There's something objectively exciting about a team getting a new look. Will it be great, will it be terrible, will it be iconically great or terrible? Single teams can painstakingly work across years on a rebrand of their threads. So when it was announced that every single team in the NHL would be getting a new addition to their on-ice apparel this season, it felt like Christmas morning was coming.
And just like Christmas morning, there were some good surprises, some weird leaps in logic, and some very, very ugly sweaters. Adidas definitely came out swinging on many of these new jerseys, which is commendable, even if the final product was sometimes lacking. And for perhaps the most self-serious league in pro sports, the very fact that some of these are so out there is an encouraging sign that the NHL is finally embracing the idea that it should actually be fun. Let's take a look at the new arrivals and rate them on a report card scale. Fair warning, several teams are getting held back a grade.
Anaheim Ducks: B-
I know! I know... let me explain myself. Wildwing is indeed back. Inspired by the last big leap NHL uniforms took in the mid-'90s, the Ducks have revived their logo of a mascot wearing a logo of the mascot wearing a logo look. Look, either you despise this, or you find it fun enough to get by the disaster that is the "logos" on this jersey. Clearly, I am in the "this is very fun" camp. It's a mess, but it's a fun mess.
Arizona Coyotes: C-
Reviving a third jersey look from the turn of the (21st) century, Arizona will once again be rocking the desert motif. Personally, I don't hate how the colors work together, but I have little faith that this very busy, very purple look is going to hold up on the ice. If the Ducks' look carries a certain minor league charm, the Coyotes miss that mark.
Boston Bruins: A
The Bruins might have the best jersey in the batch, with this yellow interpretation of the sweaters Cam Neely and Ray Bourque once wore. Yellow, black and white are pretty hard to screw up, and team Addidas most definitely did not on this project.
Buffalo Sabres: B-
The Sabres decided to pay homage to the third jerseys they wore in the early aughts but traded in the original black/red/silver color scheme for their traditional royal blue and yellow. It's hit and miss. I do like the striping and the logo (though I wish the buffalo head was the primary), but the Buffalo script across the bottom doesn't pop in the way it should, and the grey at the bottom is unneeded. Simply put, the jersey has good bones but is lacking execution.
Calgary Flames: B+
BLASTY IS BACK! The flaming horse (who I definitely thought was a dragon when I was a kid) is proudly featured on the Flames' newest sweater. If you can't tell, I'm a fan of the only non-flaming-letter crest the franchise has ever known. The rest of the jersey looks clean but is just a bit boring. I'm also not sold on the white numbers.
Carolina Hurricanes: F
It takes special skill to ruin one of the best looks in hockey history. The use of grey in the '90s weakened the iconic Whalers look, and going all-in on grey here was the wrong move. Addidas says that decision was made because grey happens to be the only color shared by the current Hurricanes and the retired Whalers. That's good enough reason to let Pucky finally rest. Build your own legacy, Carolina. Stop carting out a superiorly designed product that was thrown in the dumpster when you split for Raleigh. And keep Brass Bonanza out of your mouths, ya bunch of jerks.
Chicago Blackhawks: D-
First thing's first, the NHL put a concerted effort into hiding the logo on the front of this jersey. Just watch that embedded video. The logo is visible for less than a second. It's embarrassing, as a Hawks fan. This rollout clearly shows that the league has read the tea leaves and knows a general rebrand away from the Native face is only a matter of time. Addidas went full retro with the logo too, bringing back the more stereotypical Indian head from the '30s and '40s. It was a bad move. I've written at length about the Blackhawks relationship with their Native logo. Unfortunately, if we move past the problems it brings with it (as NHL would very much like us to do) to look at the rest of this jersey, you'll find a look that is completely uninspired. The disappointment mounts for the Blackhawks.
Colorado Avalanche: B+
Let me get my soapbox speech out of the way. I hate when a franchise wears the corpse of their old city. It's just a team playing a silly game, I am aware, but it feels disrespectful to all the fans they left behind. I'll admit, there was a hollow thrill seeing the Hurricanes wear the classic Whalers threads last season, but it quickly gave way to the bitterness that they weren't actually the Whalers. The Nordiques return today personally hit me hard because this was my team when I was just falling in love with hockey. Seeing the Avalanche's new Twitter picture be the Nordiques igloo brings forth a wave of sadness that travels through my body.
With that being said, if there is a good way to do this kind of thing, Colorado has figured it out. This is an absolutely stunning sweater. It is an instant classic that utilizes the underrated colors of the Avalanche on the old Quebec uniform. This grade is lowered only by my immense distaste for zombie revivals, not by the aesthetics of the design. I hate that it is so pretty. I hate that this sweater isn't playing in Quebec City.
Columbus Blue Jackets: C
That's uh, bright. Harkening back to the team's original look, the only real difference is the swap between the placement of red and blue. Not very inventive, but it could have been a lot worse.
Dallas Stars: D
Move over Mooterus, you have some company. The use of white on over 95% of this sweater is baffling. And what makes it particularly galling is that the uniqueness of this late '90s design should make for something striking and bold. Instead, the Stars will have to play NHL games in a sweater that would better outfit a pee-wee all-star game.
Detroit Redwings: F
Detroit, I am so sorry. Did Addidas forget to design something for the Wings until last weekend? To be fair, only having a single team color does make designing a "reversal" pretty tough. And clearly, the designers were inspired by the centennial uniforms the Red Wings wore a few years ago. But this... this is a practice squad/beer league jersey, not at all up to snuff for an Original Six team. Here's to hoping the team Chris Sale's these things when they hang them up in their lockers for the first time.
Edmonton Oilers: A
A huge thank you to the Oilers for ending that very rough patch. This is a clean look that shows off the possibility of the Adidas jersey cut. The orange yoke is really the only thing reversed from this Gretsky-era design, but it works wonderfully. This one should stick around.
Florida Panthers: B-
I'm frankly surprised I don't like this more. I was a big fan of the look the Panthers sported in the first half of their history. But with the muted colors the current squad uses, the jersey doesn't pop as it should. Red might have been a better choice, but as their home jersey is already red, I understand why navy blue was chosen as the primary color.
Los Angles Kings: A-
This is one of those times when the marketing team and the design team both knocked it out of the park. The classic (Lakers) colors. The Gretsky-era (Swingers) logo. The Kings are going to sell an obscene amount of these jerseys and a large portion of those sales won't even be to hockey fans. The true purpose of the third jersey is to be something that looks good, something that will increase profits, and something that will increase brand recognition. L.A. went 3 for 3.
Minnesota Wild: C
On paper, using the Minnesota North Stars colors on the Wild motif should be a home run. In practice? I'd rather have the red and cream back. That logo alone is proof enough. John Deere approved.
Montreal Canadiens: B+
Nothing is ever going to rival the Habs' rouge, blanc, et bleu look. It's probably a top-five uniform in all of the sports. This blue (sorry, bleu) version of that look comes off a tad muted but is one of the better designs in the Retro Reversal release. It would make an excellent third jersey for the foreseeable future.
Nashville Predators: B-
I'll probably be in the minority when it comes to Nashville's new threads, but I think they work! Busy? Yes. Garish? Yes. Nashville? Absolutely. Now just put a navy helmet above this, instead of a yellow one. Please.
New Jersey Devils: B
I just don't get the love for the early Devils' look. Red and green are not a better combination than red and black on a hockey rink. That being said, this is a well-constructed sweater and I would 100% wear this to any Christmas party in the future.
New York Islanders: C-
I'm judging harshly due to a lack of creativity. It appears that the only thing that was done to the look the Isles have sported for most of their existence was turning down the brightness levels on blue. No fisherman?? No orange weirdness?? What a waste.
New York Rangers: C+
Once you move past the Lady Liberty crest, which is a favorite of mine, this sweater becomes very boring very quickly. No striping on the bottom, no color change on the cuffs, it's all very plain. But again, it does feel very good to see Lady Liberty back where she belongs.
Ottawa Senators: C++
Yes, C++. I just can't give this retread of the Sens' inaugural look a B. I really want to like it! Red is good. All red is less good. No utilization of white for trim is bad. The double collar is also lacking. Otherwise *sigh* ... it's fine?
Philadelphia Flyers: C+
Perhaps this Legion of Doom inspired orange monstrosity will grow on me as their previous orange monstrosity did. Alas, I don't think I'll ever love these in the way that I love our savior of American democracy, Gritty.
Pittsburgh Penguins: A
As Macho Man would say, this sweater is the cream of the crop. As much as I would have loved to see a play on the robo/art deco penguin of the mid-'90s, this white look nails the "retro reverse" concept by leaning on nostalgia while improving the look it's inspired by. The Pens get whatever the jersey version of a Paul Hollywood Handshake is.
San Jose Sharks: C
The Sharks look in the early aughts should have stayed back in its own time. The grey is a bold leap and probably the best use of grey in this entire rollout, but one the sweater just can't pull it off. The original logo does bring back some nostalgic fun, but otherwise, this look isn't very inspiring.
St Louis Blues: D+
What's the team name again? The Reds? Oh no, it's the Blues. They should have a blue jersey. Kudos to the design team though. This is both very retro and very reverse. The only problem is that it is also very bad.
Tampa Bay Lightning: B
It's been nearly 30 years and I still can't decide if the Lightning's original motif worked or not. The multiple fonts on one logo, the use of black and blue together, the slowest, heaviest looking lighting bolt in history for a logo... it's shouldn't work. But I still kind of like it. The same can be said for their newest sweater, which simply switched the blues and blacks from their '90s design. The simple swap brings new life to the look and in my humble opinion, improves upon it.
Toronto Maple Leafs: F
Look, I've been there before. You're so sick and tired of working that you just throw something together, call it good enough, and then flee the office for the nearest happy hour. But I'm shocked that a franchise as obsessed with appearances as the Leafs would give what amounts to a rookie attempt on an NHL 21 Create-A-Team franchise the green light. They even forgot to reset the numbers on the back that auto-filled as blue! rookie mistake! If the hockey team performs as poorly as this design team did, they can kiss that playoff streak goodbye.
Vancouver Canucks: B+
I feel like I have to apologize for liking this sweater. But I like it. I like it a lot. Remember, the gradient isn't evil, folks. It is the people who misuse the gradient that are evil, and in this instance, perhaps for the first time in modern uniform history, the gradient has been wielded by the forces of good. It is a small touch, but the light blue and pewter used in the crest is an inspired choice that subtly gives life to a logo that could easily get lost in the green and blue shuffle of the sweater. Of all the bing swings taken today, the Cunucks were the only ones to land it over the fence.
Vegas Golden Knights: C+
Vegas might have some of the best looks in the league. I'm especially fond of their away whites and the gloves to match. Their recently unveiled gold uniforms are a great concept and their home greys are as sturdy as the iron they emulate. This jersey is not in the same league. That might be because it was actually designed on a look from a completely different league. Kudos to the designers for reaching back to the IHL/ECHL Las Vegas Thunder (watch the embedded video for more in their very colorful history) for inspiration on the design. The sweater does grow on me the more I look at it, but the Golden Knights secondary logo is not strong enough to act as a primary and the red (if possible for Vegas) may be too bold to ever win me over.
Washington Capitals: B
Another one of Addidas' more straightforward designs, the Caps essentially will be wearing their home sweater for the late '90s but with current colors. The Screamin' Eagle is a great crest made better by the color change. The CAPITALS script under it... does not hold up in 2020.
Winnipeg Jets: C-
Why are so many of these uniforms grey? Using grey as a primary color is very difficult, and yet multiple teams green-lit uniforms in a color that is at best a useful trim color. The Jets have one of the most understated uniform trios in the NHL today. This dull rehash of their NHL debut does not deserve to be hung among them.
So, there you have it. I'm sure we disagree on some of these rankings, but we can all agree on this: hockey needs to come back ASAP.
...And the Red Wings sweaters are trash.