To be fair, 97 points in just about any season except last season would have guaranteed that a team in the West (and it's fans) would get to enjoy post-season hockey. As it was, the West was just too tough for the Dallas Stars to crack the top eight.
This season doesn't look to be too terribly different with the Canucks and Sharks appearing to have the two best teams on paper, the Red Wings being the Red Wings, the Predators taking a big step forward as a franchise last year, the Kings retooling their roster, and the Blackhawks looking to bounce back this season with a solid number one netminder entrenched.
Still, there are a couple of teams that could be ripe for the picking (off).
I'll look at those two teams after the jump
If you'll notice in that second paragraph, I left off the Anaheim Ducks from that list.
From an outsider's POV, I'm sure you'd think that this was an oversight on my part of sorts. They're getting a vertigo-free Jonas Hiller coming into camp, they still have Lubomir Visnovsky, Bobby Ryan, and Corey Perry.
But what they may not have coming into next season is Teemu Selanne. Yes, the NHL's version of Brett Favre is pulling his usual crap of 'will he or won't he'. And call it a hunch, I'll be surprised if he comes back next season.
Nevermind that I was surprised to see them make the playoffs as a 4th seed last year. They have a respectable defense, but their goaltending was held down by Ray Emery and Dan Ellis and all his 'problems'. But that's last year.
This year, I'm calling it. The Ducks won't make the playoffs.
And neither will the Coyotes.
Why, you ask?
Well, if you're a baseball fan like me, you'll recall that when the Montreal Expos were actually playing baseball in Montreal, they always had a cornucopia of young talent in the 90's that could offer up a bit of a challenge to the Atlanta Braves over the course of any given season.
But like the Coyotes, the Expos always had to face the harsh realities of their financial situation when their young stars came up for arbitration or free agency. As a result, many of their super talented players like Pedro Martinez, John Wetteland, Marquis Grissom, Moises Alou, Cliff Floyd, and Larry Walker were shuttered off to have great careers elsewhere.
Now the Coyotes don't quite have the plethora of young talent that the Expos had comparably. But there's no doubt that players like Ilya Bryzgalov and Vernon Fiddler were very valuable assets for them last year. And those are just a few of the major subtractions for them this season.
This year, Bryzagalov, who haunted many a Stars' night the last few seasons, is in Philly. And Fiddler's here in Dallas.
For Phoenix, it's a major setback. But one team's misfortune is another team's opportunity. And it could be the Stars best chance to get back into the playoffs.