With it being unclear as to how the NHL aims to continue its season, and if it is continued odds are that it jumps straight into an alternative playoff format. Would there ever be a better time to grade the teams than now, when the only way to enjoy sports is by reminiscing of the regular season? I think not, but that’s just me. So let’s get to it then, shall we?
Is there a team in the league that is more engaging to a casual hockey fan then the ‘canes? They’re youthful vigour coupled with a fast-paced game and an engaging style and not to mention the infamous storm surge which haunts Don Cherry’s dreams. The Hurricanes are fastly developing into a force to be reckoned with in a competitive division due in no small part to the amazing goaltending by David Ayres the notorious EBUG which stole the hearts of the entire hockey community. Their defence is the bread and butter of the Hurricanes game and they boast one of the most bountiful bluelines in the league led by All-Star defensive defenseman Jaccob Slavin (yes his name is spelled with two c’s, I checked). This blueline was even further bolstered by Dougie Hamilton putting up a career season prior to his injury sidelining him for the season. Which such bragging going about their blueline one may assume they likely cannot score a goal to save their lives? Those people would be wrong. With a forward core led by Marc Bergevin’s almost deal, Sebastian Aho, the forward core cements itself as Teravainin and Svechnikov also putting up amazing seasons as they continue to develop to their superstar potential. I think Carolina is a dangerous team that will be dangerous in the playoffs even if they were only fighting for a wild card spot.
Carolina gets a: B
The exciting nature of the team and vast potential have not quite lead them to the dominance that they can soon exert if they manage to keep their core team together.
Colombus Blue Jackets
I would be lying if I was to say that I would ever even have thought the Jackets would have a snowball’s chance in hell of playoff contention following them losing superstar forward Artemi Panarin and former Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky. I was shocked to discover that they actually were going to be a fierce competitor. The Jackets may have the best goaltending tandem in the entire league in Elvis Merzlikins (who should be a Calder contender) and the ever-reliable Jonas Korpisalo. Like their division rivals, the Jackets also boast an impressive blueline presence lead by the likes of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones. The Jackets rely on their blueline for a lot of their offensive output as well. This being said Dubois has since established himself into one of the more exciting young players in the league as he leads the team in scoring. It will be interesting to see how Colombus will fair going into the postseason as they currently sit in a wild card position. Colombus, as everyone knows, is a massive threat as they put out Tampa Bay last season in four games in the first round. The Jackets are a vastly different team this year but they definitely are not to be underestimated.
Colombus gets a: B-
They are a team that has exceeded all expectations, but with that being said it is unlikely that they are a legitimate cup contender this offseason.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils managed to further cement themselves as one of the absolute dogshit teams in the NHL. The Devils are trying their best to become the new Edmonton Oilers with their slew of high draft picks. Although the Devils have been pitiful the last couple of seasons it would be ignorant to not recognize there may be some hope with forwards Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes in their pool. With that being said neither has shown to be the superstars they were projected to be even this early in their careers. Hischier although not a superstar is gradually developing into a promising two-way center that many teams would like to have on their roster. Hughes, it is far too early to say but it is needless to say that his rookie season has been a bit of a disappointment even when showing signs of his potential, I am definitely not counting Hughes out and I hope that he becomes the amazing player that his talent should justify. That being said I do not have a whole lot optimistic to say about this team as of right now it is a waiting game for their young talent and their future draft picks to develop.
New Jersey gets a: D-
Their season was abysmal and it is tough to say when they will finally push their way back from the bottom of the standings.
New York Islanders
The Islanders are a team that I honestly do not like. I do not like them because I believe their style to be unexciting and not very fun. This is a team that by design is effective, not flashy. Lou Lamoriello runs a tight ship and expects his players to do the same. Now that I got all the things I dislike about them out I will say they are a damn effective team. This is a team that has made itself incredibly difficult to play against for the past few seasons. The Islanders have had their share of difficulties this year but was still a solid team contending for a playoff spot all season. A team lead by an exciting Matt Barzal and a team of very effective role players who fit the team’s system to a tee. One of the main reasons the Islanders continue to be successful is their ability to create stellar goalies out of players who were once cast as mediocre such as with Robin Lehner, Thomas Griess and Semyon Varlamov. The Islanders goalie coach should be the most in-demand coach in the league.
The Islanders gets a: C-
The Islanders may not be in a playoff position but if an alternative format allows them to enter they can go on a decent run, this season I believe to be a one-off and next year for them to come back with a vengeance.
New York Rangers
The Rangers for the first time in ages are a team that people actually give a shit about. The arrival with Artemi Panarin proves what kind of impact a player of his calibre can have. It is important to remember that last season this team finished so low that they ended up with the second overall pick. The Rangers were not a team expected to do anything at all but they were in fact a pretty entertaining team this season that has a gigantic young presence especially present on the blueline with Trouba, DeAngelo and Fox are looking like a force. The rise of Zibinejad and consistent play from Kreider and Strome are making the forward core look solid. This is not to mention the up-and-coming Kappo Kakko who should develop into a stud, even though it is too early to tell. The Rangers are solid between the pipes in the present and the future as well with “King Hank”, Alex Georgiev and the future star Igor Shesterkin.
New York Rangers get a: B
Even though they are sitting outside of a playoff spot the Rangers have greatly improved their teams’ stock and are sitting on an illustrious future if it plays out properly.
The Flyers are a team that has been up and down and inside and out over the past few years. After their revolving door of goaltenders last season they have finally settled on one and believe it or not he is pretty damn good. Carter Hart is perhaps the foundation for the Flyer’s resurgence into a team that can contend. The building upon this foundation has Travis Konecny at the top and he looks like a superstar in the making as he leads the team in scoring this season and was the brightest spark in a team that was ablaze. It is impossible to not bring up the efforts of Voracek, Couturier and Giroux being their usual stellar selves. The biggest surprise this season, in my opinion, is Kevin Hayes, I am amazed at how well he played this year and was a key piece of the Flyer offence looking brighter than ever. He is making that rich contract look not so bad after all so at least no one can call one of the funniest guys in the league a laughingstock. I am glad to see the Flyers looking good again and hope to see the Pennsylvania rivalry become interesting once again.
Philadelphia gets a: B+
The Flyers have found their stride and look good going into the playoffs and hopefully can take advantage of their veteran talent in the near future with a few deep playoff runs.
How the fuck is this team still good? Evgeni Malkin is maybe the most underrated player in the NHL just because he was unlucky to play with one of the greatest of all time in Sidney Crosby. The Pens were a team that has been a dynamo and one of the teams that made me dive deeper into hockey, not because of Crosby or Malkin though. The player I loved on the Pens was none other than Jordan Staal who I remain a fan of. The Pens were never my favourite team but have always garnered a deep level of respect from me and I think they warrant everybody’s respect. This team is resilient as it gets managing to excel even with Crosby hurt a large portion of the season and Malkin and Rust had to step into his footsteps and have done it with ease as Malkin has had to in the past. This team continues to amaze and confuse me and I do not know whether that is good or bad. Their goaltending has been superb with Murray and Jarry looking fantastic.
Pittsburgh gets an: A
Pittsburgh had a great season and with a healthy Crosby, this team can beat anyone. Pittsburgh is a team with a history of winning and is looking to build on that while Crosby and Malkin are still in their prime.
Washington is probably the most difficult team in the league to play against mainly because they pride themselves in beating the shit out of you. This team plays a big physical game that is mixed with finesse and some of the smartest players in the game. I hate it when my favourite team plays against the Caps because they are so intense. This team possesses perhaps the greatest goal scorer of all-time in Alex Ovechkin and he looks as good as ever. The elite playmaking ability of Backstrom rips teams apart and then the wrecking ball of Tom Wilson beating and ripping you apart in the more literal sense. They are also in possession of the man who deserves to win the Norris this year in John Carlsson who looks phenomenal as per usual but is putting on a spectacle this season. It is impossible to not look at this team as a favourite for the cup as they have been for ages.
Washington gets an: A+
Their effective mix of talent grit and experience makes the Caps a dominant force and one of the elite teams in the league, they remain one of the favourites to hoist the cup this season.
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