In the NHL like other sports leagues in an attempt to keep every team in the realm of competitiveness reward the worst teams of the season previous with the top draft choices in an effort to help rebuild the struggling teams. Lately we have seen just how quick some teams can turn things around, Philadelphia finished dead last in 2007 and in 2008 were conference finalists and 2010 Stanley Cup finalists. Today we break down the race to the bottom of the NHL standings.
Though they missed the playoffs last season Colorado had a solid 41-35-6 record with a young team. The hope was they could build on that especially after off season acquisition of PA Parenteau. The season could not have started worse, newly named Captain Gabriel Landeskog suffered a concussion early in the season against the San Jose Sharks, budding top 6 forward Ryan O’Reilly held out for the first half of the shortened season in a lengthy contract dispute.
Steve Downie played just 2 games this season and Paul Stastny has continued to regress from the point per game pace he once met consistently. The Avalanche are brutal on the road with a 3-15-4 record through 42 games.
Colorado sits 3 points out of last place but has 2 games in hand on last place Florida, though ever since goalie J.S Giguere called his teammates out, the team has shown a much improved effort every night. As tough as it is for fans to watch, in the long run they may hope for the team to tank and get a greater shot at securing a top draft selection to speed up this rebuild that has regressed since 2012.
The Calgary Flames usually played just good enough to stay in playoff contention right until the very end but never good enough to make it. The result was middling picks in the draft and an aging core of players. This season GM Jay Feaster finally committed to a full rebuild and while It may be a frustrating few seasons for fans, just remember it has to get worse before it can get better.
Calgary finally traded long-time captain and fulltime gentleman Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins for college prospects Ben Hanowski, Kenny Agostino and a 1st round draft pick. Hanowski debuted for the Flames on Monday, scoring a goal in his first NHL game.
The Flames continued the rebuild moving Jay Bouwmeester, getting a decent package back including Swiss net minder Reto Berra and a conditional 1st round draft pick. Now that Calgary has committed to the full rebuild it is best to let the young guys get major minutes in the final 6 games and look for positives to build on for next year.
The Panthers GM Dale Tallon, who built the 2010 Blackhawks championship roster, surprised the NHL when he assembled a rag tag group of players though trades and free agency under rookie coach Kevin Dineen and led Florida to its first playoff berth since 2000.
This season Florida is a league worst 13-22-6 and have dealt with a major rash of injuries that the team was just unable to overcome. Longtime Panther Stephen Weiss played just 17 games this season before a wrist injury ended his season, Alex Kovalev parted ways with the team after just 14 games and starting goalie Jose Theodore injured his groin the first week of March and was done for the year.
The only bright spot this season has been the play of Florida’s young players, Jacob Markstrom has put up a solid .910 save % in front of a league worst Panthers defence. Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau is second on the team in scoring.
The Panthers have a lot of young prospects and this season we have seen a fair share of them make the jump into the NHL. With so many veterans on their way out with expiring contracts it may be time for Florida to embrace the youth movement and give this team to their young guys.
The Carolina Hurricanes made some major moves this offseason in the hopes of being playoff contenders. The Hurricanes traded for Jordan Staal to play with older brother Eric. GM Jim Rutherford took a low risk high reward chance on signing Alex Semin to a 1 year deal, a move that worked so well Carolina has decided to extend Semin for 5 years.
The Hurricanes were in the playoff hunt for most of the season until goalie Cam Ward went down with injury. Injuries limited Toumu Ruutu to just 10 games and Joni Pitkanen to 22. In what has become a disturbing frequent in his young career Jeff Skinner suffered another concussion this season.
Jiri Tlustly is beginning to show why he was drafted 13th overall in 2006 showcasing the abilities of a top 6 forward. Tlustly has been red hot at times and faded at other parts of the season, coinciding with Carolinas struggles.
Carolina has a solid group of offensive players and a net minder they have confidence in with Cam Ward, Justin Peters has been solid in Ward’s absence and the team looks to play spoiler to playoff hopeful teams.