The good news about being one of the worst teams in the NHL this year is you get your shot at picking near the top of an incredibly loaded draft where players like Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov and Leo Carlsson could help change the fortune of your entire franchise in an instant.
Going into this season, the plan was for the Chicago Blackhawks to be one of the worst teams in the entire league. Let’s check in on the other teams that make up the bottom five and hope to get their shot at drafting Connor Bedard this summer.
- Current Record: 20-30-9, 49 points
- Last 10 games: 4-2-4
- Odds at wining the draft lottery: 8.5%
So, last time we hung out in the old Dying Hard it seemed like Jakob Chychrun would be on the move any second but, here we are, two weeks later, and Chychrun is still sitting in Arizona, waiting to find out what team he’ll be playing for next (at what point does the Players’ Association step in as guys are being scratched for weeks at a time now due to trade-related reasons?).
Until he’s traded, the speculation about Chychrun will continue, with essentially every NHL team in need of a young, cost-controlled, top-pairing defenseman.
Even though Chychrun has been out since the Coyotes lost to the Blackhawks on Feb. 10, they’ve been playing pretty well without him. They were on a hot streak — which saw them get at least a point in nine straight games — but suffered lopsided losses to both Calgary and Nashville last week.
The Coyotes have four games this week. They’ll take on whatever is left of the Blackhawks Tuesday night before traveling to Dallas to face the Stars on Wednesday, then back to Arizona for the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils over the weekend.
- Current Record: 21-32-5, 47 points
- Last 10 games: 6-3-1
- Odds at wining the draft lottery: 9.5%
Five in a row, huh? The only team in the entire NHL right now with a current longer winning streak is the Boston Bruins.
This is the highest they’ve been on the list since we started doing these updates and I do not like it one bit. Even more der ferky, they won on Saturday night (OK, yes, it was against San Jose, who is also terrible) without Patrick Kane going gunslinger on the rest of the NHL for calling him washed.
There’s the distinct possibility we’ve already seen both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane play their last games as Blackhawks and yet ... since the 23-game streak in which they went 2-21 — which culminated in a 4-1 loss to Tampa on Jan. 3 — their record is a sparkling 13-7-1.
No thank you.
The expectation is that Patrick Kane will be traded to the Rangers this week for what I can only assume will be an incredibly disappointing return — that Tanner Jeannot haul though — and then a myriad of other useful players like Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty may not be too far behind. And yes, that will probably ensure that they lose quite a few more games down the stretch. But here’s the rub: none of the other teams on this list are getting any better in the meantime. So, this current stretch could end up hurting their eventual draft position significantly, which means we all suffered through this season only for them to wind up with a draft pick that won’t make an immediate impact in the NHL next season. And then we all get to do this all over again next season and I’ll be writing Macklin Celebrini updates until my eyes bleed.
Not exactly helping their tank cause were a pair of updates from a game-less Sunday, as the Blackhawks traded away their statistically worst defenseman right after activating their statistically best goaltender.
The Blackhawks have four games this week and two of them could go a very long way toward determining the lottery: they’ll finish their current road trip with basement battles at Anaheim and Arizona before coming back to the UC to welcome Dallas (in the final game before the trade deadline, aka #hugwatch) on Thursday and the Nashville Perds on Saturday night.
San Jose Sharks
- Current Record: 18-30-12, 45 points
- Last 10 games: 4-5-1
- Odds at wining the draft lottery:11.5%
It finally happened.
Let's get to work, @MeierTimo. pic.twitter.com/Ep4GPOoDa6— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) February 27, 2023
Timo Meier, arguably the best player available on the trade market, was finally moved to the Devils as part of a massive nine-player, four-draft pick deal (the most players moved in any deal since Blackhawks legend Doug Gilmour went from the Flames to the Maple Leafs in 1992).
Meier will slot right into the Devils top six and immediately wreak havoc with either Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier as his center (the Eastern Conference playoff field is going to be a bloodbath).
The bad news for the Sharks/good news for their tank position is that none of the players they received in the deal will alter their trajectory much this season (the best prospect they got, defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin, is currently in the KHL). This was a trade made strictly for the future.
The remaining bit of intrigue for the Sharks this week will be whether or not GM Mike Grier is able to move around some money and make an Erik Karlsson trade work — with the Edmonton Oilers still looking like the most interesting destination.
The Sharks have three games this week (all at home) and will begin the post-Timo era by welcoming the Montreal Canadiens to SAP on Tuesday, then the St. Louis Blues on Thursday and Washington Capitals on Saturday.
- Current Record: 19-34-7, 45 points
- Last 10 games: 3-5-2
- Odds at wining the draft lottery: 13.5%
sure they’re 32nd in defense but at least they’re also 32nd in offense— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) February 22, 2023
Anaheim’s league-worst goal differential continues its ominous pace as they’re currently sitting at minus-98 and headed toward the worst overall mark in 20 years.
Good news for them is Troy Terry is back and doing Troy Terry stuff, scoring goals in both games since his return. Bad news is that their best trade chip is still John Klingberg — whose rate of 4.16 expected goals against per 60 is the worst mark in the analytics era. Klingberg also just showed up on Dom Luszczyszyn’s Five Players to Avoid at the Trade Deadline list (but so did Max Domi, so maybe don’t read that part NHL GMs).
Anaheim also has three home games this week; the Blackhawks on Monday night, Washington on Wednesday and Montreal on Friday.
Columbus Blue Jackets
- Current Record: 19-35-6, 44 points
- Last 10 games: 4-3-3
- Odds at wining the draft lottery: 25.5%
Speaking of dudes on on the players to avoid list: come on down Vlad Gavrikov!
It seemed like Columbus was on the verge of moving Gavrikov to the Boston Bruins for a hefty return but then the Bruins went and made a much better trade instead.
The Blue Jackets were so confident that a deal with Boston was about to take place that they yanked Gavrikov from the lineup before their game against New Jersey on Feb. 14 and he hasn’t suited up since.
He’s still their biggest move to be made (barring something shocking) and I’m sure there’s a long list of teams interested in trading for him thanks to the “because a defenseman plays a bunch of minutes that means he has to be good” narrative.
The Blue Jackets are about to enter their toughest stretch of the season with 12 of their next 15 games coming on the road.
The Jackets have three games this week: they’ll travel to Buffalo to see Le Sabres on Tuesday, then home against the Seattle Kraken on Friday and at Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.