Ranking the East teams who missed the playoffs

Thumbnail image for Olli Jokinen.jpgWith the playoffs just a few hours away, this is surely a great time to be a hockey fan. That being said, there are fourteen teams on the outside looking in. No doubt about it, they must feel more than a little jealous and probably are asking themselves what went wrong (OK, many are just wondering “Should I use a 9-iron?” but still). With those sad souls in mind, I decided to rank their chances of making the playoffs next year.

Obviously, this is as hasty as it gets, but I hope you find this fun. First, let’s start with the Eastern Conference.

1. New York Rangers

Now, previous success isn’t always an indicator of how a team will do in a season (just ask the Colorado Avalanche), but I think the Rangers might have the best shot to make the playoffs next year. They’re not very deep and are arranged incredibly poorly, but this is the East we’re talking about here.

2. Carolina Hurricanes

A lot went wrong for Carolina this season, but they still finished the year pretty strong. Naturally, they have some rebuilding to do, but Eric Staal and Cam Ward are a nice start.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

Well, we know that the Lightning will add a new coach and general manager, for one thing. Who knows if the team will make some major changes, but if not, it’s hard to imagine a trio of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier missing the playoffs again.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs

Their roster is kind of a disaster, but the team has the deepest pockets of any franchise who missed the playoffs. That has to count for something, even in a salary cap system.

Jump for the three teams in the East that will probably stay in the cellar next year.


5. Atlanta Thrashers

This team is far-and-away the biggest mystery. They have a ton of cap room for this summer so in a few months they could be No. 1 on this list. Then again, the franchise sports the order and logic of a tornado, so they could just as easily drop to No. 7.

6. Florida Panthers

Florida’s front office spoke of big changes. We’ll see. They might rank higher in the actual East standings next season, but I still think they’ll miss the playoffs. Those other teams seem more able to have a nice run. At least at this point, six months before the 2010-11 season.

7. New York Islanders

This team has a long way to go before they reach contender status, but I like a lot of the things they’re doing. 

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    Ducks lock up 2016 first-rounder Max Jones

    BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Max Jones poses for a portrait after being selected 24th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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    The Anaheim Ducks handed their 2016 first-round draft pick Max Jones an entry-level contract on Friday.

    Anaheim selected Jones 24th overall. It looks like he’s getting a pretty typical rookie deal, according to reporters including NHL.com’s Curtis Zupke.

    In PHT’s “Get to Know a Draft Pick” series, THN’s Ryan Kennedy described Jones as “a power forward who can make you look silly with his offensive moves or simply plow you through the boards.”

    Jones was one of three London Knights players who went in the first round in 2016, following Olli Juolevi (fifth overall) and Matthew Tkachuk (sixth overall). He certainly seemed to enjoy the team’s Memorial Cup victory:

    You never really know for certain, but one would imagine that Jones may take a season or two to make it to the NHL level with the Ducks. From the sound of things, he’s in the sort of power forward mold that the team’s had a lot of success with.

    With Lehner injured, Enroth will be in Sweden’s goalie mix at World Cup

    BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 04: Jhonas Enroth #1 of the Buffalo Sabres and Robin Lehner #40 of the Ottawa Senators warm up to play at First Niagara Center on October 4, 2013 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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    NEW YORK (AP) Sweden has selected Jhonas Enroth to replace injured goaltender Robin Lehner on its World Cup of Hockey roster.

    Lehner was bothered by an ankle injury last season while playing for the Buffalo Sabres. Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said Lehner had not recovered 100 percent.

    Enroth, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, joins Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks as the goalies on Sweden’s roster.

    The 28-year-old has a 2.80 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 147 career NHL games. Enroth was on the Swedish team that earned a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, though he never appeared in a game.

    Enroth started for Sweden at the 2015 world hockey championship.

    The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.

    Brandon Pirri makes Rangers’ offense so deep, a trade may be needed

    SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 10:  Brandon Pirri #73 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck during a game against the Washington Capitals at BB&T Center on December 10, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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    Want to make your brain hurt a little? Try to narrow down the New York Rangers’ forward group to a mere 12 after the whip-smart signing of Brandon Pirri became official.

    To start, you have the obvious guys: Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes. Then you add new arrivals in Pirri, Jimmy Vesey, Nathan Gerbe, Michael Grabner and Josh Jooris.

    The list above includes 12 mostly-viable options and we haven’t even discussed the likes of Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast and fringe types such as Tanner Glass.

    Throw in prospects such as Pavel Buchnevich and Marek Hrivik and … well, it sure becomes such a strength that things feel pretty crowded after some reflection.

    Blueshirt Banter makes a strong case that something has to give; they believe that Pirri’s signing points to a possible trade. Maybe even a significant, multi-part one:

    And this is where things get interesting. The Rangers are still floating around the Kevin Shattenkirk rumors, and the persistent Rick Nash speculation isn’t going anywhere, either.

    It’s something that Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman apparently pointed to.

    Well, isn’t that interesting.

    General Fanager puts the Rangers’ jam-packed roster about $1.4 million under the salary cap ceiling as of this moment.

    With that in mind, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton probably isn’t in a desperate situation to move someone – whether it be a big name such as Nash or not – but New York might amass enough forward pieces to jar a quality defenseman loose

    Even as is, the team sure looks more formidable now than it did entering the off-season. Forward depth was one of the strengths of the group that made it to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final (recall useful supporting cast members including Benoit Pouliot), so maybe Alain Vigneault would really excel with another deep group?

    Vacation-mode is just about over, so perhaps the Rangers have something interesting up their sleeves? It’s a reasonable question to ask.

    Poll: Where will the Canadiens finish in the East this year?

    MONTREAL, QC - APRIL 17:  Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens watches play during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals  of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on April 17, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Canadiens defeated the Senators 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
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    Expectations were high for the Montreal Canadiens going into last season.

    In the first month of the 2015-16 season, it seemed like the high expectations were justified, as the Canadiens jumped out to a 9-0-0 start.

    They continued their strong play through the month of November.

    In November, the Canadiens lost both Carey Price (knee) and Brendan Gallagher (hand) to injury. The Price injury, in particular, really hurt the Canadiens.

    Price was initially supposed to be out for 6-to-8 weeks, but he never ended up returning. Without him, the Canadiens just weren’t the same team.

    “It’s been hard mentally,” Price said last April, per NHL.com. “This has been the most trying year of my career. I feel more tired now than I do when I play hockey,” Price said. “Watching, I don’t know how fans do it to be honest. It’s hard to sit and watch and not be able to do anything about it. It’s the hardest part about this process.

    “I think I’ve learned a lot of things in the aspect of preparing myself for a long season. I’ve changed a few things like my diet plans and my preparation for practices. As you get older (Price turns 29 on Aug. 16), you have to do more things like that. And I think I can carry that into next year and it will be beneficial.”

    Now, it sounds like Price is back to full health and that can only be a good thing for Montreal. With Price, it’ll be interesting to see if Montreal can find their winning ways.

    Montreal also added Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw via trade. Both players figure to be important parts of the team in 2016-17.

    How high do you expect the Canadiens to finish in the Eastern Conference standings? How do they stack up against the Panthers, Lightning, Red Wings, Bruins, Senators, Sabres and Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division?

    Time to vote!