Let's imagine a different hockey world. A world in which trades, free agency, buyouts, and waivers do not exist. In this NHL, once a player is drafted by a certain team, he stays with them for the entirety of his career (unless he leaves the league). For simplicity's sake, there is no such thing as a college free agent signing either. I saw this concept in the winter on an MLB blog, and the results will always be quite interesting, no matter what sport it is.
There are some teams like the San Jose Sharks that have relied on very good trades that got them Joe Thornton, Brent Burns, and Martin Jones, and other teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins who were lucky enough to get Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury. In this alternate reality, teams that draft well would be the only good teams. Plus it'd be interesting to see how many teams tank for high draft picks considering that would literally be the only way to get better.
I would have loved to show how every team in the league would look, but this would be one super long article and would take a day to finish. Instead, I have given the lineups for the Atlantic Division just to give you a taste. Here are the teams:
The forward group Ottawa would have looks absolutely amazing. I had to leave out Antoine Vermette, Shane Prince, Ryan Dzingel, Brooks Laich, Chris Kelly, and Curtis Lazar, showing that they would be able to score even more goals than usual. The defense looks even worse than it was before getting Dion Phaneuf, which has been the teams weakness for drafting and developing.
Having Brian Elliott and Robin Lehner in net would be quite solid though, and overall the team would be quite competitive. But those two bottom defense pairings...eesh.
Toronto Maple Leafs:
Much like the Senators, the Leafs would have a solid group of forwards, although a lot of that would depend on Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander all being good NHLers. The defense is even worse than Ottawa's, but if they had a top-5 goalie in Tuukka Rask then all of a sudden they would be a playoff team once again.
The first thing you notice is that the defense and goaltending is very good. Although Markov, Streit, and Beauchemin are all old defensemen, they still have two of the top-15 defensemen in the league with PK Subban and Ryan McDonagh. Plus, having Jaroslav Halak as a backup to an elite goaltender is gravy. However, the forwards (especially the wingers) are incredibly thin.
I had to put in young guys like Sven Andrighetto, Charles Hudon in there, plus veterans who aren't very good like Ryan White, Chris Higgins, and Kyle Chipchura. So basically, this would be the same Canadiens team that relies heavily on the amazing play of Carey Price. What else is new?
Tampa Bay Lightning:
This Lightning team still has some of its star players, but it's an incredibly watered down version of the real-life team. They have no Ben Bishop, Tyler Johnson, or Anton Stralman, and in order to round out the roster I had to make big stretches to include Adam Erne, Brayden Point, James Wright, Anthony DeAngelo, and Dominik Masin. Tampa would be the definition of a stars and scrubs team, and I'm not sure they'd even make the playoffs.
Hyman-G. Campbell-L. Shaw,
Similar to the Lightning, this Panthers team has good players like Aaron Ekblad, Alex Barkov, and Jonathan Huberdeau, but their depth at every position is terribly thin. The only player in the bottom six that you can count on at this point is Joonas Donskoi, plus their defense corps is nowhere near as good as it is right now without Keith Yandle, Jason Demers, and Mark Pysyk. This doesn't look like a playoff team at all.
Detroit Red Wings:
The forward group is relatively similar to the current roster, and it would be good enough to be about average. Mrazek and Howard is what their goaltending already is, and that would not be an issue. The thing that would make them a bubble team is the defense. Kronwall is nowhere near a first pairing defenseman anymore, and there isn't a single player that I would be truly confident with putting in my top-4.
Despite the narrative that the Red Wings have the best scouts, this roster underwhelms overall.
Look. At. Those. Forwards. Coming into this, I knew the Bruins would have a few extra great players, but I wasn't expecting this. I had to move David Krejci and Ryan Spooner to the wing because their six centres are Thornton, Seguin, Bergeron, Krejci, Spooner, and Colborne. To me, that's four first line centres a second liner, and a third liner. Plus they have Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, and Milan Lucic, with really no weaknesses on any line.
The defense would be quite terrible, but Malcolm Subban and Michael Hutchinson could probably be an average to above average duo. Plus the offense would be historically good so it probably wouldn't even matter. They have my vote for the best team in the division just because of how loaded their forwards are.
To me, this looks like the most balanced team in the whole division. The forwards aren't amazing, but with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, they have two very good centres to roll with. The defense doesn't have an obvious weak link, which cannot be said for any other team besides Montreal. A Ryan Miller/Jhonas Enroth combination is not great, but you could certainly do worse. I think this Sabres team would be the safest pick to at least make the playoffs, but I doubt they would go deep.
So that's all of them. Let's hear your thoughts in the comments about who you think has the best roster!