It is still very early but lets take a look at which teams might contend for the title of the worst in the NHL for 2008-09 and win the right to draft John Tavares first overall. I am basing this solely on their current rosters of signed players, not projections of who they might sign. Some of these teams are likely to make more moves to get them off the list.
Bad but not Quite Bad Enough
Florida Panthers: They have pretty decent defense and goaltending but after trading away their only top tier forward in Olli Jokinen they will struggle mightily to score goals unless Stephen Weiss and Rostislav Olesz can really take their careers up a level. They have the talent but they haven’t executed very well so I have my doubts. Vokoun will likely steal enough games not to have them end up in last place but they still aren’t a good team.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The number 1 line will be Umberger, Huselius and Nash which isn’t bad but isn’t a great #1 line either. And after those three there really isn’t much to get excited about. Their defense is OK but there isn’t a lot of high end talent there either. The only savior might be in goal where Pascal Leclaire had a break out year last season and looks like he might become one of the better goalies in the NHL. If Leclaire can’t repeat last years performance the Blue Jackets could easily fall into contention for the last spot in the NHL.
Colorado Avalanche: If Sakic and Forsberg both decide to re-sign then the Avalanche can be taken off this list but until they do they are a bad team going in the wrong direction. The goaltending tandem of Budaj and Raycroft will likely fall somewhere between mediocre at best to horrifically bad at worst. They are certainly not a playoff contender as the team currently stands and with a key injury here or there they could fall into contention for one of the last spots in the NHL.
After the Sedin’s, Luongo and a couple of injury prone defensemen there really isn’t much to get excited about. They couldn’t score many goals last year and they have lost their 3rd best point producer and captain Markus Naslund. Luongo is the only thing currently saving them from the cellar.
The True Contenders
St. Louis Blues: The Blues showed some promise early in the season last year but then completely fell apart and finished with the second worst record in the western conference. The only major move they have made is acquiring goalie Chris Mason from Nashville but I am not convinced he is an upgrade over what they had. The Blues were a bad team last year and are still a bad team.
Los Angeles Kings: Taking a look at the current Los Angeles Kings roster and it is pretty scary as they currently only have 4 defensemen listed (Jack Johnson, Matt Greene, Tom Preissing and Peter Harrold) and their goaltending is downright horrible consisting of Erik Ersberg and Jason LaBarbera. They do have some decent talent in Kopitar, Brown, Frolov, etc. but overall they are a horrible team.
Atlanta Thrashers: Outside of Kovalchuk and an aging Kozlov there isn’t a lot of talent on this roster. Armstrong and Christensen are nice complementary players picked up in the Hossa trade and Enstrom was a nice rookie surprise last year but there really isn’t much else to get excited about. They over paid for an over rated Ron Hainsey and once top goalie prospect Kari Lehtonen hasn’t developed all that well while suffering through injury issues. Overall they are a horrible team without much near term upside.
New York Islanders: Back in the late 1990’s Doug Weight and Bill Guerin formed a pretty good tandem in Edmonton but it is now 2008 and they are no longer front line players. The problem for the Islanders is they need them to be front line players if they are going to be very good. There are zero star players (save maybe for DiPietro) on the Islanders roster and the number of good players is minimal as well. Ted Nolan has proven a few times to be a very good coach but this team is downright awful and even he won’t be able to make this team anything more than a prime contender for the worst team in the NHL.