Given the fact we don’t have any NHL hockey, it is still fairly obvious that there really is no “winner” in this scenario. The NHL suspension; however, does provide some benefits and drawbacks to certain teams and fanbases around the league. Below I will take a look at some of the teams that “won” and “lost” due to the league’s suspension.
Islanders – I can’t think of a team that was heading into the suspension in a worse position than the Islanders. The team was at its lowest low going 2-4-4 in its last 10 in the midst of a push for the wildcard. Pageau and the rest of the Islanders offense has struggled to find the net recently; yet that is nothing compared to the poor defensive play of the Isles which is something that is unusual for a team coach by Barry Trotz. Complicating things further is the fact that neither Varlamov or Greiss is helping the Islanders steal any games. Both players are failing to post save percentages higher than .900%. The team has also surrendered a whopping 18 goals in only four games to the likes of the Canadians, Senators, Hurricanes, and Canucks. If the NHL lifts the suspension, the Isles hopefully will have used this time to regroup and find their game once again. Without the suspension, the Islanders probably would have continued their poor play and surrendered precious points in a extremely tight wildcard race. Eight of their final ten games would come at the expense of teams currently holding a playoff position.
Carolina – The end of February did not treat the Canes well, however the Canes began racking up some decent wins heading into break; including beating both the Islanders at the Coli and Pittsburgh in back-to-back games. That aside, with the prominent injuries especially to the back end and in net, Carolina would have had to really dig deep to keep up in the wildcard race. Assuming the NHL does resume play at some point, the Canes would likely get back Vatanen, Reimer, and Dzingel from injury. Depending on the time frame they could also get back Pesce and Hamilton, although Pesce will be quite a stretch. In the end, the Hurricanes have a chance to get healthy right in time for playoffs if we get NHL action again.
Columbus – Another team riddled by injuries, Columbus could use the extra time to get back injured players, including star defenseman Seth Jones. Since his injury on February 11th the Jackets have only won three games throughout a thirteen game stretch. They also lost as many as six in a row. Columbus took the NHL by storm in February when they soared up from the dead to claim a wildcard spot in the East. Unfortunately, they have yet to find the mojo that landed them there. Regardless of the injuries, Torts has his team giving 100% night in and night out, but Jones and company may be too big a hurdle to overcome. While all the wildcard teams have been struggling, the Islanders underwhelming play in particular is a large reason the Jackets still hold onto the second wildcard spot. If the NHL does uplift the suspension, the wildcard race will be very intriguing between a healthy Carolina and Columbus team as well as a hungry Rangers team and a regrouped Islanders squad.
Buffalo – Just another completely dreadful season. The sooner it ends the better for Botterill and the Sabres. Another great year from Jack Eichel, that will inevitably see the Sabres failing to make the playoffs. Again the Sabres looked promising to start, only to fall apart throughout the season. I truly feel for this passionate fanbase. It seems like every year they are top 5 in viewership for the playoffs despite the Sabres never being in them. At the end of the day the Sabres need to make major changes in the summer, but more importantly need their prospects along with guys like Skinner to start making a bigger impact. Either way, this is a win for the agonizing Sabres fanbase.
Philadelphia – Finally Philly gets the hockey team they have been waiting for, a team that can make noise in the postseason. Heck, a team that could have won the cup!
— MoneyPuck.com (@MoneyPuckdotcom) March 12, 2020
There wasn’t a team that was as hot as the Flyers going into the suspension. 9-1-0 in their last ten the Flyers were winning at will. They had one of the best powerplays in the league and were averaging just around four goals a game. Along with solid defense, Carter Hart was playing as good as any goalie. Even backup goalie Brian Elliott has been playing well as he held the Capitals to just two goals in their last meeting. Despite their difficult schedule, you would have to think the Flyers would have contended for the top spot in the Metro with the suspension aside. Fans could have also been treated with a Flyers-Penguins first round match-up. Even if the NHL does not resume play this season, the Flyers are still young and getting better and will have the chance to do more damage next season.
Las Vegas – Not only were the Golden Knights 8-2-0 in their last ten, but if you look again at the tweet above, you’ll notice that Vegas had the second best odds to win the cup. After a great performance at this year’s trade deadline Vegas began to meet their preseason expectations. The Knights finally were able to claim the top spot in the Pacific albeit Edmonton is not too far behind. With the Knights play of late it would be hard to imagine a scenario in which Edmonton or any other Pacific team for that matter, overtakes Vegas for the one seed. Regardless of the regular season, the Golden Knights have respectable depth throughout their lineup. Its no surprise that they began to creep into the Stanley Cup favorites conversation once they were able to add more depth and find their game. It would be disheartening for Vegas fans to see the season end so soon, especially with the way they were playing and their playoff potential.
Pittsburgh – Given their injuries and poor play of late, I was first tempted to put them into the winners portion of this article. However, in this case I am going to assume the NHL does not come back from suspension. In Pittsburgh, the window is closing; and closing fast. The core is aging and there is virtually no prospects to help uplift this Penguins team once their core guys start failing to produce. It is obvious looking at their deadline moves that Rutherford and the rest of management know that its time for one last push for the cup. Yet, if the season does not come back the Penguins would have lost picks and prospects for nothing. All the while not even having the satisfaction to at least try and make a postseason run. It would be super disappointing for Penguins fans to see their cup window essentially close due to the NHL suspension.
Detroit – Winners. Mainly for the fanbase considering that they will no longer have to go through the misery of the rest of the season given the suspension holds out.
Minnesota – Losers. Ok, I hear you Minnesota, another potential “bubble” year. But you have to be excited about Fiala, Greenway, and a possible playoff appearance.
Tampa Bay – Losers. Kinda felt like the year right Bolts fans? If the NHL doesn’t comeback it is going to be really hard for Tampa fans to endure this one. On the bright side it appears they’ll be virtually no change to the lineup for next season.
Boston – Losers. 7-3-0 in their last ten and running away with both the Atlantic division and President’s trophy the Bruins are one of the leagues best teams to compete for Lord Stanley. Given their all around depth and heavy game, if the B’s could get past the Lightning they would be a hard team to eliminate in the Eastern Conference.