I love all the people who think this is such an awful thing that happened on Friday night. Look, I am with Brian Burke that this makes the NHL look bush league that a very damn good team could end up winning the draft lottery, and not only that, but it comes in a year where you have a STUD at the top. But the problem for the detractors is…you have three other leagues looking at the NHL right now saying “FUCK ME!!! They just stumbled onto some incredible drama!!!”
This is GREAT for the league! The teams that didn’t make the play-in round had their night, the league probably had terrific ratings for the lottery, and now the buzz can continue about it as we wait to find out who will win Lafrenière. It is PERFECT. Not to mention, it actually adds a layer of intrigue to the play-in round. Nobody’s fan base is going to do much crying about “not making the playoffs” because all those teams have a 12.5% chance to win a foundational player.
So who needs him the most? Who needs him the least? Glad you asked! Welcome to the first…and last…Alexis Lafrenière power rankings! All 16 possibilities ranked from “need him the least” to “need him the most”.
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16. Pittsburgh Penguins
Three Cups and possibly counting for Sid, Geno, and company. I get the argument for them needing to replenish, but while the Packers went from Favre to Rodgers, and the Colts went from Manning to Luck, this would be more along the lines of Favre or Manning getting a rookie Barry Sanders while they still had a bit of their primes left. They’ve had their success and Jim Rutherford has had more than his fair share of bounces while being a below-average GM who the hockey people will instantly put into the hall of fame for his FAKE three Cups. Oh FUCK YES I said that.
15. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs edge out the Oilers here basically for one reason: I think he would be a bit redundant for the Leafs. It would be intriguing to see what Dubas would do with him though. The door would be wide ass open to move Nylander or even Marner for that stud on the blueline. Or better yet, sign that stud on the blueline named Alex Pietrangelo and deal a guy like Marner for a mountain of picks and prospects so you keep the cupboard stocked. The problem with either of those moves though is once GM’s know you’re looking to do a move like that, they become much more miserable to work with. No GM wants to be the guy who helps a team acquire that final piece to the puzzle.
14. Edmonton Oilers
What’s SO dumb, is that fans think they “don’t need to win because they’ve had their chances”. That’s the kind of completely fucked logic from fans that created this mess in the first place! The Oilers were legitimately an awfully run organization! They weren’t ever tanking! In fact, when they won McDavid, they finished 28th, they were the only team in the bottom four which were actually attempting to win games and weren’t icing awful lineups! But people today don’t want to hear truths, they want to hear the narratives that justify the positions they take. Anyway, past draft lottery luck aside, they’re now set up to be a contender. The blueline is maybe the 2nd best in the league moving forward (I’d have the Avs first), and they have a one/two punch down the middle essentially fighting for the Hart trophy every season. Lafrenière fits PERFECTLY given he’s a late 01 and is ready to step into every top six in the league for a 3.775 mil cap hit, and the one piece they lack is a top-six winger. He’d instantly make them a Cup contender because he’s that good and fits that well.
13. Carolina Hurricanes
The last thing Eric Tulsky needs is a franchise player! This team is so insanely well set up with their guys locked down and a loaded system as well, if they were to win Lafrenière they would go from fringe contenders to THE team in the East. But if I’m going to make the case as to why they could use him, they might not have that go to horse up front. They probably do, Aho is close to that, Svechnikov is close to that. But with Lafrenière they definitely would.
12. Nashville Predators
As much as I find myself loving the crowds in Nashville, and just finding it one of the most lovable markets in the league at the moment, the fan in me loathes the thought of them getting Lafrenière given they’re playing on such an uneven playing field thanks to there being no state tax so they’re able to get all their guys on hometown discounts. As far as fearing them though, Lafrenière definitely re-opens this group’s window to win a Cup, but I don’t believe it makes an aging core much more intimidating.
11. Winnipeg Jets
If I’m looking to make some sort of case for the Jets, the best I can say is that they deserve a bit of a break given that they were on the verge of winning a Cup and basically everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong for them last off-season. Lafrenière isn’t much of a need, but perhaps this would free them up to move a guy like Ehlers for that big-time D-man they covet?
10. Vancouver Canucks
You could maybe make the best argument for the Canucks of all the teams who “don’t” need him. Why? They’ve had shit luck in the lottery every year, always dropping. It would be a tremendous landing spot for Lafrenière with such a young team that has most of their pieces already in place. If this were to happen, what a battle it would be in the Pacific moving forward between the Canucks and the Oilers…and even as an Oilers fan, I’d probably have to give the edge to the Canucks as the better team moving forward.
9. Florida Panthers
My crystal ball has them much higher on this list than 9, but I don’t want to put all my money on just that. What am I talking about? Owner Vinnie Viola gave GM Dale Tallon a mandate to cut payroll at the trade deadline. I believe the number was 10 million (basically saying go get the money back you made me piss away on Bobrovsky). Well if they were that hard up for money pre-pandemic, what kind of financial shape are they going to be in post-pandemic?! They could be in serious trouble, and therefore a kid like Lafrenière could afford them the luxury of moving one of their bigger contracts and getting down to the cap floor without overly hurting their ability to compete.
8. Chicago Blackhawks
It’s a bit like Pittsburgh in that they’ve had their success, but they also just caught a massive break in last year’s draft lottery winning the 3rd pick. Having said this though, they still lack some big pieces to get back to where they were competing for Cups. Lafrenière wouldn’t be the end of this rebuild, they’d still need more. But a foundational piece like he will be is damn near impossible to find.
7. NY Rangers
I’m not nearly as high on the Rangers moving forward as most are. Granted, they’re a little different from most teams with how easy it is for them to draw UFA’s, but if their rebuild is essentially done I honestly don’t see them being a team that’ll win. A lot of good pieces, very few truly foundational pieces though in my opinion. They win Lafrenière though, all of a sudden they have a stud up front, a stud between the pipes, and a rock-solid blueline moving forward.
6. Calgary Flames
If I’m tiering this, I’d say this is the start of the 2nd tier of teams that need him the most, and most wouldn’t think the Flames are hard up for him, but they not only badly need him…they might not be far from starting over if they don’t. What a difference a year makes, in early April of 2019 the hockey world was pretty much unanimous in its belief that the Flames were on the brink of a 3-4 year run of being a Cup contender. Now you look at it, and outside of Matt Tkachuk what is the prize piece they have to build around? We’ll see what Gaudreau brings back in a trade (as it really sounded like he was set to be dealt this off-season pre-pandemic), but to me, it looks pretty damn bleak. Winning the lottery would change that in a hurry though.
5. NY Islanders
One of two teams who not only need it from the standpoint of having a marquee piece to build around but also to avoid giving up what could be a very high draft pick if they don’t win it. The trade for J.G. Pageau (that I will NEVER understand) gave the Sens the Islanders 1st round pick and is only top-three protected. A combination of Lafrenière and Barzal to build around moving forward would be huge for the Islanders.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets
They’ve lacked a star ever since Rick Nash was in town. Ironically, I fear Lafrenière could be a lot like Nash in that he’s too good to ever be bad with, but as a winger will never be able to carry a team anywhere. Anyway, Blue Jackets fans don’t care about that, they just badly want a guy to truly build around. Lafrenière up-front, Jones and Werenski on the back-end, all of a sudden the Blue Jackets would have a pretty good thing going on. If they don’t win him, as scrappy as they are, I think they’re just delaying the inevitable.
3. Minnesota Wild
It looks pretty obvious to me that owner Craig Leipold is desperately fighting to avoid the rebuild that badly needs to happen with the Wild. So they end up third on my rankings because should they not win Lafrenière, I could see this team becoming a complete mess much the same way the Sharks currently are before Leipold simply has no other choice, in which case it goes from being a 3-5 year rebuild to a 5-10 year rebuild. Win Lafrenière though, and while they’d probably have a tough time building a contender around him without sinking to the bottom of the standings, they’d be back to what they’ve been as a perennial playoff team.
2. Arizona Coyotes
The second of the two teams which need this for two reasons. I might throw a third reason on it for the Coyotes though. 1) they need a marquee player to build around, 2) they lose their pick to Jersey if they don’t win it, 3) this pandemic is going to crush some of the weaker teams financially in the league. Even with the solid job John Chayka has done there, they still lack a winner, are dreadful to watch and don’t have a star to come out and see. If they don’t win this lottery, it really might be the beginning of the end of the Coyotes in Arizona (actually this time, not like the 20 times Pierre Lebrun reported it to be happening…). Kessel has blown up in their face, Hall has REALLY blown up in their face, they legitimately might be better off losing the play-in round and taking their 12.5% chances.
1. Montreal Canadiens
For many more reasons than just to turn their franchise around that I have repeatedly said is stuck in neutral and badly needs to blow it up, winning Lafrenière would skip a few steps and be a HORRENDOUS example of how to properly build a franchise! (and you watch, teams would emulate it and say “all you need to do is get in the lottery” just like they say with the playoffs) Without a doubt part of this is me romanticizing the local kid playing at home, the Habs have not had a Quebec born star for 25 years (a franchise which prior to that ALWAYS had that guy), so it’s just a terrific fit. As an Oilers fan, I’m obviously drooling at the idea of the Oilers winning this (while the rest of the hockey world is ready to riot if they do…blame yourselves for getting the lottery changed in the first place…). But if the Oilers don’t, then I’m all in for the Habs to win this. Before I finish this up, I’m well aware that I made the case for the Coyotes to actually be the team that needs him the most. But Montreal is tops on the list for me because while they need him pretty bad, the LEAGUE also needs this scenario to happen because the Habs being relevant is better for the league. The Coyotes winning likely wouldn’t move the needle, and if this were to happen and it was another nail in the coffin for Arizona, moving them to Quebec City (for example) would likely be a win for the league even though they have fought it for years. The Canadiens being an upper-echelon team led by a francophone star, that’s massive.
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