ESPN The Magazine's "Ultimate Standings" project is like if SportsNation and Team Marketing Report mated after a night of cheap beer and looking at old vacation photos.
It's an annual assessment of franchise "value" that's "driven by research and fan feedback, looks at MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchises' affordability, bang for the buck, coaching, fan relations, ownership, players, stadium experience and title track to establish a ranking of all 122."
So, by that measure, the NHL's highest-ranking team in the standings are the affordably priced, exciting, well-coached, fan-friendly, Mario-owned, Sidney and Geno-starring, Igloo-to-CONSOL playing former Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. They ranked fifth overall behind the New Orleans Saints, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Angels and Indianapolis Colts.
Second-to-last on the list? Your Toronto Maple Leafs.
Here are the NHL's teams in the 2010 Ultimate Standings from ESPN. In brackets are the teams ranked directly behind them.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (Tampa Bay Rays); The Penguins were ranked first in fan relations.
8. Detroit Red Wings (Green Bay Packers); The Red Wings were ranked first in ownership.
11. Washington Capitals (Sharks)
12. San Jose Sharks (Colorado Rockies)
16. Chicago Blackhawks (Philadelphia Phillies)
18. Phoenix Coyotes (Arizona Cardinals)
21. Carolina Hurricanes (St. Louis Cardinals)
23. Anaheim Ducks (Dallas Mavericks)
29. Nashville Predators (Houston Rockets)
34. New Jersey Devils (Avs)
35. Colorado Avalanche (Atlanta Falcons)
41. St. Louis Blues (Sabres)
42. Buffalo Sabres (Cincinnati Reds)
45. Los Angeles Kings (New England Patriots)
49. Ottawa Senators (New York Jets)
57. Dallas Stars (Miami Dolphins)
60. Philadelphia Flyers (San Francisco Giants)
64. Vancouver Canucks (Florida Marlins)
70. Tampa Bay Lighting (Jacksonville Jaguars)
76. Boston Bruins (San Francisco 49ers)
78. Minnesota Wild (Oakland A’s)
84. Montreal Canadiens (Chicago Bulls)
87. Calgary Flames (Houston Astros)
96. Columbus Blue Jackets (Sacramento Kings)
103. New York Islanders (Rangers); The Islanders were ranked last in stadium experience.
104. New York Rangers (Washington Redskins)
106. Florida Panthers (New York Mets)
109. Atlanta Thrashers (Golden State Warriors)
111. Edmonton Oilers (Detroit Lions)
121. Toronto Maple Leafs (Los Angeles Clippers); The Leafs were also last in affordability.
If you're looking for a method to this madness, ESPN has "Bang for the Buck," "Fan Relations" and "Players" accounting for 58.4 percent of the total rank. So if you're cheap and friendly, like the Hurricanes with their $38.38 average ticket price (via TMR's Fan Cost Index), you're going to be ranked highly. If you're expensive and coolly corporate, like the Leafs and Rangers, then you're down in Daniel Snyder territory.
Then why are the Islanders so low on the list, you ask, besides their utter futility on the ice? Because ESPN has apparently visited the Mausoleum.