It was quite an interesting couple weeks for the teams poised for a shot at drafting mega-prospect/superstar/cancer curer Connor McDavid in the June entry draft.
Before we get to the rankings, a reminder of why we’re all doing this. A comparison meme between McDavid and the world’s best player, Sidney Crosby, floated around Twitter this week. The meme showed the pair’s side-by-side statistics through their first 14 games of their final junior hockey season. I couldn’t find the original source of the meme, so I’ll just share those stats with you:
Crosby: 14 games, 9 goals, 24 assists, 33 points McDavid: 14 games, 14 goals, 28 assists, 42 points.
Yup, that’s why the following teams are in a better position than most realize.
Anyway, let’s get with the futility already.
Note: The Flames are, remarkably, out for now. Their probably playing over their heads right now but they’ve shown a ton of promise, which is a nice consolation for missing out on the best one-two draft punch in recent history.
Also, Florida has played too much like an actual hockey team the past couple weeks to warrant a spot. We’ll see if they can keep it up.
Dallas/Arizona/Washington – All have had a pretty bad two week stretch and have landed where most didn’t expect to see them. Dallas is especially surprising, considering the preseason optimism surrounding the team. They’ve had no trouble scoring but goalie Kari Lehtonen has struggled with a .904 save percentage. Back up Anders Lindback hasn’t been much better. They don’t get a real spot just yet, though. This might just be some early season struggles. As for Arizona and Washington, both seem a little too talented to fall into real McDavid territory. I could be wrong — both lack depth and are a few injuries away from being terrible. We’ll check back with them in two weeks.
5. Columbus: This has been unexpected. The Blue Jackets were a playoff team last season and were expected to be one of the better teams in the Metropolitan division this year. They started out well enough (4-2) but have lost seven in a row and currently sit in 29th place in the standings. At first it didn’t seem like a concern; they had just lost to Los Angeles and Anaheim. But three of the past five losses have come against Ottawa, Toronto and Carolina. Former Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky was mediocre (.908 save percentage) before going on IR, and his backups have been terrible. Meanwhile, the Jackets have experience a team-wide scoring slump outside Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno. Columbus is a solid possession team but if they lose Bobrovsky for any length of time, they’re liable to remain in the bottom five.
4. Colorado: This year’s regression hasn’t been at all subtle or gentle – Colorado has a serious chance to pull off the rarely seen last-to-first-to-last feat this year. Semyon Varlamov has missed time but the goaltending hasn’t been the issue – the Avs are being dominated up and down. The off-season now seems like a disaster after not upgrading the blue line, turning Paul Stastny into nothing and P.A. Parenteau into the corpse of Danny Briere. McDavid would be a nice addition to an already very impressive young core, but the problems run deeper than that.
3. Edmonton: The Oilers have had an eventful two weeks. After making an appearance on the first version of this list, they ripped off four wins in a row. They moved to 4-4-1 and appeared ready to take a step this year. Now they’re 5-8-1, Taylor Hall is hurt and the goaltending situation is still a major issue.
The Oilers really haven’t been terrible – their fenwick close is barely below average (49.81%) and they’ve scored well enough. And the goaltending was supposed to be an issue. The team invested in Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth to improve on last year’s disaster in the net. But both have been horrific (.894 and .861 save percentages, respectively) thus far. This is starting to look like another lost season for the Oilers as the playoff drought creeps closer to a decade.
2. Carolina: The ‘Canes have actually won three consecutive games in regulation and are 4-4-2 over their last 10. But we aren’t in the business of jumping to conclusions here at The High Screen. Carolina is still a bottom-three team overall and isn’t good enough to move far beyond that. On the bright side, they’re mostly healthy now and look like an NHL team again. They’re probably not as bad as the team that started 0-6-2 but there’s no way they’re as good as the team they’ve been the past four games.
1. Buffalo: Take notes, everyone else. This is how you suck. The Sabres put up the offensive numbers of a baseball team that play against Clayton Kershaw every day. They scored four goals once and three goals another time (since both came in shootout wins, they actually scored three and two in those games). Besides that? They’ve scored two goals four times, one goal four times and have been shut out five times. Five times in 15 games! One-third of the time! They’ve put up a fenwick close of 36.1 percent as of Friday, last by a mile. Opposing teams attempt 64 percent of the shots in a given game. These numbers are beyond comprehension because we can’t compare them to anything. Non-expansion teams aren’t supposed to be this bad. Established franchises without financial issues shouldn’t be getting outscored 45-17 for ANY length of time. Luckily for Tim Murray and co., they’ve picked just the right year for historical ineptitude.