Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Off Season Midterm Grades: The Losers

"Is the guy...?" "Is the bear...?"

Robin: Jumpin' Jehovah's Witnesses Batman! Kevin is doing actual analysis!

Batman: Yes, Robin. Even mindless trolls can debate the merits of NHL teams. Why, just look at Larry Brooks!

Believe it or not, we are just about halfway through the off-season already. It was about six weeks ago that the Ducks captured their first Stanley Cup, and in six more, the NHL's 32 teams will be heading to camp. To keep some sanity, here's a look at the teams that have had the worst off-seasons so far. (Bonus points to anyone who can name the movie that the picture caption is from.)

5. Dallas Stars - Sometimes no news is good news. This is not one of those times. The team finished 6th out west last year, but there are some serious questions that still need to be answered. Time is running out on the current incarnation of the Stars to make a serious post season run, as their average age is pushing 30. Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen aren't getting any younger, and although the team has some nice young players, they can't wait years for them to develop. In my opinion, the team needs to win now and build through free agency, or face rebuilding. The draft didn't help their situation, as the Stars' first selection was the 50th pick. This summer, there was the hope that the team would make a big splash in the free agent market, but that has yet to happen. Adding Todd Fedoruk, is not a franchise altering move. Granted, the Stars aren't far removed from where they were in May. The problem for them is that they haven't made any serious improvements. You got me, though. The Stars are much better off than the four teams that are coming up.

4. Boston Bruins - Things have never looked worse in Boston. It's been eight years since the team has won a playoff series, and 15 since they made it past the second round. While they won the Northeast division in 2004, that still feels like a very distant memory. Kudos to the team for hiring Claude Julien and not alumnus Mike Milbury. The team instantly has some credit, but that is probably due more to the fact that they fired Dave Lewis. Anyone is an upgrade over Lewis. The problem with the Bruins off-season so far, is that they haven't done enough to upgrade the on ice product. Getting Zach Hamill at the eighth spot in the draft was nice, and they've also added Manny Fernandez and Shawn Thornton. The point is; all of that is a far cry compared to how the rest of the Eastern Conference cellar did. Philadelphia and Washington, who finished 15th and 14th in the East respectively, made major upgrades and are now playoff caliber teams. Even perennial loser Florida made some nice additions, but the Bruins have failed to follow suit... For those of you who were not watching close enough, the Bruins made a change to their logo. No really, it's different. Swear.

3. New York Islanders - No team has had their roster blown apart quite like the Islanders. First, they bought out Alexei Yashin. Then, they managed to lose three more of their top six scorers (that doesn't include Ryan Smyth) on the first day of free agency. Luckily, the other guys were still under contract (Miro Satan, Mike Sillinger). The team did make a nice comeback in the free agent market by signing Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie and Ruslan Fedotenko. The point is, it's hard to imagine those guys filling the shoes of Yashin, Blake, Smyth, Kozlov and Poti. Guerin is old, and not the player he once was. Comrie and Fedotenko are not first line players, and the team is seriously lacking a threatening first line. Satan-Sillinger-Guerin? That's not terrible, but that's not going to get you very far. The team hasn't won a playoff series since 1993, and somehow, you know in the back of your mind that they're going to fuck it up this season, no matter what.

2. Buffalo Sabres - There's nothing worse than losing the heart and soul of your team (actually, there is, but I'll get to that next). That's what Chris Drury and Daniel "Dollar Bill" Briere were for the Sabres, and as soon as the free agent market opened on July 1st, both bolted for Eastern Conference rivals. Briere signed a monster deal in Philadelphia, while Drury will be playing on Manhattan Island this winter. To add to that, owner Tom Golisano has balked at increasing the payroll, and is actually crying poor. The good news to come out of Buffalo in the wake of this mess is that Thomas Vanek will be a Sabre for the next seven years. The team matched an offer sheet to the RFA after Edmonton made a monster contract offer. Keep your head up, Buffalo. It could be worse. You could live in Nashville.

1. Nashville Predators - What's worse than losing your two best players? Losing your team altogether. That's what Predator fans are facing in Nashville, and thus, they are undoubtedly having the worst off-season of any NHL team. The team has been stripped of it's star players (see: Paul Kariya, Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Tomas Vokoun, Vitaly Vishnevski), and have received draft picks or, as in the case of their UFAs, nothing in return. Peter Forsberg has yet to sign elsewhere, but it is almost certain that he will not re-sign in the Music City. The team has added Jed Ortmeyer, Radek Bonk and Greg de Vries, but that's little consolation. The only consolation for all of this will be a high lottery pick next June. But that means nothing if the team packs up and moves to another city.


  1. Get me my shark repellent! I LOVE that movie- the high art of camp.

    In terms of your rankings I can't really complain with any of them. Considering it looks like Nashvegas is staying put until Boots can buy out the other investors do you still rank them No. 1?

  2. Well, if you take losing their team altogether out of the equation, it gets pretty close. Both Buffalo and Nashville had great seasons followed by losing a large chunk of star players. I would still give the edge to Nashville, but it's a close one. If they lose Forsberg, and all signs point to that happening, then without a doubt they have had the worst summer so far. Forsberg wasn't there for most of the year, but still, there's no replacing your top scorer, top defender, top goalie (although Mason is very capable) and some other talented players.