Twenty-two years. Seven hundred home runs.
Albert Pujols achieved a level of greatness only three other players in the history of the game have matched when he hit No. 700 on Friday night — his second homer of the evening at Dodger Stadium. He joins Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth as the only players in the exclusive 700-home run club.
As the St. Louis Cardinals slugger made his march for history, ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Buster Olney and Alden Gonzalez asked current and former teammates, opposing pitchers and other greats in the game to describe their favorite moments and what it has been like playing with, pitching to and simply witnessing an all-time great home run hitter during Pujols’ two decades in the majors.
The home runs we just can’t forget
Mike Trout: ‘This is for 600. This is gonna be sick right here’
“The grand slam, when he hit 600. Just the situation. I mean, it was a big spot in the game, and everyone was thinking the same thing. ‘This is for 600. This is gonna be sick right here.’ And then he hit it. He loves the moment. And that’s the thing — people kept asking me, ‘Hey, do you think he’s going to get it ?’ For sure. The way Albert prepares himself — he doesn’t change his approach, doesn’t try to hit a homer. He’s just trying to put a good swing on the ball. That’s big.”
Manny Machado: Game 3 of the 2011 World Series? ‘You could even throw the rosin bag and he was probably going to hit it out’
“That was just incredible. I mean, he was not missing. You could throw him whatever and he was going to hit it. You could even throw the rosin bag and he was probably going to hit it out. Just that sweet swing. Even all his homers, going back — his first home run. I just admire that swing, how smooth it is, how long it stays in the path. It’s impressive.”
Tony La Russa: ‘That gave us life’
“In 2006, we had a big lead and everyone got hurt, so it came down to September and we were struggling to get into the playoffs. San Diego came into town and it was a Wednesday night, we had lost the first two games of the series, down a run in the eighth inning, the Padres brought in a real good sinkerball pitcher [Cla Meredith], and he hit a three-run homer and won the game. That gave us life.
“His true claim to fame is he is a high-average hitter who has extra-base power. He plays the scoreboard. With a runner on second, he’s trying to hit a line-drive single and then he may get all of it for a two-run homer. He’ll go foul line to foul line and he hits all different pitches. When he gets that underspin with his swing, he gets that carry.”
Paul Goldschmidt: ‘If you wrote it up perfectly, this is what you would write’
“There’s been three or four home runs I’ve been absolutely amazed at. The [Drew] Smyly one at his eyes was impressive. The one in Pittsburgh. That one passed A-Rod (on the all-time home runs list) and was a game winner. There was another game winner when it was 0-0 and he homered. And then the ones against the Padres. A two-homer game … kind of like storybook. That’s what I’ll remember. If you wrote it up perfectly, this is what you would write: Albert with the game on the line — and he actually comes through. Amazing.”
The secret to hitting 700 home runs
Nolan Arenado: ‘He doesn’t think about hitting home runs’
“I’m probably going to say something people don’t like, but he doesn’t think about hitting home runs. That’s what he tells me, and I believe him. With the way he swings, the way he works, talking to him, he says he never thinks about it. And he’s not going to change what’s worked for him. It’s about getting on top of the baseball, backspinning the baseball, and wherever it goes, it goes. He talks the talk and walks the walk with saying those things. And I really believe him.”
Mark McGwire: It’s all in the hands
“I’m a true believer in the bottom hands being the key to swinging the bat. You watch Albert. He never lets go of that bottom hand until he has to run. To me, that’s the driving force in his swing and why he’s one of the best ever.”
Chris Carpenter: The Machine calls his own shots
“There were multiple times he would go up there for his first at-bat and come back and tell us he was going to hit a homer the next time up. I couldn’t tell you how many times that happened and he would do it. It happened a lot because he understood after one time how they were going to attack him. He was amazing to watch play.”
Matt Holliday: And he’s earned the right to admire his home runs
“When you hit 700 home runs, you know when it’s going out and when it’s not. The guy that bothers me is the guy who [has three career home runs] and it hits the wall and he gets a single. That guy needs to run. But when you hit 700, you know what it feels like. If anyone can give advice on when a ball is going to go over the wall or not, he’s right at the top of the list.”
Mike Matheny: ‘He walked up … like his family wasn’t going to eat unless he made a pitcher pay’
“You run out of ways to describe how unique, different and special he is. He’s relentless. I’ve never seen a hitter who would not, could not give away an at-bat. It didn’t matter if he had four [hits] that night, he walked up to that fifth one like his family wasn’t going to eat unless he made a pitcher pay. The intensity he was able to maintain from Day 1 of spring training until he got sent home at the end … the consistency sticks out.”
Jim Edmonds: ‘If Albert doesn’t get hurt, we’re talking 800 or 850’
“If Albert doesn’t get hurt and plays three-quarters in Anaheim of how he played here, we’re talking about 800 or 850 [home runs]. When he first got back here, your brain is telling you what everyone is telling you: ‘You can’t hit righties anymore and you’re swinging for the fences.’ Well, he’s turned back into a pure hitter.
“He won’t back down. I’ve seen him take a knuckleball out to right field and I’ve seen him take a 102 mph fastball out to left field. This guy is just relentless about his approach at the plate. He took Kyle Farnsworth deep in 2004 on 100 mph and I’m sitting on deck thinking, ‘Wow.'”
“What’s been interesting is watching him grow this year: from leg kick to overswinging to chasing pitches to turning back into a hitter. When he did that, he started hitting home runs … He’s got another year in him, for sure. I know he’s not going to play, but he could.”
What it’s like facing Pujols
Brad Lidge: ‘I made a mistake — and it wasn’t super surprising that he didn’t make a mistake’
Lidge broke into the big leagues the year after Pujols, and initially, he had some success against the Cardinals slugger. But somewhere around his second or third year in Lidge’s career, teammate Roy Oswalt mentioned that there had been an evolution in the challenge of pitching to Pujols — the holes that you could attack as a pitcher were no longer available.
“All of a sudden, it started to feel like he knew what you were going to throw before you did,” Lidge recalled. “You felt like you had to be perfect … He had so much plate coverage, whether you’re throwing a 97 mph fastball or a slider down and away, you had to be perfect.”
Lidge says that this is the part of Pujols that is often not fully comprehended. He was strong, had great hands, great eyes — but he also could anticipate what the pitcher was going to try to do against him with a high degree of success. “If there was one thing I know from facing him, it’s that he’s going to win the chess match far more than he should,” said Lidge. And if the pitcher was able to execute a big-breaking pitch, Lidge said, Pujols was adept at fouling the ball off to continue the at-bat. Or, if the pitcher was doing something with his glove or his hands to tip off the identity of the next pitch, “he’d be the first guy to see it,” said Lidge.
The Astros bore in on the National League title in 2005, leading Game 5 of the NL Championship Series, and Lidge, the Houston closer, was called on to finish off the Cardinals. With two outs and two on, Lidge spun a good slider and Pujols chased it.
“I tried to come back with [the slider],” Lidge recalled. “I made a mistake” — the ball was down in the strike zone, but over the heart of the plate — “and it wasn’t super surprising that he didn’t make a mistake.” Pujols rocketed a three-run homer over the train tracks in left field in Houston, the ball loudly crashing against the protective glass.
Lidge bumped into Pujols from time to time after that home run, saying hello at All-Star Games, without talking about the home run. What he feels about Pujols now is that he was a hitter “hard-wired” for greatness, physically and mentally.
Greg Maddux: ‘He hit it over frickin’ Waveland Avenue’
“The first time I faced him, I threw him a changeup that he missed by 2 or 3 feet. And I’m going, ‘Wow, OK, maybe we got something here.’ Next time up, I threw the exact same changeup and he hit it over frickin’ Waveland Avenue. And I went, ‘Oh s—, maybe they have something here. This guy is pretty good.’
“If you walked him or gave up a single, you won the AB. He covered the middle of the plate as well as anyone. My game plan with him was to give up a single or less.”
Glendon Rusch: ‘He was the best slugger I faced’
“He was the best slugger I faced that could do the most damage in the most different ways. He could hit a homer off any pitch — a mistake in or off-speed out over the plate the other way, he could do it all. When I was facing him, he was in his prime-prime. He’s the guy that you had to be careful of unless you had a big lead or were down by a bunch because he would take you deep at any time. He was a threat if you made a mistake and if you didn’t make a mistake.”
Ryan Dempster: ‘There is no … more of an expert on how to give up home runs to Albert Pujols than me’
“There is no one out here that’s more of an expert on how to give up home runs to Albert Pujols than me.
“People have talent, people work hard, people are prepared. He coincided with all three probably better than anyone I ever watched or faced. Always diligent about his cage work, his BP, everything. So when the game started, he was like playing a video game with a cheat code. He knew what pitch was coming. If a pitcher fell into patterns, he would take advantage of it. He never gave at-bats away. It could be 10-0 in the ninth and he would give you the same AB as if it were tied. He could hit any pitch out that wasn’t executed, and he could hit the pitches that were executed.
“This has been a perfect storm. They put him in a position to have success against all these lefties, then he goes to the HR Derby and gets locked in. And now he’s feeling really good, so when he faces righties, it’s just carrying over.”
Mike Hampton: ‘I should be thankful … that he didn’t go deep’
The Cardinals’ Opening Day lineup in 2001 was stacked with big names such as Mark McGwire and Jim Edmonds, sluggers who most concerned Mike Hampton. He didn’t know anything about the guy plugged into the sixth spot in the lineup that day, a rookie left fielder named Albert Pujols, who was set to play in his first game.
Hampton recalls that there really wasn’t a lot of information available on Pujols, so the left-handed Hampton figured he’d pitch Pujols the same way he had pitched other right-handed batters. “Sink it away, cut it in,” said Hampton, whose start that day was his first with the Rockies after signing a $121 million deal. He shut out the Cardinals for 8⅓ scoreless innings. “It went down pretty quickly after that,” Hampton joked of his short, rough tenure with Colorado.
One of the five hits that Hampton scattered was a seventh-inning single to Pujols, the first of Pujols’ career. “I should be thankful that it was a single through the 6-hole,” he said, “and that he didn’t go deep.”
There’s nobody else like The Machine
Alex Rodriguez: ‘It was like he was a mad scientist’
Albert Pujols inhabited the NL Central in the first half of his career, and it was because of that history that Alex Rodriguez called Pujols about a pitcher from that division. Rodriguez figured that Pujols would have some observations about the pitcher, about his repertoire. “Usually, that kind of conversation will go on for five minutes,” Rodriguez. “Forty-five minutes — it went on for 45 minutes. He’s telling me about the movement of his curveball, his sinker, his passion coming out of the phone. He gave me the greatest scouting report I’ve ever had.
“If the count is 0-0, he’ll throw you a curveball,” Pujols told Rodriguez. “If he gets ahead in the count, he’ll throw two fastballs inside — but because he wants to get to his changeup.”
Rodriguez thinks back on that conversation now and says, “It was like he was a mad scientist. He was walking me through at-bats with very specific information on what the guy was going to do.
After the game, in which he recalls hitting a double off the pitcher — “The accuracy of the scouting report was incredible,” Rodriguez remembered — Pujols texted Rodriguez immediately. “He wanted to know everything about how it went, what he threw to me, the counts, everything … It’s not only about what the pitcher throws, but he wants to be a chess player, too.”
Dale Scott: ‘He was there to do a job’
There were days when Albert Pujols would pause briefly, as he ran or off the field in between innings, and compliment longtime umpire Dale Scott on his work calling balls and strikes in the previous game. “It might be a situation where he catches your eye and says, ‘Good job,'” said Scott. “But it didn’t happen every time.” Yes, there were days when Pujols wouldn’t stop, wouldn’t say anything, leaving Scott to wonder if he had struggled with his strike zone.
This was all in keeping with Pujols’ intensity, says Scott, who shared fields with Pujols over the past 17 seasons of the umpire’s career. He was gregarious, Scott said, offered a smile and a greeting when he stepped to the plate, “but he was there to do a job.” Pujols didn’t complain out loud about ball-or-strike calls, but if he had an issue with the home plate umpire, he would be passive aggressive — maybe a quick grimace, maybe a step back out of the batter’s box. “If the bench saw it, then they would react to it, or the fans,” said Scott. “He reminded me of Cal Ripken. He was serious … The aura around him was that he was there to work.”
Joey Votto: ‘I’ll never be at that level. I’ll never be that guy’
Votto has a crystal-clear memory of the moment when he recognized the preeminence of Pujols, an at-bat that distinguished him from other hitters — including Votto. “It stands out to me in how it represents how skilled he was, and is,” Votto said.
The Reds first baseman was in his second full season in the big leagues and Cincinnati was hosting St. Louis. The Reds had a 3-0 lead, and Dusty Baker summoned longtime reliever David Weathers from the bullpen.
“Nothing rattled Weathers,” Votto recalled. “He had two-pitch command, a running fastball [inside to right-handed hitters]. He knew how to manage big situations. You knew there was either going to be a ball in play or a strikeout.”
As Votto watched Pujols launch the ball toward left-center field, a monstrous grand slam in a pivotal situation, he remembered thinking: That’s a really good swing — a really good swing on a pitch that looked to be in a good spot.
When he watched the at-bat again on video to see if his initial reaction was correct, Votto saw Weathers attempt to work off the outside edge of the plate, with a backdoor sinker — the ball starting out of the strike zone, zipping toward the left-handed hitter’s batter’s box, before veering back toward the plate. It was a good pitch by Weathers, a good spot, because right-handed hitters had to be cognizant of how his sinker would cut inside. But somehow Pujols had the acumen, the balance and the swing to get to the pitch — and blast it into the seats well beyond left-center field.
“I already viewed him at such a high level,” said Votto. “But after watching it, I realized: I’ll never be at that level. I’ll never be that guy.”
Buckeyes great Laurinaitis joins Ohio State staff
Ohio State is adding James Laurinaitis, one of the most decorated defensive players in program history, to its coaching staff as a defensive graduate assistant for the 2023 college football season.
Laurinaitis, a former Buckeyes linebacker, is one of only eight players in team history to earn All-America honors three times. A two-time captain, he won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player and the Butkus Award as the top linebacker in college football. Laurinaitis spent the 2022 season as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame, working under his former Ohio State teammate Marcus Freeman.
The 36-year-old will work primarily with Ohio State’s linebackers. He twice earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors and was a second-round pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Laurinaitis became the then-St. Louis Rams’ all-time leading tackler with 852 stops in seven years. He retired from the NFL after the 2016 season with New Orleans.
“I am thrilled for our program and especially for our current and future Buckeyes who will benefit so much from having James on staff,” coach Ryan Day said in a statement. “James is a terrific young man with wisdom as a Buckeye and experience as an eight-year NFL veteran. He is going to be a very important part of our program going forward.”
Laurinaitis played at Ohio State alongside Brian Hartline, whom Day recently promoted to offensive coordinator
Spartans making deals in fracas vs. Wolverines
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — At least four more Michigan State football players facing misdemeanor charges for a skirmish inside the Michigan Stadium tunnel will likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions, lawyers said Friday.
“It’s going to happen outside of court,” said Max Manoogian, an attorney for Angelo Grose. “There is going to be no criminal responsibility whatsoever. There are no admissions being made, no pleas being tendered.”
Seven players were charged, though only one, Khary Crump, faced a felony. That charge was dropped in early January in exchange for a guilty plea to a misdemeanor. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.
“Participants work with a case manager to create and successfully complete a plan for accountability. Upon completion of that plan, charges are dismissed,” said Victoria Burton-Harris, chief assistant prosecutor in Washtenaw County.
Manoogian predicted charges would be dismissed in six months.
“They’re going to do some good work in the community, do a little bit of philanthropic work, jump through a couple of hoops and the prosecutor’s going to dismiss the case on their own,” he said.
NHL Power Rankings: Projecting playoff chances for all 32 teams
The 2023 NHL All-Star Game is on tap next weekend, and once the break is over, the volume of trades should really start heating up as teams fall into the “playoff contender” and “there’s always next year” cohorts.
As of this point, there are no teams that have clinched a playoff spot, and no team is mathematically eliminated either. So let’s take a look at each team’s current playoff chances (per FiveThirtyEight), and identify what could go right or wrong to reverse that trend.
How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors rates teams against one another — taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule — and those results are tabulated to produce the list featured here.
Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the most recent edition, published Jan. 20. Points percentages are through Thursday’s games.
Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: 83.33%
Next seven days: @ FLA (Jan. 28), @ CAR (Jan. 29), @ TOR (Feb. 1)
Playoff chances: >99%. Boston should be offended their odds aren’t an even 100%. The Bruins are a postseason lock, and then some.
Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: 72.34%
Next seven days: vs. SJ (Jan. 27), vs. BOS (Jan. 29), vs. LA (Jan. 31), @ BUF (Feb. 1)
Playoff chances: >99%. Carolina would have to face the mother of all rough patches to not make a fifth consecutive postseason appearance. And that’s saying a lot, considering the Hurricanes have weathered their share of adversity and keep coming out on top.
Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: 68.75%
Next seven days: @ DAL (Jan. 27)
Playoff chances: 95%. New Jersey is tracking toward just its second playoff appearance in 10 years. An imminent fall off the rails is wildly unlikely, and the Devils project to be one of the must-watch clubs in what will be a talent-packed Eastern Conference field.
Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: 69.39%
Next seven days: vs. OTT (Jan. 27), vs. WSH (Jan. 29), vs. BOS (Feb. 1)
Playoff chances: >99%. Toronto reaching 18-wheeler-off-a-cliff territory is all that could negate earning a playoff spot. How far the Leafs end up going in the postseason is a whole other calculation, of course.
Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: 67.02%
Next seven days: vs. LA (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: >99%. Tampa Bay is a sure thing — at least to reach another postseason. The Lightning’s biggest potential for derailment (aside from compounding injuries) might be fatigue. Headlining the Stanley Cup Final three seasons in a row takes its toll. Is there load management in the future to safeguard against disappointment? Stay tuned.
Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: 65.00%
Next seven days: vs. NJ (Jan. 27)
Playoff chances: 97%. Dallas has lost consecutive games in regulation only once since November, and just four times total this season. The Stars will carry that promise into a surefire postseason opportunity.
Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: 63.00%
Next seven days: vs. PHI (Jan. 28), vs. STL (Jan. 30)
Playoff chances: 93%. Winnipeg should have no trouble staying on course to a well-deserved postseason slot. The Jets’ only potential stumbling block could be figuring out how to maximize the luxury of an (almost) healthy roster, without disrupting chemistry that’s taken them so far already.
Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: 64.89%
Next seven days: vs. CGY (Jan. 27), vs. CBJ (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 93%. Seattle needs its goaltending to hold up. That’s it. Because there’s little else that could hold this high-powered Kraken crew back from their inaugural playoff showing.
Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: 62.50%
Next seven days: vs. VGK (Jan. 27)
Playoff chances: 89%. New York is on thin ice in the ultracompetitive Metropolitan Division. Teams are breathing down their neck already, and to hold tight in the top three, GM Chris Drury can’t be shy about adding a player (or two) ahead of the trade deadline. That insurance would help prevent New York from slipping into wild-card territory.
Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: 62.25%
Next seven days: @ NYR (Jan. 27), @ NYI (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 82%. Vegas needs its health. Injury troubles have pushed the Golden Knights off track before, and they’ve been an issue already throughout this season. Vegas squirrelling away wins early should protect their postseason potential, though — barring a further pileup of ailments to come.
Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: 58.51%
Next seven days: vs. STL (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 93%. Colorado just recorded its longest win streak of the season — at six games — and looks increasingly like the reigning Stanley Cup champion we expected. And when the Avalanche are hitting their stride, there’s little doubt playoffs lay ahead.
Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: 60.00%
Next seven days: @ FLA (Jan. 27), @ TB (Jan. 28), @ CAR (Jan. 31)
Playoff chances: 63%. Los Angeles can pump up their playoff outlook as buyers before trade deadline. The salary cap won’t make it easy, but the Kings’ adding another left-shot defenseman, bottom-six forward or even a depth goaltender would aid in holding off Edmonton or Calgary for the Pacific Division’s third seed.
Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: 59.57%
Next seven days: vs. BUF (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 81%. Minnesota must fear a surging Avalanche (and really, who doesn’t?) The Central was suffocating enough, and now that Colorado is climbing, the Wild have to keep pace or risk duking it out for a wild-card berth into the postseason.
Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: 59.18%
Next seven days: vs. CHI (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 86%. Edmonton has racked up wins lately thanks to overall improved play, from forward balance to strong special teams to dialed-in defense. The Oilers can’t rest on their laurels or revert back to bad habits like leaning too heavily on its stars. Edmonton’s postseason hopes — and success — depend on being more multi-dimensional than that.
Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: 59.38%
Next seven days: vs. SJ (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 75%. Pittsburgh looked poised, at one point, to be a powerhouse. Currently, they barely hold a playoff spot. The Penguins can improve their odds by adding forward depth ahead of the deadline, and hoping certain defensive stalwarts — including Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin — can keep flourishing.
Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: 56.12%
Next seven days: @ SEA (Jan. 27)
Playoff chances: 56%. Calgary must find its identity. It’s not all the way locked in yet. To make the postseason, Calgary has to execute like a playoff-caliber team. But putting on a full 60-minute effort might be the easy part. The Flames’ challenge is to keep coming together, decide what they really are and lean into it.
Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: 56.86%
Next seven days: @ TOR (Jan. 29), @ CBJ (Jan. 31)
Playoff chances: 59%. Washington is in that middle-of-the-pack position that makes a pre-trade-deadline move imperative. The Capitals need to target blue-line help. John Carlson is hurt now, and if there’s an opportunity to bolster the back end sooner than later, Washington could boost its postseason positioning that much faster.
Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: 57.29%
Next seven days: @ MIN (Jan. 28), vs. CAR (Feb. 1)
Playoff chances: 35%. Buffalo is at a crossroads: Are they a young team standing pat until next season, or is a playoff push now in their sights? Because the opportunity to swing big is there. The Sabres’ best chance of a springtime berth involves adding defensive depth, possibly targeting an impactful bottom-six forward, continued excellence from its top-six group and consistent goaltending. Buffalo has surprised all season; what else is up its sleeve?
Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: 56.25%
Next seven days: No games
Playoff chances: 43%. Nashville longs for consistency. Juuse Saros is playing well in net (.920 save percentage) and the Predators have improved offensively since Christmas into a top-15 goal-scoring team. To extend its second-half potential into a postseason shot, Nashville has to get consistent scoring every game.
Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: 52.00%
Next seven days: vs. LA (Jan. 27), vs. BOS (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 30%. Florida needed better goaltending to turn its season around. Now, the Panthers just need healthy goaltenders. Sergei Bobrovsky was sidelined last week with a lower-body issue and Spencer Knight is just back from injury himself. Alex Lyon has been there to help, but Florida has simply got to give its goalie — whoever that is — all the support it can up front to have a shot at playoffs.
Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: 53.19%
Next seven days: @ NYI (Jan. 27)
Playoff chances: 4%. Detroit showed some serious early-season promise, and they’re still an above-.500 team. If the Red Wings can start scoring again, and if Ville Husso can get some help, and if Detroit can tighten up defensively … maybe they find a way back to what worked before. If not, the Red Wings could be looking for a golden draft lottery ticket.
Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: 51.00%
Next seven days: vs. DET (Jan. 27), vs. VGK (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 13%. New York has been in an offensive drought since mid-December. If that doesn’t change fast, and the Islanders still hold postseason aspirations, then GM Lou Lamoriello must target forward help on the trade market. And then hope that kick-starts better performances from within.
Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: 50.00%
Next seven days: @ COL (Jan. 28), @ WPG (Jan. 30)
Playoff chances: 12%. St. Louis’ best chance of a postseason push is keeping all of its best players — including an eventually healthy Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly — in the fold. And potentially being buyers instead of sellers ahead of the trade deadline. And then going on a magical win-almost-every-night kind of run. So yeah, it would be a lot.
Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: 49.00%
Next seven days: @ WPG (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 1%. Philadelphia not being the worst team in their division is a (relative) achievement. There’s always next year to — maybe — get back in the playoff mix.
Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: 47.87%
Next seven days: @ TOR (Jan. 27), vs. MTL (Jan. 28), @ MTL (Jan. 31)
Playoff chances: 1%. Ottawa rallied to overcome a slow start with its 12-5-2 run through late fall. Since then, the Senators have simply fallen. Would getting — and staying — fully healthy have kept Ottawa’s previous momentum and playoff hopes alive? A question that will linger into the planning for next season.
Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: 38.78%
Next seven days: @ CAR (Jan. 27), @ PIT (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. San Jose won’t be appearing in the postseason. But the Sharks could emerge as big winners at the trade deadline by moving marquee players like Timo Meier and Erik Karlsson in deals that set San Jose up for long-term success in the future. A fine consolation prize.
Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: 44.90%
Next seven days: @ OTT (Jan. 28), vs. OTT (Jan. 31)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. Montreal losing Cole Caufield for the rest of the season was the end of any lingering postseason dreams. No matter. The Canadiens have a young core and plenty of potential playoff opportunities in their future.
Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: 42.71%
Next seven days: vs. CBJ (Jan. 27)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. Vancouver responded surprisingly well to a coaching change last season. Can they do it again? Last season, the Canucks went from last in the Pacific to missing the playoffs by two points after Bruce Boudreau slid behind the bench. Rick Tocchet would be some sort of magician to coax an even better run out of Vancouver now … but hey, anything is possible.
Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: 37.76%
Next seven days: @ ANA (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. Arizona won’t parlay great performances from the likes of Karel Vejmelka and Clayton Keller into playoff games right now. But there are still a couple more years of possibility that Mullet Arena will host an NHL playoff tilt. And that’s fun to think about!
Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: 36.17%
Next seven days: @ EDM (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. Chicago is “Bound for Bedard” — as was their plan. The Blackhawks can help the cause by finding trade partners for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and really embracing the franchise’s future direction.
Previous ranking: 32
Points percentage: 35.71%
Next seven days: vs. ARI (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. Anaheim can see the big picture here. Playoffs are out, clearly. But the Ducks have cap space to spare, a trade deadline looming to start the healing — er, improving — process and great odds in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. And those are the odds that really matter for Anaheim.
Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: 34.38%
Next seven days: @ VAN (Jan. 27), @ SEA (Jan. 28), vs. WSH (Jan. 31)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. Columbus has yet to win consecutive games in regulation this season, so the playoffs will remain something of a pipe dream.
Technology1 year ago
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Politics1 year ago
Yvette Cooper promoted and Lisa Nandy to shadow Gove on levelling up brief in Labour reshuffle
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Politics1 year ago
Govt minister says she ‘doesn’t believe’ Stanley Johnson inappropriately touched MP
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