the Flames must decide whether it's finally time to blow this up and, if so, who should be doing the blowing up? Will GM Darryl Sutter survive the season? Or coach Brent Sutter? Or captain Jarome Iginla? Interesting times ahead in Calgary.

Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun cover the NHL for ESPN.com.