Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Bizarro-meter’s Western Conference offseason rankings

One of the tough parts of writing about hockey is adjusting for era. A 50-goal season is a very different thing today than it was in the high-scoring 1980s, which was very different than it was when Rocket Richard was doing it in a 50-game season in the 1940s. It makes it a challenge to compare one season to another. Some years are just different than other years.

Which brings us to trying to figure out what qualifies as bizarre in 2020.

This is my seventh year of doing a bizarro-meter column that covers every team in the league, and it’s usually good fun. The idea is to figure out which teams had the strangest offseasons – not the best or the worst, but the most confusing, odd or unexpected. Most years, that makes for a pretty straightforward concept.

But now it’s 2020, the dog days of the offseason are in November, and we don’t even know when camp will start because nobody’s figured out how next season will work. Every team in the league is having their weirdest offseason ever.

So what do we do? I guess we adjust for era and judge every team by 2020 standards, if only because giving every team a 10/10 rating would feel like it was too easy. We’ll do this by conference, with the West up today and the East on Friday. We’ll also break it down by division, even though we don’t know what division anyone will actually be in, because it’s 2020 and nothing makes sense. Screw it, let’s get weird.

Central Division

Dallas Stars

The offseason so far: They mainly seemed to want to keep the band together, locking up Rick Bowness and Anton Khudobin but not (so far) Corey Perry.

But their strangest story was: Losing Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop for a reported five months. We knew both guys were hurt, but not that Seguin would be out so long.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 2.5/10. When you almost win the Cup, you try to stay the course, get everyone healthy and come back for another shot. It rarely works, but it’s really the only reasonable way forward, and it’s not remotely bizarre.

Nashville Predators

The offseason so far: Plenty of guys moved in and out, although none were major names. Losing Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund hurts, while the Kyle Turris buyout was a tough pill to swallow but probably inevitable.

But their strangest story was: Not giving $8-million to a second-line center for a change. (Although there’s still time.)

Bizarro-meter ranking: 4.1/10. The Predators still feel like a team that’s built to win now, or at least thinks it is, but they’re coming off a disappointing year and I’m not sure they’re any better.

Colorado Avalanche

The offseason so far: Joe Sakic made a good trade to land Brandon Saad and a better one to add Devon Toews, without losing anyone who was especially important.

But their strangest story was: The emergence of Sakic a a near-consensus pick as one of the best GMs in the league, just three years after he had a terrible trade deadline with a terrible team and looked completely overwhelmed as a former GM campaigned for his job. Were we all wrong back then? Are we all wrong now? Were we right both times, and Sakic has just improved so much in a few years? Nobody knows, but history suggests it’s the probably one of the options where I’m wrong.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 4.4/10. I’m still kind of bummed that they didn’t use their limited cap space to chase a big-name free agent, but Sakic probably knows what he’s doing.

Winnipeg Jets

The offseason so far: They kept Dylan DeMelo, signed some cheap depth, and added Paul Stastny for next-to-nothing beyond cap space. They also hired a player’s dad as assistant coach, because what could go wrong.

But their strangest story was: The whole Patrik Laine saga, where he went into the offseason as the biggest name on the trade block, churned up all sorts of intriguing rumors, then ultimately didn’t get moved even though it still feels like he eventually will.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 5.4/10. The Laine rumors got all the attention, but the lack of work on the blueline was also weird.

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