What was that? I wasn't expecting much. I figured they'd just miss the playoffs or grab the final spot, but that was putrid. Carey Price barely played, but he's not that good. The most important thing was to get Cole Caufield off to a strong start, but he didn't look like a competent player until February, when the season was halfway over. Nick Suzuki played well, and that was the only positive. They turned it around at the end under new coach Martin St. Louis but what does that mean? The Canadiens have had eleven different coaches since 2000 for an average of two seasons per coach. It's hard to win when you churn through coaches at that rate. They had a decent offseason, but the Eastern Conference is more challenging now.
Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
This series was so bad on multiple levels. It's like the Panthers forgot how to play hockey. They couldn't do the simplest things correctly, like pass on a power play. They finally showed up in Game 4, but it was too late, and they still lost. But how they lost Game 2 with a mental collapse of leaving a player in the front for a covered player behind the net with seconds to go in the third summed up the whole series of pitiful execution and inability to change. I expected way more from the Panthers, and I'm sure they did too. Especially after their impressive regular season and a hard-fought first-round comeback series win. The president's trophy and big deadline trade curse live on.
Worst Game 7
Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers
There's always one lopsided game seven that is over early each postseason, and this was that one. It was made more surprising because the home team had won every game in the series, and the Hurricanes were 7-0 at home during the first two rounds. But it slowly snowballed out of control for the Hurricanes. Early dumb penalties with their usually reliable penalty kill not holding, injuries to Seth Jarvis and Antti Raanta, and their rookie third-string goalie looking like one doomed them.
So let's talk about that trade because it's so mindbogglingly bad. Like the Chicago Blackhawks, I thought they'd be a little better with the players they had, but it didn't pan out, and they wanted to rebuild. There's nothing wrong with that. But there is if you're doing it incorrectly, and boy, are they.
If you thought you might want to rebuild, I don't know why you'd trade two first-round and one second-round pick for Seth Jones a year earlier and sign him to a significant long-term deal. Were you confident he was the final piece? It doesn't seem so. The usual place to start a rebuild is by unloading older players that are still valuable, like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. But by trading DeBrincat first, you've signaled to all other teams you've given up. Now nobody is going to make you a great offer. They'll be lucky if they get anything decent, and it was already tricky because of their cap hit.
But more importantly, why wouldn't you want to keep DeBrincat? He's a two-time 40-goal scorer, something that's rare, and most importantly, 24. By the time the rebuild is over, he'll be 29 or 30. That means he'll still have plenty left in the tank, and you'll need a veteran to lead the young guys anyway. The worst part is he wanted to be in Chicago for a long time. No, wait, the worst part is they got back less for DeBrincat than they gave up to get Jones. Just clearly stupid on multiple levels.
Playoff Teams with Problems
The Wild are the team you don't want to be. They're good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to do anything once there. They've lost in the first round six of the last seven years. The other season, they didn't make it. I can't imagine them winning in the first round anytime soon, which begs the question, what do you do? Staying this way does not benefit them. They've improved after ditching Ryan Suter and Zach Parise but not enough where it matters. They have a superstar in Kirill Kaprizov but not enough talent surrounding him. It's doubtful they'll be able to pick up enough free agent help. Any great team generally drafts at least five first or second-line players to form the nucleus of a great team. The Wild don't have that. They either need to draft well with their picks, or they'll need to tank a bit to get higher picks. But they need to figure it out soon, or they risk losing Kaprizov.
A team going in the wrong direction
Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights must be the most impatient team ever, or they're addicted to tinkering. There is such a thing as too many changes. The Golden Knights first fired Gerard Gallant, who led them to the Stanley Cup finals, because he went on a small losing streak. The Golden Knights replaced him with Peter DeBoer, now fired after only two seasons because he barely missed the playoffs with an injury-riddled team. This looks even worse because Gallant made it to the conference finals with his new team, the Rangers. Both coaches were quite good, and their resume demonstrates that.
Then we go to their roster. Only six players from their original team five years ago are on the current roster. That's a huge turnover, especially since they went to the finals and always made the playoffs. And while they undoubtedly added some big names, it's not all about stars. In an article explaining why they were so good so soon, I wrote it was partially because the Las Vegas shooting brought them together. Nothing like that will happen again that can quickly bring together so many new people.
Additionally, they lost many high-quality characters, players whose contributions don't always show up on the stat sheet, like Alex Tuch, Ryan Reeves, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Nate Schmidt. They are just important as your 40 goals scorers. Speaking of Fleury, making Robin Lehner your number one goalie was never a great idea, and he's never been a number one because of his injury issues, which of course, continued.
There's a great chance they'll make the playoffs next year because of their talent, but I wouldn't expect them to do much. I also worry about how long Bruce Cassidy will last. Entering your sixth season on your third coach is not a great look for stability.
Why can't teams hire coaches?
John Tortorella - Philadelphia Flyers
I don't understand why people keep hiring this guy. I thought he was done after he was fired last time. He's the most overrated coach of all time and a lunatic who gets in fights with most of his players. He isn't even worth it, with only winning one playoff series in his last seven coaching seasons. He's getting jobs off his one Stanley Cup win from almost twenty years ago. I already know this won't go well.
Paul Maurice - Florida Panthers
With the hiring of Maurice, it's clear the Panthers do as much research into their coaching hires as the Cleveland Browns did when trading for Deshaun Watson. After Joel Quenneville resigned due to past behavior, you would think they would do a better job investigating or just keep the interim coach, Andrew Brunette, that led them to their first playoff series in 20 years. Instead, they hired a coach who presided over one of the most dysfunctional teams in recent memory. The Winnipeg Jets were so bad several star players wanted out during his seven years and didn't hide their displeasure after leaving. Maurice realized the mess he had created and resigned rather than go down with the ship. The Panthers need a certain kind of coach to get over the hump, and he's assuredly not it. Barry Trotz is available. Speaking of Trotz…
New York Islanders
Lou Lamoriello fires coaches like the Montreal Canadiens. In 28 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, he had a whopping 21 coaches, which included three people, including himself having more than one stint and a pair of co-coaches because why not? So the firing of Trotz shouldn't come as a surprise, but it still does. He just led the team to back-to-back conference finals. True, they missed the playoffs last year, but they started the season with 13 road games, the longest opening streak in NHL history. It wasn't hard to predict they would dig themselves into a hole but crawl back later to almost make the playoffs. Predictably, that's what happened. If Lamoriello wanted to improve the team, he should have used their cap space to try and acquire Claude Giroux or Alex DeBrincat. Instead, they hired Lane Lambert as coach. We could talk about him, but why bother? He won't be there long.