Bottoms Up is a weekly feature on Backhand Shelf that admits that sometimes the underdog doesn’t win: sometimes they just lose and lose and lose some more. In this edition, we look at what miracles would need to occur for these teams to stop losing and what they’ll get if they keep losing.

The light at the end of a very, very dark tunnel. (ontariohockeyleague.com)

On Tuesday, Scott Howson finally accepted reality and fired Scott Arniel. Somehow, it took him half a season to figure out that being in last place in the NHL was not a good thing. Yes, the Blue Jackets have had some terrible luck this season and absolutely horrid goaltending, both of which are not Arniel’s fault, but it was still remarkable how long Arniel managed to last behind the bench of the Blue Jackets.

After 43 games, the Blue Jackets have a measly 29 points. The next worst team, the Anaheim Ducks, have 35 points in the same number of games. Columbus is on pace for just 55 points, 7 fewer than the Edmonton Oilers managed last year when they were the worst team in the NHL.

The Blue Jackets are well on their way to drafting Nail Yakupov of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, the consensus number one pick  for this summer’s draft. It would take a concerted effort (say, a Bobby Ryan trade) by one of the other basement dwelling teams to catch them.

The playoffs, however, are a longshot.

It may seem silly to even bring up the playoffs in regards to the teams in the basement, but they’re not entirely out of the question for any team at this point in the season. It would take an absurdly good second half of the season, but it’s not impossible.

There are currently seven teams below .500 at this point in the season: the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks, and Columbus Blue Jackets. I am defining .500 as having 50% of the points available to them. The Buffalo Sabres, with 43 points in 43 games, are .500.

The teams in 8th place in the Eastern and Western Conferences are the Toronto Maple Leafs and Minnesota Wild (Remember when they were in first place and everyone said it wasn’t going to last and their fans called those people idiots? Good times). The Leafs and Wild are currently on pace for approximately 93 points, so we’ll make that our baseline for making the playoffs.

Each of the teams in the basement would need to climb over the still-dying bodies of the other teams in their conference to get there, while battling the scourge of the loser point, but there’s still hope. There’s always hope. Here’s how well each team needs to do to get to 93 points.

Montreal Canadiens

Current Record: 16-20-7
Games Remaining: 39
Points Needed: 54

If the Canadiens win 27 of their remaining 39 games (a 27-12-0 record), they have a strong chance of making the playoffs. It is far more likely that they pick up a few single points along the way by losing in overtime of the shootout. They have played in 10 games that have gone past regulation and have a 3-7 record in those games. Is a 24-10-5 record more within their reach? Will Rene Bourque provide the edge they need to make this possible?

Tampa Bay Lightning

Current Record: 17-22-4
Games Remaining: 39
Points Needed: 55

The Lightning have a slightly tougher road ahead, needing 27 wins and an overtime loss (a 27-11-1 record) over their final 39 games. To do so, they’ll need to figure out how to stop bleeding goals against; they allow a league-worst 3.42 goals against per game and yet somehow manage to get accused of playing a stifling and boring defensive style of hockey.

A new aging goalie reclamation project (Turco anyone?) might be in order, as Dwayne Roloson just passed Steve Mason for the worst save percentage in the league.

New York Islanders

Current Record: 15-20-6
Games Remaining: 41
Points Needed: 57

The Islanders have a couple more games to work with than the other teams in the basement, but are still in a tough position. They’ll need 28 wins and an overtime loss in 41 games (a 28-12-1 record) to reach 8th place. They’ll need to score more in the second half of the season; they are currently third worst in the league in goals per game, ahead of only the Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings.

A strong second half from Michael Grabner, who has just 18 points, would definitely help and it’s not out of the question. Halfway through last season, Grabner had just 9 goals. He scored 25 goals in the second half and had just 13 games without a point.

Edmonton Oilers

Current Record: 16-23-4
Games Remaining: 39
Points Needed: 57

The Oilers need the same 28 wins and 1 overtime loss as the Islanders, but have 2 fewer games to work with, meaning they’ll need a 28-10-1 record or they’ll need to get more games to overtime. The Oilers only have 5 overtime games so far this season, tied for the fewest in the league.

Getting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins healthy again would help. The Oilers have lost 5 straight since he injured his shoulder. They also need to stop pretending that Nikolai Khabibulin is going to return to the way he performed at the beginning of the season.

Carolina Hurricanes

Current Record: 15-23-7
Games Remaining: 37
Points Needed: 56

Things don’t get any easier: the Hurricanes have already played 45 games, so need 28 wins in just 37 games (a 28-9-0 record) in order to have a chance at the playoffs. Things are actually looking a little bit up for the ‘Canes, as they have a 5-4-1 record in their last 10 games and Eric Staal has started scoring again, putting up 13 points in his last 7 games.

In even better news, Jeff Skinner is reportedly close to returning to the lineup. If he returns and scores like he did before his injury and Staal keeps producing, could the impossible happen?

Anaheim Ducks

Current Record: 14-22-7
Games Remaining: 39
Points Needed: 58

The Hockey News predicted that the Ducks would finish 6th in the Western Conference this season. Let that sink in for a second. At this point they need to win 29 of their remaining 39 games (a 29-10-0 record). Corey Perry turned on the jets in the latter half of last season to power the Ducks into the playoffs. At this point, the Ducks would need similar performances from Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan to make that happen this season.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Current Record: 12-26-5
Games Remaining: 39
Points Needed: 64

The Blue Jackets need to win 32 of their last 39 games to make the playoffs. Remember what I said about hope? I lied.

On the plus side, I hear Yakupov is pretty good.