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E.J. Express: Final farewell to teams out of playoffs

Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 11:01 AM / NHL.Countdown

By EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst

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E.J. Express: Final farewell to teams out of playoffs
As the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway, NHL Network's E.J. Hradek takes one final look at the teams that missed out on the postseason party.

After leaving the 2012 Scotiabank NHL Draft Lottery with the No. 1 pick and earning the first draft pick for the third straight year, Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini probably wishes actual NHL games were decided by numbered ping pong balls. The shootout is about as close as he'll get to that.

In the aftermath, Tambellini says he's leaving all his options open, including the possibility of trading the pick. If the past two years are any indication, the Oilers will be keeping their plans to themselves for as long as possible.

If Edmonton does decide to use the pick, it'll mark just the second time a team had three consecutive No. 1 picks. The Quebec Nordiques selected first in 1989, '90 and '91, drafting Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan and Eric Lindros.

With the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs starting Wednesday, the E.J. Express takes one last look at the teams left behind. Let's roll through them in draft order.

2011-2012 Standings

Western Conference
GP
P
ROW

9
82
90
34
10
82
89
35
11
82
88
32
12
82
81
24
13
82
80
31
14
82
74
27
15
82
65
25
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
04/11/12 11:03AM

1. Oilers: At some point this team has to get better, doesn't it? After a good start, the Oilers dropped through the Western Conference standings like a rock during December and January. Despite having several elite young players on the roster, the Oilers might be another year or two from making the playoffs in the competitive Western Conference.

2. Blue Jackets: The Jackets capped a season where so much went wrong by losing the Draft Lottery despite having a near 50 percent chance to take the top pick. They still should get a terrific prospect at No. 2; more importantly, the club will have to figure out what they can get for star forward Rick Nash, who has asked to be traded.

3. Canadiens: In the coming weeks, the club will be looking to fill its vacant GM post. That decision will shape the historic franchise for the next decade. Whoever gets the gig inherits a roster that includes a top goalie, some good young defensemen and several good forwards. There are several worse situations to be asked to handle.

4. Islanders: While John Tavares has taken his game to the next level, the Isles missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season. In the tough Atlantic Division, they'll likely have a tough time again next season. I wonder if an experienced coach with a winning background could get more out of this roster.

5. Maple Leafs: Ownership sent a letter of apology to its fans and GM Brian Burke says he plans to re-tool his roster to better suit the style of new coach Randy Carlyle. I guess that's easier said than done. The Leafs still have plenty of holes on their roster. Most notably, they need a top-six center or two, as well as some help on defense and in goal. There's a lot of work to do in Toronto, which stands as the only franchise not to qualify for the playoffs at least once since 2005.

6. Ducks: A major disappointment, the Ducks have the roster to get back into the postseason chase next season. A bounce-back season from Ryan Getzlaf would be a big help. In the coming weeks, the club will wait to hear from Teemu Selanne, who again will ponder return or retirement. The sooner he makes a decision, the better for the Ducks.

7. Wild: After a surprisingly good start that had them at the top of the League standings in early December, the Wild showed they just aren't ready for prime time yet. They have some good prospects in their system; Charlie Coyle, for example, has a chance to be a real good player. If ownership is patient, I believe GM Chuck Fletcher has a strong plan in place. It will take some time, though.

2011-2012 Standings

Eastern Conference
GP
P
ROW

9
82
89
32
10
82
84
35
11
82
84
33
12
82
82
32
13
82
80
31
14
82
79
27
15
82
78
26
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
04/11/12 11:03AM

8. Hurricanes: Carolina had a strong second half under coach Kirk Muller. I think the 'Canes have a good chance to build on that next fall. When you can start with center Eric Staal and goalie Cam Ward, you're definitely on the right track. Rookie defenseman Justin Faulk made an impression this season. This team figures to compete for a playoff spot next season.

9. Jets: This franchise took two big steps forward after relocating from Atlanta, but it still has a serious road to travel. The team still has to make a number of personnel decisions and find a way to be better on the road. The pieces, however, appear to be falling into place.

10. Lightning: Last spring, the Lightning came within one game of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. A year later, the Lightning find themselves on the wrong side of the playoff line. GM Steve Yzerman wisely plans on addressing the club's blue line and goaltending issues in the summer. If he succeeds, Tampa could be back in the postseason picture pretty quickly.

11. Avalanche: The Avs' late-season push came up just a few points short. Still, the young team took several strides forward. They'll need to add a little more consistency to their game next season. Colorado won't get to take advantage of the No. 11 pick, however; the Avalanche sent that pick to the Capitals last summer as part of the deal to get goalie Semyon Varlamov.

12. Sabres: After spending big bucks this past summer, the Sabres entered the season with some pretty high expectations. In Buffalo, fans thought they had a legitimate Cup contender. After a midseason slide, the club spent some time in the Eastern Conference cellar. It rallied behind star goalie Ryan Miller, but came up a few points shy of a playoff spot. It will be interesting to see what kind of changes may occur this summer.

13. Stars: For the second straight season, the Stars couldn't secure a playoff spot in the final days of the season, as back-to-back losses to the Sharks on March 31 and April 3 basically took them out of the postseason picture. There are some good players in Dallas, but they have to find a way to get over the hump. They've been out of the playoffs four years and counting.

14. Flames: If ever there was a team that needed a complete overhaul, the Flames are it. In recent seasons, they've been good enough to just miss the playoffs. The summer figures to include the annual discussion about trading Jarome Iginla, who doesn't want to leave and has a no-trade clause. They need to break this cycle before they can move forward again.

Quote of the Day

Great players need great players to play with. That's why we'll have a training camp and we'll find who the best two guys are suited to play with Stamkos.

— Tampa Bay Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness on Steven Stamkos' potential linemates for the 2014-15 season