Down in the dumps: Who will be last to be first?*

*Pending the 2021 NHL Draft lottery.

Most people are making predictions about who will be the winner of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final in July, but let’s talk about the race for last place.

University of Michigan defender, Owen Power, is the early projected 1st overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and would definitely help make the transition for any rebuilding team a lot smoother from basement dweller to playoff contender.

At 6-foot-6, Power has shown an incredible understanding of the game in every situation and would bring impressive size to a National Hockey League team’s blue line.

The 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings finished the pandemic shortened season with 39 points in 71 games and a 17-49-5 record. They were on pace for 45 points, which would’ve been a new record for the fewest points in a season, beating the previous fewest points total over 82 games in the salary cap era set by the 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche (who had 48 points that season).

Colorado wasn’t trying to be as bad as they were in 2016-17, unlike Detroit last season.

In 2014-15, Jhonas Enroth spent most of the season as the starting goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres. By the time the trade deadline was drawing near, he was traded to the Dallas Stars that February, where he later revealed that Buffalo had been trying to lose all season long.

The Sabres were already bad and tanking in hopes of securing the 1st overall pick in the 2015 Draft Lottery after losing the previous year’s lottery to the Florida Panthers.

Florida won the 1st overall prize in Aaron Ekblad in 2014. Buffalo drafted Sam Reinhart 2nd overall in 2014.

In 2015, the Sabres lost the lottery to the Edmonton Oilers. Connor McDavid thus became an Oiler, while Jack Eichel was drafted 2nd overall by Buffalo that year.

No, the lottery isn’t rigged, but the odds certainly aren’t in your favor.

The 2016-17 Avalanche fell from 1st overall to 4th overall as a result of the lottery. Nico Hischier was selected 1st overall by the New Jersey Devils, while Cale Makar went to Colorado.

The 2019-20 Red Wings were usurped by a placeholder team later determined to be the New York Rangers in the second phase of the NHL’s 2020 Draft Lottery. New York won the Alexis Lafrenière sweepstakes, while Detroit selected Lucas Raymond 4th overall.

The draft lottery doesn’t necessarily reward losing on purpose, unless your team is really just that bad.

Detroit rock bottom city

Red Wings General Manager, Steve Yzerman, gradually shed expendable pieces of the roster since being hired on April 19, 2019.

Last season featured Jimmy Howard (2-23-2, 4.20 goals against average, .882 save percentage in 27 games played) and Jonathan Bernier (15-22-3, 2.95 GAA, .907 SV% in 46 games played) in the crease for Detroit.

This season, Bernier’s back and Howard’s gone.

Thomas Greiss is the new goaltender in town and had a 16-9-4 record in 31 games (29 starts) with the New York Islanders last season. He recorded a 2.74 GAA and a .913 SV% in that span.

On defense last season, the Red Wings had Alex Biega, Madison Bowey, Denis Cholowski, Trevor Daley, Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Cody Goloubef, Mike Green, Joe Hicketts, Filip Hronek, Brian Lashoff, Gustav Lindstrom, Dylan McIlrath and Patrik Nemeth all listed on the roster at some point.

Yzerman brought in Marc Staal via a trade with the Rangers and signed Jon Merrill and Troy Stecher in free agency. Biega, Cholowski, DeKeyser, Hronek, Lindstrom and Nemeth were also on Detroit’s roster on the blue line entering this season.

That’s quite some restructuring.

Bobby Ryan and Vladislav Namestnikov are the two biggest and newest names among the forward group that’s new to the club for 2020-21.

Longtime Red Wing, Justin Abdelkader, was bought out in the offseason.

The Red Wings won’t be as bad as they were last season— they shouldn’t be, at least.

But now that they’re back in the Discover NHL Central Division temporarily and reunited with their greatest rival— the Chicago Blackhawks— they might just fight it out to be the best of being the worst.

A rivalry renewed for the worst

After losing, 5-1, on Wednesday night and, 5-2, on Friday night to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blackhawks officially kicked off their season of the tank.

It’s the ultimate downfall in every gangster movie. Too much fame, too much success— it always ends in a crashing fall from grace where the rise of our gang leading “hero” pays the price for their rise in power and loses it all.

The 2020-21 season will be a painful one for Blackhawks fans. It’s even darker without their captain, Jonathan Toews, brightening up the room regardless of the situation.

Toews is it out indefinitely with an undisclosed illness.

Longtime goaltender, Corey Crawford, was not re-signed in the offseason, joined the New Jersey Devils on a two-year contract, then decided to retire last Sunday after giving it all to the sport and paying a price with wear and tear on his body over the years.

Malcolm Subban (9-7-3, 3.17 GAA, .890 SV% in 21 GP last season with Vegas and Chicago) and Colin Delia (7-5-3, 3.65 GAA, .906 SV% in 18 career games from 2017-19) are set to man the crease for Chicago this season.

Chaos will ensue no matter how many points Patrick Kane puts up or how Duncan Keith and Connor Murphy defend.

The Blackhawks are largely the same broken team as last season with a few key losses in Toews (illness), Crawford (retired) and Brent Seabrook (injury)— the core that led Chicago to three Cups in five seasons.

Stan Bowman’s plan as General Manager is to let nature run its course, trade some players and win the lottery while replacing year-to-year talent like Carl Söderberg and Lucas Wallmark with, well, Söderberg and Wallmark-type players.

The deconstruction is already underway with Bowman shipping Brandon Saad to Colorado in the offseason. More fan favorites are set to exit next.

The Red Wings are trying to get better with Filip Zadina currently on the roster, as well as Raymond and Moritz Seider joining the action in the near future.

The Blackhawks are just hoping Kirby Dach will heal from his injury at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship and be ready to go next season with Chicago’s next top-five draft pick.

Then suddenly the Pittsburgh Penguins walk into the room….

— Nick Lanciani (@lanci53)

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