Archive for the ‘Bottoms Up’ Category

Bottoms Up is a semi-regular 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, let’s do the panic again.

We may only be a little over one week into the 2012-13 season, but that’s apparently plenty of time for fans to start collectively freaking out over how their teams and players have performed out of the gate. Blackhawks fans are anticipating a 48-win season, Sharks fans are certain that Patrick Marleau is going to score 50 goals this season, Senators fans are heaping praise on Vezina-frontrunner Craig Anderson, and Bruins fans just know that Dougie Hamilton will be the blonde, pale version of Bobby Orr.

Yes, it’s that time of the season again: the time when everyone is rushing to snap judgements of teams based on ridiculously small sample sizes. While it’s good times for fanbases of teams that have gotten off to hot start on the season, fans of teams in the basement are beginning to panic. And thanks to the condensed nature of the 48-game schedule, people feel justified in panicking so soon.

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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, a reminder that season previews are total crapshoots.

Travis Golby, Getty Images

There is now officially just one week left in the NHL regular season and, for the teams in the basement of the standings, it can’t come soon enough. This will be the penultimate Bottoms Up of the 2011-12 season, as next week we’ll take a look at the season as a whole and the long journeys that led to the worst teams in the league ending up as cellar dwellers.

This week, however, I want to look back even further, before the season even began. During the 2011 off-season, every hockey publication and blog worth its salt drags out a crystal ball, lays out the tarot cards, and tears open tea bags. Predictions and prognostications are everywhere in the month leading up to the start of the season, partly because they’re fun, partly because everyone is desperate for the season to begin, and partly because it gets discussion going.

There’s nothing that gets a hockey fan more fired up than seeing his favourite team disparaged, particularly if its done before a single game has even been played. Hope springs eternal during the summer, as newly acquired free agents fly into town, fresh-faced rookies start making a name for themselves in training camp, and team management starts making big promises about competing for a playoff spot and once they’re in…who knows?

For some of those teams, the big dreams come crashing down almost immediately, while others soar briefly then slowly deflate until it’s difficult to see that there was any promise to begin with. Take a guess which one is more depressing.

Most season previews deal with the big winners: who’s going to win the division, the conference, the Stanley Cup. But a few also predict the bottom end of the standings and I’m going to take a look at exactly how accurate those predictions were. The three I’ll be looking at are The Hockey News, Puck Daddy, and Backhand Shelf’s own Justin Bourne.

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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, how low can you go?

"Seriously, dude, stop making saves." Andy Marlin, Getty Images

While the Senators, Capitals, Sabres, and Jets scrap for a spot in the playoffs in the East and the Coyotes, Stars, Avalanche, Sharks, and Flames do the same in the West, a slightly less inspiring battle is taking place in the basement of the NHL. All season long, the basement was a place to be avoided: one of the stairs is busted, the lightswitch at the top doesn’t work, and there’s a funky odor coming from…somewhere.

All that has changed, however, as we near the end of the season and more and more teams give up their playoff dreams for the much more realistic and attainable goal of a top-end draft pick. Suddenly, the basement is the place to be: Columbus has kitted it out with a TV and Playstation 3, Edmonton brought a couple lava lamps, and Buffalo forgot their scented candles when they moved out, which do a pretty decent job of covering up the smell.

The best the league’s have-nots can hope for at this point is to finish in the bottom five and have a chance at moving up to the first overall pick in the draft lottery.

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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, the losers are reminded that they have lost.

No wonder he allows so many goals; the ice is actually tilted towards his net. John Grieshop/Getty Images

For the Blue Jackets, last Sunday’s loss to the St. Louis Blues may have seemed like just another in a long line of losses this season. It was the team’s 40th regulation loss of the season, but this particular loss wasn’t especially shameful in any way. It was a tight, 2-1 game in which the Blue Jackets outshot the Blues 34-26. All told, it was a pretty good showing against the Western Conference-leading Blues, who are the second-hottest team in the league behind the streaking Pittsburgh Penguins.

What was significant about that game, however, was that it marked the official elimination of the Blue Jackets from the playoffs. After that loss, there was simply no possible permutation of the schedule that could put Columbus in 8th place in the West, not even if they won all of their remaining games and those ahead of them lost all of their own. More accurately, the teams ahead of them simply could not lose all of their remaining games, as some of them were against each other.

So the Blue Jackets got the inevitable, yet still painful, news that this season was a complete and utter failure. It wasn’t really new news, but mathematics hadn’t chimed in yet and wanted to get their shot in.

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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.

We're still in playoff contention? Are you kidding me? / Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Halfway through the season, I took a look at how well the league’s basement dwellers would need to perform in order to make the playoffs. I estimated that 93 points would be needed in order to reach 8th place in both conferences. The San Jose Sharks are right on that pace at 8th place in the Western Conference, while the Washington Capitals are only on pace for 88 points at 8th place in the East.

Of the seven teams I featured at the halfway point, two of them have actually taken a decent run at playoff contention, while the only questions remaining for the other five are when will they officially be eliminated from the playoffs and how high will their draft pick be this June.

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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, the Hurricanes should have done something and the Oilers should have done nothing.

Grant Halverson, Getty Images

In last week’s Bottoms Up, I praised Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford for re-signing two of his impending unrestricted free agents, Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu, rather than trading them at the deadline. Both Gleason and Ruutu were signed to contracts with reasonable cap hits and were cheaper than trying to replace them in free agency in the off-season. But when I praised him for those deals, I was expecting him to do something at the trade deadline to position the Hurricanes for the future.

Instead, the deadline came and went with no movement whatsoever.

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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, trade deadline madness is a curable disease.

Tim Gleason didn't need to pack his bags in anticipation of the trade deadline. Mike Stobbe/Getty Images

To say that this season has been a complete disaster for the Columbus Blue Jackets is a bit of an understatement. When they traded for Jeff Carter and signed James Wisniewski in the offseason, it symbolized their willingness to bring in top-end talent and compete. They thought they finally had a number one centre for their franchise winger, Rick Nash and a powerplay quarterback to secure the back end.

Instead of competing for a playoff spot, however, they are in absolute dead last in the NHL, 11 points back on the next worst team, the Edmonton Oilers. And this has triggered a potentially massive overhaul, as Carter has already been shipped out of town to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Jack Johnson and a first round draft pick and Nash has been on the trade block for weeks.

Meanwhile, two of the other teams in the basement with the Blue Jackets just re-signed big-name players, effectively removing them from trade consideration.

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