I got assigned to write about the worst teams, since I am far more giving of my contempt than of my praise. If you're a fan of these teams, I am sorry for what follows. But I will be frank, and by frank, I mean, you know, devastating.
30. Edmonton Oilers
Overall Game Plan: GM Steve Tambellini and company's overall team-building plan seems to be much like Andy Dufresne's - crawl through a river of excrement to reach freedom, or in this case, a Stanley Cup. While it may or may not work, you've got to admire his willingness to stick to the plan. The Oilers should be picking in the top 5 (again) in next year's entry draft.
Reason They Stink: A 45.6% Fenwick with the score tied isn't very good. Neither is the league's worst penalty kill. They also continue to employ Nikolai Khabibulin as a starting goaltender despite his .890 save percentage and league-leading loss total the previous year.
Was it Ren and Stimpy that had the 'Good Idea, Bad Idea' gag? I think so. Whatever the case, I will do this for each team I look at - I will look at a good idea they've had this off-season, and a bad idea.
Good Idea(s): Signing veteran Eric Belanger as a third-line center to take faceoffs and kill penalties. Belanger's exactly the sort of player they've failed to retain in Edmonton.
Bad Idea(s): Signing defenseman Cam Barker to do anything. Barker's been a terrible player for years, and it can only be his status as a 3rd overall pick in 2004 and his 40 point season in 2009 that keeps a team like Edmonton thinking he's worth a roster spot.
Closing Remarks: Incidentally, I ranked Edmonton 24th best, whereas all my colleagues ranked them 30th. I don't know if that's because I've absorbed dangerous levels of optimism from the Oilogosphere, or I just think that Taylor Hall is a really good player. Whatever the case, this team will be bad.
29. Colorado Avalanche
Overall Game Plan: GM Greg Sherman traded his first round pick this season, so he must think that this team is playoff-bound. Common sense seems to disagree, as this team is dangerously young and largely without star players. Sherman may think that the Avs' 2009-10 playoff berth was earned and that 2010-11's poor result was a fluke, but he'd be wrong about both things.
Why They Stink: 47.4% Fenwick with the score tied isn't very good. Their defense is no-name and bad. While they're set at center with Duchene, Stastny, and McClement, there isn't very much around them to make the club better.
Good Idea(s): Trading for a young franchise goalie. Goalies can boost a mediocre team into the playoffs. Varlamov may be an elite goaltender.
Bad Idea(s): Dealing a 1st and 2nd round pick to acquire said goalie. Other bad ideas include not doing anything of note this off-season, besides signing tough-minute D Jan Hejda to a 4 year contract.
Closing Remarks: Yet again, my colleagues disagree with me - I have Colorado as the 22nd best team, merely based on Varlamov and the strength at center. I also think they'll make some in-season moves to bolster the team. Still, the most likely outcome for this season is a playoff miss and the end of Greg Sherman as Colorado GM.
28. Dallas Stars
Overall Game Plan: Who knows? They retained Brad Richards and even added Jamie Langenbrunner in a futile attempt to make the playoffs last season. Brad Richards then skipped town, as expected. Also, they're apparently declaring bankruptcy. Dallas doesn't have many prospects and they're not a good team - they might be entering a tailspin like the ones Edmonton and Colorado are beginning to pull themselves out of.
Why They Stink: 46.6% Fenwick with the score tied isn't going to win many games, unless you get obscenely lucky, as the Stars did for the first half of last season.
Good Idea(s): Signing Michael Ryder isn't a bad move; he can still put the puck in the net.
Bad Idea(s): Signing Adam Pardy for 2 years and 2 mil per? Signing Sheldon Souray to a one-way contract after he wasn't doing well in the AHL? These contracts don't have much risk, but they sure don't seem to have much upside, either.
Closing Remarks: Kari Lehtonen is a good goaltender, and if the team can stay healthy, they might be able to ward off total collapse. Still, without Brad Richards and with nothing at all to replace him, I suspect it's going to be a long winter for the Dallas Stars.
#27: New York Islanders
Overall Game Plan: Build from within. The team boasts an impressive young forward corps, and some of their younger defensemen are underrated. GM Garth Snow has tried desperately to attract a marquee free agent, but has had no luck. The future is looking bright for the Islanders, and I just stole that line from the last 15 years' worth of season preview writing on the Islanders.
Why They Stink: 46.1% Fenwick with the score tied, plus Rick Dipietro's horrendous .886 save percentage adds up to being one of the worst teams in the league. Again.
Good Idea(s): Signing Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and Michael Grabner to long-term contract extensions. I don't think the Islanders will regret any of these deals.
Bad Idea(s): Maintaining the three headed awfulness at netminder - Evgeni Nabokov, who is hopefully average, Al Montoya, who has to prove last year's solid performance wasn't a fluke (it probably was), and Rick DiPietro, who is well below average and signed for 10 more seasons.
Closing Remarks: The Islanders have the pieces in place for a prosperous future. They just have to not undermine that future by panicking when one of their prospects doesn't quite develop the way they want him to. The team may not be on Long Island when it finally gets good, but I do think that this version of the Islanders will actually become a playoff team in 2 or 3 years.
Coming soon: Teams 26-23