Mere weeks into his first NHL season, it’s easy to see why the Chicago Blackhawks and other teams debased themselves in hopes of drafting Connor Bedard.
Yes, you can nitpick if you want, especially after he’s been limited to one point in his past four games. Overall, Bedard looks very much worthy of the hype, though.
Of course, he’s not so brilliant as to catapult the lowly Blackhawks out of our Tanking Rankings altogether.
As annoying as it would be for virtually everyone else, Chicago could set up a Macklin Celebrini celebration or focus their eyes on the bottom of the standings for Cole Eiserman.
Here's an updated look at the Tanking Rankings:
1. San Jose Sharks (0-5-1, .083 points percentage)
Some would argue it’s a sin that a team playing in “The Shark Tank” took so long to be openly awful.
The Sharks took a while to get here, but they’re landing with a blockbuster splash. They’re the only remaining winless team in the NHL, barely generating more than one goal per game (eight in six contests).
By removing Erik Karlsson from a team that was putrid without him last year, the Sharks came into this season as a strong favorite to be the worst team in the NHL. To their credit, they embraced reality, as offseason additions Anthony Duclair and Mike Hoffman will ideally serve as trade bait without derailing the tank bid.
Since we can
pencil tattoo the Sharks into each subsequent edition of Tanking Rankings, it feels appropriate to share a fact about the noble sea beasts in each post.
Fact bite: Sharks can enter a trance-like state of “tonic immobility” when they flip over. Sharks GM Mike Grier should use this term to describe his process since NHL teams fear the word “rebuild” like people once feared the ocean after watching “Jaws.”
2. Chicago Blackhawks (2-5-0, .286 points percentage)
With two games apiece against the Bruins and Golden Knights, Chicago’s early schedule might exaggerate this team’s problems.
That said, Taylor Hall’s on-and-off injuries highlight just how much this franchise tore its roster down to the studs to tank for Bedard. It worked, but now comes the hard part. Bedard personifies the light at the end of the tunnel, but this season could get dark.
3. Anaheim Ducks (2-4-0, .333 points percentage)
The Ducks are fascinating creatures in their own right because last year’s abomination wasn’t totally intentional.
While they’ve been strangely eager to hand risky contracts out (most recently to 33-year-old Radko Gudas and 34-year-old Alex Killorn), they squeezed Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale into trend-defying “bridge” contracts.
The mixed messages even extend to goaltender John Gibson requesting a trade or not. It’s a weird team, but also one that was so historically bad last season that it can only really go up.
If that climb is slow, it might be wise to also prepare regular fowl facts for future versions of this article.
4. Washington Capitals (2-3-1, .417 points percentage)
On a recent 32 Thoughts Podcast, Elliotte Friedman discussed how fears of attendance woes scare off teams from embracing a rebuild. Friedman made some valid points, but such strategies can leave you experiencing the worst of both worlds.
Despite spending more or less like a contender, you get the results of a pretender and suffer at the box office all the same. Sometimes you get burned even after handing out risky contracts that mortgage the future for a shaky status quo, like the Winnipeg Jets just did.
Wisely or not, the Capitals seem content to stay vaguely competitive while Alex Ovechkin chases Wayne Gretzky’s goals record. It’s likely that the Capitals climb in the standings and Ovechkin’s goal totals also climb, yet it’s tough to feel great about this general gameplan — especially after a clunky start.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (2-4-0, .333 points percentage)
Ah, the Capitals and Penguins … bound together whether they want to be or not.
It’s easy (and probably realistic) to expect a rebound from both the Capitals and the Penguins. Pittsburgh, in particular, shines in the sort of underlying stats that inspire hope.
For instance: don’t let Karlsson’s critics make you think he’s been a huge drag on this team.
Erik Karlsson is as advertised. Currently leads NHL in shot attempts for when he's on the ice with 136
Leads all players in NHL with 28 high danger shot attempts when he's on the ice
It hasn't come at a cost. His CF% is 58.37 and HDCF% is 63.74
— Ryan Wilson (@GunnerStaal) October 22, 2023
Like the Capitals, the Penguins did miss the playoffs last season, so you shouldn’t totally ignore every red flag, either. This team’s best players are old and have lengthy injury histories, while its supporting cast still seems soggy. Trading for Karlsson was a reasonable Hail Mary attempt, but such passes usually end up intercepted or in the turf.
6. Calgary Flames (2-5-1 .357 points percentage)
Darryl Sutter may be gone, but his grumbles and his grimace seem to be hovering over this struggling team like some grumpy ghost. It’s never a great sign when a player like Nikita Zadorov spouts off about “individuals playing by themselves.”
More Zadorov, on the road trip
"There’s some things that we need to get working on, but I think the main thing for us is we have too many individuals playing by themselves. We have to figure out, do we want to play as a team or do we want to play as your own guy?"
— Danny Austin (@DannyAustin_9) October 24, 2023
Just like last season, the Flames hog the puck with the best of them. More often than not, teams eventually start winning when the bounces balance out. However, it didn’t work out that way for last year’s Flames, inspiring fear of a repetitive sequel.
With key extension decisions to make, an extended early slump could also prompt some rash moves that push this team closer to the cellar and further from the playoff bubble.
Expect a rebound of some kind, but don’t wager money on one, either.
7. Seattle Kraken (2-5-1, .357 points percentage)
In their debut season, the Kraken couldn’t score and couldn’t get a save. Neither the Kraken’s goalies nor their opponents stopped much of anything last season, and that formula carried Seattle within one win of a shocking Western Conference Final appearance.
Through seven games, poor shooting luck and monstrously bad goaltending are drowning the Kraken once again. Realistically, Philipp Grubauer and other goalies may keep lowering Seattle’s ceiling, but it’s hard to believe players like Matty Beniers (zero goals, three points, minus-8 rating in seven games) will stay this water-logged.
The reality of the Kraken likely lies somewhere between the depths of that debut season and the euphoria of 2022-23. That may mean missing the playoffs, but it would be surprising if they stay in the cellar.
8. Edmonton Oilers (1-4-1, .250 points percentage)
Per Natural Stat Trick, Oilers goalies have registered a league-worst 60.53% save percentage against high-danger chances at 5-on-5. To give you an idea of how extreme that bad goaltending luck is, consider that the second-worst team in that category is Pittsburgh at 70.59% and only six teams are below 80%.
The Oilers are a top-five team in controlling high-danger chances at 5-on-5, they are terrifying on the power play and are generally built to support lightly injured megastar Connor McDavid more than ever before.
People forget last year’s team was streaky, touting dicey early records such as 7-6-0, 10-10-0 and 17-14-2. Hockey fans, particularly in big markets, tend to panic early then forget cold streaks once time passes.
Could this be a signal that the Oilers simply aren’t balanced enough to live up to the huge offseason hype? That’s possible. Most contenders roll out more balanced rosters.
There’s simply too much firepower and an improved-enough defense on hand for this to truly fall apart. That said, the Vegas Golden Knights might run away with the division title before the Oilers get back on track.