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NHL Sour Rankings: Five Teams in the Battle for Bedard

Tony Ferrari ranks the five worst teams in the NHL right now and analyzes their motivation and chances of climbing up the standings rather than getting a high draft pick.
Trevor Zegras

The NHL season is well underway with nearly every team having played 15 games. The standings are beginning to take shape in a meaningful way as we approach American Thanksgiving.

That means we get to take our first look at the ‘Sour Rankings’ – essentially the inverse of the league's power rankings. These are the teams at the bottom of the standings at this time – but if the St. Louis Blues won the Cup after being in last place in January 2019, any of these teams can climb up the standings if things start to go their way. 

These teams may not have planned to be there or they may be dealing with injuries, but for one reason or another, they are in the running for the opportunity to draft Connor Bedard at first overall.

A quick update on Connor Bedard and his unreal season in the WHL. His 18 goals and 43 points in just 20 games both lead the league. His next closest competitor for the goal-scoring lead remains a couple of goals back while he has earned himself a 10-point gap in the points department.

So who is in the running for one of the best draft talents we’ve seen in recent memory?

Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Eakins

1. Anaheim Ducks (5-10-1, 11 points)

How did they get here?

They may very well have some of the most exciting young players in the league in Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry, but the Ducks have been bad. Zegras and Terry are the only two players on the team who have surpassed a dozen points. They sit dead last in the NHL and have yet to record a regulation win with all five of their wins coming in overtime or a shootout.

The Ducks have been near the bottom of the league in just about every metric. They are seventh-worst in goals-for per game and second from the bottom in goals-against per-game. Goal prevention has been a weak point overall as they are tied for last in total goals allowed. They also have the second-worst power play and penalty kill.

According to Evolving Hockey, they rank last in goals above replacement by a wide margin. The Ducks rank second last in expected goals-for-percentage and bottom five in shot differential. It’s been rough in just about every aspect, whether it's advanced statistics or the numbers in the standings.

Can they pull themselves out, and do they even want to?

Honestly, probably not. They lack scoring, they lack defensive depth, and they lack goaltending at the moment. John Gibson is constantly left on an island to save the day – as he has been for a few years now – and his ability to be the hero in net has waned.

The Ducks' young talent goes beyond Zegras and Terry, with Mason McTavish and the currently injured Jamie Drysdale also giving some shine to their young core. With that said, the addition of a player of Bedard’s caliber could be the piece they need to take the next step forward. Anaheim isn’t too upset about sitting at or near the bottom of the standings.

Johnny Gaudreau

2. Columbus Blue Jackets (5-9-1, 11 points)

How did they get here?

The Blue Jackets went and snagged the biggest fish in free agency by signing Johnny Gaudreau. Johnny has been good, recording 13 points in 15 games, but he hasn’t quite been the game-breaker they thought they were signing. Despite getting all of the positive headlines for the move, the roster was very much still depleted and full of holes, especially on the back end. With top defender Zach Werenski likely out for the rest of the season as part of a huge case of the injury bug on the team, the back end is just going to be more and more taxed by season’s end.

The lineup has quite a few young players, such as Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger, but none of them have truly asserted themselves. They flash scoring ability or skill, but consistency is an issue. The Jackets will give them the runway they need, but it will likely come at a cost in the win department.

It’s not just the young players that have struggled. Patrik Laine's been injured twice this season, missing a handful of games, but his offensive output has been lackluster when he’s been in the lineup. Jakub Voracek and Gustav Nyquist haven’t been as effective as in years past. The goaltending has been subpar for the most part as well as they rank second to last in the NHL in team save percentage.

Can they pull themselves out and do they even want to?

They don’t have any reason to pull themselves out of this hole. They desperately need a true top-line center, because as admirable of a job as Boone Jenner has done, he is best served to be a middle-six center or top-six winger. Connor Bedard would fix that in a major way.

Their defense won’t be fixed with the selection of Connor Bedard, but they have prospects like David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk on the way, and a healthy Werenski will be back in the fold next season. Their goaltending should improve if they get a serviceable group of NHL blueliners in front of them. The lack of defense as a whole and deficiency in scoring talent are likely too much to overcome, but they probably shouldn’t try to pull themselves out of it anyways.

Thatcher Demko

3. Vancouver Canucks (5-9-3, 13 points)

How did they get here?

Simply put, they’ve been the NHL’s biggest dumpster fire. They’ve blown six multi-goal leads resulting in a loss this season. They have looked disinterested at times, and the murmurs of a fractured locker room have been well-documented. Management has been talking to the media quite a bit, oftentimes seeming to blame coaching.

The Canucks had their eyes set on the playoffs and being one of the better teams in the Pacific Division. Vancouver had hoped that Elias Pettersson would rebound, captain Bo Horvat would have a big contract year, Quinn Hughes would return to form, Thatcher Demko could have another elite season in net and JT Miller would continue his scoring ways.

While most of that has happened, it’s still not enough. Demko’s struggles in net have been a major source of gripe in Vancouver, but the defense – or lack thereof – in front of should be more to blame. It seems like hell in Vancouver. The worst thing to be is bad on accident, and Vancouver is quite bad on accident.

Can they pull themselves out, and do they even want to?

They certainly want to. The Canucks have been very vocal, from management to the players, that the current run of play is unacceptable and they want to get back on track. There is no doubt they have talent, so the reality that they get back on track in some way isn’t out of the question.

With that said, Bedard is a Vancouver native and has been on the record saying that he grew up a Canucks fan. The addition of a truly dynamic top-of-the-lineup talent could go a long way towards slotting the current talent on the Canucks roster into the positions they probably should be in.

On the flip side, the Canucks will likely get things straightened out enough to pull themselves from the bottom of the standings but not enough to make the playoffs. The lottery could fall in their favor, but they will likely make life difficult for themselves. Mediocrity is a dangerous beast, and Vancouver is entangled in its grasp.

Brady Tkachuk

4. Ottawa Senators (6-9-1, 13 points)

How did they get here?

Unfortunately, the rebuild doesn't look over. The hype of the "Hot Dorion Summer" has worn off a bit as the Senators toil near the bottom of the league’s standings once again. The additions up front have led to an uptick in scoring as they rank 11th in the league in goals-for. Captain Brady Tkachuk leads the team in scoring with 21 points in 16 games. The Sens have five players with at least 14 points. Scoring from their top six isn’t the issue.

The bigger issue is that they have asked too much from a defense group led by Thomas Chabot and rookie Jake Sanderson. They have routinely iced sub-replacement level players on the back end, which has resulted in poor overall results. The goaltending has dealt with injuries and inconsistencies despite confidence in their tandem over the summer.

Can they pull themselves out, and do they even want to?

Ottawa has been in the rumor mill as a fairly regular predicted landing spot for Coyotes defender Jakob Chychrun. Whether that deal materializes or not, they need more help on the blueline. They may find a way to score themselves out of their problems at times, but sustaining an all-offense approach isn’t the easiest or most consistent way to go about things.

The Senators have expressed their desire to be competitive this year, challenging for the playoffs and taking the next stop on their journey towards capturing the franchise’s first Stanley Cup and the city's first Cup since 1927.

The young talent is there and the development is well underway, but the roster isn’t complete and the holes are gaping at this point. Whether they pull themselves out or not, the playoffs are likely out of their reality.

Arizona Coyotes

5. Arizona Coyotes (6-8-1, 13 points)

How did they get here?

They legitimately tried to ice the least impressive NHL roster we’ve seen in years. There was no doubt that Arizona was going fully into tank mode this year. The Yotes are tired for the second-lowest goal output this season with the highest percentage of any team coming from power-play production thanks to a surprising top-five power-play thus far.

Clayton Keller has been a point-per-game player as they had hoped for him to be, but the rest of the roster is frightening in a lot of ways. Shayne Gostisbehere is scoring, but his defensive lapses still exist. Matias Maccelli is leading the NHL rookie scoring race at the moment, which is a bright spot, but how long does that last?

The blueline is an amalgamation of guys who you would likely look at and think “Oh, that’s where he is now.” Juuso Valimaki has been quite good as a waiver claim, but he is paired with sophomore defender JJ Moser on the top pair, which is certainly an eye-opener. The goaltending is equally underwhelming with Karel Vejmelka and Connor Ingram tending the twine.

Can they pull themselves out, and do they even want to?

It's surprising that they’ve done this well to start the season. The Coyotes’ roster is intentionally depleted in hopes that they can sink to the bottom of the standings and get as high of a draft pick as possible. The team’s best stretch of play was when they were playing in their college arena home, and they’ve been stuck on the road for most of the year aside from that.

Arizona wants nothing to do with climbing the standings. They want Bedard or one of the other premier talents at the top of this year’s draft. Even if they wanted to challenge for a playoff spot for some reason, the roster isn’t equipped to do so.

On the outside looking in: Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators 


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