Part 3: Worst of the Season
Carolina Hurricanes vs. New Jersey Devils
This was one of the worst series of all time. There was only one close game. The other four were blowouts, the kind you turn off after one period. 6-1, 6-1, 5-1, and an 8-4 game that started 4-0. Only game five was close, and it surprisingly went into overtime. The New Jersey Devils were certainly the strangest postseason team with their roller coaster style of play.
Worst Game 7
New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers
The Rangers were in the worst Game 7 last playoffs, too, only this they lost. This series was so bizarre it’s not surprising to have such a disappointing Game 7. I never thought a team that won the first two games by a score of 10-2 would lose a series. They lost the next three games by a 9-2 score only to finally solve goalie Akira Schmid in Game 6. The game started well, but the Rangers gave up a short-handed goal and another six minutes later. It felt obvious that was the end. Sadly, they almost scored right before the short-handed goal. They gave up two more goals late in the third, just when it seemed they were making it interesting. But they couldn’t solve Schmid again.
The Canucks continue to waste all their young talent while going through the weirdest coaching carousel ever. Why hire someone like Bruce Boudreau when he’s clearly not the answer. But you certainly shouldn’t fire him at the end of the season when he’s crying over the rumors that he will be. At least have the decency to wait until the season is over. But you had to get hot commodity Rick Tocchet. I don’t even know why they chose him. None of this changes the fact that this team’s young talent is underperforming. It’s even odder since they missed the playoffs four years straight, came within a game of the Conference finals, and then missed the playoffs three years in a row. I don’t think that’s been done before. I don’t know what would fix this team, but it’s not Tocchet or this front office.
Alex DeBrincat - Chicago Blackhawks
This trade has been here two years in a row because I had a feeling it would be stupid, and boy, does it look even worse now. The DeBrincat trade was dumb because you didn’t need to lose everyone to tank. You’re still going to suck even with him. They didn’t need the worst record anyway, as they won the first pick with the second worst. But you need DeBrincat because Connor Bedard needs someone a little older to play with. Since DeBrincat is gone, the Blackhawks have recently signed Taylor Hall, Josh Bailey, and Corey Perry. That’s great and all, but they’re old. By the time Bedard enters his prime, they’ll all be retired. Bedard will have no one to play with once again or certainly no one with chemistry. Additionally, these seem like moves a team makes when they feel they’re on the cusp of winning a Stanley Cup. Bedard hasn’t even played an NHL game yet and just turned 18. The Blackhawks have plenty of holes to fill. They should be trying to accumulate high picks. They also should have kept DeBrincat.
Playoff Team with Problems
I wrote about the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, and Minnesota Wild in the last two seasons. Two have won playoff series since, and the Wild are very close. That leaves us with the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets peaked in 2018. Except for a sweep of the Edmonton Oilers, it’s been downhill since. They lost their coach and their best player. Most of their top players are in their prime, but all they could do was barely make the playoffs and win one game. Their top players aren’t top-tier caliber. All teams are either better than them or rebuilding. They’re basically like the Calgary Flames. They’re just kind of there. They might make the playoffs, or they might not. It’s time for a rebuild.
A team going in the wrong direction
New York Islanders
I can’t say I know what the Islanders are doing. I don’t believe they know either. Lane Lambert managed to guide the Islanders to the playoffs barely. But the defensive-oriented Islanders have the same problem they always have. They can’t score. Worse, Mathew Barzal regressed. They did acquire Bo Horvat and Zach Parise and rebounded, but neither seemed promising long-term. Horvat is a great player, but I doubt it’ll work out how they want. More problematic is they aren’t getting high draft picks by losing in the first round. Even worse, they haven’t drafted in the first round since 2019. That pick of Simon Holmström doesn’t seem promising. With other teams improving, it’s doubtful they’ll make the playoffs this season.
So how long will that rebuild take?
The Flyers are almost like the Canucks. They missed the playoffs or lost in the first round for seven years, came within a game of making the conference finals, then missed the playoffs three years in a row. Management asked the fans for patience during their rebuild this season. Sources say it could take up to eight years. There’s no way to know for sure, and there’s nothing wrong with a rebuild, but it does raise a few questions.
Is Keith Jones the right guy to be president?
I honestly laughed when I learned Jones was named president of hockey operations. I thought it was a joke. I don’t know him, but for everything I do know, I can’t imagine he’d be good at this job or that anyone would take him seriously. I’ll never forget when hockey on NBCSN was ending its run. Jones said, “If it were up to me, we’d have been out of here hours ago.” And this is the guy running your team. He has the exact opposite personality of their coach.
Is John Tortorella the answer at coach?
Realistically, Tortorella shouldn’t be coaching anymore, and he’s definitely not the guy to be coaching young players. Why he’s still there, I have no idea.
What the heck is Carter Hart supposed to do?
You spend years trying to find the right guy in the net, and now you want to give your young goalie confidence and wins. But he’s playing in front of a team that isn’t very good, and by the time the rebuild is over, he’s in his 30s. Since it’s looking more like a bad fit, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s traded.
Was that the best draft pick?
Their first draft pick in this new era was Matvei Michkov. Scouts ranked him high. The problem is he signed a KHL contract until 2026. Meaning he can’t play for the Flyers for another three seasons. He’s also a European player, and half of those don’t pan out. The longer he plays the European style in the European rink, the less likely he’ll pan out. There’s also a chance he doesn’t even want to play for the Flyers or the NHL in three years. In which case, this was a wasted pick, not great for a team with several holes.