Tuesday, June 21, 2011
BY CORY WRIGHT AND ANTHONY LOPOPOLO
Follow Anthony Lopopolo on Twitter at @SportsCaddy and Cory Wright at @WrightsWay
Expectations have a funny way of determining how we feel about our team’s playoff performance, or lack thereof. High expectations followed by extreme disappointment leave us cursing our favourite franchise (New Jersey in this sense). Inversely, low expectations can turn even a modest playoff run into a source of pride (Nashville).
At the end of the day there can only be officially one winner, and congratulations to the Boston Bruins. It’s the grind of grinds to hoist the Stanley Cup. To the moral victors, the heartbroken losers and everyone who played in the IIHF World Championships, this one is for you: speculation on why you didn’t win.
Anaheim Ducks: I’d hate to say that the world turned upside down on them, but Jonas Hiller's did. Vertigo sucks. Without their star goalie, this team of snipers couldn’t have advanced far and didn’t. Also, don’t ever start Dan Ellis in Game 1 again!
Atlanta Thrashers: That’s all that’s left for this team: a post-mortem and expensive, even if discounted souvenirs. They were shipped to Winnipeg. They had about as many people in the stands as on the ice. The number of empty seats made watching a Thrashers game quite the eye-soar. But they still have (had?) a young team for the future.
Buffalo Sabres: Ryan Miller, the Sabres found out, can’t win playoff games by himself. They’re too average to be a playoff team right now. In a couple of years, when players like Tyler Ennis play central roles, they’ll be more equipped to handle the playoffs. And as far as I’m concerned, any team with Patrick Lalime on it will never win anything significant.
Calgary Flames: What’s the plan for this franchise? Apparently, they were supposed to reunite older and lesser-skilled players (Jokinen, Stajan) in the offseason, trade Iginla at the beginning, fire the GM halfway through, and hey, since we almost made it, let's keep it together and try again next year? Figure it out Calgary; don’t Flame out.
Carolina Hurricanes: I feel bad for Cam Ward. He played magnificently this year for the Hurricanes and posted the best save percentage in his career. The team in front of him couldn’t replicate his form.
Chicago Blackhawks: Hats off to the 'Hawks for forcing Game 7 against Vancouver, but the Canucks players, staff and management “never wanted anything as bad as that.” Also, after winning in their ridiculously small window to the seize the Cup, the 'Hawks fell on their own Chelsea Dagger when they traded the heart of the team.
Colorado Avalanche: This team lost the second most amount of man games to injury and pressed the panic button. The Craig Anderson trade for Brian Elliott will give the Avs headaches in goal for the next few years. They called Anderson a bust. I call it a down year.
Columbus Blue Jackets: We’ve seen tremendous years followed by tremendous lows for Blue Jacket goalies. Until they find someone to play with Rick Nash and a consistent goaltender, it looks like the Blue Jackets are going to lag behind the Wings, Predators, 'Hawks and Blues.
Dallas Stars: There were eight teams in the West that just wanted it more.
Detroit Red Wings: In the absence of Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk launched himself as the best player in the game. He couldn't inspire the Red Wings past the Sharks, but there's nothing to worry about. They'll make the playoffs until the sky falls.
Edmonton Oilers: Actually, the Edmonton Oilers didn’t play this year, Oklahoma City Barons just played at Rexall and were televised on Hockey Night in Canada too many times vs. the Colorado Avalanche. If the rest of the country is going to follow Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, lets at least see the Battle of Alberta.
Florida Panthers: This is a great article that really sums up the Panthers' problems. It’s really sad because it's hard to see things turning around in the next few years. It all starts with a good product on the ice, but this team is still a long way off, especially if Tomas Vokoun (forgive me) bolts.
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings were handicapped without leading scorer Anze Kopitar for the playoffs, but with two solid goaltenders, two stud defenceman and talent up front, the lights still look bright in Hollywood. Also, we have to remember that the Sharks don’t choke it in the first round, making it a tough series for anyone.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild seem to take two-year breaks in between playoff appearances. They should be due for a playoff spot next year. With the hiring of former Pittsburgh Penguins assistant Mike Yeo as head coach, the Wild begin their youth movement.
Montreal Canadiens: Last year, being small and speedy worked, but this year the bigger, badder Bruins beat the Habs into submission. It would help if Scott Gomez could score more. Or even once.
Nashville Predators: Nashville may be one of the season’s best stories. The team won their first playoff series, brought out droves of yellow-clad fans and put the team on the map. Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber got some much-deserved attention and who better to share the spotlight with than Carrie Underwood.
New Jersey Devils: What a finish to the season, but boy what a start. As John Davidson once said, "the points you win in October are the ones you don’t need in April." Someone should let the Devils know that next October.
New York Islanders: Speaking of brutal starts, a 21-game losing skid pretty much torpedoed the Isles' campaign. That, and over 500 man games lost to injury (82 to Mark Striet, and 56 to Rick DiPietro) will pretty much do it. But two 30-goal scorers and a third with 29? Maybe the storm is clearing off the island?
New York Rangers: Dear Marian Gaborik: Henrik Lundqvist really appreciates the help around the crease, but don’t get carried away. The puck you poked from his glove sealed Game 4 for the Capitals and essentially the series.
Ottawa Senators: I really love seeing loyalty in professional sports, but Chris Phillips' contract extension (three years, $9.25 million) was expensive, and may hold the rebuild back longer than it has to.
Phoenix Coyotes: If I really didn’t want to move to Winnipeg, but EVERYONE around me told me it was imminent, I’d probably be a little distracted, too. You cannot be anything but 100 per cent focused when the Red Wings come to town.
Philadelphia Flyers: Just because you can win without a franchise goalie, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. And when your all-star defenseman is hurt for an extended period of time, it would really help to have one. It may be time to part with a forward to anchor the back end.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Concussions ended Sidney Crosby’s season, and karma ended Malkin’s. As much as I wanted to believe that Fleury and hard work could get through at least one round, there just wasn’t the firepower necessary to do so.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks showed a lot of heart playing through their injuries, but they didn’t have the same bite. The Immaculate Deflection also suggests that the hockey gods just never want to see San Jose win the Cup.
St. Louis Blues: I wouldn’t say the Blues need to undergo an extensive rebuild, but in order to make the playoffs, they must learn to get more than 90 points a season in the competitive Western Conference. And what did John Davidson say? Considering he's president of hockey ops for the Blues, I'm surprised his team hasn't lived by that.
Tampa Bay Lightning: No lead was safe when playing the Lightning these playoffs, but as we found out, it may have been power-play dependent. However, what a start to the Yzerman/Boucher era in Tampa. This team will be a contender for the next few years.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Expectations changed weekly in TO. After a 4-1 start, the parade was planned, shortly after it was waffled. Then a man named James Reimer came along and carried the Leafs to the brink of the postseason. Expectations are going to be as high as the CN Tower next year and if Reimer pulls a Steve Mason or Andrew Raycroft, it’ll be another long season. No pressure, though. Not in Toronto.
Vancouver Canucks: After a long playoff run/grind, the Canucks finally hit a wall. Its name was Tim Thomas.
Washington Capitals: Blame it on the unfortunate “still in the playoffs, you?” tweet. Something tells me we might see an @mention soon that goes something like, “not blowing it up this summer, you?”