The NHL season starts tonight. Some teams have no realistic chance at a Stanley Cup. Yet all the teams are bad, in their own special ways.
Vegas Golden Knights
2016-17 record: Did not exist
What’s bad: The roster, but that’s to be expected from a team that only formed a few months ago. It could have sucked a little less if general manager George McPhee wasn’t so enamored with third-pairing defensemen, but being terrible is an expansion team’s destiny. Three-point games and a salary cap should minimize the sucking, but this team will be more painful to watch than the third Hangover movie. The first season of the Golden Knights will honor the third season of Ballers by taking place mostly in Vegas without having any points to it.
2016-17 record: 22-56-4
What’s bad: Joe Sakic is the worst GM in the league and it defies logic that he’s still employed after last season, the worst by an NHL team since the Atlanta Thrashers, led by the immortal Johan Garpenlov, had 39 points in 1999-2000. At least the Thrashers, unlike the Avalanche, have the self-respect to no longer exist. It’s a foregone conclusion that Sakic fucks up the Matt Duchene situation and trades him for a carpet he saw on Craigslist. Erik Johnson is 29 years old and begins a six-year, $36 million contract this season. He has missed 80 games the past three seasons. He has never cracked 39 points in a season. Ben Carson thinks Sakic is unqualified for his position.
2016-17 record: 30-43-9
What’s bad: Everyone on this team makes too much money and is completely untradeable: The Sedins ($7M each), Loui Eriksson ($6M), Bo Horvat ($5.5M), Alex Edler ($5M), Brandon Sutter ($4.375M), and Derek Dorsett ($2.65M). Every negotiation with Jim Benning must be the inverse of when Albert Brooks takes the first offer in Defending Your Life. And now the Sedins are 37 years old and done. This roster is two-week-old Chinese food leftovers in the back of the fridge that should have been thrown out 11 days ago.
2016-17 record: 30-42-10
What’s bad: You know you’re terrible when you announce a 40-year-old, six-goal scorer isn’t coming back and people lose their shit. “You’re trapped in a desert and we’ve decided to stop pouring sand down your throat and…wait, you want more sand down your throat? Sorry, the sand is too expensive.” Oh yeah, and this team is still actively trying to lose. Zac Rinaldo? They signed Zac Rinaldo, a guy destined to get cut from a future prison league? When is the last time the Coyotes tried? Ship this team and its 28-year-old, avocado toast-loving, bitcoin-counting, Benedict Cumberbatch stunt double GM to Seattle already. This team has been penny-pinching for years and now it wants taxpayers to fund a new arena for the 600 hardcore fans that were sad to see Shane Doan leave. “If you don’t give us $225 million, we’re packing up and…hey, why are you laughing? We’ll leave! We will! Stop laughing!”
New Jersey Devils
2016-17 record: 28-40-14
What’s bad: They’re Coyotes East. Cap space dedicated to a dead contract (Ryane Clowe, $4.85 million), a team that hasn’t had a fan base in two decades but refuses to move, and a GM that has his job for reasons I don’t understand. The Devils are somehow more boring now than they were in the 1990s. They may have finally broken goaltender Cory Schneider’s spirit last season. When the Devils finally win a draft lottery and pick first overall, it’s not the year of Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews—it’s the 174-pound Nico Hischier who is sure to be ruined by this organization or shattered by a dirty hit from Tom Wilson that won’t result in a suspension.
2016-17 record: 33-37-12
What’s bad: They’re paying Ryan O’Reilly, who has never had more than 64 points in a season, $7.5 million per year through 2023. That’s a lot of money for someone that could crash his vehicle into a donut shop and flee the scene at any moment. Zach Bogosian is O’Reilly’s mirror image on defense: overpaid and getting way too much ice time. Even though they’ve been a garbage franchise that has missed the playoffs for six straight years, they play on national television like twice a week and no one knows why. Flipping on NBCSN and always seeing the Sabres is not unlike seeing The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen on HBO 11 times a month. Nobody is paying for cable to see this crap.
Detroit Red Wings
2016-17 record: 33-36-13
What’s bad: Super-old players that aren’t good anymore but have expensive, long-term contracts have left the Red Wings in a state of extreme dilapidation. You know how the New England Patriots continue to win with ruthless, cold-blooded decisions that result in beloved players thrown out on their asses all the time? The Red Wings are the bizarro version of that franchise, and they just bilked taxpayers into funding an arena named after the worst pizza on the planet. The Red Wings have eight players signed to contracts that will take them beyond age 35 and two beyond age 40. They are a third Red movie nobody wants.
2016-17 record: 34-37-11
What’s bad: They’re basically a daily fantasy team with two $9,000 guys and a ton of $2,500 guys. Okay, so Alexander Radulov isn’t quite a roster filler, but how long before he checks out mentally after his big payday and gains 40 pounds eating barbecue for every meal? If it were me, it would have already happened. After two years of nightmare goaltending, they signed Ben Bishop, who finished 35th in save percentage last season. “How can we fix this hole in the boat? I know! Pass me the scotch tape!”
2016-17 record: 35-36-11
What’s bad: You know how in movies, the nerdy teen plots revenge against the jocks that tortured him? In Florida, the jock (Dale Tallon) has exacted revenge against the nerds (the stat-heads who built last year’s team) by firing, trading, or not re-signing everyone who was part of the math regime. That includes beautiful elderly angel Jaromir Jagr, who wasn’t brought back despite perfectly good numbers and remains unsigned. The old regime also fired coach Gerard Gallant midseason by pushing him out of a moving bus in North Carolina. Owner Vinnie Viola almost became Secretary of the Army but had to withdraw due to having history’s most fake-sounding mafia name. Just kidding, it was actually for punching a guy at a horse auction. Contract this franchise.
Los Angeles Kings
2016-17 record: 39-35-8
What’s bad: The Kings have taken more steps backward over the past few years than the writing on House of Cards (I’ve never seen House of Cards but that’s what I hear). They have a new coach and a new GM, and you won’t believe this, but the person hired to run the team happens to be someone that played for the franchise. Since abandoning their sweet-ass purple jerseys (Forum Blue is purple, knock that off) for those yellow abominations they’ve missed the playoffs in two of three seasons. Anze Kopitar had 10 goals and 52 points in the first year of his eight-year, $80 million contract that expires when he’s 37. At least L.A. has the Chargers now.
2016-17 record: 36-31-15
What’s bad: Sometimes sports are complicated. Why is a team bad? There tend to be numerous issues interconnected in ways not even experts can properly detect and diagnose. So why haven’t the Hurricanes made the playoffs this decade? Well, that one’s easy. No. 1 goaltender Cam Ward has since 2011–12 barfed up save percentages of .915, .908, .898, .910, .909 and .905. Now Ward is the backup, instead of managing a Chick-fil-A or whatever, so he’ll still shit all over the ice 20–30 times. Someone should investigate to see if Ward gerrymandered the crease so he could never be cut.
2016-17 record: 40-35-7
What’s bad: Kevin Cheveldayoff has been GM since 2011. Paul Maurice has been coach since 2013. They have combined to win zero playoff games. But fear not, because they were just rewarded with contract extensions because our new reality dictates that nothing make sense and mediocre people never face consequences for their actions. The goaltender has also been terrible for years, but the Jets solved that by signing Steve Mason, who had a…good lord…a .908 save percentage in 58 games last year. I’m sorry if you’re not a hockey fan and all of this sounds very strange to you, but this is how roughly 70 percent of NHL franchises operate.
2016-17 record: 39-33-10
What’s bad: They won two championships 40 years ago through felony assault and still haven’t adjusted to today’s game where attempted murders are mostly frowned upon. The Flyers are no longer that thuggish team—last year’s team was the third-least penalized in franchise history—but they also don’t have much in the way of talent. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek combined to earn $17 million and score 34 goals. Shayne Gostisbehere is their one fun player and their TV newsman haircut of a coach spent last season trying to beat that creativity out of him with repeated benchings while Andrew MacDonald—arguably the worst defenseman/contract combo in the league—plays 20 minutes a night. This team deserves all the disappointment it gets.
Tampa Bay Lightning
2016-17 record: 42-30-10
What’s bad: The Lightning were picked by a lot of people to win the Stanley Cup last year yet missed the postseason and were given a pass because of injuries. Alleged genius GM Steve Yzerman chose to be a seller at the deadline and the Lightning missed the eight-seed by one point. He took a team from Cup favorite to the draft lottery and received glowing praise from hockey writers that orgasm when talking to great players from the 1980s, just for freeing up a few bucks under this year’s salary cap. So when you see the talent and health of the Lightning this year, just know it will go sideways in an entirely preventable way and Yzerman will work a GM of the Year finalist nod out of it.
New York Islanders
2016-17 record: 41-29-12
What’s bad: No one has done less with more for as long as Garth Snow, who went straight from the ice to the front office and, hey, what do you know? He’s blown more first-round picks than Lisa Ann. This team is John Tavares and 19 people slowly pulling Tavares’s prime into a watery grave. Tavares is a free agent after the season and currently on a team that’s never winning the Cup and could be playing next season in Quebec, Seattle, Kansas City, Brooklyn, Long Island, or an abandoned warehouse on Staten Island. If he comes back next season, he’s dumber than Snow.
2016-17 record: 41-29-12
What’s bad: The Predators allowed 30-goal scorer James Neal to leave in the expansion draft and chose to keep Roman Josi, who was exposed but only as a defensive liability on a team with more defensive depth than anyone in the league. They embraced P.K. Subban for 99 percent of the season, then banned him from talking to the media at the tail-end of the Stanley Cup Final and blew it. Every hockey team, at its core, still hates fun and individuality no matter how much they claim to embrace it publicly. But hey, if you give GM David Poile another 20 years to figure things out, maybe the Predators will get back to the Final and lose again.
2016-17 record: 45-33-4
What’s bad: The Flames would have more success this season if they never dress a goalie and play 6-on-5 at all times. You know you’ve run things into the ground when the answers to your goaltending problems are Mike Smith and Eddie Lack. Smith is perfectly mediocre but Lack couldn’t unseat Cam Ward in Carolina. You know how the dad trained Ben Affleck to be a killer in The Accountant? That’s gotta be the dynamic between Brian Burke and Matthew Tkachuk, who will assassinate someone eventually because you can’t be a good player in Burke’s eyes if you’re not tough, and Matthew’s out to earn his dad’s approval. Oh, and fuck this team’s ownership sideways for trying to get taxpayers to empty their pockets to fund a new arena.
Toronto Maple Leafs
2016-17 record: 40-27-15
What’s bad: For all the talk of this team arriving last season, the Leafs lost more games than they won and let the choking-dog Capitals off the hook in the first round. But when it came time to build on that season in free agency, they overpaid for the rotting husk of Patrick Marleau—three years and $18.75 million. Because when you want to teach a young core about winning in the playoffs, you turn to a San Jose Shark that choked so badly for so long they stripped him of the captaincy. “We need to pull off this heist and I’ve got the missing piece—cement boots for when it’s time to run from the police.” And don’t worry about the so-so defense group, because the Leafs solidified the so-so status with consummate so-so defenseman Ron Hainsey. It’s like Lou Lamoriello thought the rebuild was moving too quickly.
2016-17 record: 44-31-7
What’s bad: They have $6 million a year through 2021 tied up in 33-year-old David Backes, a man who loves an American flag despite it having more stars than he’s had points in either of the past two seasons. Asking 40-year-old Zdeno Chara to be a No. 1 defenseman is like asking Michael Keaton to star in the next Batman. Their next-best defenseman is 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy, who should go from Boston sports fan wet dream to fackin’ losah the moment he has his first rough five-game stretch. Management will trade David Pastrnak for a case of sandpaper and a hockey fights DVD before his contract expires.
2016-17 record: 44-28-10
What’s bad: For people that don’t follow hockey closely, here’s the best way to describe the Ottawa Senators when all-world defenseman Erik Karlsson isn’t on the ice: They are sex without penetration, beer without the alcohol, The Office without Steve Carell and HBO’s original programming when Game of Thrones is on hiatus. Guy Boucher looks like a James Bond villain and he may be considering how he’s clearly trying to systematically extract any remaining fun out of the NHL. The Sens are just flat-out boring. If every team in the NHL were a ride at Disney, the Ottawa Senators are the Hall of Presidents when only the Jimmy Carter robot is working, except way more people want to see the Hall of Presidents than Senators home games.
San Jose Sharks
2016-17 record: 46-29-7
What’s bad: The Sharks are eternally doomed to be good but never good enough—the Atlanta Hawks of hockey. They have the forwards, defense, and goaltending to be a Cup contender, but we all know there’s something in the team’s DNA that triggers a collapse at the most crushing possible time. And for some reason, Joe Thornton wanted one more year of it. Even if they are leading the race for the Presidents’ Trophy in March, you just know one of their three best players is rupturing something in a play involving Dustin Brown. The Sharks are your friend’s can’t-miss blackjack strategy that leaves you broke and devastated.
St. Louis Blues
2016-17 record: 46-29-7
What’s bad: If the Blues and Sharks changed uniforms the past decade, could you tell them apart? Imagine having to cheer for a less successful version of the Sharks. Jesus. Vladimir Tarasenko has 18 goals the past three postseasons, but the Blues have won just three total rounds because his teammates disappear like your friends when they realize the pizza you ordered has Provel. Jake Allen had 11 good postseason games after 61 mediocre regular-season ones. Alex Pietrangelo is the most overrated player on a team with at least a dozen overrated players. If you ever find yourself pulling for this team, remember their fans are also Cardinals fans.
New York Rangers
2016-17 record: 48-28-6
What’s bad: Like a bird crashing into glass, the Rangers are unaware that the window is closed. How long before everyone shanks Kevin Shattenkirk and blames him for Henrik Lundqvist having a .908 save percentage? Does he make it to November before he totally regrets signing with his beloved childhood team? It reflects poorly on Rick Nash that he wouldn’t warn Shattenkirk to sign literally anywhere else. “These 18,000 idiots that scream gibberish during the national anthem 41 nights a year will eat you alive when I leave after the season.” Yeah, well, you’d scream at you too if you shit the bed every postseason. The Rangers traded their best center and best goaltender and the coach still has no idea how to use his lineup. The Rangers have mastered the art of the unimpressive 100-point season.
2016-17 record: 47-26-9
What’s bad: The Oilers sucked their way into Connor McDavid, the best player in the league on an entry-level contract, and GM Peter Chiarelli has done everything he can to sabotage the long-term future of the team. Milan Lucic: $6 million for seven years. Kris Russell: $4 million for four years. Trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. Trading Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome. Don’t all these fuckups have to take their toll eventually? Not when the fan base still thinks the ultra-talented Hall was the root of all the problems and will pay money to watch playoff games on concourse TVs and piss in sinks. Everyone assumes last year’s 103-point season is the start of the Oilers being perennial contenders but Chiarelli has done enough damage that maybe they’ll be fighting for the first pick again. That would be the most Edmonton thing possible this season. Let’s all root for it.
2016-17 record: 47-26-9
What’s bad: Marc Bergevin is a kid that gets excited about some dumb hobby then wants to give up on it the moment it gets hard. “We want P.K. Subban to be here for a long time…fuck it, let’s trade him.” “We need to get big and tough…shit, let’s get rid of all the big and tough guys and add Jonathan Drouin.” “I gotta get rid of Alex Galchenyuk…actually he’s a big part of the future.” This dumbass team voluntarily swapped Subban straight up for Shea Weber, then watched Subban instantly transform the Predators into conference champs. The Habs are a crappy restaurant that swears it’s classy because it puts more emphasis on employees speaking French than knowing how to prepare the food.
2016-17 record: 46-23-13
What’s bad: Sure, the Ducks let you down every year, but at least their best players are unlikable dicks too. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are the Han Solo and Chewbacca of on-ice assholery and now that they’re past their prime, they can decimate the Ducks’ cap space for the next four years. Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa are the watered-down wannabe versions of Getzlaf/Perry, the bad guys in a straight-to-DVD Nic Cage movie. John Gibson has been incredibly good in the regular season and wildly disappointing in the playoffs, so he’s the perfect Duck. Bring back the Mighty Ducks logo and jerseys, you numbskulls.
2016-17 record: 49-25-8
What’s bad: After years of failing to meet expectations in the playoffs, the Wild hired Bruce Boudreau, which is like sucking on a raw chicken to cure your food poisoning. The only thing that matters less than who directs the 32nd Star Wars movie is the NHL’s regular season, and the Wild have built a team where it’s all that matters. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed matching 13-year, $98 million contracts before the last lockout and they’ve rewarded the Wild by never getting out of the second round in five seasons. The State of Hockey is chronically underwhelming, just like the attendance at the outdoor game they finally got to host last year.
Columbus Blue Jackets
2016-17 record: 50-24-8
What’s bad: John Tortorella is a stupid blowhard that gets mad when athletes kneel during the national anthem while ignoring actual problems, yet still manages to fail his way to the top. His winning coach of the year last season was like if Donald Trump won a Nobel Prize. Zach Werenski played less than Jack Johnson, in case you weren’t convinced. The roster is better than it was last year but Tortorella will make sure this team takes a step back, and then he’ll blame it on Artemi Panarin being lazy or fat or out of shape.
2016-17 record: 50-23-9
What’s bad: This dumbass team drank its own Kool-Aid about leadership and now it’s paying Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith $23 million a year until they’re all 162 years old. It seems like they won their titles thanks to being ultra-talented with a pinch of cap circumvention—or maybe it was Toews’s leadership! Surely Toews posting 55 points a year while accounting for $10.5 million of the cap won’t be a long-term problem that sentences the Blackhawks to years of mediocrity. Stan Bowman’s cap mismanagement cost the team Niklas Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin and Marian Hossa “retired.” Fuck this team and all its undeserved outdoor games.
2016-17 record: 55-19-8
What’s bad: I long for the days when the thing in D.C. that brought people the most pain was Capitals postseason hockey. But here’s the good news: After years and years of postseason failures that required the core to be rooted out and a new foundation poured, it’s the same dipshits that fuck up every year back for more! Alex Ovechkin looked legitimately decrepit at times last season but at least his mood will be shit because the NHL won’t let him play in the Olympics. The Caps gave Evgeny Kuznetsov $62.4 million, a surefire recipe for keeping the not-winning-Cups thing going long after Ovechkin leaves for the KHL.
2016-17 record: 50-21-11
What’s bad: Not one motherfucker in that locker room had the guts to say, “Hey, maybe going to the White House this year isn’t the best idea.” I’m always hearing how hockey players are so tough yet they’re always the first ones to fall in line and knuckle to authority. Hockey players have more respect for logos on floors and for political building than other human beings. They’d rather stand up for a teammate that took a legal check than any actually marginalized person. What makes this even worse—because let’s be real, every other team on this list would go to a Trump White House too—they couldn’t fucking wait to let everyone know on the Sunday morning before Kneelageddon. Eat shit, Penguins. They’re winning a third straight Stanley Cup, because we live in hell.
Dave Lozo is a freelance writer whose work can be found here, Vice Sports and The Comeback, and his book, The 100 Greatest Players in NHL History (And Other Stuff) is available on Amazon. Dave is the co-host of the Puck Soup podcast and wishes every movie wasn’t a reboot, remake or sequel but only watches Friends and Seinfeld reruns. His back probably hurts and he knows most people didn’t read this all the way through.