NHL teams slip-sliding away

December 7, 2021 08:33 PM
macneil

The Canucks and Flyers fired their coaches over the weekend, and the Canucks took it a step further, firing their general manager as well. It’s probably too little, too late, though, as they are at or near the bottom of their respective conferences.

I would be very surprised if either team made the playoffs this season. That said, I have a little more faith in Bruce Boudreau’s ability to turn the Canucks around than I do in the Flyers’ interim head coach Mike Yeo.

Boudreau is a world-class coach who will get the best out of the roster in Vancouver. The Canucks likely won’t make the playoffs, but I expect to see more of a consistent effort from this team. Boudreau won’t stand for any less. Yeo, on the other hand, takes over for a fired coach for the third time since 2011. There are better coaches out there, but he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. It would be hard for the Flyers to be any worse than they have been, but I don’t expect them to turn their season around either.

Islanders trending in the wrong direction

Entering the season, I had the Islanders projected to win the Metropolitan Division about as often as the Hurricanes, and it’s looking like one of my worst predictions. However, most prognosticators agreed, as did the betting market. The Islanders had a tough start, with 13 road games in a row, and a COVID-19 outbreak torpedoed their chance to recover from that. Injuries to Brock Nelson and Ryan Pulock have also held them back.

The Islanders do have good goaltending, but their underlying numbers are very poor. It’s been so bad that the Islanders haven’t had a positive expected goal differential in a game since Nov. 11. That’s nine games, and they were outshot in all of them. Barry Trotz is a great coach, but it’s going to be tough for him to turn this around unless the team makes some changes.

Canadiens stuck in a mess in Montreal

The Canadiens were always going to take a step back this season, as the Atlantic Division is simply too tough, but things have spiraled out of control quickly. They fired their general manager, and since then, their list of injured players has only grown. The team is in disarray and grades out as a bottom-five team offensively and defensively.

Goaltender Carey Price is slated to return at some point, but asking him to turn their season around is unreasonable. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see somewhat of a teardown as this team was built by the previous general manager, and whomever the organization finds to fill the role will want to shape the roster.

Coyotes still destined to finish last in the NHL

Arizona has won only five games all season, but four of them have come in their last 10 games. So what does this mean for the biggest underdog in the NHL on any given night? Not much. The Coyotes are the worst team in the league, according to Evolving Hockey’s expected-goals model, and they have scored only 32 percent of expected goals all season. The next-worst team has scored 39 percent. Luck is the only dynamic variable here, as the Coyotes playing poorly is constant.

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