The NHL regular season wraps up this weekend. In theory, that would be the time to post a “season in review” piece. But let’s face it, we’ll all be 100 percent focused on watching our teams head toward the playoffs and the two-month battle for the Stanley Cup. Or, failing that, hoping they fire everyone they’ve ever employed. Definitely one of those two.
In either case, let’s get a head start on things by wrapping up some of 2013-14’s loose ends now, with these awards honoring regular-season excellence, or lack thereof.
Most Entertaining Train Wreck: Toronto Maple Leafs
With all due (dis)respect to the Canucks, Oilers, and Capitals, this one isn’t an especially tough call. We pegged the Leafs’ season as a de facto referendum on hockey analytics way back in October, but it ended up being so much more.
From a CEO who arrived and immediately started planning a Stanley Cup parade to a front office that handed out the worst contract of the salary-cap era to a coaching staff that has resorted to just making stuff up and hoping nobody notices, the Leafs have spent the season aggressively assuring everyone that they know what they’re doing. Now, thanks to yet another late-season collapse, they’re going to miss the playoffs again, and fans are screaming for the whole thing to be blown up. Except it probably won’t be. After all, re-signing Dave Bolland will solve everything.
If you’re a fan, it’s been painful. But if you’re not, then you never want this show to end. This entire Leafs season has been like spending eight months getting lectured by the self-professed smartest guy in the room while waiting to see when he’ll notice his fly is wide open. He still hasn’t.
Least Entertaining Train Wreck: New York Islanders
“If you don’t want something good to happen to New York Islander fans, you are a legitimately horrible person and your parents did a bad job raising you.” I wrote that heading into last year’s playoffs, and I stand by it. The franchise hasn’t won a playoff round in more than 20 years, and has spent most of that time as the league’s go-to punch line. Mike Milbury, Alexei Yashin’s buyout, Rick DiPietro, terrible ownership … if something terrible could happen to the Islanders, it would.
So when they went into this season clinging to some small strand of optimism, it was hard not to root for them. They’d made the playoffs last year, and their roster featured some real live talent like John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. None of it played goal, which turned out to be sort of a problem, but it was better than nothing. And a month into the season, they even pulled off an old-fashioned blockbuster, acquiring Thomas Vanek from the Sabres in a pricey deal meant to solidify their status as playoff contenders.
We all know how that turned out. The season was a disaster, Tavares got hurt at the Olympics, the Islanders will finish dead last in the Metro, and they ended up having to flip Vanek to Montreal for a fraction of what they paid for him. Islanders fans are sick of hearing about that one. Let’s never speak of it again.
It’s been awful. And if your parents did a good job, you’ve hated every second of it.