With most attention around the NHL focused on the playoff race, there is another race many are forgetting, the race to the bottom of the NHL standings. Despite your thoughts on tanking, teams are still rising and falling near the bottom of the standings. The last games of the season could have huge effects on teams futures.
The NHL’s Race to the Bottom
With Ramus Dahlin, teams all over the league are daydreaming about the soon to be superstar. Dahlin is the best defenceman in years to be draft eligible. The 17-year-old Swede has been compared to the likes of Erik Karlsson, another Sweedish superstar on the blueline. Though those shoes are a big pair to fill, the talk of the town is about this guy we will hear about for years to come. With teams “fallin for Dahlin” through the standings, who is most likely to get him is still up in the air.
The Sabers have an overall record this season of 22-36-12 so far. That is enough for exactly a 0.400 PTS% on the year. Needless to say, that is not good by any stretch and thus they are sitting at the 31st place in the league. Buffalo has not been a good team for a while, not seeing the playoffs since 2010-11 when they lost in the first round. The Sabres have posted a record of 5-4-1 in their last 10GP. Buffalo has not yet punched their ticket to the basement with numbers like that.
With Their elite centre Jack Eichel and the up and comers like Casey Mittlestadt and Alexander Nylander, Rasmus Dahlin would be a beautiful addition to the team. If Buffalo snags him up, don’t be surprised if Dahlin and the Sabres start to claw their way back to relevance.
The Arizona Coyotes are basically the Buffalo Sabers of the West, sitting at 30th in the league. The only team sitting in a better (or worse, depending on how you look at it) spot is Buffalo. Just like Buffalo, the Coyotes have turned up their game with a 6-3-1 record over the last 10 games played. That being said, we can’t forget the awful 2-15-3 record to start the season. Arizona had won only 2 games by the midway point of November.
Arizona already has a star Swede on their blue line with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. As much as fans want Dahlin, he won’t fix the issues Arizona has with goaltending. Of course, Dahlin won’t hurt the team, but he isn’t going to have as much of an impact as some other bottom level teams.
Vancouver is the team probably falling the hardest with a 2-6-2 record over the last 10 games. The Canucks are limping with the likes of Brendan Gaunce, Markus Granlund, Loui Eriksson, Sven Baertschi, Erik Gudbranson, and of course Brock Boeser out for the remainder of the season. Chris Tanev is out day to day since Feb 8th. Derek Dorsett ended his career due to injuries. The Canucks have a bit of a pass as they only have duct tape holding them together. They were projected to be a bottom tear team this year, but there was a brief moment of hope. With Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi lighting lamp, all seemed well. Then Bo and Sven got injured taking any wind out of the Canucks’ Sails.
The Canucks have been the worst team in the league since 2015 despite legitimately trying not to be. People aren’t being overly critical, if anything they’re not being nearly critical enough. https://t.co/JyLyj6DE8K pic.twitter.com/TbUQmpUupS
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) March 16, 2018
The Canucks have some elite talent coming down the pipe with Elias Petterson, Thatcher Demko, and Adam Gaudette. The one thing the Canucks don’t have coming is defence. When asked about playing for the Canucks, Dahlin said “That would be sick,” according to Sportsnet. When asked about Petterson, who also plays in the SHL, he said “He can do things out there that nobody can. He won the points lead here as a 19-year-old so he’s unreal. He’s going to be so fun to watch him play.” He continued “Just give him the puck and you have an assist.” With the Canucks trending down so rapidly, it is a serious possibility we could see these two on the ice with each other.
Hot on the Canucks’ heels is the Ottawa Senators only 2 points ahead in the standings. In the last 10 games they have posted a 5-4-1 record, though not as good as Buffalo or Arizona, and not as bad as the Canucks. The Sens may fall a spot or two in the standings, but it is not likely they will make it all the way to the bottom of the league.
With the rumour mill running at maximum capacity, Erik Karlsson is the centre of attention. If the rumours are true, there will be a large hole to fill on the blue line in the next year. Karlsson says he doesn’t want to leave Ottawa but is a UFA at the end of the 2018-19 season. Karlsson has said he will not be giving any discounts. There is a very real chance Ottawa does not want to pay the expected salary. Dahlin would make a pretty legitimate replacement for Karlsson if he were to move. It would much more ideal though for the team if the pair would play together.
We all know at the end of the day, Edmonton will probably get the first overall pick with their amazing luck. Joking aside, Edmonton is a little higher in the standings (25th). Mathematically they are less likely to get a chance to pick for Dahlin. They have gone 5-4-1 in the last 10, they likely aren’t falling much farther down the standings playing like that.
Like many teams at the bottom of the league, the Oilers have lots of issues, one being defence. With the biggest name in hockey, Connor McDavid, you would think the team would be doing better, but alas. Everyone expected Edmonton to be amongst the top of the league this year, but they took their place and traded it for The Golden Knights’ spot near the bottom of projections.
Of course being at the bottom of the league doesn’t assure you a fantastic odds in the draft lottery due to anti-tanking changes, but it does nothing but help your chances. Defensemen are clearly in high demand which makes it oh so evident as to why Dahlin is so highly sought after. While everyone is watching the race to the playoffs, don’t forget to check the race to the bottom.