It's early days yet in the NHL regular season. Teams have played barely an eighth of their games so far. There are teams that are digging themselves a fairly deep grave. If they don't turn things around, their seasons could be over before they've begun.
1) Toronto Maple Leafs were expected to do poorly this year, but so far they've exceeded expectations and been abysmal. The team's defense that was supposed to be greatly improved is still around the middle of the pack. The goaltending and scoring have been horrible.
Phil Kessel should help improve the offense and the Leafs can't keep being this bad all season long. The fight now seems to be to keep from getting a lottery pick in the draft. If the Bruins end up with a top-five pick in the draft this year, early calls for the head of Brian Burke will begin.
2) Carolina Hurricanes have started their season with two victories, one of which they got in overtime over Tampa Bay. They've given up the same amount of goals as Washington, but that's where all comparisons end.
They're on a seven-game losing streak and play Philadelphia Halloween night. Erik Cole has a broken leg and Tuomo Ruuttu is serving the last game of his three-game suspension. Cam Ward has a reasonable .905 save percentage and 2.89 GAA but he gave up three goals on 16 shots in their last loss to St Louis.
The offense may be demoralizing him. Carolina has scored 26 goals tying them with Toronto and better only than the pitiable 24 Nashville has managed in 11 games. The good news is that a team with Eric Staal and Ray Whitney will score more goals than the Toronto Maple Leafs. Will they get moving in time to keep the rest of team from sinking into oblivion?
3) Nashville Predators were a non-playoff team that chose to stand pat in the offseason. Goalies Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis both started the season slow. Pekka has just managed a shut-out over the Blackhawks and I don't imagine goaltending will be a problem in the long run for this team. Scoring will be.
The team is scoring two goals a game. David Legwand has zero goals and two assists in twelve games. Martin Erat has a goal, is minus nine, and is now out injured. Jason Arnott is 35 and out for another week with an injury.
JP Dumont has nine points in eight games, but he's missed four games already. Steve Sullivan is playing well but is fragile. His career could end at any moment. This team is looking to get a lock on a lottery pick if they don't get some scoring by December.
They have over $13 million in cap space that they've chosen not to use to address their weaknesses. Two of their top four scorers are super defenders Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. There's a lot of 2-1 victories in their future if they expect to succeed with this lineup.
4) Anaheim Ducks have four wins this year, one of them by shoot-out. They are in last place in the Pacific, seven points behind the constantly maligned Phoenix Coyotes.
Anaheim is giving up 35.8 shots per game. This is comparable only to Florida's horrific 36.6 shots per game. Last year they gave up a closer to the middle 30.5 shots per game. The loss of Beauchemin and Pronger seems to have had a significant impact on this team.
The goalies have been taking the rap though Hillers .914 save percentage and 3.06 GAA are pretty good considering.
The good news is the Ducks have only played two games against division rivals. That leaves another 22 games to beat up on division rivals. They face Phoenix tonight in Phoenix after beating the Luongo-less Canucks 7-2 in Vancouver. This would be a good game for them to win.
The bad news is the Ducks need to scramble over six teams to get back in the playoffs. They lost a game to the Leafs. Ryan Getzlaf started slow and no one seemed ready to pick up that slack. Now that he's going, perhaps the rest of them will pick it up.
5) Florida Panthers are giving up the most shots per game in the league, for the third straight year. You'd think a long term problem like this would get addressed. Vokoun and Clemmenson haven't given the Panthers the Craig Anderson-like numbers that they need to succeed.
The 44 goals against is worse then everyone in the league but Toronto. The talented 33-year-old checker Steve Reinprecht had a hat trick last game and is leading this team offensively. Someone else, say a naturally talented offensive player, should be leading this team in scoring.
Thirty-one goal scorer is out for at least another week with a concussion. One of their few veterans Radek Dvorak is also out for another couple weeks with a ligament tear in his knee.
6) Vancouver Canucks are on this list only because of the macabre list of injuries they've suffered already in this young system. The anchor for their second scoring line Pavol Demitra has yet to play after shoulder surgery in the offseason. He's been reevaluated and is apparently going to be operated on again.
Daniel Sedin the scoring twin has a broken foot and is expected to miss at least another three weeks. Captain and goaltender Roberto Luongo started slow was picking it up but now has a fractured rib which should keep him out of at least two or three more games.
Expect Andrew Raycroft to be every bit as effective for Vancouver as Patrick Lalime was for Buffalo last year. Also hurt Bolduc, Wellwood, Johnson and Hansen. This .500 team can be expected to slip, especially with Luongo out or impaired. By the time the lineup gets healthy it may be too late for them in the Northwest.
These teams have plenty of time to turn things around. Vancouver just needs to get healthy quick. Anaheim needs to tighten up and beat those division rivals. Nashville could spend some money and add some scoring talent. Toronto, Florida, and Carolina don't have much cap room left. Probably the players they have need to play better.
Still, when all is said and done, I bet one of these teams will be the worst team in the league and be looking to draft Taylor Hall this June. Ehr, unless the Leafs finish last.
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