The 5 Teams Who Might Be Worse Than The Flames in 2013-14

Kent Wilson
August 13 2013 02:36PM

 

 

On paper, the Calgary Flames are one of the worst teams in the NHL heading into 2013-14. They have veterans who want to be traded as soon as possible, question marks in key areas (*cough* goaltending *cough*) and not a single elite player at any position. The roster certainly isn't "Edmonton over the last 5 years" bad, but Calgary is certainly one of the favorites to draft inside the top five next June.

However, the Flames aren't alone at the bottom of the barrel. Here are some teams whose fans could also spend the last three months of the regular season looking forward to the entry draft.

Nashville Predators

The Preds have an even more woeful forward group than the Flames. They added Matt Cullen, Viktor Stalberg and Eric Nystrom to the mix this summer, none of whom will do much to assuage their lackluster offense. David Legwand is the highest paid guy up front and he's 32 years old and plays some of the toughest minutes on the team (and, often, the league). Matt Cullen is 36, Mike Fisher is 33 and Paul Gaustad is 31. That's four of their highest paid forwards on the wrong side of their career arc.

On the back-end, it's superstar Shea Weber, potential superstar Seth Jones and notable prospect Ryan Ellis. And then some guys. Roman Josi is the most recognizable of the rest, although mostly because of his big contract this summer.

The Preds finished below the Flames last season, took the fewest amount of shots in the league (25.9/game) and had terrible possession numbers, which aren't really in line to improve given who they added this off-season (although I have some time for Stalberg).

Pekka Rinne is obviously Nashville's one area of true strength over the Flames and if he has a big year (unlike last year's .910 save rate) he could propel them above Calgary; particularly if Ramo et al are league average or worse.

Buffalo Sabres

Let the Sabres be a lesson that a bigger budget doesn't always lead to better outcomes. The club nose-dived after the new owner shelled out big dough for guys like Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr. Ouch.

Buffalo was terrible from all angles this past season and they spent the summer more or less sitting on their hands. They dealt one of their best players in Jason Pominville to the Wild at the trade deadline and his absence is a huge gap that has been left unfilled. Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford remain (for now), but there's a solid chance Marcus Foligno will be this team's best possession forward next season.

The Sabres have what looks like an okay blueline featuring Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers, Jamie McBain, newly returned Henrik Tallinder, Mike Weber and former first rounder Mark Pysyk. Ehrhoff actually had a tremendous year last season which might tragically be his high water mark while Myers has struggled mightily since he signed his big contract, but shuld eventually figure things out.

Finally, Ryan Miller is a quality puck stopper though there are rumors he's unhappy as a Sabre and wouldn't mind a ticket out of town. Miller hasn't been elite since he won his Vezina, but he's been good and should be again if they keep him.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Hey! The Leafs made the playoffs, almost took out the Bruins and then spent a bunch of money on David Clarkson and Dave Bolland this summer! Aren't they a good bet to improve?

No.

The Leafs had the second worst possession rate in the league last year ahead of only the Sabres and they ditched two of their top two-way forwards in Mikhail Graboski and Clarke MacArthur to boot (and retained one of their worst in Tyler Bozak). Toronto's success last season was built off of league high percentages, which are a good bet to regress back towards the mean this season. In fact, that probably would have had happened this past year had the schedule actually been 82 games long. 

What Toronto has that the Flames don't is legitimately high powered offensive weapons. Phil Kessel is strictly a one-way player, but he might be one of the few guys who can sustain above average scoring rates. Lupul, Kadri, Van Reimsdyk and, yes, Clarkson makes for a decent collection of forwards (although with Orr and McLaren Toronto might ice the worst 4th line in hockey next year). The blueline isn't awful either if they get Franson re-signed and the duo of Bernier and Reimer means they have redundancy in net.

Toronto's problem isn't necessarily their talent, but their coach. Carlyle spent all of last season making really bad decisions which culminated in near league worst possession rates, but was nevertheless reinforced in his decision making by the club's fortunes. So unless the Leafs get the best percentages in the NHL again, it's a very good bet they will spend a ton of time in their own end of the rink and they will fall to earth like lead balloon.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tbay proves that even with two of the leagues most potent offensive players you can still lose a lot of games. Like the Leafs, Tampa has snipers in Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos who tend to yield possession but also put the puck in at an above average rate. The Lightning's problem is they have almost nothing else.

Val Filpula was signed this summer and is an okay, but not earth moving, addition. Jonathan Drouin could make the squad as a teen, but he's a few years away from making a true impact. Ryan Malone is broken and Teddy Purcell is a good middle rotation forward. Everyone else up front is replacement level more or less.

The blueline after Viktor Hedman is completely underwhelming as well (Brewer, Salo, Carle, Lee, Gudas Ohlund) and the goaltending duo of Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback is questionable.

If father time finally starts to catch up to St. Louis (who is 38), it will be massive blow to a first line that has to carry the rest of the squad on its back. Could be a long year for Yzerman's boys.

Edmonton Oilers

Despite all of their young stars and number one picks, the Oilers finished just three points ahead of the Flames last year. That was with Calgary suffering through tragically bad goaltending, throwing up the white flag at the trade deadline and then doing everything they could to lose down the stretch outside of not dressing enough players.

Edmonton's fundamental stats last year were, as usual, terrible. Only the Sabres and Leafs controlled the puck less than the Oilers in 2012-13. Anyone who wasn't playing with Taylor Hall pretty much got their heads beat in and the Oil definitely had the worst bottom-six rotation in the entire league. To say nothing of a back-end that featured next to no ideal top pairing defenders.

This might be the year the boys up north actually start putting things together though. Part of their problem last season was rookie coach Ralph Krueger, whose decisions and systems seemed to exacerbate the Oilers possession woes. Edmonton added Perron this summer as well as Boyd Gordon, Dennis Grebeshkov, Andrew Ference, Anton Belov and Jason Labarbera, so they have a lot more depth at every position. Mactavish seems a lot more sensible than the deposed T-bone and Dallas Eakins should be an improvement over Kruger if only because it's hard to imagine anyone being as bad.  

Conclusion

There are other candidates as well (Columbus, Colorado, Florida), but these five mentioned seem like the best bets for the reasons mentioned. Buffalo and Nashville are my favorites to be below Calgary, but feel free to disagree in the comments.

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Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#51 Danger
August 14 2013, 02:57PM
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Robert Vollman wrote:

Kent, I can not thank you enough.

In my new book there's a chapter on who will finish first. Other than Calgary the five teams at the bottom include Edmonton, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Dallas.

I've taken a lot of heat for that, and it's very nice to have back-up from another analytics guy!

Well, I guess we disagree on Dallas, but most of the heat has obviously been coming from the other cities anyway.

Thank you! I'll be quoting you frequently!

Statisticians do it frequently.

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#52 Justin Azevedo
August 14 2013, 03:38PM
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@Curcro

no. it's just that with the worst goaltending in the past decade a team that had largely given up still managed to be outside the top-5.

the flames have legit nhlers at every position, which is more than many of these teams could say.

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#53 Peter Bement
August 14 2013, 05:53PM
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Even considering that Columbus could do worse than Calgary is, honestly, a joke. Calgary wasn't going anywhere in their old division, and now they're entering a much harder division. I think, in all honesty, it'll be a three-way battle between them, Edmonton, and Pheonix for dead last in the Pacific. Calgary has been misled for years, they need to find a way to actually rebuild their team, and if they can't, the list of "teams that could do worse than the Flames" Will just keep getting shorter. Might throw the Panthers in there instead of the Lightning though, at least Tampa can score some goals.

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#54 Jeff In Lethbridge
August 14 2013, 05:58PM
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Arik wrote:

yup nhl is implementing an expansion team with an expansion draft in the next two months with an updated schedule.

yes!!!!!!

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#55 ginga ninja
August 14 2013, 10:19PM
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@Justin Azevedo

Legit #1 center? Left wing? Right wing? Starting goalie?

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#56 Curcro
August 15 2013, 12:30AM
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@Justin Azevedo

Some of those teams had a significant head start to when the Flames gave up.

The Oilers would have been much further ahead of the Flames if the Oilers hadn't perfected the tank in the last 5 years.

I hope that the Flames don't learn the art of tanking.

A good battle of Alberta is good for hockey.

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#57 MarkGB
August 16 2013, 08:44PM
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I like how apparently the "Only" thing Toronto has on Calgary is some more scoring punch. Wake up! Toronto is in another universe from the Flames. Much better offense, defense, goaltending, everything. There is absolutely zero chance they finish below the Flames.

The only team of the 5 mentioned that made the playoffs is the Leafs. They are being seriously underrated here. This stinks of Western Leaf hate.

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#58 MarkGB
August 16 2013, 08:49PM
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Doogie2K wrote:

Toronto has one other thing over Calgary: a (relative) guarantee in net. Karri Ramo may be average or slightly above, but Reimer has shown himself to be an above-average goalie when healthy, and was another key part of the Leafs' success last year. Unlike their nutso shooting percentage, he should still be quality next year. Assuming they don't shove Bernier in there for 50 games like dummies, Reimer might just carry the Leafs outside the lottery.

One thing? Try everything. It's pretty shocking people can look at those two rosters and think Calgary can finish higher.

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#59 MarkGB
August 16 2013, 08:57PM
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Matt wrote:

Toronto's only moving in the right direction if you look at their point totals last year compared to the year before and think, without considering any other factors, that that trend will continue. They rode ridiculous luck to the playoffs last year, and they've gotten *worse* this off-season. They're weaker up front (Clarkson does not make up for the loss of Grabovski, Kuleiman, and MacArthur), they're weaker on the blue line (same defensive group, minus Franson for the moment) - the sole area that they've marginally improved is in goal. I'm betting on the Leafs to finish bottom-5 in the East next year, if not bottom-5 in the whole league.

Ah "Luck" what a great hockey argument..

And Kulemin is on the Leafs. They didn't lose him. And Grabovski and Macarthur were bad last season.

And I guess you're saying both Reimer and Bernier will be terrible? Because both had some of the best numbers in the entire NHl. The Leafs aren't going to be bottom 5 if they repeat that goaltending.

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#60 Oil4ever
August 20 2013, 11:43AM
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I wouldn't put the Oilers on this list if I were you.

Sure, we might not have a true #1 d-man right now, and yes the bottom 6 group of forwards are a weakness now but that's where the chinks in the armour end.

David Perron will add size and grit to our top 6, shoring up the 1 weak spot we had in that area. He'll only make our 2nd line better.

You also seem to forget Nail Yakupov, who scored 17 goals last year...as a rookie, in a lockout shortened season. That's a phenomenal accomplishment, and he's only going to be better this year.

The #1 d-man question will likely be answered this year as Anton Belov will start the year on the bottom pairing but may not end it there. Justin Schultz is also a good candidate. Hell, the 2 could be a dynamite pairing by the end of the season. Ference is a solid addition to the top 4, as well.

The Flames, on the other hand, have no true offensive stud, no true #1 d-man, questionable goaltending (doesn't matter whether Kipper retires or not, the label still applies). They're lacking depth at all positions due to years of Darryl Sutter trading away drafts picks for poor choices as veterans.

I don't know what you're basing your opinions on, but if you look at the 2 rosters there's absolutely no comparison. There's a good chance the Oilers can make the playoffs next season, while the Flames will be struggling to keep the veterans motivated and stay out of the basement of the league.

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#61 Oil4ever
August 20 2013, 11:48AM
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schevvy wrote:

I will say that Florida, Nashville, Buffalo, Toronto have the best chance to finish lower than the Flames. And because I want to annoy Rex I'll say the Oilers finish worse. So that leaves the Flames picking #6.

You're truly smoking crack if you think the Oilers will finish worse than the Flames next year....

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