From Jan. 13 through May 8, there are NHL games scheduled every night as part of its truncated 56-game 2020-21 season. Every. Single. Night.
But on Jan. 26? Well, the buffet is open: There 14 games from which to choose, provided you have the ways and means to watch hockey beyond the limited scope of local rights-holder schedules. If that’s the case, then you still have to figure out which games are worth your time. Again, there are only 56 of those for each team this season. There’s literally no time to waste time on uncompelling hockey.
As a public service, here are the 2020-21 NHL Watchability Rankings, in which we separate the titans from the tedium, the must-sees from the skips, the Avalanche from the Devils.
Each team is rated from 1-to-10 in the following categories:
Star power: The number of outright stars or compelling players on the team.
Secondary plot lines: Outside of “trying to win,” what are the other storylines that could make following this team memorable?
Controversy quotient: From trade requests to trash talkers to possible suspensions, what kind of chaos could this team create?
Fun factor: The on-ice entertainment value for a team.
Aesthetics: These teams shouldn’t just be fun to watch, they should be pleasing on the eyes, too, including their Reverse Retro jerseys.
The score is tallied into an overall watchability rating.
So which teams are worth your time this season?
Star power: 10
Secondary plot lines: 10
Controversy quotient: 9
Fun factor: 10
Overall watchability rating: 47
There isn’t another team in the NHL that elicits the kind of emotions that the Toronto Maple Leafs do from fans, including their own. They have must-see players: Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares. They have the greatest stakes of any team in the league, trying to win a Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967 with a roster bumping up against the salary cap ceiling, facing the constant pressure of the market in which they play. And every single Canadian team in their division wants the chance to thump them.
Star power: 8
Secondary plot lines: 10
Controversy quotient: 10
Fun factor: 9
Overall watchability rating: 45
The NHL’s highest-rated soap opera. The one with the franchise goalie (Marc-Andre Fleury), whose job was taken by someone acquired at the trade deadline (Robin Lehner), and whose agent released a Photoshopped image of said franchise goalie stabbed in the back with a sword bearing the name of the team’s head coach (Pete DeBoer), who used to coach their arch rival before replacing their beloved inaugural coach. And that’s just one thread! We haven’t even touched on the All-Star defenseman (Alex Pietrangelo) whose massive free-agent contract necessitated the trade of two franchise stalwarts (Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt), in a move approved by a “win at all costs” owner with the patience of a child on a lengthy road trip. Vegas, baby!