Picking through the rubble
A look at the NHL's also-rans
A look at the NHL's also-rans
Why They Lost (in 50 words or less)
It's only natural that everyone's giddily talking about the approaching NHL playoffs, but I'm going to pause the excitement for a moment, and reflect on those who were left behind this season.
(Over at Tom Benjamin's 'hood, they're dissecting the Vancouver Canucks' lost season rather well, but I'll offer up only the shortform breakdown here.)
NHL rank: 18
It's amazing they were in the playoff race until last night, considering their brutal
NHL rank: 25
While most pundits are going to point to the Joe Thornton trade as the downfall for the Bruins, a lot of
NHL rank: 22
Aside from one, crazy late-season run, it was (yet another) ugly year in
NHL rank: 24
What held them back? An anemic offence, highlighted by the fact Alexei Yashin led this team in scoring with just 66 points. GM Mike Milbury dismantled what he'd created on defence, shipping out Brent Sopel, Brad Lukowich and Janne Niinimaa. A positive? Well, Rick DiPietro still looks like he could be a star.
NHL rank: 29
Sidney Crosby was just about the only thing that didn't go wrong this season. What an absolute mess — one that wasn't entirely unpredictable considering the defence core GM Craig Patrick put together. On the plus side, youngsters like Colby Armstrong, who scored on a 66-point pace, and Michel Ouellet showed there's plenty of talent in the system. (And just wait until Mr. Malkin arrives.)
NHL rank: 20
Too be honest, for all of the year-end haranguing that's been happening in the local media, this team simply wasn't that good. There's no depth at all on defence or the wing, and — surprise, surprise — Eric Lindros and Jason Allison were injury prone. Rebuild already MLSE.
NHL rank: 27
I don't think you'll find anyone else who'll say this, but being the fourth-worst team is a respectable season for the Capitals. Coach Glen Hanlon squeezed a lot out of not very much, and, well, Alex Ovechkin was simply unbelievable. Bottom line: If Ovechkin doesn't have one of the best rookie seasons in NHL history, this team finishes in dead last.
NHL rank: 28
Allow me to be blunt, if only for a moment: The Blackhawks made the stupidest off-season moves, bar none. They blew more than $14-million on a goaltender, forward and defenceman — Nikolai Khabibulin, Martin Lapointe and Adrian Aucoin. Khabibulin, the most overrated goaltender in the league after his 2004 Stanley Cup win, had a 3.38 GAA. Lapointe was -30. Aucoin had the worst season of his career. On the plus side, rookie defenceman Brent Seabrook is going to be a star.
NHL rank: 26
Don't be fooled by the team's late-season surge (after all, the Penguins had a similar late run in 2004). This team stinks. And I'm quite sure it'll continue to stink as long as GM Doug MacLean is holding down the fort. I can't think of a single positive here. Rick Nash still looks terrific, but his team is awful.
NHL rank: 19
If Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon made the worst preseason moves, Kings' GM Dave Taylor made the worst ones at the trade deadline.
NHL rank: 22
Brian Rolston and Manny Fernandez were terrific, but that was about it. The Wild's defence core vastly underperformed, and coach Jacques Lemaire had to rely on minor-league callup Kurtis Foster to play the point on the team's 22nd-ranked powerplay.
NHL rank: 23
Coach Wayne Gretzky's troops performed better than I'd thought they would, but this really is a terrible team. GM Mike Barnett was shuttling players in and out all year, but the team's defence relied too heavily on young players like Keith Ballard and Zbynek Michalek. It's hard to see what Barnett has up his sleeve for next year, as the team has no true blue-chip prospects and its stars are of the second-tier variety. (That's a convoluted way of saying they'll miss the playoffs next year, too.)
NHL rank: 30
I'm pretty sure this was the worst team
NHL rank: 17
Probably the most overrated NHL club following a Northwest Division title in 2003-04, the Canucks have relied the past three seasons on their big guns to do more than any other supposedly 'elite' team. This season, when their No. 1 goaltender and top three defencemen went down with injuries, well, that was it. Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison were all terrible, and career minor leaguer Nolan Baumgartner had the best plus-minus rating on the team.