Well the All-Star weekend has passed and the Leafs are finally, unequivocally a losing club. The past little while has been tough, but at least now finally we can look to the future with a clear mind free of the rollercoaster that is the lead-up to the playoffs.
With that in mind, just what picture is shaping up in the standings? Are we close to a lottery pick with the roster we've got now, or do we need a helpful push?
As it stands, the bottom 10 teams are (worst to best):
New York Islanders: 35 pts
Atlanta Thrashers: 39 pts
Ottawa Senators: 41 pts
St. Louis Blues: 44 pts
Tampa Bay Lighting: 44 pts
Nashville Predators: 45 pts
Toronto Maple Leafs: 46 pts
LA Kings: 47 pts
Colorado Avalanche: 47 pts
Vancouver Canucks: 52 pts (lol Sundin)
We're currently sitting in 7th, which is pretty funny considering that's where we ended up last year. Wait, you mean we were trying to make the playoffs last year? And Paul Maurice guaranteed it? Oh. That's actually pretty sad then.
Now being two spots out of the top 5 is pretty unacceptable considering that maybe 3 of the teams below us still had playoff aspirations in mind at the beginning of the season. We can't afford to burn more picks moving up, either.
If I had to guess the movers in our little group of misery, I'd say that it's doubtful any of the teams currently above us in the standings will drop down below our standing, Colorado will get Stastny and maybe Sakic back at some point, the Kings are simply better than us, and Vancouver has to shake out of it's funk sometime. All of the teams above the bottom ten are looking to make a playoff push and I'd bet most of them get more competitive as the season wears on.
As for the teams below us, the Nashville Predators have got the talent to rise above us. The question lies with their ownership, whether they feel the market can take failure and whether they can even afford to pay the players they have.
Tampa Bay appears to finally be gelling as a team after a huge summer turnover and a laughable coaching mess. They've won 6 of their last 10 and generally Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Smith are enough to beat our entire team. If our boys in blue do their part and lose on the 12th I think there's a good chance we'll see ourselves sinking a spot in the standings.
St. Louis lost their stud dman over the break and weren't impressed enough with Alex Pietrangelo to keep him up (the concussion Hollweg gave him likely didn't help). Steen and Carlo have been getting them points, but not wins, and I think we'll be in a dogfight with the Blues over draft positioning. Still, they're not far away and have two games in hand on us.
Ottawa. Excuse me while I chuckle quietly to myself for a little while.
Alright, despite the Sens protestations that they were turning a new leaf after the break the team has continued floundering, with a losing record in it's last 10. They have three games on us, and could rise above the Leafs if those turn into three wins. Unfortunately the Sens, much like the Leafs, haven't strung three wins together all season. With their depth becoming suspect and their goaltending issues still not solved, it remains to be seen if they're actually any better than the Leafs this year. Like the Preds, the Sens will need to decide if they're selling hard at the deadline and that will have the greatest impact on their draft.
The Atlanta Thrashers and New York Islanders are just terrible. Awful. We could sell off everyone above 23, call up the entirety of the Marlies and I doubt we'd be able to pass either at this point. Well, maybe Atlanta.
Now, considering all that I can see us maybe sliding down two more spots to land in 5th, enough for a slim lottery chance and probably a damn good player. There are three teams within two points of us but it's hard to imagine all three putting together good streaks when they'll likely want to become deadline sellers just like us. And no matter how hard we sell, the bottom three looks too tough to crack at this point.
So, who wants to come rig the draft lottery with me?
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