NHL Watchability Rankings: The bottom 16
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the upcoming NHL season, from the superstars who continue to anchor their franchises to big names in new places and an expansion team in the Pacific Northwest.
But many of the league's clubs will be less than enthralling in 2021-22 for one reason or another. Some simply won't be competitive, while others lack game-changing players or confine solid rosters to dull playing styles.
The following list isn't a typical power ranking or sorting of the league's best and worst teams, but merely a look at which squads should be the most entertaining this season.
With that in mind, here are theScore's 16 least watchable NHL clubs in 2021-22. Check back Monday for the season's 16 most watchable teams.
32. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres were awful even with Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall in the lineup last season. Hall is long gone, Eichel's future with Buffalo is in severe doubt, and the team let talented goalie Linus Ullmark walk over the summer. Not even Rasmus Dahlin and Dylan Cozens can make the Sabres watchable now.
31. Arizona Coyotes
Most of the players on an already limited list of reasons to watch the Coyotes exited amid Arizona's offseason fire sale. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland, and Michael Bunting were among those either shipped out or let go, and the Coyotes' biggest remaining draw - Phil Kessel - is reportedly not in their plans going forward. Let the teardown continue.
30. Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings will probably remain one of the NHL's worst teams in 2021-22. They should be slightly more interesting with Calder Trophy finalist Alex Nedeljkovic and 2020 fourth overall pick Lucas Raymond in the fold, but losing Jakub Vrana for four months doesn't help Detroit's watchability.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets
There's virtually no good reason to watch the Blue Jackets on a regular basis anymore. Columbus traded the supremely skilled Seth Jones, leaving Patrik Laine as its highest-potential player. But the Finnish forward struggled after the Blue Jackets acquired him last season, and it remains to be seen if he can rediscover his form on a team largely devoid of talent.
28. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks aren't nearly as compelling as they used to be. The NHL is still investigating Evander Kane on multiple fronts, and some of his teammates reportedly don't want him back. That drama could make watching San Jose games somewhat tempting, but Tomas Hertl's murky future and underwhelming supporting cast leave little cause for excitement.
27. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks clearly won't be competitive this season, which is hardly surprising for a rebuilding team. Still, with Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale leading Anaheim's youth movement, this club could warrant some viewing once its top prospects get comfortable in the NHL.
26. Los Angeles Kings
The additions of Phillip Danault, Viktor Arvidsson, and Alexander Edler should improve a Kings squad already on the rise. But the loss of prized blue-chip prospect Quinton Byfield to a broken ankle means Los Angeles won't be as watchable as expected - at least until later in the season.
25. Nashville Predators
Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg are still worth watching, but that's about it as far as the Predators are concerned. Juuse Saros is underrated, and Eeli Tolvanen might finally break out in 2021-22, but Nashville is far from appointment viewing.
24. Ottawa Senators
Assuming Brady Tkachuk re-signs relatively soon, the Senators should once again be more watchable than their record suggests. Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, and Shane Pinto give Ottawa a talented young core anchored by the ever-dependable Thomas Chabot. The Senators should be relatively fun to watch even if they underwhelm in the standings.
23. New Jersey Devils
Dougie Hamilton makes the Devils unexpectedly relevant after they surprisingly signed him in free agency. His possession-driving skills should make his new team easier on the eyes, while Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier will likely take strides. Still, New Jersey probably won't be consistently compelling just yet.
22. Calgary Flames
Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk are usually worth tuning in for, especially considering the latter's ability to get under opponents' skin. But the Flames have been less entertaining since Darryl Sutter returned as head coach. Calgary's offseason additions mostly suit the bench boss' grinding style, and Blake Coleman doesn't move the entertainment needle much either.
21. Montreal Canadiens
It's not clear when Carey Price will return from the NHL's player assistance program, Shea Weber's career may be over due to injury, and offseason signing Mike Hoffman is also hurt. Calder Trophy favorite Cole Caufield will likely dazzle, but this Canadiens lineup is otherwise severely depleted compared to the one that reached the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.
20. St. Louis Blues
The Blues have been consistently competitive in recent years, but they don't play the most exciting brand of hockey. St. Louis was seventh-worst in the NHL in expected goals for percentage at five-on-five last season, with a middling offense and a defense that ranked in the bottom half of the league in all situations. Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Saad are solid additions, but this team doesn't scream entertainment.
19. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers may be better this season after a disappointing effort in 2020-21. But while Philadelphia remains deep up front, it lacks an elite game-breaker despite Sean Couturier's talents. Goaltender Carter Hart should bounce back behind a revamped blue line, but the Flyers don't project as one of the NHL's most watchable squads.
18. Vancouver Canucks
Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are must-watch players for the Canucks, and Brock Boeser is highly skilled in his own right. Vancouver should make gains this season with Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the fold, and the team will be worth watching to see if its offseason overhaul pays dividends.
17. Pittsburgh Penguins
With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin injured to start the campaign and Jake Guentzel and Zach Aston-Reese recovering from COVID-19, watching the Penguins won't be as enjoyable as usual. Even when Crosby and Malkin return, the aging duo isn't guaranteed to be as explosive as it once was - and the same holds true for the team itself.
(Analytics source: Natural Stat Trick)
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