Every so often, you see a silly tweet that sparks just enough inspiration to give it more thought than necessary, last night was one of those for me – Nashville Predators blogger / personality @statsrespecter dropped this dime:
Who is the least interesting team in the NHL to you personally? I don't mean in terms of style or whatever, just…a team that holds absolutely no appeal to you? I'll start: Florida Panthers
— snacksrespecter (@statsrespecter) July 8, 2020
Now, as everyone on Hockey Twitter knows, I hate every team in the NHL, especially yours. You know that last bit to be true especially, since you only see me in your timeline once every few months, but when you do, it’s always because someone you know is pointing out how much I hate your team.
In seriousness, hockey is hockey at the end of the day, and I enjoy every team the league has to offer. But yes, when there’s 31 of them on the table, some get thought about less than others. I gave it some thought last night and here’s who I had to struggle the most to show real interest in.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets
I’ve obviously had to pay a lot more mind to the Blue Jackets of late, given that they’ll be facing my Local Sports Team (TM) in the play-in round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a few weeks, assuming all stays on track. I also really like Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones. It was also really cool when they upset the Lightning last year.
But generally speaking, we’re talking about a team that lost both it’s marketable superstars last summer, and while they’re built pretty well, there’s just not a lot of interesting things you can say about the roster. I forgot Gustav Nyquist played for them before typing this out, and that’s with multiple recent looks at the roster. Nick Foligno is one of the lower-talent captains in the league, and their story of the season is that a goaltender took the reigns as this years EA Sports create-a-player who suddenly became good. Also, I’m convinced they have Riley Nash for no reason other than to convince out-of-the-loop fans that he’s Rick. They’ve even managed to tone down John Tortorella!
4. St. Louis Blues
“The defending Stanley Cup Champions? GLORIA? How do they end up on this list?”
Here’s the thing. The Blues were a perfectly reasonable team to pick to win the Stanley Cup at the start of last year, until they weren’t, and then they were again. That story itself, within its vacuum, was very interesting.
But even still, it still kind of feels weird and random that they went through with winning. Their roster’s allure is in the quantity of above-average, instead of individuals who captivate you (Vladimir Tarasenko can at times – but I feel like even he’s fallen off the highlight film in recent years). Frankly, now that the dust has settled on their win, the shine has kind of gone, and they’ve returned to being that team that you just kind of assume are always good enough to be praised but not great enough to be excited for.
I guess it comes down to this – if the Blues didn’t see their luck yo-yo in the way it did last year, if it didn’t culminate in them winning the last game in the season, how often would you remember their existence?
3. Detroit Red Wings
We pivot from last year’s best to this year’s worst. The Red Wings wouldn’t have taken this spot just a few years ago, and I’m not making that distinction with the end of their playoff streak either – even some of those first few post-playoff teams were interesting in the way that people slow down to look at accidents on the highway.
The issue with the Red Wings today is that their traditional scorched earth rebuild has left them with next to nothing to be excited about; their defence has gone from “at least they remind me that Mike Green is still playing” to one of the worst corps of our time, and the Dylan Larkin & Anthony Mantha duo aren’t exciting enough to make that forward corps seem interesting, especially now that there isn’t a Red Wings executive showing public disappointment in Mantha every three months any more.
Steve Yzerman has a pretty good idea of what he’s doing, but that’s a part of the problem here – Yzerman’s style of management isn’t particularly risky or innovative, and is mostly centred around avoiding unforced errors and safely marching forward with skilled, but not overly one-dimensional assets. That’s a fine way to build a team, but it’s not particularly motivating. With the team failing to win any of the three lottery selections at this year’s draft, it’s hard to believe they’ll be driving excitement into our homes for at least a few more years.
2. Minnesota Wild
The only thing saving the Minnesota Wild from being the least interesting team in hockey is the fact that they are so widely known as the Least Interesting Team In Hockey (TM). Their two highest paid players are a pair of local guys that signed broken contracts two CBA’s ago, and have largely faded from stardom to extreme “guy”-ness. Their captain has grown up to be both the best and the least interesting Koivu. I still can’t imagine Mats Zuccarello as anything but a Ranger, and while Eric Staal seems to have rediscovered his groove there, it’s still easy to forget that he’s still playing until you look up his numbers.
The Wild thrive on defensive hockey, and by thrive, I mean routinely end up somewhere between the middle and the lower-middle. No team has ever had more recognizable names while giving you zero reason to care about them. Jared Spurgeon, as good as he is, is probably the least exciting star in the NHL, and the only reason the team has a foothold on social media is because two (very talented) brothers feed us hockey stats. The organization got rid of most of it’s smartest and most interesting staff members, from the analytics cupboard to the bench, and even their uniforms essentially boil down to “what if we took our interesting inaugural design and made it more boring”.
Again, the Wild’s only saving grace here is that actively seeking to be disinteresting, which has to be what they’re doing at this point, is, in itself, slightly interesting.
1. Anaheim Ducks
This is the Disney team? This is Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne’s team? This is the team that bullied their way to a cup in 2007?
The Ducks, Mighty or not, used to be continuously fascinating. But looking at them today shows a shell of their former selves. Now that Ryan Getzlaf has seen better days, and Rickard Rakell appears to have lost his goal-scoring touch. I’m not sure that there’s a single forward on that roster worth pointing out. The Boston trade means there’s no Ondrej Kase to point to as an “underrated” player (that everyone likes), there’s no Corey Perry to give us a controversial hit to argue about every few months.
Their defence isn’t much better. Josh Manson is fine, but hasn’t really become the bulldozer that people thought he would, and is apparently already 28 years old (when did that happen?). Hampus Lindholm gets great results, but isn’t particularly dazzling.
The Ducks are the least relevant of the California Teams at a time where the California teams are at an all time low in joint ability. They didn’t get a high-end pick to build around like the Kings, and they don’t have chaos in the sense that San Jose has with losing their 3rd overall pick to the Erik Karlsson trade.
The Ducks currently exist to give John Gibson a crash course in goaltending drills, and sell “close, but not quite” recreations of their Disney jerseys. They are irrelevant to the standings, irrelevant to the conversation, and they aren’t even relevant to irrelevance. This, to me, makes the the least interesting team in the NHL right now.