Life as a hockey players is, as the cliche goes, like a roller coaster. Up and down, up and down.

One day you lose, and the next day practice is somber, coach is yelling at people, and you’re doing battle drills. The next day you win, and suddenly you find yourself with a day off. One day you score and move up a line, the next you’re in the press box.

With that in mind, welcome to Three Up, Three Down, where I point out players and teams that are going to start trending upward, and three more that will start to drop.

Three Up

Montreal Canadiens

The Habs currently sit at t-13 in the Eastern Conference, one point clear of Winnipeg for 15th, aka last.

I see them getting better not because of the massive decision to fire an assistant coach, but because this team is just way, way better than their performance to date. I hate to break it down so simply like that, but thems the facts.

Playing in Montreal would make losing a misery – there’s so much attention on you that it’d be hard to tolerate. That team, that city and that coaching staff all want to be better, stat. They’ll find their stride and start climbing the standings.

Boston Bruins

The reason the Habs have a “t” in front of their 13th place standing is because of the Boston Bruins.

Nearly unchanged Stanley Cup winning teams just don’t plummet to the bottom of the standings, I don’t care if they have a Stanley Cup Still-Drunkover.

They’ve been underachieving, and at any point they could rip off a four game win streak and claw back to respectibility. Stay tuned.

Matt Duchene

With a mere 1 goal in 9 games (and 4 total points), Duchene is underachieving. This is particularly surprising when you consider that the Avs have been playing well and winning games.

He finished tied in points last season at 67 with John Tavares. This year Tavares has 6 and 4 for 10 (in 7 games) and is in a log jam at 6th in league scoring.

The disparity between these two players didn’t suddenly change this drastically (I don’t know PDO numbers like Charron and Wagner, but I’d be willing to bet he’s due to pour some pucks in). I’m calling Duchene to get hot.

*****

Three Down

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

The kid is currently cruising along at a point-per-game clip, amassing 8 points in 8 games. To make that even better, 5 of them are goals.

But, those stats are bloated by his 4 point “hat-trick” night, and we know he’s not going to finish the year as a point a game guy.

It’s tough for rookies to pop in to the NHL and maintain that initial pace through all the grind, not just physically, but mentally too. The kid’s a very good player, but I don’t think you’ll be finding his stats on the first page of the leaderboard come December.

Dallas Stars

The Stars have a lot of sandpaper up front this year, which is something I don’t think I would’ve said in past years. They look like a pretty darn good team, especially given their low spending.

Their only problem is, they lack those elite “game breakers” I like to rail about. Eriksson, Benn and Ribeiro are nice talents, but when you look at the top teams in every conference come the end of the year, there’s always names like Datsyuk, Crosby and Ovechkin on their rosters. I just don’t think you can overcome those tight games on the road in the middle of the season without someone special doing something special to help you snag those extra points here and there.

All that and they’re in first in the West? Pretty easy down pick. This can’t keep up for long.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avs are 6-3, good for 12 points and sole possession of third in the Western Conference. Here are some of the teams behind them:

Los Angeles Kings
Detroit Red Wings
Vancouver Canucks
San Jose Sharks

And then those ho-hum teams like the Blues, Ducks, Predators, Coyotes and more.

It’s not so much a dig at the Avs as it is the reality that not all of those teams are going to fall off the same year. They’ll get hot eventually, meaning that the only rungs the Avs will be moving to are currently below them.