Early Look at the John Tavares Contenders

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.

Vancouver Canucks

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.

Posted in NHL

This article has 12 Comments

  1. Without Sundin they could be listed in the first category but I don’t think the Leafs are as bad as everyone assumes they will be. I think Ron Wilson will dramatically improve this team but giving it more structure and a team oriented focus. Despite what many say, the Leafs do have good talent on defense (more than most teams). They also have good goaltending and the young forwards (Steen, Stajan, Tlusty, etc.) should perform better in more prominent roles like they did near the end of last season. Hagman and Grabovski will provide some much needed speed to the lineup as well.

    Maybe I am just an optimist but I believe that the Leafs have played well below their talent level the past couple seasons and I think that will change this year because the attitude around the team has changed (zero expectations from media and fans, change of leadership in management and in the dressing room, no ‘when will JFJ get fired’ negativity, etc.)

  2. I hope you are right, I just hope they don’t end up 9th or 10th in the conference again. Either top 8 or bottom out.

    Unlike Bill Watters, I don’t mind seeing some playoff action.


  3. I’m not sure I agree with your assessment of the Avs. Considering they have a bonafide top line centre in Paul Stastny, (who is only entering his 3rd season) who is already better than a point per game player; they have top line wingers like Milan Hejduk, Ryan Smyth, Darcy Tucker if he has a decent rebound year scoring wise, plus potentially – as in he should improve with increased ice time – Wojtek Wolski, and Marek Svatos (who admittedly is still a RFA).

    They lack a solid 2nd line Centre, but their D is still quite solid with JM Liles, Scott Hannan, Adam Foote, Ruslan Salei, and Jordan Leopold, with Brett Clark as the 7th man.

    Throw in the semi-respectable play of Budaj, and the possibility that the D will shelter the once-upon-a-time respectable Raycroft, and it is POSSIBLE that they won’t be a bottom feeder. Raycroft is 1 year removed from a 37 win season, on a defensively suspect Leafs squad. I’m not saying the Avs have a better blue line, but their attention to defensive detail is slightly higher than the Leafs has been the past few years.

    They’ll lack for offensive punch without Sakic and Forsberg – agreed. But I’m not sure they’ll do any worse than the Leafs will with their increased ice time for youngsters mentality.

    If anything, it’s quite likely the Avs season this year will turn out like the Leafs did last year, if for slightly different reasons.

  4. “Raycroft is 1 year removed from a 37 win season, on a defensively suspect Leafs squad.”

    — ask any leaf fan and they will tell you Raycroft had the worst 37 win season of any goalie they have ever seen. And he was way worse last year. It is *impossible* to play defense when almost any shot to Raycroft’s glove hand will go in, no matter where it’s taken from on the ice… Leaf fans everywhere were *astonished* anyone picked him up, even as a 10-game a year backup.

  5. Hey- interesting and thought-out look at the projected Tavares sweepstakes David. I loved how you broke it down and took a look at the teams that have a shot.

    Two points I would explore:

    1) Victor Hedman could be the best player in the draft.

    2) I completely agree that the Isles are TRUE contenders. Glad you left the Panthers off that list too, they are better than most realize.

  6. The Panthers have some other good young players in David Booth and Nathan Horton. Provided that Horton has had mighty consistency issues, but he could be a dominant player. He has one 30 goal season under his belt and came close in two of his other three campaigns. Watch out!

    Keaton Ellerby may just crack their lineup out of junior and is the cousin of both Shane Doan and Carey Price.

    The Cats have also added Cory Stillman and with a decent defense and solid—>very good goaltending, they could come out of the SouthEast, though the Caps are the sexy pick.

  7. Umm… Dave W… I write the Leafs blog on the site. I’m more than aware of Raycroft’s weak glove hand. I think a lot of his difficulties have to do with his sitting deep in his net, and going down a tad too early though. It’s a lot like Potvin in years of yore. If you recall – he relied predominantly on his quickness, but when he sat deep in his net, he often got beat top shelf… specifically over his blocking arm shoulder, but same issue generally speaking.

    If Raycroft challenges shooters more, and realizes he can compensate for a less than stellar glove hand, it IS theoretically possible he’ll regain “average” form. And frankly with the Avalanche, if they score enough goals, average is all they’ll really need to not finish last.

  8. 1) Victor Hedman could be the best player in the draft.

    I agree Hedman and Tavares are neck and neck, thewordbird. But depending on what team picks first, both Tavares and Hedman have an equal chance of being picked number one. For example, the Leafs guaranteed, barring some unforeseen circumstance, would select Tavares if given the choice between the two. The Isles, however, I can see choosing either Hedman or Tavares since they need help everywhere, save maybe goal.

  9. I think Tavares will be picked first by virtue of him being Canadian. A lot of teams are still stuck in the “Canadian kid good, European kid bad” mindset.

    I think the LA Kings are gonna get the pick. They seem intent on tanking.

  10. john tavares is the best plyr in jr hockey since crosby.
    he will definitely go no.1 to the maple leafs.

    i gurantee that

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