Friday, April 14, 2023

Who tanked best? Ranking the NHL’s 11 worst teams in the race for Connor Bedard

The great Connor Bedard tank-off of 2022-23 finally ends tonight. Who did it best?

On one level, the answer is obvious: Anaheim, who clinched 32nd place with their loss last night. Easy.

On another level, the answer is that we don’t know yet. After all, the lottery isn’t until May 8. Anaheim may have 32nd place, but we don’t know if that will be the magic spot that means they get Bedard. The season tells us who gets the best odds, but the lottery tells us who actually wins. Until then, the question doesn’t have an answer.

I think there’s a third option, and that’s that we can’t get too caught up in the results. In sports, and especially the NHL, randomness rules. Just like the best team doesn’t always win the Stanley Cup, the best tanker doesn’t always win the top pick. We can still try to figure out who did the best job of tanking, even if it didn’t pay off at the end. Bust the process, so to speak.

So today, let’s go through the 11 teams with the worst records in the league, and see if we can come up with an objective way to rank them based on how blatantly and effectively they managed to tank. We’ll do that using five categories:

Offseason moves: The key to any truly great tank is starting early. How much of the deck did the team clear before the season even began?

Opening night expectations: If everyone thinks you’re going to be good in October, you’re probably not tanking.

Goaltending situation: When it comes to tanking, goaltending is always the most important position. You want it to be bad, and then you want to make sure you don’t do anything to make it better.

Coach factor: Coaches don’t tank, but let’s just say you don’t want Scotty Bowman back there when you’re trying to finish last.

Deadline selloff: If you’ve done it right, your season should be spiralling the drain by February. That’s when it’s time to finish the job with an aggressive deadline clearance sale.

We’ll mark each of those out of 10, mix in a few bonus points where needed, and come up with a final score. We’re counting down from tenth to first, and unlike the 82 games your team just played, you actually want to win.

11. Philadelphia Flyers

Wait, if you finish last on this list, does that mean you tanked at tanking?

Offseason moves: 4/10. Quiet, apart from what they thought was an upgrade in Tony DeAngelo.

Opening night expectations: 8/10. Most of us figured they’d be bad, although not necessarily bad enough to compete for top lottery odds. (Checks standings.) Nailed it.

Goaltending situation: 3/10. With Carter Hart coming off a solid rebound season, the Flyers seemed as set as any team on this list.

Coach factor: 2/10. They went out and hired John Tortorella, a coach who specialized in squeezing the most out of a roster (included loser points). Purely in terms of a tanking opportunity, that didn’t seem ideal.

Deadline selloff: 0/10. Help me out here, when your GM does next to nothing at the deadline and then gets fired a few days later, is that bad?

Bonus points: +2 for new management which may finally see the writing on the wall, although it really came too late for this season.

Total score: 19/50. The Flyers are a bad team that should have been even worse, making them the current poster child for a franchise spinning its wheels.

10. St. Louis Blues

I considered not even including the Blues, but their record says they should be here.

Offseason moves: 5/10. They moved Ville Husso and lost David Perron, but that felt more like roster/cap management than an attempt at getting worse.

Opening night expectations: 2/10. Coming off a 109-point season, we thought they were at least a playoff team.

Goaltending situation: 3/10. Jordan Binnington wasn’t great, but with his contract and Cup ring it’s not like they were ever going to make a change.

Coach factor: 3/10. Craig Berube’s seat is probably getting warm but you never figured he was in any immediate danger.

Deadline selloff: 9/10. Here’s where we can finally find some points, as they moved Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly (and got both deals done a few weeks early).

Bonus points: -1 for going a combined 11-1-0 against the Ducks, Blue Jackets, Blackhawks and Sharks. Just no sense of the moment, you know?

Total score: 21/50. This wasn’t a tank, it was a season where everything went wrong.

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