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How Frightened Am I Of Each NHL Team?

A scientific analysis.

2022 NHL All-Star Skills Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

When you’re a certain type of Leaf fan (me), you get accused of being pessimistic. You expect the worst. After years of therapy, I have decided to instead lean into my fears, and go around the NHL with them, and then evaluate them. What am I afraid of from each NHL franchise, and how likely do I think it is my fears will be validated? Are they mere spectors (heh) in the dark, or clear and present dangers? Let’s find out together, and by together, I mean I wrote all this, so the least you can do is read it.

We’ll go in alphabetical order.

Anaheim Ducks

What am I afraid of them doing? Actually, I shouldn’t have gone in alphabetical order.

How afraid am I that they will do it? Let’s just skip this one.

Arizona Coyotes

What am I afraid of them doing? The Leafs were on the happy end of a hometown star returning when John Tavares made his way back to Ontario, forever embittering Long Island. Well, poetic justice looms: Auston Matthews has only two years on his contract after this one, and then the best Leaf in my lifetime (sorry Mats) is free to turn his back on a loud, unappreciative fanbase for a place with warmer weather.

How afraid am I that they will do it? lol what are they gonna pay him with?

Boston Bruins

What am I afraid of them doing? You know, I’m wracking my brains, but I can’t recall any bad experiences from the Leafs playing the Bruins. Maybe I’ll come back to this one after I finish the post.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 7.8/10. The Bruins are a bad playoff matchup for the Leafs. Now granted, so are all teams because it’s a playoff matchup and, well, [gestures], but the Bruins are extremely comfortable trying to win 1-0 through a combination of stout defence and bribed referees. At least Tuukka Rask is retired now (very classy, great competitor, much respect etc.) so we can hold out hope that we won’t get goalied for the trillionth time.

Buffalo Sabres

What am I afraid of them doing? When I was a kid I had a friend who liked to eat his own boogers, and I thought he was hilarious, and then he moved away. I was sad because I didn’t get to laugh at him eating his boogers anymore.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 4.8/10. To clarify the metaphor here, my fears with the Sabres are either that they will relocate or that they will stop, in a managerial sense, eating their own boogers. I don’t think the league would ever let a team out of a fanatical hockey market like Buffalo, so that’s a 0.1. As for the Not Eating Boogers, the Sabres’ FO has been somewhat smarter lately. I could actually see them getting it together in three or four years built around a strong defence led by Owen Power, but [spoiler alert] we’re all going to be dead by then from global warming, so whatever.

Calgary Flames

What am I afraid of them doing? That they’ll win the Cup after Vegas gets drawn and quartered for trying to run a team with a cap hit of three trillion dollars. I don’t have any particular animosity towards the Flames—in fact, I probably mind them less than any other Canadian team, Matthew Tkachuk notwithstanding—but they are coached by Darryl Sutter. Even though his teams consistently have great fancy stats, Sutter is like catnip for old school hockey fans. If Sutter wins another Cup, everyone will talk about how the key to winning in the playoffs is Big Tough Gritty Hitty Forecheck-Backcheck-Paycheck Three-Zones Two-Hundred-Foot Shot-Blocking Get-Pucks-Deep High-Compete Active-Sticks Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Ma’am Punch-A-Bunch-And-Take-Their-Lunch Finish-Checks-And-Go-Have-Sex hockey. Sorry, might have gone into a fugue state for a second there.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 4.7/10. They’re a pretty good team and they should comfortably dismiss whoever they meet in Round 1, but I think they’re maybe the seventh-best team in the NHL. Which is good. You can win a Cup as that. But they’re not favourites.

Carolina Hurricanes

What am I afraid of them doing? If they win a Cup after letting Dougie Hamilton walk and replacing him with Tony DeAngelo I think we’ll have conclusive proof that there is no God. Oh, and the Freddie Andersen thing is gonna be fuckin’ unbearable, too. Someone will tweet a picture of him and David Ayres saying “Leaf goalies do their best work in a Canes jersey” and it’ll get 345,000 likes, and I will voluntarily Cast Away myself in the south Pacific.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 8.0/10. The Hurricanes used to be a fancy stat juggernaut that was let down by goaltending and scoring at critical times, and now they seem to have enough of those things. Thanks to Toronto. I am going to become the Joker.

Chicago Blackhawks

Ship Rocky Wirtz to space.

Colorado Avalanche

What am I afraid of them doing? Nazem Kadri will score at a 115-point pace to help lead an overwhelming offensive powerhouse of the kind the Leafs ought to be, and the worst trade of Kyle Dubas’ tenure will look even worse in retrospect. [buzzing sounds from my earpiece] What do you mean, already?

How afraid am I that they will do it? 10/10. I feel a bit like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense when he realizes he’s been dead the whole time.

Columbus Blue Jackets

What am I afraid of them doing? Inexplicably beating us in 2020, I guess?

How afraid am I that they will do it? 10 or 0, depending on whether you believe in linear time. I’ll try to stop setting my fears in the past after this one, but I still can’t believe we got knocked out by a team whose 2C was journeyman forward/protagonist of a picaresque Southern novel Boone Jenner. That was absurd.

Dallas Stars

What am I afraid of them doing? Proving that they have the better Robertson brother.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 9.0/10. They probably do. It’s okay, we still love Nick, no matter how good Jason is.

Detroit Red Wings

What am I afraid of them doing? Gather round, children, and let Grandpa Fulemin spin you a yarn. When I was but a wee lad, the Detroit Red Wings were a perennial contender led by Steve Yzerman, Nik Lidstrom, and a parade of other Hall-of-Fame talents, and it was all anyone fucking talked about. I cannot exactly quantify how many times I heard the phrase Gold Standard Organization about the Red Wings, but it was, at a conservative estimate, more times than there are people on the planet Earth. They were talked about the way tales of King Arthur talk about Sir Galahad. It was excruciating.

To sum up, my fear is that happening again.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 8.3/10. No team will be able to operate the way the peak Red Wings did (so there’s at least one thing the salary cap is good for), but the Red Wings seem to be executing a sensible rebuild and they have the beginnings of an enviable defence group. Whether you think they’re already on track for glory mostly depends on whether you think Dylan Larkin can be the best centre on a contender, and this year he’s been very productive. Welp.

Edmonton Oilers

What am I afraid of them doing? Maybe they’ll stop wasting two of the greatest offensive players in history. Really, all they would have to do is get a decent goaltender who isn’t extremely old (doable), a 3C who can at least saw-off in low event minutes (look at David Kämpf), and at least one passable 2RD (I’d suggest not using Tyson Barrie or Cody Ceci for the job.) I guess in short, I’m saying all they would have to do is hire a competent GM.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 0.1/10. You can guess why.

Florida Panthers

What am I afraid of them doing? Clowning the Leafs in the first round. Like just absolutely stunting on them. Carter Verhaeghe scoring a rooster trick while Mason Marchment does pushups on top of Jack Campbell.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 8.9/10. If the Leafs draw the Panthers in Round 1, I will be convinced this is going to happen.

Los Angeles Kings

What am I afraid of them doing? Remember that stuff about Auston Matthews leaving for Arizona? Yeah I’m not super worried about any of that. But for Los Angeles? One of the biggest, most fashionable cities in the world, that’s emerging from a rebuild with a strong prospect pool and that will free up $10M from Anze Kopitar’s expiring contract just as Matthews hits free agency? That worries me.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 7.1/10. I’m whistling in the dark here, but I remain convinced that the threat from Los Angeles (or New York) is a lot more serious than that from Arizona. I could be wrong, but expecting the worst has usually turned out correct for me as a Leaf fan.

Minnesota Wild

What am I afraid of them doing? Every time I do an article going around the league it’s like there’s a forcefield around Minnesota preventing me from having feelings about them. They seem like a good team this year, or maybe they’re not, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

How indifferent am I to the Minnesota Wild? 10/10.

Montreal Canadiens

What am I hopeful about them doing? Since the worst has more or less already happened to us re: the Habs, I’ve decided to flip this section and share a fun vision with you all. There is a future where the Habs have a modest PDO jump under new coach Martin St. Louis, they figure they’re ready to get back to contending, and they toss aside the whole “rebuild” idea the way the Rangers did when Jeff Gorton ran them and signed Artemi Panarin. And then they just...exist. They’re not very bad again. They’re never very good. They just linger in the middle of the league like a historically significant fart, touting each new prospect as the second coming of Guy LaFleur and finding that he’s only Guy LeMeh. They never win another Cup.

How hopeful am I that they will do it? 7.5/10. It might not happen. You can even say it probably won’t. But life is about hope for beauty.

Nashville Predators

What am I afraid of them doing? Exacerbating the league’s already-alarming country music problem. And I’m not talking cool, outlaw country, like Johnny Cash. I’m talking full arena playlists about how good it is when blonde girls bring you beer in the greatest country in the world (Tennessee.)

How afraid am I that they will do it? 8.7/10. The icebound nature of the sport is all that has saved us from a dystopian nightmare of pop country. It waits for us. It hungers to devour us all.

New Jersey Devils

What am I afraid of them doing? Well, it used to be that they would simultaneously bore and bludgeon my teams to death.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 1.7/10. They’ll probably get good again at some point, but the Leafs played New Jersey twice before the All-Star Break, and for about 80 of the 120 minutes the Devils seemed like they all wanted to die. So this is not an immediate concern.

New York Islanders

What am I afraid of them doing? They’re never going to shut up.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 9.9/10. It’s been three and a half years. Get over it.

New York Rangers

What am I afraid of them doing? Goalie-ing us at every opportunity.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 9.2/10. I looked this up*, and in every single Leafs-Rangers game since 2004, the Leafs have either won by five to ten goals or lost while outshooting the Rangers 65-3. Whether it’s Henrik Lundqvist or Alexandar Georgiev or Igor Shesterkin or that one other guy they had for a bit there, the Rangers are always a team that threatens to beat you with save percentage despite their skater talent fitting almost entirely into one power play unit.

*I did not look this up.

Ottawa Senators

What am I afraid of them doing? Spending on free agents.

How afraid am I that they will do it? Oh gosh, I’m just shaking in my boots. No, seriously, I’m so scared Ottawa’s going to win the Atlantic with the operating budget of a Harvey’s. I live in fear.

Philadelphia Flyers

What am I afraid of them doing? My only fear with the Flyers is that they will become boring.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 0/10. I wish they would put Paul Holmgren in charge again, but even so, the Flyers are always having some weird adventure. We made a mascot and he’s an insane orange demon! We gave up everyone we’ve ever loved to sign Ilya Bryzgalov! We traded for Rasmus Ristolainen as if he’s an NHL player! God bless them.

Pittsburgh Penguins

What am I afraid of them doing? The Leafs gave them back Filip Hallander as part of expansion draft maneuvering, and given that this is Pittsburgh there’s a one in three chance he will score 47 points playing with Crosby or Malkin next year.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 3.3/10. It keeps happening!

San Jose Sharks

What am I afraid of them doing? Playing the role of the Ghost of Christmas Future to the Leafs. The Sharks were a team that had great players and great regular seasons and then flopped in the playoffs again, and again, and again, until everyone got old and they were left in a desiccated wasteland of failed all-in moves that will condemn the franchise for years to come.

How afraid am I that they will do it? I will fill this in with a number just as soon as I stop looking at Tavares’ cap hit and whispering “There’s still time. There’s still time” over and over.

Seattle Kraken

What am I afraid of them doing? What if they finally develop an organic rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks, and the Canucks fans stop hating us like we cooked and ate their children?

How afraid am I that they will do it? 0/10. The Canucks fans will never stop hating us.

St. Louis Blues

What am I afraid of them doing? Sending Jordan Binnington to the Olympics because Canada somehow can’t develop goalies anymore.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 4.2/10. I’m not sure the league will ever actually get back to the Olympics—watch, there’s going to be some reason from the owners not to go in 2026—but if they do Canada is going to have to come up with some names, and I have no idea if Carter Hart’s any good.

Tampa Bay Lightning

What am I afraid of them doing? Kicking the Leafs’ teeth in two months from now.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 12/10. The Bolts are currently lined up to face Toronto (based on points percentage) and it’s going to be a brave, brave prognosticator who chooses the Leafs in that matchup. For good reason. As far as I’m concerned the Bolts are the best team in hockey until someone proves otherwise.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Look, I can either skip this section or the post will be 6000 words.

Vancouver Canucks

What am I afraid of them doing? Don’t look now, but the Canucks have done a whole bunch of smart things in a row. They hired good dude and good coach Bruce Boudreau. They upgraded their GM Jim from Benning to Rutherford, and even if the latter is a loose cannon, he’s a loose cannon who’s made some good moves in his day. They hired two women as AGMs, Cammi Granato and Émilie Castonguay, which instantly makes them one of the most progressive FOs in the NHL. While I support all of these things, I am a little concerned that the Canucks won’t be as easy to make fun of.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 8.5/10. I think the Canucks are on a better track now. At least it’s getting some good people some success in the bargain.

Vegas Golden Knights

What am I afraid of them doing? If they win the Cup—which would not really bother me—I’m worried it’ll encourage their Twitter to be even worse.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 7.1/10. I’m not sure they’re quite slept on, but they’re adding Jack Eichel! He was a top-10 centre in the world before his surgery. Even if he’s not quite himself, that’s a huge addition to what was already a contender. They just have to hope Robin Lehner gets healthy in time.

Washington Capitals

What am I afraid of them doing? Alex Ovechkin will provoke still more “but how many goals would he have scored in the 80s?” debates, which are the worst of the many bad hockey twitter debates. “But the goalies then wore their pads on their buttocks!” “But he would have had to play with a tree branch!” “But the training is better!” “But if he’d come up then his diet would have been entirely Malboro Lights!” On and on, forever.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 10/10. This is always going to happen. For the record: Gretzky is the greatest player of all time. Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer of all time. Please address all replies on this topic to your household pets.

Winnipeg Jets

What am I afraid of them doing? If they make the playoffs, we’re going to hear yet again about how they have the Best Fans In Hockey. Putting aside that most fans everywhere are similar, I think that would annoy me if I were a Jets fan. It’s so patronizing. Look at them! Gosh, they might have a little arena and a Swiss cheese defence, but don’t they just cheer so hard? Blech.

How afraid am I that they will do it? 3.8/10. The Jets probably aren’t gonna make it this year, but one of these years they will do it, and this will probably happen. Or maybe all that Best Fans stuff will get transferred to Arizona and their tiny new arena, when they sell out thanks to new star Auston Matthews.