Top to Bottom: A reason for every NHL team to be thankful

Updated: November 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm by Cam Lewis

Hockey coverage is often so negative. We look at why things aren’t going to happen or why a team is actually significantly worse than they appear to be. So to celebrate American Thanksgiving, let’s look at a reason fans of every NHL team have to feel thankful.

Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks should be thankful that they play in a bad division. When the Oilers are their best competition, you know it’s easy. And they should be thankful for Mike Trout. — Scott Maxwell 

Arizona Coyotes

The Erie Otters are certainly thankful to have Dylan Strome back, as he bolsters a lineup that frankly doesn’t need that much – wait, pardon? Oh, you wanted to know what the Coyotes have to be thankful for? Oh. Hmm. Give me a second.

Wait, I got it. While the Canucks and Islanders are really making a push, the Coyotes are still a strong candidate in the Nolan Patrick sweepstakes. And on a more serious note, the other thing they can be thankful for is their talented youth. The list of young players exempt from the Vegas expansion draft includes: Max Domi, Jakob Chychrun, the aforementioned Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, and Lawson Crouse. And that doesn’t even include 2016 first round pick Clayton Keller, who’s at Boston University and hasn’t yet signed his ELC. The future is bright, and we can all toast to that as we sit around our Thanksgiving tables. — Megan Kim 

Boston Bruins

Bruins fans should be thankful for Brad Marchand and his new long-term contract, Patrice Bergeron being healthy, and Zdeno Chara finding the fountain of youth. — Cam Lewis

Buffalo Sabres

With Jack Eichel injured, the Sabres are having a hell of a time scoring goals. That said, thanks to excellent play from Anders Nilsson and Robin Lehner in net, the team’s season hasn’t completely imploded just yet! Sabres fans should be thankful that Lehner is finally healthy, and Nilsson is this year’s example of random, high-performance goalie voodoo, because without them, they’d already be looking towards the draft lottery. (And we all know that isn’t something Sabres fans like to think about.) — Cam Lewis

Calgary Flames

Come gather ye’ children it’s high time ye’ learned about a heroic line named the 3M line and a villain named the Calgary Flames’ disappointing 2016-17 season. There is literally – maybe four or five – acceptable things about the Calgary Flames right now.
Named after rookie Matthew Tkachuk, centre Mikael Backlund, and winger Michael Frolik’s first initials; the line has been the only consistent line this season. And in every ounce of justifiable reason, Glen Gulutzan has kept them together. It’s one of the rare things ol’ Glen has done correctly this year. Prior to last night’s win over Columbus, the line has played together for 127.34 at 5v5.
In that time they’ve amassed the following statistical outputs:
– 57.44% CF (65.49 CF60, 48.53 CA60)
– 55.19% FF (47.59 CF60, 38.64 FA60)
– 57.94% SF (34.4 SF60, 24.97 SA60) 

From a pure shot metric standpoint, they’re dominating competition most nights. All while an 18-year-old rookie who plays like he’s about to drink the blood of his enemies keeps up with two of the league’s better two-way forwards in Backlund and Frolik. The line has legitimate chemistry, they feed off each other’s individual skills/attributes, and it’s a nice sight for fans.
It’s almost like the two European veterans are raising this young boy to play the NHL game before our very eyes.
Did I mention they’re also scoring goals, producing a very nice goal differential, AND doing it in significantly more difficult starts than their teammates? In the aforementioned time together – along with the other metrics – they’ve done the following: 54.69% xGF (2.82 xGF, 2.34 xGA) – 66.67% GF (3.77 GF60, 1.88 GA60) – 22.37 OZS%, 40.79% DZS, and 36.84% NZS

They’re Gulutzan’s atypical shutdown line, a line that spends a lot of time handcuffing the opposition, breaking out of their own zone, and wrecking havoc in the offensive zone. The fact that with their starts being much more difficult relative to their peers AND sporting a ZFR (zone finish rate) of 51.06 is impressive.
Their PDO might regress to mean a bit (prior to the Columbus win: 103.41, xPDO of 99.88) due to their SH% being around 10.96% at 5v5, but I feel confident in this line to continue to be effective. Tkachuk is always involved in the play, even if it’s Backlund and Frolik doing their thing.
This line gives me hope and it’s why I still watch this team who seemingly can be circling the drain most games until this line is on the ice. — Mike FAIL

Carolina Hurricanes 

Quebec City? Hartford again? Who knows, but they’re still in Raleigh right now, and for that, Canes fans should be thankful. They’ve got a good, young team loaded with a ridiculous amount of talent on the blue line, and it would be a shame if their fans didn’t get to watch them come into their own

Chicago Blackhawks 

There’s a lot of reasons for fans of Hawks to be thankful. The team is good, yet again, with a group of random, young players you’ve never heard of filling their roster behind that same core of Kane, Toews, Keith, and Crawford. But if there’s one guy to feel especially thankful for, it’s the underrated Marian Hossa, who’s having one of the best seasons of his career at the age of 37. — Cam Lewis

Colorado Avalanche 

Avs fans can be thankful that this guy isn’t around to make roster and in-game decisions. The team may be in seventh in the loaded Central Division, but their underlying numbers suggest things are looking up for them. If only they hadn’t wasted all of their PDO luck for the decade in 2013-14. — Cam Lewis

Columbus Blue Jackets 

If you’re a Blue Jackets fan, there’s plenty to be thankful for at this time of year. 

They have the second best goal differential in the Metropolitan Division. They are occupying a playoff spot. The cannon has sounded off 41 times at home. And they’re currently on pace for 255 goals this season, 42 more than last year and potentially the most ever since entering the National Hockey League in 2000-01. More importantly, they’re off to one of their best starts in franchise history. Eighteen games in and Columbus has racked up 23 points, boasting a record of 10-5-3. The last time they were this hot was in 2010-11 when they went 12-6-0 out of the gate.

But don’t take my word for it. In reflecting on what today means, Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno had this to say, “I guess I’m most thankful for the opportunity to play the sport I love for a living and for all that it provides me and my family. We meet so many great people who become good friends and I get another family at the rink. It’s really quite special what the game provides on so many levels. So I’m most thankful for that.” — Mike Commito 

Dallas Stars

Things Dallas can be thankful for: Well… Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are healthy. Unfortunately, they’re basically the only ones. The Stars probably haven’t iced their optimal lineup a single time this season. Part of that is due to Lindy Ruff’s weird tendency to inexplicably scratch young defenseman Stephen Johns, but the main reason for their wonky lineups is the slew of injuries they’ve suffered. Like, guys who have missed time this year include (BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO): Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Cody Eakin, and Mattias Janmark. At one point, the team was about 40% Texas Stars call-ups. But wait, I’m getting off track. Here’s what the Stars can be thankful for: More or less league-average goaltending! Started from the bottom, now we above the bottom. Still not at the top, but not at the bottom. Baby steps, right? At least until we figure out what Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay are doing with their goalies, eh? — Megan Kim

Detroit Red Wings

In a few months, they’ll get to go back to watching players from that incredible dynasty that saw multiple Stanley Cup victories, never-ending playoff appearances, and Hall of Fame careers. You know, the one that ultimately left them in this hideous mess of trying to be a competitive team but not actually being good? Yeah, that one! For one day, Wings fans can remember the good old days and forget about the corpse being dangled in front of them. — Cam Lewis

Edmonton Oilers

On behalf of the Oilers organization and Edmonton fans everywhere, I’d like to thank the 2014-2015 Arizona Coyotes.

Arizona, you were terrible in that fateful 2014-2015 season. You finished with 56 points on the year—a miraculous six fewer than the terrible Edmonton Oilers. Even more miraculous is that you, the Arizona Coyotes of 2014-2015, swept the Oilers five-games-to-none that season. As one of the only two Western Conference teams seriously contending in the Connor McDavid basement sweepstakes, your five decisive victories over the Oilers (three of which were earned on the back of single-goal-against efforts by former Oiler Devan Dubnyk) stole from Edmonton nine potentially fate-altering points. While the Oilers managed to best the Buffalo Sabres in both of their 2014-2015 meetings, they could not manage a single victory against you, O Coyotes, when only two (in addition to that single overtime pity-point) would have irrevocably altered the standings.

O Coyotes, you all but assured the Edmonton Oilers their place in history as the 28th overall team in the 2014-2015 season. The rest, as they say, is written on the golden card of history… — Curtis LeBlanc 

Florida Panthers

Because they employ a social media guy who isn’t afraid to drop a tweet like this:

That, and, y’know, the team is actually good for the first time in, well, ever. Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov… When has Florida ever had a collection of young talent like this? — Cam Lewis

Los Angeles Kings

Things aren’t going as well as the Kings would like, and the team is getting old and is slowing down. But thankfully, unlike many other teams, they have memories of two Stanley Cups in recent memory. Kings fans can be thankful that even when times are rough, they can throw on a 2012 Kings playoff run YouTube clip, start to feel warm inside, and not feel embarrassed that they’re feeling that way over something that happened decades ago. — Cam Lewis

Minnesota Wild 

The Minnesota Wild should be thankful that people forget that they exist — Scott Maxwell 

Montreal Canadiens 

What do the Habs have to be thankful for? Well, for one thing, Marc Bergevin’s foxhole seems to be a less tense place than it was last season, although to be fair, we haven’t made it through December yet. So I guess I’ll get back to you on the state of the foxhole. In all seriousness, though, the one thing they should be thankful for above all else? Carey Price’s health. And because that answer seems too easy: Here are a few other things to appreciate: Alex Galchenyuk has been producing, and he’s doing so consistently. He’s only been held off the score sheet four times this year, and as of Tuesday evening, sits fifth in the league with 21 points. Shea Weber has been a bright spot with seven power play goals on the season already. Oh, and Alex Radulov has been something of a revelation. Life is good for the Canadiens right now, and as soon as Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher get going, they’ll have even more to be thankful for. — Megan Kim

Nashville Predators 

I’m sure it’s been kinda difficult to watch Shea Weber have tremendous luck carry him to very positive results tear the world on fire in his first season since being dealt to Montreal. But despite their slower-than-expected start to the season, they still have P.K. Subban on their team making slick plays like this:

And celebrating like this:

Throwing the numbers, contracts, and everything out the window, that Subban for Weber deal was perfect for both teams. Montreal got the captain serious they craved, and Nashville got an exciting personality to help continue to grow the game in a non-traditional market. — Cam Lewis

New Jersey Devils 

Hall’s injured right now, but when he was healthy, he was involved in roughly half of the team’s goals scored in some capacity. — Cam Lewis

New York Islanders

The new arena is…. Uhh… Andrew Ladd only has…. Uhhh… At least John Tavares is signed for two more years…? This is a tough one. — Cam Lewis

New York Rangers

This year, as in all years, the Rangers are thankful for Henrik Lundqvist. It should go without saying that he’s one of the best goaltenders in the league and has been for the better part of a decade, but I said it for you just in case. Beyond that, the Rangers are thankful for their forward depth. Michael Grabner as the Carl Hagelin who can actually score, Brandon Pirri for generating tons of shots, Pavel Buchnevich for being the nice and good Russian boy that he is, and JT Miller/Chris Kreider for being their usual dominant selves. I just realized I left out Kevin Hayes, he’s like a baby Joe Thornton and I love watching him play. The Rangers are also thankful for Henrik Lundqvist. Happy Thanksgiving! — Pat Keogh 

Ottawa Senators 

The Ottawa Senators should be thankful for the fact that Erik Karlsson hasn’t left the team. — Scott Maxwell 

Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers fans should be thankful that despite the fact their goalies, Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth, have posted 0.893 and 0.857 save percentages respectively, the team is still right in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference. I guess they can be thankful that more than half of the teams in the league make the playoffs? — Cam Lewis

Pittsburgh Penguins

SID-NEY CROS-BY *clap clap clap-clap-clap* The Penguins have a lot to be thankful for, but that guy mentioned above is at the top of the list. Other things on that list include: A really forward-thinking coach, cool media coverage from stats-savvy guys like Bill West of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, an inexpensive but effective supporting cast (Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, etc.), this video of Phil Kessel that frankly, we should all be thankful for, two good goaltenders (although that’s maybe a complicated thing to be thankful about), and oh, right, 34.5 pounds of silver and nickel alloy in the shape of hockey’s Holy Grail.  You know, these guys have so much to be thankful for it’s almost annoying. — Megan Kim

San Jose Sharks 

Eight more years! Eight more years! Say what you want about how ugly that contract is going to look four or five years from now, but Brent Burns is priceless. The Sharks are lucky to have not only an elite talent that helps them win games and go on deep playoff runs, but a unique one that’s incredibly exciting to watch. Throughout their history, the Sharks have been blessed with a pretty damn incredible group of talent, none more so than the team they have right now. Sharks fans should be thankful for Brent Burns, for Joe Thornton, for Martin Jones, and for that whole group that could easily challenge for the Stanley Cup again this spring. — Cam Lewis  

St. Louis Blues 

It might not be completely represented by their record right now, but the Blues are still a damn good team. Their fans should be thankful for that. Also, beyond that, their Winter Classic jerseys are gorgeous. These things are about as hit and miss as they come, but the Blues killed it. — Cam Lewis

Tampa Bay Lightning 

Coming into the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning had a lot of things for which to be thankful. 

Victor Hedman and Steven Stamos signing long term extension at a little below market value. Nikita Kucherov signing a bridge deal that will be one of the best contracts in the league over the next three years. Todd Richards joining the coaching staff to help fix the power play. 

But above all of that, the organization and its fans are most thankful for the organizational depth that is allowing them to survive injuries to both Stamos and number two defender Anton Stralman as well as Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle and Kucherov at various times. 

The emergence of 19 year old dynamo Brayden point as a winger who can play anywhere in the lineup has been the most surprising development. But he hasn’t been the only one to make a bigger than expected impact. Vladislav Namestnikov has emerged as a legitimate first line forward thriving alongside Kucherov and Stamos when both were healthy. 

Defender Nikita Nesterov is showing major improvement over where he was at this time last year and Slater Koekkoek is showing that he’s ready to be an every day NHLer as well. Without these players, the Lightning would not be able to keep pace in the Atlantic Division amidst all of the injuries. 

Steve Yzerman and the rest of the front office staff have done an impressive job of building a deep organization that can remain competitive even without some of its best players. — Loserpoints 

Toronto Maple Leafs 

The Leafs head into American Thanksgiving playing .500 hockey and will probably finish in the neighbourhood of 80 points while missing the post-season. It’s an improvement, sure, but isn’t much for which to be thankful. Instead, Leafs (and Leafs fans) should be thankful for Brooks Laich in the AHL.

Though a seasoned vet known for grit and leadership, the Leafs acted boldly in favour of a new team direction when they demoted Laich. Instead of playing a game suited to safe, old, reliable types like Laich, the Leafs have embraced “pace” – that is, speed and shot attempts. The Leafs are playing an exciting brand of fast-paced hockey that is tailored to the skill set in the team’s youth movement.

The Leafs get their chances. Their opponents do too: 

It’s been a long time since it’s been fun to watch the Leafs. This season, it’s fun again. And for that, the Leafs and their fans should be thankful. — Sean Tierney 

Vancouver Canucks 

The Canucks have a lot to be thankful for right now. Willie Desjardins probably won’t be their coach for much longer. They’re headed towards getting another top five pick. And if the spirit of giving really shines down on them, Jim Benning’s job may even be in danger. — Shawn Reis 

Washington Capitals 

I would say that the Capitals should be thankful for their good health, especially among their top six, but then TJ Oshie had to go and throw a hit and take himself out of the Caps’ lineup for a few weeks. So… Thanks a lot, TJ. But honestly, the Capitals have plenty to be thankful for even though the injury bug is starting to catch them. 

They’re basically the same team they were last year, when they boasted the best regular season record in the league before running into the eventual Stanley Cup winners in the second round of the playoffs. In fact, they may very well be better: Lars Eller has been steady for them down the middle (if a little penalty-prone), and the biggest difference might be that Brooks Orpik is… Not detrimental to the Capitals’ efforts this year? Huh. Look at that. 

And you know what else they can be thankful for? Nicklas Backstrom’s incredibly adorable new baby. Just look at that face! He’ll still be little enough to put into the Stanley Cup in the spring… hint, hint. — Megan Kim 

Winnipeg Jets 

The Winnipeg Jets should be thankful that Cheveldayoff hypnotized Trouba to return. — Scott Maxwell