Monday, March 7, 2022

The Penguins are still confusing, the Jets might be done, and let’s find the season’s most mediocre team

The nature of this column is that we spend a lot of time talking about the very best and very worst teams. Maybe too much time, honestly, since there are only so many ways you can write “The Avalanche are good” or “The Sabres are the Sabres” each week. We trying to use the “not ranked” slot to bounce around the league and make sure everyone gets a mention, but the teams that are thoroughly mid tend to be mostly ignored. Except for this week.

(Did you like the way I slipped in the term “mid” there? I learned it from my teenager. Apparently it’s how the kids talk about something that’s middling or mediocre. I’m told that it’s better than being cringe, but not as good as being lit. I have no idea whether it’s better or worse than being poggers, but I promise you that I’m on the case.)

Anyway, this is the week that we’re going to figure out which team has been the most mediocre, something we try every year around this time. As always, we’ll start with our top and bottom five lists, or rather, with the teams that haven’t shown up in either yet.

This year, that’s 10 teams, but a few of them don’t really work as candidates. The Rangers haven’t been in the top five yet, for example, but they’re clearly a very good team. The Bruins and Leafs haven’t shown up yet either, but they’re not in the running here. On the other end, I haven’t had the guts to put the Islanders in the bottom five, but they’re closer to that group than to the mushy middle.

That leaves us with six real candidates among the no-list brigade. The Kings, Stars and Predators have all given off some pretty mediocre vibes at times, but all three teams are good enough for the playoff hunt and solidly winning records, so I don’t think they work. The Sharks and Red Wings seem like better fits, hovering right around .500, but they’ve lost far more than they’ve won and their goal differential suggests that they’re bad.

The best contender among teams who haven’t been on either list is probably the Jets. They’ve lost a few more than they’ve won but are over fake .500 thanks to a league-leading ten loser points, and the goals differential is close to even. But can you really be the league’s most mediocre team if you were so bad at one point that your own coach had to quit midway through the season? I’m not convinced you can be.

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