It might turn out to be the most significant game the San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets will ever play against each other – just not in the way either organization had hoped when the 2022-2023 schedule was released.
Instead of competing for playoff spots, the Sharks and Blue Jackets have sunk to the bottom of the NHL standings.
And whichever team finishes with the NHL’s worst record will have a 25.5 percent chance of winning the league’s draft lottery and selecting first overall in June, thereby getting the opportunity to grab center Connor Bedard, 17, thought by some to be the league’s next generational-type talent.
The NHL team with the second-worst record will have a 13.5 percent chance of winning the lottery – a significant difference.
Entering Tuesday, the Blue Jackets are 32nd in the NHL with 47 points, and the Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks are tied for 30th with 50 points each, although San Jose, having played one more game, has a slightly worse points percentage.
So Tuesday’s game between the Sharks and Blue Jackets might turn out to be a big deal. The Sharks have drafted inside the top three five times but have never had the first overall selection.
Lottery percentage chances for the teams that 29th and 30th are 9.5 and 11.5 percent, respectively.
Although the Sharks and Blue Jackets’ respective rosters have been weakened since the trade deadline, it should be noted neither team, for the most part, has stopped playing hard.
Here’s a look at what the NHL’s bottom four teams, as of Monday morning, have in front of them for the final month of the regular season.
Columbus Blue Jackets (20-38-7, 47 points)
GAMES REMAINING (home/away): 6/11
GAMES LEFT VS. PLAYOFF TEAMS: 9
SEASON RECORD VS. REMAINING OPPONENTS: 9-19-4
OUTLOOK: The Blue Jackets have the worst road record in the NHL and will be without their No. 1 goalie for an undetermined length of time, as Elvis Merzlikins has returned to Latvia to be with his ailing grandmother. Columbus traded Gus Nyquist, Joonas Korpisalo and Vladislav Gavrikov prior to the March 3 deadline, and are 1-3-1 since the Nyquist deal on Feb. 28. Coach Brad Larsen’s team rarely gets blown out, but it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jackets earning more than 12-14 points in the final month, considering their dismal record (7-18-5) away from Nationwide Arena. If Bedard doesn’t go to San Jose, then Sharks fans probably wouldn’t mind seeing him land far away in central Ohio.
San Jose Sharks (19-36-12, 50 points)
GAMES REMAINING (home/away): 8/7
GAMES LEFT VS. PLAYOFF TEAMS: 10
SEASON RECORD VS. REMAINING OPPONENTS: 5-10-2
OUTLOOK: The Sharks have cratered since they traded Timo Meier to the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 26, going 1-6-0 with losses to non-playoff teams like Montreal and St. Louis. The Sharks play in San Jose eight more times, but that’s of little comfort to a team that hasn’t been this bad at home since the Cow Palace days. After Tuesday, all seven of the Sharks’ remaining home games are against teams that are in a playoff position. The road schedule isn’t as daunting, although there are only two games, against Vancouver and Arizona, against teams that are totally out of the playoff picture. Maybe the Sharks can make history this year.
Chicago Blackhawks (22-38-6, 50 points)
GAMES REMAINING (home/away): 7/9
GAMES LEFT VS. PLAYOFF TEAMS: 8
SEASON RECORD VS. REMAINING OPPONENTS: 9-15-1
OUTLOOK: It wasn’t hard to predict that the Blackhawks would be in this position considering the moves they made in the offseason to kickstart their rebuild. The For Sale sign remained up through the trade deadline, too, as the Hawks jettisoned Patrick Kane, Max Domi, Sam Lafferty, Jack Johnson, and Jake McCabe and now have a half-dozen players on their roster who are in their first or second season in the NHL. Chicago is 1-4-1 this month. Conspiracy theorists love Chicago’s chances of winning the lottery.
Anaheim Ducks (22-35-10, 54 points)
GAMES REMAINING (home/away): 11/4
GAMES LEFT VS. PLAYOFF TEAMS: 8.
SEASON RECORD VS. REMAINING OPPONENTS: 6-12-3
OUTLOOK: It kind of feels like the Ducks have blown their chance to finish last overall, as they’ve gone 9-6-5 since Jan. 23 to move seven points ahead of Columbus. Anaheim plays more home games than any other team in the bottom four and might be able to collect a few extra points because of that as teams pass through Southern California. Still, the Ducks’ blue line is incredibly thin, as defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and John Klingberg were the two big selloffs at the trade deadline. Having Bedard go to Anaheim might be the worst possible outcome for the Sharks and their fans.