Ranking the West teams who missed the playoffs

Thumbnail image for duckstrio.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, 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.

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    Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

    Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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    Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

    Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

    Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

    The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

    “I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

    He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

    WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

    Ryan White, Matt Martin
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    You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

    Here are the handy links for the two contests.

    First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


    After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


    Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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    The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

    Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

    “Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

    Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

    Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

    Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

    Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

    Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

    Ryan Johansen
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    One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

    You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

    — Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

    — GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

    — Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

    So there’s that. What’s next?

    At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

    Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

    So, consider the similarities now:

    — Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

    — Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

    — Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

    — Both are Overhardt guys.

    — The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

    — Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

    For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

    And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

    And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.