The Buffalo News points out that there’s a strong possibility that most of the Eastern Conference’s playoff teams may already be largely settled, yet the same may be said about the West.
At least, someone might make the argument that the races will lack drama compared to previous seasons.
Out East, there’s a significant gap between the top nine teams and the rest.
Looking at the standings, things are a bit misleadingly dire for the ninth-place Florida Panthers. They trail the Boston Bruins for the final wild card spot by seven standings points, yet with four games in hand, they could conceivably close much (or even all) of that gap.
The Western Conference seems to showcase a pretty big drop-off between the seventh-place Winnipeg Jets and the rest of the field.
On the bright side for those who love a little drama in their playoff races, the final West spot could provide some needed intrigue. Here are the teams with at least some hope of catching it:
Calgary Flames (currently holding that last slot): 53 points, 47 games played, 25 wins (22 regulation/OT)
Los Angeles Kings – 52 points, 47 GP, 20 wins, 19 ROW
Colorado Avalanche – 50 poins, 48 GP, 20 wins, 14 ROW
Dallas Stars – 49 points, 46 GP, 21 wins, 19 ROW
Minnesota Wild – 46 points, 46 GP, 20 wins, 18 ROW
Honestly, depending upon your penchant for pessimism, five teams being in the running for that final west spot might be a little generous.
Obviously, streaks one way or another can still influence these odds heavily, as you can see from the swing for the Kings and San Jose Sharks.
Still, it’s interesting to see how long the odds are for any team – West or East – outside either conference’s top 10.
By no means is this to say that more specific faces won’t be exciting, mind you. The Central and Metropolitan Division battles should be enough to captivate fans of specific teams and the hockey world in general.
Still, one gets the nagging suspicion that it will be easier to pinpoint “buyers” and “sellers” at the trade deadline, among other things.
Do you think any bubble teams may contradict such thoughts, though? Or perhaps will a current playoff team tumble out of contention?