There are three different stages every NHL team goes through at one time or another. Either they team are contending for the cup, they are somewhere in the middle or they are rebuilding for the future. If a team is rebuilding, they will be trading for picks and prospects and scouting the draft. If a team is contending, they are making trades or signing a player to fill a need. Teams in the middle vary, as they can be in the process of going in one or the other direction.
Rebuilding is a hard process for the general manager, as they have to do the complete opposite of what the ultimate goal is, winning a Stanley Cup. Getting rid of talent in hopes of gathering more prospects is part of the processes, and unless you get lucky and find an Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid, teams can go years being stuck in this stage for quite a while. The following five teams, in my opinion, currently hold the title for being the worst rebuilding teams in the NHL.
It feels like the Sabres have been in rebuilding mode forever. It is unfortunate that they lost out on the Aaron Ekblad, the Conor McDavid and the Auston Matthews sweepstakes when they were tanking. Of course, Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Alex Nylander are good consolation prizes but they should have been better than the last place in their division. No one was expecting the Sabres to make the playoffs this season but they should have made progress. Key injuries to Eichel, Okposo, and O’Reilly ultimately did them in. But they aren’t at the same level that the Panthers, Oilers, and Maple Leafs are. The bright side is they should have a healthy team next season and maybe the new GM Jason Botterill and new coach can make a change. But for now, they are one of the bottom-dwelling teams yet again.
Detroit Red Wings
This is a little unfair, considering the Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years and just started rebuilding. However, it’s been a long time coming for Detroit. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg kept the Red Wings in contention for a couple of years. Now that Datsyuk has retired and Zetterberg isn’t what he used to be, the Red Wings don’t have a star on their team. Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, and Anthony Mantha have shown promise the last two seasons. but they all didn’t get more than 50 points this season. Zetterberg can’t singlehandedly get this team in the playoffs. Let alone the defense and goaltending, that was an even bigger problem. After 25 years of being the playoffs, it might be good for Detroit to be in rebuilding mode for a couple of years, but overall, it appears there was no plan set in motion when the wheels were coming off. The team didn’t seem prepared for when this day came and because of that, they’ll have an uphill battle to get back to their winning ways.
New Jersey Devils
The Canucks finally made trades for the future during the trade deadline, with the acquisitions of Nikolay Goldobin and Jonathan Dahlen by giving up veterans Alexandre Burrows and Jannik Hansen. However, this is still a team that has the aging Sedin twins for two more years and 31-year-old Loui Eriksson for 5 more years. Bo Horvat looks good and is a player the Canucks should and can build around but they don’t have a lot else in the farm. The Canucks should have done more to rebuild a couple of seasons ago when they traded 3 goaltenders within 3 years. With Thatcher Demko in their system, Vancouver is better off than the teams mentioned above but there need to be more moves that GM Jim Benning needs to do to completely blow up this team to get younger.