Some of the NHL’s bottom teams are there on purpose while others had false hope or bad luck. Who in the sour rankings will be lucky enough to get Connor Bedard?
The half-hour following May 8 at 7:00 p.m. ET. will alter one team’s future in a way not seen since the Connor McDavid draft lottery in 2015. This time around, teams will be hoping to add a player that has marvelled while setting records on every stage, from the World Junior Championship to the WHL.
In what can only be described as an iron-clad scientific experiment, The Hockey News’ social media has been running draft lottery simulators to give fans hope that will almost certainly be crushed on lottery night.
The ‘Bad for Bedard’ sweepstakes has seen some teams ice some questionable rosters – and collect more wins than you’d expect with them. The NHL may not want to acknowledge the tanking going on, but this year has been a masterclass in the art of awful.
There are currently seven teams under a .460 points percentage. Every team seems to have its own way of getting to the bottom of the standings. Let’s look at the NHL’s sour rankings and how each team has gotten to this point as they approach the 70-game mark.
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Columbus Blue Jackets (49 points, .360 point percentage)
How they got here: They added a star but forgot to fix the rest of the roster and caught the injury bug
The Blue Jackets surprised everyone over the summer when they landed coveted free agent Johnny Gaudreau. The problem was that they seemed to think the rest of their roster was solid. Aside from the questionable addition of defenseman Erik Gudbranson, the Blue Jackets made an effort to re-sign some of their own players and did nothing else to add to the team.
That caused the Blue Jackets even more issues when top defenseman Zach Werenski was announced he’d miss the rest of the season in November after suffering two shoulder injuries. Jakub Voracek also played his last game on Nov. 4 before his injury and was traded to the Coyotes while his career has unfortunately been put up in the air. With Patrik Laine, Adam Boqvist and Nick Blankenburg being some other Blue Jackets injured, Columbus ranks near the top of the league in man-games lost.
The team has an underrated prospect pool, and the hope was clearly that players such as Cole Sillinger, Kent Johnson, and Kirill Marchenko would be able to step up and be impact players right away. Those players have all had bright spots while experiencing their fair share of struggles.
Columbus lacks depth at center and on the blueline. They have quite an incomplete roster, but drafting Bedard would certainly help the void down the middle.
San Jose Sharks (52 points, .377 PCT.)
How they got here: Erik Karlsson does what he wants, lose in overtime all the time
The Sharks have been struggling all year. They are tied for the most overtime losses in the league, collecting loser points like Pokemon gym badges, and they still sit at the bottom of the standings. They were briefly the talk of the NHL’s rumor mill as they looked to trade Timo Meier, and they found their way into highlight reels as Erik Karlsson leads defenders in points by 18.
The Sharks have embraced the wonderful gift that is Karlsson’s resurgence, but they have done so while often being down in games, losing on a regular basis and establishing very little hope for the future. San Jose has a good prospect pool, and we’ve been given a peek at William Eklund recently, who scored his first NHL goal. Bedard would look nice in teal.
Chicago Blackhawks (54 points, .397 PCT.)
How they got here: They sold in the off-season and sold at the deadline
Chicago was one of the teams coming into the year clearly tanking despite the league’s eyes-closed opinion of it. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were on the trade rumor mill throughout the year. They signed a bunch of players to one-year and two-year deals in the summer and flipped them at the trade deadline, with Sam Lafferty and Max Domi being prime examples.
This was always the plan. They didn’t want to be good. They moved Kane at the deadline to the destination of his choice out of respect for what he has done for the franchise. Toews was on the block as well, but health issues kept him from being moved. The Hawks aren’t trying to be good right now. They are trying to get Bedard.
Anaheim Ducks (56 points, .406 PCT.)
How they got here: They have league-low 13 wins in regulation
Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry can only do so much. They were expected to be bad this year, but they didn’t get their first regulation win until Nov. 23 and have struggled to collect wins in 60 minutes all season. They have a baker’s dozen wins before extra time and only 23 victories overall.
Injuries to key young players like Jamie Drysdale, over-reliance on other youngsters like Mason McTavish and veterans who are clearly beyond their best days have all attributed to an underwhelming season.
Thankfully, Zegras, Terry and McTavish have made some really great plays and play a fun brand of hockey, which has made their highlights watchable. Maybe just avoid watching a full game, at least until they’re able to draft Bedard or another high-level prospect.
Montreal Canadiens (60 points, .435 PCT.)
How they got here: Everyone is hurt. Almost everyone.
The Montreal Canadiens knew they were in for a bit of a rough season. Despite the bump they got from Martin St-Louis’ arrival behind the bench last season, the roster was still flawed, and they were consistently relying on young, inexperienced talent. Their blueline consisted of five rookies at one point. Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Kirby Dach were their offensive catalysts and asked to do a lot without much talent around them in many cases.
That made them a fun and entertaining team for a while. The young guys were making mistakes but also making plays. The season was one of growth and development with the hope that a high draft pick would be the reward.
Then, injuries struck. The Canadiens lead the league in man-games lost this season, and not by a small margin. Only Nick Suzuki has played in all of their games. They only have five players that have played in more than 56 games. Almost all of their young talent has missed time. It’s been a tough year. Bedard would be a nice reward.
Philadelphia Flyers (61 points, .449 PCT.)
How they got here: It was an accident. They were trying to compete.
The season started hot for a team that expected to compete despite the public perception of the squad. A new coach in John Tortorella and a renewed Carter Hart had them off to a 7-2-2 start. The team fired on all cylinders and beat teams like Tampa Bay and New Jersey in the process.
That hot start was short-lived. Since Nov. 10, they are 18-30-9 and have relied on Hart to keep them in just about every game they’ve actually been in. At least Samuel Ersson has six wins in 10 appearances, while Felix Sandstrom got one victory in 13 games.
Tortorella has been even frostier than usual, regularly calling out his team’s best players and putting a damper on his accomplishments. The locker room seems like one of the least fun places in the league. Their GM was just fired. Their new interim GM dealt with off-ice issues days into his tenure. As much as they need Bedard, they need a lot more to go right to get this ship righted.
Arizona Coyotes (63 points, .457 PCT.)
How they got here: They tried very hard to make you ask, “Who is that?”
The Arizona Coyotes have a number of good young players in the system, such as Logan Cooley and Conor Geekie. They have Clayton Keller, Matias Maccelli and J.J. Moser on the active roster putting up solid seasons as young players. They also have a “who’s who” of players filling out the roster. The Coyotes put together a team meant to be bad for Bedard while loading up on a sand dune of draft picks. It’s really that simple.
They are in their first season playing at Arizona State University’s Mullett Arena while they work on getting an NHL-capacity rink built, and it’s been an interesting experience. They’ve actually been quite good at home, collecting 19 of their 26 wins in the college rink, which has made them a plucky team that isn’t as far down the standings as they were expected to be.
Bedard could be the savior in the desert, but he’s sold out rinks with higher capacities than Arizona’s while in major junior.
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