It is supposedly the most wonderful time of year if you are a hockey fan, particularly of the NHL, but not every city in the league or their fans, are feeling the ‘festive season’.
My team/city is one of them, and has been for some time now.
Nobody in Toronto (or anywhere near the area) should be happy with the way things have gone this season but by no means are we the only ones who are left so badly out in the cold that we actually have to pick another team for whom to follow during the next 2 months or so.
Here is a brief list of some of those teams that need more work than a high-schooler’s resume.
SAN JOSE SHARKS: I thought my Leafs were a mess until I wrote a blog about how messed up San Jose is internally. The players on the ice seem to be fine (sort of), but when you start with the man behind the bench (for now), Todd McLellan, and then everybody behind him, or on top of him however you choose to look at it, the Sharks aren’t biting anyone these days. They did have Stanley Cup hopes last season when they had the eventual champs, LA, down 3-0; then the astonishing thing happened and they collapsed harder than a cheap tent. Some say GM Doug Wilson is the problem and he probably is, especially when McLellan apparently wants to get fired just so he can get out of the mess, which stems around Wilson and former captain Joe Thornton. Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski are just some of the other big shots on the team that has forgotten how to win.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: is this really what Brendan Shanahan knowingly signed up for? This is going to test him in every way imaginable, and it just got a little worse this past weekend, when the Leafs came 4th in the NHL draft lottery. This means they will not only get nowhere near Connor McDavid (Erie Otters OHL) in the summer, but they probably won’t get anywhere near next-in-line Jack Eichel (Boston University Terriers)….or even Dylan Strome (Erie Otters OHL), either.
All this mess is something Shanahan needs to fix up, then he probably needs to do something with 2 stellar netminders in the dressing room (James Reimer, who has actually won playoff games with the Leafs, and Jonathan Bernier), then he needs to trade a couple big-time contracts simply for the sake of doing so (Phaneuf and possibly Phil Kessel), AND THEN Shanahan needs to find someone who actually wants to coach this mess into something respectable again.
On top of all of that, Shanahan also has to replace the other guy he just fired, GM Dave Nonis, as well as most of Peter Hornachek’s assistant coaches, if not all of them.
The Leafs join the Sharks are being 2 teams that are probably going to both need a new head coach and GM.
BOSTON BRUINS: the Bs are probably the only team that I did not think they would ever make a list like this one. They aren’t that bad, are they? Four years following a Stanley Cup victory in 7 games, followed by being one goal away from another Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final (vs Chicago), Boston does not make the playoffs this year, it should be noted that making the playoffs at this level of the game, is never something that should be taken for granted, after all Boston missed on this year’s dance by 2 points, which means that going back to October or November, take one of those losses and turn it into a win and the Bruins are in…
Anyway Peter Chiarelli just got fired, there is a 50/50 chance that head coach Claude Julien will be next, half of the current roster is either broken down, or just tired (Zdeno Chara, Todd Marchand, David Krecji), they do not have the mental batteries to do this hockey-in-the-spring every year. There was plenty of speculation at the trade deadline that Chara may actually be on his way out. He is 37 or something, he’s already got a Cup so it’s been good for him, but he could probably fetch quite a bit in a deal to just about anywhere.
EDMONTON OILERS: where of where on earth does anybody, sane or insane go with this one? The Edmonton Oilers are as bad as the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, and I can’t think of a basketball team or baseball team that’s as comparably as bad at their sport as the Edmonton Oilers have been.
They have had 3-4 #1 draft picks at the Entry Draft and they are about to get another one! Taylor Hall was a #1 pick (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was too (2011), and Nail Yakupov was in 2012….and now they are about to choose #1 yet again….when is this going to end? Ales Hemsky was their #1 draft pick in 2001. Jordan Eberle was a first-round pick too, but was selected 22nd overall.
BUFFALO SABRES: They will get what they want with a shot at the No. 1 pick but GM Tim Murray won’t sit still this summer.
They’ll most certainly have a new look behind the bench after coach Ted Nolan was fired less than 24 hours after the season ended. That had been on the table for a long, long time.
The Sabres have been listed as a team that will make a push for Coach Mike Babcock, if he goes to the free agent market.
They likely will because owner Terry Pegula isn’t afraid to spend money. Once a coach is in place, though, he needs some players. Binghamton’s Luke Richardson is another candidate.
Murray’s plan has always been simple: Get a top selection in the draft and then build around him. There are going to be teams — Boston and Chicago to name a couple — who are going to have cap issues and may want to move some top end players. If that’s the case, expect the Sabres to be a player.
The plan isn’t to finish last forever. Pegula and Murray want a winner in fairly short which means they’ll do what it takes to compete for a playoff spot.