The Usual Deadbeats
30. Atlanta Thrashers
After seven seasons in the NHL and a grand total of four playoff games, I'm guessing either the Atlanta Spirit LLC ownership group has no idea that the Thrashers are actually a part of their business holdings or Don Waddell has compromising photos of the entire board. I refuse to believe any other explanation.
29. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have a decent collection of young talent that undoubtedly will go to waste. It's not that I have low expectations for this group, it's that I have no expectations. Finishing outside the bottom three would be shocking.
28. NY Islanders
The good news for Islander fans is that after Garth Snow's salary officially came off the books last season, their GM no longer counts against the team cap. The bad news is that Garth Snow is still their GM. And their top three players (Guerin, Weight, Comrie) usually show up to play every third or fourth game. But at least one of them can get backstage passes to the Hilary Duff concert.
27. St. Louis Blues
I'm going to have to say there is no way Brad Boyes matches the 43 goals he scored last year, which was the most improbable 40 goal campaign since...well, ever. Okay fine, since Jeff O'Neill scored 41 for the Hurricanes in 2001.
A New World of Hurt
26. Toronto Maple Leafs
If the Toronto media has it right, Luke Schenn is the second coming of Bobby Orr. Whether Schenn stays (gulp) or goes back to junior (please, common sense prevail just this once) the Leafs will be drastically improved defensively under Ron Wilson. But with a forward corps that looks a lot more AHL than NHL, where will the goals come from?
25. Vancouver Canucks
For some reason new GM Mike Gillis continues to pretend that Mats Sundin is chewing on the $20M contact the Canucks have sitting on the table. Mats just spent three years outside the playoffs and if he wants to do it again it’ll be in Toronto, not in Vancity. Even with Luongo standing on his head 70 times a year this team simply doesn't have enough to make any noise.
Forever Stuck in Neutral
24. Columbus Blue Jackets
I'm going to guess Rick Nash won't be signing an extension with Columbus before his current deal expires after next season.
23. Florida Panthers
How in the world did Jacques Martin convince Cliff Fletcher to include a 4th round draft pick in the Bryan McCabe trade? Paying the $2M bonus wasn't enough? Was the deal completed at 4am? Did Fletcher get a winter home in Miami as part of the deal? I need to know, because from the outside it seems absurd. As for the Panthers: the defence looks solid but Josef Stumpel and Stephen Weiss up the middle aren't scaring anyone.
22. Phoenix Coyotes
After a less than impressive start to his coaching career, the Great One has been getting all kinds of praise for his performance the last couple seasons and his Coyotes have received considerable hype as playoff contenders this year. But how could people have missed the fact that Phoenix has a combined 9-29 record in March and April the last two years? They’ve been finishing like Eric Gagne in a Brewers uniform.
21. Tampa Bay Lightning
Are the new owners more Mark Cuban or Dan Snyder? Only time will tell, but the early signs point more towards the meddling and dysfunctional Snyder. (Although the Redskins are 4-1 so what do I know?)
Still Here But Mostly Forgotten
20. Nashville Predators
Certainly having Jim Ballsillie and his 'maverick' ways as an NHL owner would've been terrible, it was a much better idea to go with William 'Boots' Del Baggio even if he didn't have any money. If Anaheim and Los Angeles can operate within 30 miles of each other, Southern Ontario should be able to find a way to get a second NHL team.
19. Colorado Avalanche
I'm thinking Joe Sakic will be questioning his decision to come back for one more year the second or third time he collects a minus because someone blew a 60 footer past a bewildered Andrew Raycroft. But hey, when times are tough at least they'll be able to turn to Peter Budaj.
18. Buffalo Sabres
Note to Darcy Regier: We know you're still fuming from the way Briere and Drury left two summers ago, but are you sure the answer is to tie up Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville for a combined $9M a year?
17. Minnesota Wild
I tried to type something as boring as the Wild. I failed. Jacques Lemaire hates all of us.
Part II featuring the top 16 teams coming tomorrow.