Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Finding positive thoughts for the 15 non-playoff teams

We’re almost done with the regular season, and the playoff race was a bit of a bust. That means that there are a lot of teams that already know they’re not going to the playoffs, and most of them can’t even say they came close. And that means a whole lot of fan bases that aren’t happy right now.

But it shouldn’t be that way, because optimism is always a better outlook than pessimism. (Note to long-time readers: Please ignore everything I’ve ever said or written about this league and just go with me on this.) A positive outlook is the way to go, both in hockey and in life.

So today, we’re going to break out a gimmick I’ve tried a few times in the past, and see if we can come up with three positive thoughts for each of the 15 teams that will miss the playoffs. That’s it – no nitpicking, no complaining, just three nice things to say about each team.

Of course, some teams will be more of a challenge than others, and we may have to stretch a bit on a few of these. Then somebody will complain, and then somebody else will complain about the complaint, and the comments section will be a disaster, and this is a bad idea and I’m going to hate myself for it and…

No. Stay positive. We can do this. Let’s look on the bright side. It’s rainbows and puppies only from here on out, whether you damn well like it or not.

Chicago Blackhawks

The negative: After briefly seeming like they could pull off a surprise playoff push, the Blackhawks quickly fell out of the race down the stretch.

Positive thought #1: All in all, that season went way better than most of us expected. The Hawks were a trendy pick to be in the running for dead last, and instead they made it interesting. Overachieving is always a good thing, and that’s especially true in a draft class year where bottoming out for a high pick won’t matter as much as it normally would.

Positive thought #2: Hey, remember that thing about the team not having any NHL-caliber goalies? Kevin Lankinen proved them wrong. We think. We don’t really know, because it’s goaltending, and we never know anything. But even after a rough April, his season still went a lot better than anyone expected.

Positive thought #3: While we still don’t know the details around Jonathan Toews missing the season, some recent reports have sounded optimistic about a potential return next year. Even at 33, he brings a ton to the table and the team clearly missed him this year.

Get the idea? The Hawks are one of the easier teams to try this with, but it’s important to warm up a bit before you get serious.

Detroit Red Wings

The negative: They’re going to miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year, and while their record will be better than it was during last year’s disaster, it’s on pace to be worse than in any of the first three years of the rebuild.

Positive thought #1: They finally escaped the bottom five! That was good, right? (Please don’t read this week’s rankings, where they might be right back in.)

Positive thought #2: The whole Yzerplan thing is going slowly, sure, but progress is being made. They’ve got some prospect help on the way, a ton of picks this year, lots of cap room to work with, and (maybe) a new set of eyes behind the bench to help it all along. The pain isn’t over yet, but you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and Red Wings fans seem like they’re willing to be patient.

Positive thought #3: The new draft lottery system means they’ll only drop two spots this year instead of the customary three.

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