This is a difficult time of the year for many hockey fans.  It’s cold and dark outside.  The luster of the new season is long gone.  Injuries and slumps begin to suck the life out of your team.  The trade deadline is still a few weeks away and the playoffs are even further in the distance.  However, this time of year is even tougher on fans of teams that don’t have much hope for a successful season.  For teams that probably won’t make the playoffs, the last few months of the season are nothing but a sad countdown to the bitter end, filled with only the desperate hope of a unlikely winning streak and checking out scouting profiles  for the upcoming draft.

Are you in that position right now?  Is your team destined to watch the playoffs at home instead of from the bench?

In the Western Conference only one team can really say for sure that they won’t be in the playoffs this year.  Sure, no one has been mathematically eliminated yet, but the Edmonton Oilers 38 points put them 13 behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for 14th place in the conference.  Sorry Oiler fans, the dream of Taylor Hall hoisting the Cup in his rookie season are long dead.  But you already knew that.  One of the nice things about being a fan of a last (or second last) place team is that the playoff dream dies sometime in November, so you can spend the rest of the season realistically assessing your team rather than hopelessly praying that they’ll somehow crack the top eight.

Despite the West being incredibly tight, you have to assume that both the Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues will be sitting at home all spring as well.  While both teams are seven points out of eighth place, there are four teams ahead of them so it’s unlikely that either the Blues or Blue Jackets will be able to make the jump.  Somehow, the Calgary Flames are only two points out of the playoffs, an idea that seemed ludicrous not that long ago.

In the East, the playoff picture is a bit clearer.  Sitting at the bottom of the conference (and the league) is everyone’s favourite fall from grace story, the New Jersey Devils.  Their 37 points are the lowest in the NHL and even though they’ve won seven of their last 10 games, the playoffs won’t be happening for them.  This will be the first time since 1996 that the Devils will miss the playoffs.

Just ahead of New Jersey sits the perennial bottom-feeding New York Islanders.  No one really expects anything from the Islanders anymore, do they?

The Ottawa Senators sit three points ahead of the New York Islanders.  Much like the New Jersey Devils, no one expected Ottawa to be this bad this season.  Sure, they’re far from a Stanley Cup contender, but the playoffs seemed like a possibility back in July when they signed Sergei Gonchar to a three-year contract.  Ottawa’s biggest rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs are just three points in front of them in the standings.

Like the Oilers and the Islanders, no one really expected a return to the playoffs for Toronto this year.  The Leafs are already on the longest playoff drought in team history and it will be six years without postseason action for Toronto if they don’t crack the top eight this year.  The Leafs and Oilers both missing the playoffs will ruin the predictions we made during the first week of the season.

The Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers sit in 10th and 11th place in the Eastern Conference, with 51 and 50 points respectively.  While playoff berths are entirely possible for both teams, they’re not likely.  The Eastern Conference playoff picture looks relatively locked up right now, with only ninth place Carolina an option to supplant one of the top eight.  The Hurricanes are only one point behind the eighth place Thrashers right now.

So, in the East, it looks like only nine teams are really in contention right now.  In the West, there are 12.  This should make for an interesting trade deadline…

Comments (4)

  1. The Leafs will shock the world.

  2. I think the Kings will need 99 points to make it into the absurdly tough West, and after yesterday (losing in a shootout to THE WILD!?! Tha hell??? And to think JJ rang one off the iron in OT and I could’ve been gloating about that….) they need 44 points in 31 games.

    Yikes. This isn’t looking good at all.

  3. Just ahead of New Jersey sits the perennial bottom-feeding New York Islanders. No one really expects anything from the Islanders anymore, do they?

    Sure. Take your easy shots.

    The Florida Panthers have missed the playoffs nine consecutive times, probably ten this season. Neither Atlanta nor Columbus have won a playoff game, ever. Everyone’s darling up-and-comers, the LA Kings, have made the playoffs five times since going to the ’93 Finals – same as the Islanders in the same time frame – though I will grant you that they managed to advance one of those five times.

    Plenty of teams bottom out badly and spend time wandering the wilderness. Pittsburgh was dreadful for four consecutive years, the Hawks were bad enough to miss the playoffs nine of ten seasons from ’97-’98 to ’07-’08, Calgary had eight straight sub-80 point seasons after the shortened 1995 season.

    The Isles have had a terrible quarter-season stretch:1-17-3. In the rest of their games they are 15-10-4. They have plenty of good young players who can reasonably expect to improve, and the money to sign them long-term. This is a team with a bright future, and I think that you can reasonably expect them to be in the mix for the playoffs next season.

  4. Is it wrong that the playoff dream for me died sometime in August?

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