Monday, March 19, 2012

Who's In and Who's Out

League parity has seemingly been at an all-time high this year. It's been good for the league as a whole, creating a lot of competitive matchups and tight races for the playoffs. Unfortunately for the teams involved, this has caused a bottleneck at the 8th seed--the final spot for the playoffs. Currently, in the East, 4 teams are only 5 points apart. On the other side of the map, 6 teams are only 2 points apart and are scrambling for the final two playoff spots in the West. Not every team can make it; so who's in and who's out?

The Coyotes are one of the grittiest teams in the NHL. They play a heavily defensive game and will grind any fast-paced team to a halt. This type of team makes for a playoff nightmare for their opponent. Unfortunately, I don't think the Coyotes will have the opportunity to show off their grit. with a 3-5-2 record in their past 10 games, the Yotes are trending in the wrong direction. Where some teams seem to be getting desperate and digging deep for wins, it seems the Coyotes are just desperately bad. The Coyotes lack any "elite" status players. They've been a "score by committee"-type team the past few years, but anyone who's watched the playoffs the past few years know that the teams who win have a few heroes that put the load on their shoulders and inspire the rest of the team. The Coyotes don't fit the mold and instead of finding out in the playoffs this year, they're finding out before April.

Verdict: Out


A "seller" at the trade deadline, the Avs acquired Jame McGinn for Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi. Very few people predicted that this trade would actually turn out to be one of the biggest in 2012 in terms of results. Since joining the Avs, McGinn has put up 7 goals and 2 assists in 8 games, bringing on the Renaissance of the Avalanche. His play seems to be sparking the rest of the team, as they are one of the few teams on the bubble that seem to really play like they want to see May. They're hanging onto 8th by one point, but if they keep playing inspired hockey, they should find themselves in the postseason.

Verdict: In

San Jose:
Continually, this team put together outstanding regular seasons only to watch them fall apart come playoff time. In an attempt to break the cycle, the Sharks decided to trade a few of their best players for a decently strong defenseman and a washed-up, old forward. The plan has worked about as well as the Capitals attempt to curb offense in lieu of defense. Instead, the Sharks have just about as bad of defense and less offense. I would give them a break because Havlat was out with an injury he sustained by jumping over the boards on a line change, except for the fact that trading Heatley for Havlat is easily one of the most moronic trades I've seen in pro sports in a while. Either way, the Sharks face one of two problems, and I'm not sure which is worse. Either they know they might not make the playoffs and don't care OR they care, yet their best attempts aren't good enough. Todd McClellan better find a way to light a fire under his team or he won't have a job in SJ next year.

Verdict: If they make it, it won't be by much.

A baffling inability to score seems to have been solved in LA. Whether you give credit to Jeff Carter or to a better team effort as a whole, the Kings finally starting to put up more goals than they've seen all season. Add the fact that the Kings' D hasn't really suffered without Jack Johnson and you have a recipe for success. They've had as many games with 4 or more goals since Carter joined the team as they had the entire season before the deadline. Scoring 4+ goals 8 times in a month-long stretch makes it less-than-surprising that the Kings have a 7-3 record in their past 10 games. Their play is the definition of "getting hot at the right time."

Verdict: In.

Despite currently leading the Pacific Division, the Stars' fate is anything but secure. Having just as many points as the Sharks, the Stars are practically on even footing with the Sharks. However, unlike the Sharks, the Stars have shown signs of life in the past month. Prior to their current 2-game losing streak, the Stars won 10 of 11 games, showing that their locker room still believes in making the playoffs. Missing the playoffs on the last game of the season last year ought to inspire the team to keep their foot on the gas. Nothing is for sure, though.

Verdict: Likely in.

Stick a fork in them. This is not commentary on their current standings position, but rather a combination of a realistic view of the way they've performed in the past and the fact that Alex Tanguay is probably going to miss a decent amount of time with a concussion. None of the Flames players have the amount of "star-power" needed to make a push for the playoffs, with the exception of Iginla. But even then, Iggy is getting old and is not likely to carry this team to a playoff berth. The Flames will be one of the 4 Canadian teams on the outside looking in come April 11th. Shocking.

Verdict: Out.

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