With 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, they’re probably asking themselves “Should I use a 9-iron?” but still). With those sad souls in mind, I decided to rank those team’s chances of making the playoffs next year.
Obviously, this is as hasty as it gets, but I hope you find this fun. Here are my choices for the Western Conference (in order of most to least likely).
1. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks would probably be a dominant team in the East, but no sense crying over spilled milk. With Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer and Saku Koivu mulling retirement, this could be a very different team next season. That being said, their mean young trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan are elite and so is Jonas Hiller.
2. St. Louis Blues
With Keith Tkachuk’s retirement and Paul Kariya’s expired contract in mind, it’s obvious that the already-young Blues look to fully transition to a bunch of whipper snappers. With a few tweaks (say, adding Sergei Gonchar and Alex Frolov, maybe?) the Blues could be a contender.
3. Dallas Stars
The Stars are another team that will look very different in 2010-11. There’s plenty to build on, though, as the team is especially stacked at forward.
4. Calgary Flames
It’s pretty hard to be positive about the Flames right now, but let’s not forget that they were still pretty close to making the playoffs.
The remaining three teams are discussed after the jump.
5. Edmonton Oilers
Just about everything that could go wrong went wrong for the Oilers this year. Add Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle to a hopefully healthy Ales Hemsky and the outside chance of a healthy Nikolai Khabibulin and suddenly Edmonton might have a fighting chance.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
Is the “real” Steve Mason the guy who won a Calder Trophy and received some serious Vezina consideration or the goalie who stunk up the joint last season?
7. Minnesota Wild
I don’t think Minnesota will finish last season, but really it might be best (for the future) if they did. They remind me of the Florida Panthers in a lot of ways (for one thing, they both have only had one playoff run to write home about). I get the feeling Wild fans might be wise to prepare for some more near-playoff misses in the next few years.