Another week of mostly losing has passed and a group of teams are still jockeying for one of the coveted (?) spots in the annual NHL Draft Lottery. Every non-playoff team has an entry in this lottery but only four teams can “win” and move four spots ahead in the draft order to select future NHL superstar Nail Yakupov with the first overall selection.
The following is a brief summary of the teams most likely to be in contention in the Fail For Nail™ competition during the next two weeks.
ALREADY FAILED FOR NAIL
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (2-1-0 last week, 55 points overall): Assuming he’s still in charge after the end of the regular season, general manager Scott Howson can make arrangements to appear on the televised draft lottery. If by some strange reason the Blue Jackets went undefeated the rest of the season they’d still be the fourth-worst team in the league.
FAILED IF THE REGULAR SEASON ENDED TODAY
EDMONTON OILERS (2-0-2, 69 points): This team would have been in the same category as Columbus but last week’s wins against Nashville and Florida and shootout losses against Phoenix and Tampa Bay have given new life to the teams “below” them in the standings. With games against Columbus, Dallas and Los Angeles there’s a chance the Oilers may take themselves out of this competition altogether.
MONTREAL CANADIENS (1-2-0, 71 points): With only six games remaining the Habs find themselves in the unenviable position of becoming the most likely team to finish with the second-worst record in the league. They have three games against Florida, the New York Rangers and Washington, which should translate to three losses if they play “up” to their abilities.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS (1-1-0, 71 points): The Islanders lost ground basically for having last week off. This week the NHL gods have given them four games, one against Florida, home-and-home games against Pittsburgh followed by Boston. This could be a rough week for the Isles, who could use another forward to play alongside John Tavares.
MINNESOTA WILD (2-1-0, 72 points): The Wild got hot at the wrong time of the year, beating Vancouver and Calgary before losing to Buffalo last night. With upcoming games against Washington, the New York Rangers, Florida and Los Angeles they have a shot to overtake Montreal and the Islanders.
FAILING TO FAIL FOR NAIL
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (1-2-1, 75 points): The Leafs were on the right track with blowout losses to Boston and the Islanders but inexplicably beat New Jersey in a shootout and nearly did the same against the Rangers last night. They find themselves on the outside looking in with only six games left and don’t expect Carolina, Philadelphia or Buffalo to make it easy for them to go 0-3-0 this week.
CAROLINA HURRICANES (2-2-0, 75 points): Like the Leafs, the ‘Canes have six games left to make some noise. Games against Toronto, Winnipeg and New Jersey this week may give them the momentum to tank, but if they go 0-3-0 you know someone’s going to raise an eyebrow over that 5-1 loss to Columbus the other night.
ANAHEIM DUCKS (2-1-0, 75 points): The Ducks were on the right track until they beat San Jose and St. Louis before taking the rest of the week off. This week they have games against Boston, San Jose and Phoenix – and if they go 2-1-0 again they can forget about drafting first overall.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (2-1-0, 75 points): The Bolts proved they’re not good at this failing thing by beating Edmonton and the Islanders when they didn’t need to. The only reason why they still have a shot in this competition is they have eight games in thirteen days. Philadelphia, Boston, New Jersey and Winnipeg are on tap this week. Oh my!
WINNIPEG JETS (1-3-0, 78 points): Up until this past week the Jets were in contention for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Three losses in four games later they find themselves between a lottery pick and a playoff spot. With seven games left it’s likely too little, too late for the Jets to make a run at Nail Yakupov – or the Buffalo Sabres for that matter.