When I split season tickets with friends we always know which games would be picked first. We are always looking to get games against our rivals and the star teams in the NHL – Pittsburgh, Washington, Tampa Bay, or the original six teams.
On the other end, it seems like the same old teams were left until the end. These games have the potential to be real snoozers on a Tuesday night in the middle of the winter.
Who are the most boring teams in the NHL? The most boring teams are the ones that either tend to play a tight defensive style or lack any real star power on their team. Often this is one and the same. The five most boring teams in the NHL are the NY Islanders, Florida Panthers, Arizona Coyotes, New Jersey Devils, and Minnesota Wild.Embed from Getty Images
Let’s take a look at all five of these teams, and the special (dark) magic they perform to make the exciting game of hockey dull.
1) NY Islanders
The NY Islanders? Why are they on the list? Didn’t they make the playoffs the last two years, and the conference finals this past year?
Well, yes, they did, but winning doesn’t necessarily exclude you from being boring. In fact, in the NY Islanders case it is exactly what helps them to win.
Based on talent the Islanders are a middle of the pack team. They have a few high end guys including Matthew Barzal, who I actually think is one of the most exciting young players in the league, but they will not win on talent alone.
The way the Islanders have won (and this is the only way that it could happen) is to play a tight defensive game, and squeak out a bunch of low scoring games.
The coach of the NY Islanders, Barry Trotz, is a masterful coach who has implemented a system that the players execute to perfection. It requires the team to play a low-risk smothering style that is based on scoring off of opportunistic turnovers.
A typical game in the playoffs for the Islanders was being heavily outshot in the game, for example 35-20, but still finding a way to win 2-1. Most of the shots the Islanders surrender are from the outside, and not quality scoring chances against. And most of the opportunities the Islanders get are not greeting scoring chances against, but they manage to score on the few opportunities they get.
Low risk games with few scoring chances – it is a winning formula for the Islanders, but boring for all non-Islander fans!
2) Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers franchise started out with so much promise. They went to the Stanley Cup final in their second year of existence. They started a great tradition with the rats, and throwing plastic toy rats on the ice. It seemed like it was going to be a special place to play hockey.
Then management and owners must have, for some reason, decided they disliked the people of Southern Florida, and have continued with a regular consistency to put together below average teams year-after-year. They would get the award for consistency in mediocrity.
Not only has this management led to a sub-par product on the ice, but there is simply no energy from the fans in Southern Florida. It is hard to blame the fans for not wanting to come and watch a team that doesn’t even get close to the playoffs when their rivals a fellow Florida team the Tampa Bay Lightning have won two Stanley Cups in the past 20 years.
The mediocrity of the Panthers is best shown in the woeful attendance that accompanies the home games. The stats say they average 12 thousand a game, but in reality the attendance to some games is probably in the 5 to 7 thousand range.
The games have no atmosphere and little enthusiasm.Embed from Getty Images
It is a shame because the fans of Southern Florida have shown they will support the team, but first they must be given a team that is, at least, a little competitive.
Let’s hope that Barkov, Huberdeau, and Ekblad can one day turn the show around. I would love to see the return of the rat!
3) Arizona Coyotes
How many times have the Arizona Coyotes been to the Stanley Cup playoffs in the last 17 years? 4 times. Wow, you have to try really hard to make the playoffs that few times.
And how many playoff rounds have the Coyotes won since they came to the desert in 1996-97? 2. Yes, only twice and they both came in the same year – 2011-12.
It’s not simply that they have not had much success that makes them boring it has been the lack of high-end talent that the Coyotes have failed to attract.
I like Shane Doan, and he is an excellent hockey player, but he is not the type of player that brings you out of your seat by dazzling you with skill. The Coyotoes have not had exciting offensive players in the existence of their franchise. At the start there was Keith Tkachuk and Jeremy Roenick, but not a lot since then.
The Coyotes have not been able to draft any high-end elite players, and have relied the past decade on being a defensive team. It has not pushed them to winning like the Islanders, but has kept them from bottoming out in the standings, which prevents them from getting high-end draft picks and elite talent.
I don’t see much change on the horizon for the Coyotes as they do not have a #1 draft pick in 2020 or 2021, and they are decidedly mediocre. They will try to win games with their excellent goaltending led by Darcy Kuemper, but they will sure not put on an exciting show in getting the win.
4) New Jersey Devils
If you look up in the dictionary ‘boring hockey team’, you would find the New Jersey Devils.
In fact, they were probably the team that invented boring hockey.
Hockey in the 1990s shifted from the high-flying 1980s of Gretzky to Lemieux to the dead puck era. The dead puck era was defined by low-scoring with a tight defensive structure.
You can actually pinpoint the day when the transformation was complete – June 24, 1995. What happened that day? Well, the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup.
Instead of winning the Stanley Cup by having the best offensive team like the Oilers or Penguins, the Devils had by far the best defensive team. Led by Martin Brodeur in net with Scott Stevens, Scott Neidermayer and Ken Daneyko on defense the New Jersey Devils were a defensive juggernaut.
The team knew they could win games 1-0 or 2-1 and that is what they did. They would play a very sound defensive structure and wait for teams to make mistakes and then score on the counter-attack or the powerplay.
As the NHL is a copycat league, other teams in the league saw that you didn’t need an offensive superstar to win games, but could win with a very conservative defensive structure so they copied the Devils defensive structure.
This fully ushered in the dead puck era which was characterized by low scoring games.
The New Jersey Devils have seemed to carry this tradition forward into the present day. Although their defensive stars have long since retired, they have still never brought an excitement to the ice.
Maybe young star Jack Hughes will change the Devil’s ways, but for now they are still not a team I am making any special effort to see play.
5) Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild had their inaugural season in 2000.
As an expansion team the Wild did better than anyone expected and by their third year they made the playoffs and went all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
How did they do it?
Well, a lot had to do with their coach Jacques Lemaire. Lemaire was the coach of the New Jersey Devils when they won the Stanley Cup in 1995. He brought the same type of low-risk counter-attacking defensive style to the Minnesota Wild.
With a team that had a lack of high-skilled offensive talent the only way that the Wild were going to win was to do it through defence. And they did it masterfully.
The only problem was that the only people who liked watching the people play were the people in Minneapolis. I mean I would go to watch them play if I had free tickets, but I sure did not want to pay to see the Wild play in those days.
Similar to the Devils, this defensive shut-down identity has stayed with the team. The Wild have never been bad enough to get really good draft picks and the offensive stars that can transform a team.
They did seem like they were on the uptick when they signed coveted free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but those two players never really pushed the team into the upper echelon of the NHL.
I think the next few years are going to be tough on the Wild, and they will continue to plot along with no real identity and no real excitement about their direction.
The best thing that could happen to them is to finish in the bottom 5 for a few years in a row and accumulate some high-skill young talent that could transform the team.
Did I miss a team on the list? Who would you put in there?