A Comprehensive Look at the NHL: On the Bubble (Part 3/5)

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Welcome back! Yesterday we took a look at which teams are certainly playoff bound, but are missing something from being considered a real Stanley Cup contender.  Let’s continue by taking a look at teams on the bubble, that have a good shot at making the playoffs, but will need a strong “homestretch”.

On the Bubble

These teams are all battling for playoff spots. Only a few points separate these teams, and they will most likely be fighting down to the last game. You will definitely see some, most, or all of these teams making moves down the stretch to augment their lineups. To make the playoffs you can’t pull any punches. And missing the playoffs means your stuck in purgatory, and nobody wants to be there….

Florida

To me the Panthers look like a homemade version of something that everybody else bought at the store. A bunch of spare parts acquired in the offseason and stuck together to resemble a team. I guess they were the right parts though as everything seemed to fit perfectly and they now find themselves in a position to possibly make the playoffs. In my honest opinion though I think they should have waited it out and continued to build through the draft. They did receive some serious talent that way already in Ellerby, Kulikov, Gudbranson, Bjugstad, Howden, and Huberdeau. And imagine if they had a few more top picks. But guys like Versteeg and Campbell do put buts in the seats as they say. And in a market like Florida that’s half of the battle. Vegas odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 36 to 1.

New Jersey

The Devils are a hard team to figure out. They went from 4 straight 100-point seasons (one was 99), to missing the playoffs last year with 80 points. Now they are on pace to finish somewhere between 90-95. And it’s the same problem with their line-up. They have two over-the-hill goaltenders, Brodeur at 39, and Hedberg at 38, and should be rebuilding with the impending retirement of the future Hall of Famer, but they can’t. They have invested too much into their two superstars (Kovalchuk, and Parise). They are in their prime now and can’t wait for a rebuild. Despite their predicament, they have managed to acquire a few budding superstars in Larsson, and Henrique, but who is going to fill Brodeur’s legendary skates? I think this team has no choice but to be aggressive in the open market, and it will be exciting to see what they do over the next few seasons. Vegas odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 34-1.

Toronto

For the Maple Leafs (over the past 7 seasons) it seems as though they felt they were too proud to rebuild, and now it is too late even if they wanted to. I’m not sure where the pride comes from, having not made a Stanley Cup final in 45 years, but they made their choice and things are starting to come around. They are reasonably deep on defense, and have a plethora of young talented goaltenders. Up front they do have two stars that have really brought their game to the next level this year (Kessel, Lupul), but they are still a little weak depth wise, and they have no superstar prospects waiting in the wings. The Leafs are going to have to continue to be buyers if they want this team to do more than squeak into the playoffs. Vegas odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 34-1.

Los Angeles

I really thought this could be L.A’s year. They looked like a really strong team the last few seasons led by guys like Kopitar, Brown, Doughty, and Johnson, as well as their strong, young, goalie tandem of Quick and Bernier. And as these players matured, the team added what I thought might be the missing pieces in Gagne, Penner, and Richards. It turns out that’s not the case. Or maybe they are just taking longer to gel. Well let’s hope so, because they have mortgaged a good portion of their future for this current roster. Vegas odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 26 to 1.

Minnesota

Can you believe that a few short months ago this was the NHL’s best team? Well it’s true. And now they find themselves clutching to that 8th and final playoff spot. It does have something to do with the injury to captain Koivu, but also I believe they were simply playing over their heads. I like the additions of Heatley and Setoguchi, but I still think this is a mediocre team at best, and the worst part is they have very few prospects waiting to crack the roster. I think they need to rebuild properly if the fans will allow it. Vegas odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 51 to 1.

Colorado

The Avalanche have had mixed results over the past 4 seasons, barely making the playoffs twice, and finishing well back twice. And neither result is where the franchise wants to be, and they look to be heading down one of those two roads again this season. But don’t despair Avs fans, the future is very bright. This is a young, talented team, and I think the management has done the right thing by building through the draft, and trading well. They might have overpaid for Varlamov with a first and second, but other than that it’s a good-looking team. And for this season, I think when Duchene comes back they will have a really good shot at that last playoff spot. And if they do make it, this season would be considered a success. However, if they don’t, those picks for Varlamov could haunt them. Vegas odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 51 to 1.

There you have the list of teams “On the Bubble”.  Come back tomorrow where we review the teams who are hockey purgatory.

…and that is the last word.

 

Follow me on Twitter – @LastWordGrant


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