Another week of (mostly) losing has gone by quicker than you can say Sean Avery is retired, but there’s nine teams that still have a realistic shot at finishing in the bottom five of the NHL standings, which automatically qualifies them for the Fail For Nail Sweepstakes™. The “winner” of the Fail For Nail Sweepstakes™ gets a shot to get the first pick overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and the right to select Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov, who is supposed to be The Next Big Thing in the NHL in a few years.
Let’s take a moment to handicap the nine teams that as of this morning are either in or out:
IN (FEELING LUCKY)
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (0-3-0 last week, 51 points overall): There is no stopping the Blue Jackets from finishing last overall and having a 48.2% chance of getting the first pick. They got blanked 3-0 by the Edmonton Oilers, their closest competition, on Wednesday. They face Calgary, Chicago and Carolina this week, which likely means three more losses.
EDMONTON OILERS (2-1-0, 63 points): Somewhere in Alberta, general manager Steve Tambellini is cursing the fact his team beat the Blue Jackets and Flames this past week. They play Phoenix at home, then embark on a Southeast road trip with stops in Nashville, Tampa Bay and Florida. They should lose three of those games to get back on track.
MINNESOTA WILD (0-3-0, 68 points): This club mailed it in this past week, which kept them in third place for the week. With two teams on their heels, it’s a good thing they have Vancouver, Calgary and Buffalo on this week’s schedule.
MONTREAL CANADIENS (1-0-3, 69 points): This team nearly took itself out of the running when they accumulated three overtime losses against Buffalo, Ottawa and the Islanders. Losing in a shootout isn’t a moral victory. It’s a step up to mediocrity.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS (1-1-2, 69 points): The Islanders also lost ground to the Wild when they lost two games in overtime and beat the Canadiens last night. Well, someone had to get the two points, right? The good news is they play Toronto and Tampa Bay next week, which should guarantee two more losses.
OUT (NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE PLAYOFFS EITHER)
ANAHEIM DUCKS (1-1-1, 71 points): They did what they were supposed to do against the Avalanche and Kings, but they had to go out and beat the Red Wings. However, with three games in four nights against Nashville, San Jose and St. Louis they might still be a contender in this derby.
CAROLINA HURRICANES (2-2-0, 71 points): The ‘Canes can’t help themselves. You have no idea which team is going to show up on a given night. Is it the one that’s capable of playing playoff hockey? Or the one that got them where they are in the standings? They have Winnipeg, Florida, Columbus and Detroit on this week’s schedule and I see another split in their future.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (1-2-0, 71 points): This team has gone 1-4-1 the past two weeks but I don’t see them “gaining” ground on Anaheim or Carolina this week. They have Buffalo, Edmonton and the Islanders on this week’s schedule, so they’re more likely to make a late charge for the last playoff spot.
NO MAN’S LAND
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (2-2-0, 72 points): My team was doing great in this Fail For Nail Sweepstakes™ until they decided to play defense and win against Tampa Bay and Ottawa. With ten games to go they’re six points out of a playoff spot but only three points out of a lottery pick. Where will they go? With games against Boston, the Islanders, New Jersey and the Rangers this week they could easily tank – or catch Buffalo and Winnipeg in the Eastern Conference standings.