We’re getting very close to the point that we can see which teams will have the best odds of winning the draft lottery and there are indications surfacing that give some idea how those teams are going to proceed for the rest of the season.
There are 8 teams which, in my opinion, are pretty much out of the playoff race and we can list them but their chances of making the post season courtesy of Sports Club Stats.
So, now, let’s take look at what we might expect those teams do between now and the end of the regular season.
Craig MacTavish, without saying it directly yesterday, has essentially thrown in the towel this season and appears ready to do nothing to improve his hockey team as least until the trade deadline…expecting the “progression of accountability” he sees in the Oilers to pull his team out of last place. That message was reinforced this morning when a very serviceable veteran centre, Kyle Chipchura wasn’t claimed on waivers by the Oilers. In the wake of McTavish’s moaning that he didn’t want to give up any assets to acquire a NHL centre, you’d be right in questioning his veracity.
What I expect will happen is that the Oilers will bumble along until the trade deadline and will trade UFA defenseman Jeff Petry and winger David Perron for the best futures he can get. Unfortunately, both those moves will make the team weaker in the present and Groundhog Day will continue.
Blogging icon Tom Benjamin dropped into Lowetide today to echo what I’ve been saying about the Oilers chances of winning the lottery and rafting MacDavid:
The Sabres are a bad hockey team…sporting the worst goal differential in the league at -37. They are also 6-4-0 in the their last 10 games so it’s pretty obvious they haven’t given up and are trying to win despite being so close to the 1st overall pick. At some point though, I think their lack of talent will prevail and both Columbus and Carolina will pass them in the EC standings. The big question here is whether or not any of Edmonton, Arizona, Dallas or Colorado can finish worse than the Sabres. I expect not and the Sabres will have a the best shot at the #1 pick.
Columbus Blue Jackets:
This is really a sad story for this franchise and its fans. When healthy, they have a playoff calibre roster but have lost hundreds of man games to injury. As those players return slowly, I expect they’ll climb the standings somewhat and could conceivably finish ahead of Carolina and Philly in the EC standings. I any event, they’ll get a very nice player from the draft and, if healthy next season should be right back in the mix.
The Coyotes have already started making moves designed to be better in the future and I expect there will be a lot more in the next couple of months. Don Maloney has already traded Rob Klinkhammer to Pittsburgh for a young, inexpensive defenseman in Phillip Samuelson. The 23 year Swedish defenseman is the brother of Henrik who was drafted in the 1st round by Arizona. The Coyotes have also started calling up young players to get them some experience and, as mentioned earlier, waived Chipchura and sent David Schlemko to the minors. There is rampant speculation that Maloney will trade UFA veterans Antoine Vermette and Martin Erat as well as defenseman Keith Yandle in the near future not only to save money in a lost season but to stockpile more 2015 draft picks and/or younger players. Worth keeping an eye on.
More on the Coyotes from Larry Brooks:
Remember how a few short weeks ago Andrew Barroway was on the verge of gaining majority control of the Coyotes, the news first reported by The Post?
Not so fast, for now comes word from a plugged-in source that the deal appears to be falling apart, with Barroway seemingly on the verge of backing out.
Slap Shots has been told the current ownership has directed GM Don Maloney to shed payroll … which would mean stripping the club with the league’s third-lowest payroll into a bare-bones operation.
Who could be going in addition to Keith Yandle (at $5.2 million per season through next year)? Not Shane Doan? Not Oliver Ekman-Larsson?
The equally pertinent question, though, is which will come first: the end of the NHL’s financial problems in the desert or the end of Coyotes?
Actually, it’s not so much a pertinent question as a rhetorical one.
The Stars should be much better than their record but shoddy defensive play and sub par goaltending ( a league worst 96 GA) has deep sixed their season. It’s not inconceivable the Stars could go on a run and finish considerably higher in the standings but the hole is already so deep it would take a miracle for them to reach the playoffs. The Stars will have just a ton of cap space next season to address those issue with Horcoff ($5.5M), Erik Cole ($4.5M) and Rich Peverley ($3.25M) coming off their payroll so I think Jim Nill’s play is likely to ride this out until the offseason.
Colorado has been playing a bit better of late but they have been subject to late game collapses that remind me a lot of last season’s Toronto Maple Leafs. Going into the season, the weakness they have on the blue line was no secret and it appears the addition of veterans Brad Stuart, Jerome Iginla and Daniel Briere has been a disaster that won’t be easy to recover from. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a blockbuster deal involving one of their young centres to try and fix their blueline but that likely won’t occur until the offseason.
This is a team to keep a very close eye on. As the season winds down, I expect the Hurricanes will conduct a fire sale.I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if the Canes convinced the Staal brothers to waive the no trade clauses to move to a contender and may be able to move Cam Ward’s awful contract as part of that deal if the other team is prepared to buy him out. The Hurricanes would then be in full tank mode to try to land MCDavid or Eichel…and I expect they will.
I doubt reality has set in Philly yet (when does it?) that the season is lost and they are likely to make some ridiculous moves to try to save it The biggest problem for the Flyers is that they have virtually no cap space so any move they might want to make will be very difficult to pull off. For a smart GM, there may be an opportunity here to bend the Flyers over if Philly panics.
If I was a betting man, I would wager that the draft order following the lottery will look like this:
By the way, there is a HUGE game tonight in Calgary between the San Jose Sharks and the Flames. With a win, the Flames could pull 8 points ahead of the Sharks and the final wild card spot. The Flames are starting to get their injured centres back (Matt Stajan is playing tonight) so Bob Hartley is going to have more weapons to try to keep their winning ways going. Should be a great game to watch.