As the Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens go down to the wire for the final playoff spot in the East, 14 other NHL teams have already started booking tee times. That’s great if they like golf, not so great if they like Stanley Cups.
Here’s a quick post-mortem on the teams that have missed the post-season (teams listed in alphabetical order):
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf & Co. are sitting out the spring for the first time since 2012. The problem? They’re not mighty anymore, especially on offense. And their defense isn’t what it used to be, either.
Arizona Coyotes: It’s really too bad Darcy Kuemper won’t get a chance on the playoff stage. The Coyotes’ backup goalie stepped in for injured starter Antti Raanta in early November and carried an injury-decimated Arizona team to the brink of the post-season with his brilliant play. The 28-year-old netminder, who’s signed through next season for a bargain $1.85 million, set personal bests in starts (55), wins (27) and shutouts, and he’s securely among the NHL’s top 10 in goals-against average (2.33) and save percentage (.925). A remarkable season from an unsung goalie who should garner Vezina Trophy support.
Buffalo Sabres: They looked like a playoff lock in the first half of the season, then looked like the same old Sabres in the second half as they plummeted down the standings. Here’s hoping that Rasmus Dahlin’s patience doesn’t get tested as much as Jack Eichel’s already has been (four playoff-less seasons and counting).
Chicago Blackhawks: It’s hard to believe Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews posted career-best years and the Blackhawks missed the playoffs. Chicago was lost in the wilderness in the first half, then started rolling and played like a team you wouldn’t want to face in the first round. Alas, it was not to be.
Detroit Red Wings: That 25-season playoff streak has given way to three consecutive years outside the post-season. They haven’t hit ‘Dead Things’ territory, but the prospect pipeline needs to start pumping new life into the Original Six organization. Fortunately, there’s plenty of promise with the likes of Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen up front and Filip Hronek and Dennis Cholowski on defense.
Edmonton Oilers: Like everyone else in the hockey world, we want to see superstar Connor McDavid (and near-50-goal man Leon Draisaitl) in the playoffs. McDavid is the best player in the world and he’ll be watching the post-season on TV for the third time in his four-year career. That’s a shame.
Florida Panthers: First-liners Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau have played a combined 878 regular-season games, but their only playoff experience was a six-game ouster in 2016. Both players hit the 90-point plateau en route to personal-best seasons this year, but they’re stuck on three career playoff points apiece.
Los Angeles Kings: No Drew Doughty in the playoffs means no Drew Doughty playoff quotes, so the off-ice entertainment factor ratchets down a notch.
Minnesota Wild: The old guard – Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Eric Staal and Devan Dubnyk – remains under contract for next season and, in most cases, beyond. That’s assuming team management doesn’t make any out-with-the-old moves this summer, but if the roster remains status quo, the bigger question is whether this version of the Wild has the horses for a future playoff run.
New Jersey Devils: After last season’s surprising spring appearance, it wasn’t to be this time around for a Devils team that struggled as reigning league MVP Taylor Hall was limited to just 33 games due to injury (and still finished in the top five in team scoring).
New York Rangers: Expectations were low this season after the Rangers went public with their decision to rebuild. The future burns bright on Broadway, but will 37-year-old Henrik Lundqvist still be around when New York is ready to contend again? He posted the worst stats of his career this season (18 wins, 3.07 GAA, .907 save percentage, zero shutouts).
Ottawa Senators: They blew it all up and dressed a total of 17 rookies at different times this season, including seven freshmen who played 20 or more games. And that doesn’t include sophomore defenseman Thomas Chabot, who led the Sens in scoring. It would’ve been beneficial for Ottawa’s fuzzy-faced youth to get some playoff experience, but yeah, it wasn’t going to happen.
Philadelphia Flyers: Here’s how the Flyers have fared over the past seven seasons: didn’t make the playoffs, lost in the first round, didn’t make the playoffs, lost in the first round, didn’t make the playoffs, lost in the first round, didn’t make the playoffs. That’s a rough ride for one of the NHL’s marquee markets, not to mention a waste of the prime years of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
Vancouver Canucks: Soon-to-be Calder Trophy winner Elias Pettersson won’t get the chance to prove his rookie playoff worth, and that’s unfortunate. Not to mention Jacob Markstrom, who has come into his own after seven-plus NHL seasons, is still looking for his first post-season action in net.