Envy is an emotion which "occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it". It has been said that envy is one of the most potent causes of unhappiness. We all experience envy as hockey fans, as we witness certain franchises acquire generational talent through the entry draft (Pittsburgh, Chicago, Edmonton), as we see the reigning Kings of Hockey crowned once again and on a daily basis simply observing the state of the NHL (Boy it would be fun to be a Stars fan with Benn-Seguin-'Chush going forward!).
The goal in this fanpost is to help assess exactly where we stand in the landscape of the NHL. The only reason for the continued justification of David Poile remaining general manager is that he has this franchise in a good spot moving forward as we stand in year 3 of his "competitive rebuild". We see youngsters like Seth Jones, Fillip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok and we feel that he must be doing something right. But are we really in an enviable position Do we really have cause to hope that we will ascend in time to the upper echelon of the NHL or are we in fact just a marginal squad buoyed by the consistent efforts of two generational talents (Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber).
Which brings us to the crucial question; which NHL team is in the most enviable position given the current and future state of their Hockey Team? Keep in mind that the divisions are a vague assessment and the ranking is the crucial part. So if, for example, the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals and New York Islanders are in the Happy Fans division while they have many fans who aren't exactly "Happy" at the moment, their ranking is crucial and has more to do with the overall mood of the fanbase. Being ranked first in Each division is a significant difference than being ranked last. Each team is ranked in the sense that they would be more envious of the state of the team ranked ahead of them and less envious of the team ranked behind them. Behold:
The NHL Envy Rankings
- The Lucky Fans Division
1. LA Kings - Two cups in 4 years. Kopitar-Doughty-Quick is about as good as it gets for a F-D-C combination. The supporting cast is excellent. Muzzin, Toffoli and Martin Jones headline an excellent young core. A 26th ranked prospect group is only mitigated by the fact that they have no real holes to fill. Sutter is an excellent coach. Dean Lombardi is clearly one of the best executives in hockey. Heck, even the LA weather is awesome.
2. Chicago Blackhawks - Toews. Kane. Hossa. Sharp. Keith. There is no team hockey with a better top 5. Seabrook and Saad are very good as well and the B`s may also have one of the best supporting casts in hockey (good grief) with Oduya, Hjalmarsson Kruger and the rest of the gang. Meanwhile their management has done beautifully in the past few years (lest the Bickell contract) and Quenneville manages this squad with aplomb. They've been a dominant team for years and have won 2 cups recently. They are as close as the NHL has to a dynasty. The only reason they are #2 is that Kings Fans are still hungover and covered in confetti. Meanwhile they have the 10th best farm system in hockey, headlined by one of the biggest steals of any draft recently, Teuvo Teravainen. Good god almighty.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning - Steven Stamkos is currently enjoying the makings of a Hall of Fame career. There are few more dominant players in hockey and he alone propels this franchise into the top 10. What moves them higher is that they have the very best Farm System in Hockey headlined by junior scoring dynamo Jon Drouin (currently rated as the best prospect in hockey), as well as a plethora of promising talents (Vasilievskiy, Namestnikov, Koekkek) and a number of recent young graduates who contributed to their recent playoff appearance (Gudselvskis, Killorn, Johnson). And it goes on. Ben Bishop may win the Vezina this year and Palat is a strong Calder nominee. Victor Hedman is harnessing his immense potential and could be a fringe Norris candidate in years to come if not already. Plainly said, the Tampa Bay Lightning are stacked with talent. The fact that they recently signed Palat and Johnson to very cheap deals and have a good amount of depth (Filppula, Purcell, Carle) and the possible signing of Ryan Callahan just helps what has the makings of a dominant young team. It is a good time to be a fan of the Lightning and not only because they employ a Hall of Fame level talent in his prime.
4. Montreal Canadiens - Norris winner, beloved personality and hockeymonster PK Subban headlines a dynamic young Habs squad that features a 40 goal scorer in Max Pacioretty, excellent young forward talent (Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Eller) and a solid veteran core (Gionta, Markov, Gorges) backstopped by one of the elite goalies in hockey, Carey Price. The Canadiens are thoroughly endowed with assets and have found a coach that can at least avoid sabotage (ahem, Jacques Martin). The supporting cast is affable and they won`t be in salary cap trouble for a few more years. The prospects who make up their 11th rated farm system are of quality and quantity and will likely produce as good NHL assets (Beaulieu, Tinordi, Bournival). Mark Bergevin has proved to be a stable overseer of the historic franchise and all things are looking good, especially in a conference where very few teams stand between them and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins - Would the Penguins be in the top 10 without Sid and Geno? Top 20?? It's incredible what two Hall of Fame level forwards can do for a franchise and noone knows that better than a team that won 2 Cups in the 90's with Jagr and Lemieux in their primes. The supporting cast is good (Fleury, Letang, Neal) and they have a solid farm system (Pouliot, Despres, Bennett) as well as the highly dynamic Olli Maatta. Other than that it's business as usual for Penguins fans who recently hired a 64 year old General Manager who's former team has experienced very little consistent success in recent years and who find themselves without a head coach at the moment. As usual, they hope that two of the best forwards of all time can lead them glory while everyone else tries not to screw things up (looking at you Marc-Andre).
6. San Jose Sharks - The Sharks are in a unique place. Dan Boyle is already gonzo and the rest of their dominant 2000's core are approaching their mid 30's. The future is bright but the days of President's Trohpies and Heightened Playoff Expectations may be soon behind them without the proper adjustments made by Doug Wilson and co. Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Logan Couture are 3 excellent hockey players who can be cornerstones to a solid playoff team while the young guns (Hertl, Nieto, Vlasic) are terrific. Due to years of drafting in the 20's the Sharks have the 22nd best prospect system in hockey and there are few difference makers within that group. Todd McLellan has not conjured the proper magic to propel the Sharks past the conference finals in his several years at the helm but is highly regarded within the hockey world. Antti Niemi is a very solid goaltender who rarely makes mistakes. An Era may be over but the Sharks will be jostling with the elite of the West for years to come if everything goes according to plan. The question is, will Thornton and Marleau end their San Jose careers through retirement or trade?
7. Boston Bruins - It's amazing that a team that has traded away two of the best forwards in hockey in the past few seasons (Kessel/Seguin) is rated so highly but thus is the impressive nature of Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien's work in Beantown. The Bruins are fresh off a President's Trophy and a playoff performance that seemed to be impacted by long term fatigue from all their recent playoff runs and have as solid a roster as there is in hockey. Granted, Zdeno Chara is getting quite old (didn't stop him from yet another Norris nom) and there is a lack of young, elite talent in this squad (so why did they trade Seguin?) but Bruins fans have every reason to be confident going forward. Especially with a prospect base that includes some very enticing talents (Hamilton, M Subban, Kokhlachev) and a group of young players who are already contributing (Krug, Spooner, Rielly). Krejci and Bergeron are two of the best non Franchise Level talents in hockey and their presence will only dictate success for years to come, coupled with the excellent goaltending of Tuukka Rask. While they may not be able to sustain the elite success they have enjoyed over the past few years, the Bruins are in a very solid position and could likely remain competitive, especially in the East, for years to come.
8. Colorado Avalanche - The wise and pivotal selection of`budding star Nathan MacKinnon in the 2013 draft is what pushes this team into the upper echelon. The core of Duchene, Landeskog, Stastny and O`Reilly (will the latter two remain?) is as good a forward core in all of hockey in a league where it is crucial to drive play and attack your opponent. The ancillary assets are solid and the few other budding youngsters the Avs employ on D (Barrie, Holden, Johnson) clearly have strong upside, helping Semyon Varlamov to an excellent season. Patrick Roy is a very deserving Adams nominee and seems to be the perfect coach for this young group. Avs management meanwhile is led by a trusted group with immense pedigree and it will be interesting to see how they handle the upcoming summer. A very weak farm system (all of their top draft picks spent very little time as prospects) is disconcerting but they simply remain in the top grouping due to being totally able to ice a first line of Duchene (22) Landeskog (23) MacKinnon (19) for the next 7+ years as well having all the necessary pieces in place to complement their fabulous young core going forward.
9. St. Louis Blues - Despite not having employed a truly elite talent since the Pronger-MacInnis heyday, the Blues are one of the model franchises of modern hockey, having built magnificently in the past few years, mostly through draft (Tarasenko etc.), trades (Shattenkirk etc.) and shrewd free agent signings. It`s fitting for them to be the 2nd final team of this elite tier as their excellent management, top level coach (Hitch!) and quietly superb young core (Backes, Oshie, Pietrangelo etc... ) have them poised for years of solid contention within the Western conference. A solid farm system full of interesting prospects (Schwarz, Rattie, Jaskin) headlined by a young fellow who has pushed Jaroslav Halak out of town (Jake Allen) only helps bolster the St. Louis stronghold going forward.
10. Anaheim Ducks - Like the Penguins, this ranking mainly derives from having back to back Hart nominees in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf though it by no means takes away from what maybe the best GM in hockey, Bob Murray, has done with this roster and farm system. The latter, ranked 3rd in the NHL, is chock full of precocious and unique talents. From Emerson Etem to Hampus Lindholm (who has already graduated at 20) to the highly talented John Gibson the Ducks have an fabulous crop of young talent that is just starting to blossom. I haven`t even mentioned Fowler, Silfverberg and Palmieri along with Sami Vatanen and the slightly older guys, (Perreault, Bonino, Cogliano). Hiller and Andersen is a fine tandem in Goal that could help keep this team relevant in the West for years. While there is a deficiency (at least presently) in Elite talent aside from the Dynamic Duo, the Ducks have all the makings of a very good team for years to come.
- The Happy Fans Division
11. Philadelphia Flyers - The toughest omission from the first group but they weren`t an elite team this year and there isn`t a great deal of indication that sees them ascend, aside from the potential of their young forward core. Voracek, Simmonds and Matt Read are all top six forwards and B Schenn and Couturier aren`t far behind. Sadly, the Flyers have the very worst farm system in hockey, only possessing a few solid prospects (Laughton, Morin, Gotisbehere) and very little else of note. The defensive core is a mixed bag, though capable and the goaltending is by no means elite, though Steve Mason seems to be returning to form after a brutal few years in Ohio. Really, the only thing that puts them this high in the rankings (aside from the massive collective Ego of Flyers nation) is a seemingly unlimited financial reserve, a group of excellent young forwards and this guy named uh... er... oh right. 2013 - 14 Hart Nominee Claude Giroux. Aside from that, the Flyers hold a very tenuous spot in these rankings though this core could generate several more years of good hockey and Giroux is an immensely integral NHL asset.
12. Washington Capitals - Alexander Ovechkin is back baby! One of the very best hockey players to ever lace up a pair of skates has returned to peak form (yet another Richard trophy this season) and... the Caps missed the playoffs. Oh boy. Clearly the problem is a lack of talent surrounding the Great 8 and the Caps are tied for many more years to their roving band of overpaid role players. Meanwhile Nicklas Backstrom is a highly one dimnensional player and Mike Green is nowhere near his elite form of the late 2000`s. They have the 24th best farm system in hockey and it shows as there a very few young Caps outside of the highly gifted Yevgeni (2nd best prospect in all of hockey) Kuznetsov that will be making a significant difference in years to come. There are some good pieces (Carlson, Alzner, Johansson) but nothing that amounts to an elite team, even in the East, aside from 70 goals from Alex or a very steep ascension from `Kuz. The Caps are in trouble, especially if Ted Leonsis continues to assert his conflicting influence (he was very responsible for the dealing of Fillip Forsberg) and are only ranked this high because of a man who could win the Hart, Art Ross and Richard trophies in a single season if everything went well and has done so already, at age 22. Oh.... and they just hired Barry Trotz so... yeah. It`s a total mixed bag in the US capital and the 12th spot seems to suit such a conflicting situation.
13. Minnesota Wild - The Wild are in an interesting position as well. They certainly have the young talent to ice a contender in a few years but we have to wait and see exactly how the Brodins, Coyles and Neiderreiters develop and if they can sign a difference making forward in free agency (ahem, Thomas Vanek). Meanwhile, Ryan Suter will absolutely return to Near Norris form once he stops playing an ungodly 30 minutes of ice a night and Zach Parise has scored at a 0.80 per game pace (70 points in a full season) since age 22. The core needs bolstering (Hello, Free Agency!) but with the right moves the Wild could be an Elite team in the Western Conference for years to come, backstopped by the eternally underrated Josh Harding (.933 and 1.67 in 29 games this season). There are certain questions pertaining to Harding`s health, the exact ceiling of their young core and the ability of Parise and Suter once they move into their 30`s (imminent) but this is a very good situation and is only complemented by Mike Yeo behind the bench, Chuck Fletcher up stairs and the seventh best prospect base in hockey led by Mikael Granlund, Matt Dumba and Darcy Kuemper, all of whom played NHL minutes this year.
14. Dallas Stars - Yet another team who is only rated as high as they are due to Elite Forward Talent (ahem, Poile!). The trio of Benn - Seguin - Nichushkin could be downright frightening in years to come (Tyler and Jamie finished 4th and 8th in NHL scoring at 22 and 24 years of age while Valeri registered one of the better age 18 seasons of the modern era while showcasing a phenomenal skillset) and already has them snagging a playoff spot in the ever competitive West with a supporting that leaves a lot to be desired. That said, they have some very good young players (Chiasson, Eakin, B Dillon) and a very solid prospect base including R Faksa, J Dickinson and Jack Campbell to go along with the fine goaltending of Kari Lehtonen. Aside from that, the Stars are very top heavy and rely far too much on an aging core of mostly bottom line players. They have shown good management habits of late and Lindy Ruff is as solid a head coach as they come so there is every reason to believe that helped by an amazing young trio up front, the Dallas Stars are a team on the rise.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets - The Blue Jackets finally have reason to inspire legitimate hope in their fans. From the emergence of Ryan Johansen at only 21, to the thoroughly excellent management of Jarmo Kekkalainen to the surprising Vezina Win from young Sergei Bobrovsky in 2013, things have never looked brighter for the BJ`s, aside from the day they drafted Rick Nash. As well, Todd Richards has proven himself to be a solid NHL coach, their core is very underrated and is full of useful players and last but not least their farm system is tremendous. From Boone Jenner to Kerby Rychel to Alex Wennberg and Ryan Murray (some of whom have already graduated) the Jackets are poised to be a playoff team in the East for years to come if all goes well. This is only bolstered by the fact that they gave the Penguins a legit scare in round one this year.
16. Detroit Red Wings - The good news: Pavel Datsyuk is going to play until he`s 43. The bad news: Pavel Datsyuk will be 43 in 7 years. This parable exemplifies exactly where this organization finds themselves at the moment, poised at the bridge of a crossroads, imminently transitioning into a new era. With Lidstrom retired, it is only a matter of years until this latest golden generation of Detroit talent are too old to be elite NHL assets (Kronwall, Zberg and Franzen are all 33+) and there a legitimate questions as to who exactly will replace them. Thankfully, Jimmy Howard is only 30 and still a valuable NHL goaltender. Reasons for hope come from a superb farm system (The Grand Rapids Griffins won the Calder Cup last year) that has already graduated a number of terrific prospects (Tatar, Jurco and one of the emergent talents of 2013 - 14, Gustav Nyquist, who scored at the same pace as Marian Hossa last season). As well, Mrazek, Pulkkinen and the ascendant Anthony Mantha (82 goals in 82 games played this year in the Q!) are all poised to contribute at NHL level. Thus the transition to a new era could be quite seamless, but is clearly dependent on potential. Aside from that, it is a team that is expertly manged and coached and the rest of the roster is full of useful NHLers (Helm, Abdelkader, Kindl etc.). These Red Wings are not going away any time soon and are still a dangerous playoff team when healthy, especially in the east.
17. New York Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist is only 31 despite it feeling like he`s been in the NHL since 1996 and is still an elite NHL goaltender. Meanwhile there is a juicy young core developing in the big Apple led by Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh. This is a team full of solid talent and they are coming off a cup finals appearance. They have no issue signing elite talent and are run well, though a 27th ranked prospect system doesn`t help matters. Alain Vigneault is nothing but an above average NHL coach and this is a team poised to make the playoffs in the East for years to come. They don`t seem likely to become contenders once Marty St. Louis retires but you never know. Look for Carl Hagelin, John Moore and JT Miller to be keys in this process as their ceilings could dictate whether the Rangers can truly ascend in what is the worst division in the NHL.
18. Nashville Predators - At long last, we arrive at our beloved Nashville Predators. Shea Weber is still in the prime of what is becoming a Hall of Fame career and Pekka Rinne has fully recovered from a pesky hip injury and will hopefully return to the All World form he displayed a few years prior. Aside from the two pillars of greatness, we have a strong young core led by Craig Smith and Roman Josi (Colin Wilson: TBA) and two of the best prospects in hockey in Seth Jones and Fillip Forsberg, the former having already shown a very promising sample of his talents in a full season at NHL level and latter dominating the most recent WJC. There are some nice young complementary assets here (Ellis, Spaling, Bourque) as well as a few tried and true veterans who help keep the team afloat (Patric Hornqvist, Mike Fisher,
Kevin Klein) as well as some intriguing young prospects in Calle Jarnkrok, Matthias Ekholm and Marek Mazanec. The farm system is solid overall and will help boost what could become a very good roster in a few years, with the proper development from the right people. An offensively inclined new coach will only help this team coagulate with the modern NHL and has arrived just in time to salvage certain careers (ahem, Stalberg) and encourage growth from the prized young talent (ahem, Forsberg). But from a timid GM, to a lack of scoring talent and an inability to attract top forwards, the Predators are unlikely to contend until at least 2017 and by then their two Superstars will be 32 and 35, still effective but probably not elite. This franchise certainly has potential but it will take a lot to see that energy truly manifest itself within the world of hockey. But who knows, a change of philosophy could be all that`s necessary in the end.
- The New York Islanders Division
19. New York Islanders - John Tavares scored at a higher rate than Steven Stamkos last year (1.19 PPG, 4th in the NHL) and that is main reason that this franchise, who have been run about as poorly as possible for the past decade, are in the middle tier. Accompanying factors include a fine young forward core of Okposo, Nielsen and Grabner (three of the most underrated players in the NHL), the very deftly executed signing of Jaro Halak and a totally splendid farm system headlined in bold neon letters by Ryan Strome. Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Pulock and Anders Lee are all top prospects and this precocious team is lacking anything but young potential. The New York Islanders could indeed be on the rise and Strome`s ceiling will factor heavily into that in future. Jack Capuano is an affable coach and the management of Garth Snow and Charles Wang has never looked better. This a very tenuous ranking as the Isles could trend both ways, but almost every indication has them moving up in the hockey world, led by one of the most gifted scorers of his generation, JT91, who turns 24 in September.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs Division
20. Toronto Maple Leafs - Absolutely the most difficult ranking to compile as there are few better young talent cores in hockey than the one in Toronto at the moment which is sadly complemented by one of the most inept management tandems in hockey. Dave Nonis, signer of the Clarkson contract (egads!) is contracted for 4 more years and is accompanied by Randy Carlyle, a coach who (was also somehow signed to an extension) eschews modern stats, alienates young players and led this team to a monumental collapse last season while posting awful team statistics. Only such a precarious management duo could have a team with this much young talent (almost all of it acquired under Brian Burke) at such a low point in the rankings but the Leafs finished with the 8th worst record in the NHL last year despite another superb season from Phil Kessel, major development from JVR and the blossoming of Jake Gardiner. Meanwhile, Nazem Kadri, Morgan Rielly and Jonathan Bernier are poised for at least good things and are already valuable NHL assets. The Leafs boast a solid core but the propensity of Nonis to sign awful contracts could severely compromise that. The real clincher is a prospect system devoid of NHL talent (ahem, Nonis), poor recent drafting (Nonis again) and a culture that compromises young talent (ahem, Carlyle). Similarly to the Islanders, the Leafs are buoyed by employing one of the best forwards in hockey but their usual franchise foibles will determine whether they trend upwards towards contention or downwards to the lottery.
- The Edmonton Oilers Division
21. Edmonton Oilers - Possibly the biggest Dichotomy in all of professional sports, the Oilers are perched firmly but precariously (somehow...) in Envy Rankings purgatory. A truly Special, Gifted and Glimmering group of young stud forwards (Hall, RNH, Eberle and Yak are 22, 23, 20 and 20) who will all be coming into their primes in a few years, three of them already signed to marvelous contracts, juxtaposed by awful management, a roster full of AHL players tied to a small, northern market that has a brutal time attracting free agent talent have Oilers fans in a very unique place. They are the franchise with one of the highest ceilings and one of the lowest basements. We have seen noting but the latter despite a historic haul of amazing forward talent. The encouraging part (and the reason they aren`t ranked 25th) is a trio of young defensemen (Klefbom, Nurse, Marincin) who all have the potential to be difference makers at NHL level as well as some lovely complementary assets (J Schultz, Perron and Gagner) and two goaltenders (Fasth and Scrivens) who have shown to be reliable NHL goaltenders, though lack big time experience. There is far too much talent for the currently dismal Oilers to be ranked lower, though only the ineptitude of the MacTavish-Lowe-Katz group could suck this much quality out of an extraordinary young cadre of forward talent. Once again we see a franchise at a crossroads, with equal amounts of beauty and ugly, intertwined betwixt a precarious market. It was hard for me to put the Oilers this high after finishing with 67 points last year but my god their talent up front is magnificent. If this franchise was managed by anyone even semi decent they would be a contender within years.
- The Envious Fans Division
22. Buffalo Sabres - Once again this ranking hinges on a crucial forward. That forward is still years away from NHL competition (though you never know... ) but that player is very likely Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Both are considered Elite with a Capital E prospects though McDavid is likely the best prospect since Sidney Crosby (yes indeed). The Sabres are almost guaranteed a shot at the top two picks next year and even one of Noah Hanifin, Matthew Barzal or either of the top 3 forwards in the 2014 draft (and possibly Ekblad) will have an already tremendous and balanced farm system (ranked 2nd in the NHL) positively brimming with NHL ready talent. Deftly managed by Tim Murray, the Sabres have a lovely young trio of Myers, Ennis and Hodgson leading the youth movement followed swiftly by Jhonas Enroth, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov. The Sabres are pitiful at the moment but are poised for a quick ascension, aided by the positive influence of Ted Nolan.
23. Winnipeg Jets - Most of the hope in the `Peg hinges around the dynamic Kane-Scheifele-Trouba trio and their ability to complement a solid core led by Ladd and Byfulgien along with Wheeler and Little to transform the Jets into a playoff team in the coming years. The mitigating factors include a good but not great farm system, a brutal division full of teams that are all higher than them on this list (many of them contenders) and an inability to sign legit FA talent due to being located in the smallest and coldest NHL market. But this is a solid young core and if they can find a better alternative to Ondrej Pavelec, this Jets team could be at the very least become a low seed in the West. It will be up to Kevn Cheveldayoff and Paul Maurice to help actualize that potential.
24. Phoenix Coyotes - The Coyotes are stuck in Neutral in many ways. An aging core sees them rely more and more on the budding talent Martin Hanzal, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Mikkel Boedker. Neither of those 3 are elite NHLers, though OEL is certainly close and Phoenix are in for a tough transition out of the Shane Doan Era if they can`t conjure the necessary talent through the draft and free agency. That said, they have excellent management and a terrific coach in Dave Tippett to go along with a solid prospect base full of enticing talents (Brandom Gormley, Max Domi, Henrik Samuelsson). Mike Smith is still a good NHL goalie and this team always produces more than the sum of their parts. But the future is far from bright in the desert and it will take a lot to get it there.
25. Ottawa Senators - One of the most potentially promising situations among this bottom group. The Ottawa Senators, led by Bryan Murray, are hoping for a healthy return from the impending Jason Spezza trade to bolster what is a fine young roster. The farm system is in very good shape as well and the Sens have a wealth of young talent available, led by a generational talent in Erik Karlsson. Much depends on the cumulative ceilings of Zibanejad, Lehner and Curtis Lazar but this is a team that is a few free agent signings away from competing for a playoff spot in the East. Paul McLean has shown he can harness young talent and his experience will only serve this young group well. As usual, Karlsson must carry much of the burden but in time this Sens team could be on the rise.
26. Vancouver Canucks - Corey Schneider for Bo Horvat. Zack Kassian for Cody Hodgson. Roberto Luongo for Jakob Markstrom. These 3 questionable moves were the catalyst for the end of the closing of the Stanley Cup Window for the Sedin generation Canucks and the beginning of an ambitious and perhaps misguided rebuild. Thus there is very little to indicate that this franchise will be competitive in the coming years, though the core is too solid for the lottery and the Sedins are only 34. There are decent assets in the pipeline (Jensen, Shinkaruk, Horvat) though the farm system is pretty weak and there are very few young difference makers amongst this aging roster. The impending Kesler trade is the nail in the coffin to what was a very impressive run for many years. The only hope to be had in Vancouver is that Mike Gillis can hopefully receive good return for their valuable assets.
27. Calgary Flames - Only a year or so into their rebuild and the Flames are already making important strides. Sean Monahan is one of the steals of a very good draft and projects as a very good NHL player going forward with All Star upside. He is complemented by a lovely young prospect group headlined by Sven Baertschi, Max Reinhar, diminutive dynamo Johnny Gaudreau and a good young core of Mikael Backlund, TJ Brodie and Joe Colborne. Mark Giordano has emerged as a superb NHL defenseman and the Flames have a bright future, if they can find the right talent to insulate their young core and acquire a goaltender (easier said than done). Brian Burke has a track record of success as and his hire of Brad Treliving as GM was lauded by the hockey world. Calgary have a long way to go until they are competitive again but a positive year under Bob Hartley and a promising group of young talent has the Flames poised to ascend. Slow and steady wins the race.
28. Carolina Hurricanes - The problem in Carolina is a lack of depth. Faulk, Skinner, the Staals, and Alex Semin comprise a lovely young core (with Elias Lindholm and Ryan Murphy ready to ascend) but a 28th ranked farm system (that will be easily ranked dead last once Elias and Ryan graduate) coupled with a roster that has more holes than Swiss Cheese have the `Canes in a sticky position. Meanwhile, they re hemorrhaging money to 3 key players, are very much out of contention in a weak East and have not been a relevant franchise since their 2009 conference finals run (Yikes). Hopefully, they can acquire an elite talent in one or both of the next few drafts but aside from a drastic change of fortune this is a hockey club with little hope of playoff appearances. The trading of Cam Ward could be a signal to commence a Sabres style rebuild and hope for McDavid, though Anton Khudobin has been excellent thus far. Either way, things are not looking good in Carolina and the pressure will be on Bill Peters to make lemondade out of lemons.
29. New Jersey Devils - Once again, an organization whos future is hamstrung by a extensively mediocre and functionally useless (ranked 29th) farm system. Meanwhile, they iced the oldest team in the NHL and have very little in the way of young emerging talent lest Henrique, Larsson and Corey Schneider (albeit 3 lovely young assets) ascend quickly. There is very, very little to build on going forward for the Devils and they will receive little to no return for their aging assets. Without the magnificent (and 41 year old) Jaromir Jagr, they would have been a deep lottery team last year and they might be best served by folding up shop and hoping for a high pick in the `15 draft. They pick 30th this year to underscore just how directionless this hockey club is. At least they have a very good starting goaltender but Corey Schneider can only do so much to help what could be a very bad team next year.
30. Florida Panthers - The fact that the Florida Panthers were led in scoring by 21 year old Nick Bjugstad with 38 (38!) points last year tells you everything you need to know about the NHL bottom feeder. This is a team with ample young quality and a thriving farm system but the Panthers are miles away from relevancy. Roberto Luongo will help that but he turns 35 in a year and this team is years from competing, even in the East. There`s not much to say here other than the Markstrom trade could turn out to be one of the worst deals of the decade (If Jacob becomes a starting goalie) and the Cats have to simply sit back and hope that Sasha Barkov is as good as his age 18 season indicated. Huberdeau as well has a very high ceiling but 9 goals in 68 games this year wasn`t overly encouraging. The Panthers depress me so I might as well end the rankings here.
My conclusion is that we are in a good spot but are not on pace to become a true contender at the moment, merely a good team.