The 2015-16 NHL season will come to an end on April 10 — when the Philadelphia Flyers play the New York Islanders and the Anaheim Ducks take on the Washington Capitals — making up the games that were delayed due to the January blizzard that blanketed the East Coast. The other 26 teams in the league will wrap up their regular season on April 9. Then, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin on April 13.
Barring a run of good fortune, several teams that made the playoffs last year will have already made their tee times for April 10 or 11 before the end of the season. These are the teams that will know they have a no chance of making the playoffs before the conclusion of the season. The criteria for making this list was simple; a team had to have made the playoffs in 2014-15 to make this list. There will be no Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, or Buffalo Sabres — that would be too easy.
Some of the teams on this list may come as a surprise — technically they are still in the running for the playoffs — but let’s be honest, their chances of actually making the playoffs are slim. We warn you: If you are a fan of a Canadian hockey club, you may be in for a long summer as the 2015-16 season may mark the first time in 46 years that no Canadian teams will make the playoffs. With that heads up, here are the five teams that we’re betting against making the 2015-16 playoffs.
5. Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens were riding high early in the 2015-16 season. On November 27, the team had a record of 17-4-2 and sat in first place overall. Then disaster struck. Carey Price, the Canadiens Hart- and Vezina-winning goaltender, went down with a lower-body injury. Price has not played a game since then, and the Canadiens are now fifth in the Atlantic Division with a record of 27-24-6.
The team that finished first in the division last season with 110 points is now four points away from a wild-card spot. Over their last 20 games, Montreal has gone 7-12-1. Price’s absence is a big reason Montreal has fallen off. Another is that the Canadiens are not scoring goals. Since January 1, the team has scored three or more goals on five occasions.
The return of Price will help with scoring and undoubtedly in the team’s confidence as well. However, there’s no date set for Price’s return, so there’s no help on the horizon for the struggling team. We hate to write them off at this point, but the Canadiens have not convinced us that they can pull out of the slump they are in.
4. Vancouver Canucks
Last year, the Vancouver Canucks finished with a record of 48-29-3, good enough for second place in the Pacific Division and fifth in the Western Conference. This year they are 11th in the Western Conference and fifth in the Pacific Division. Right now, they are four points away from a wild-card spot. Now, four points may not seem like a lot, but they will have to jump past the Arizona Coyotes, Minnesota Wild, and either the Colorado Avalanche or Nashville Predators to claim that spot.
That type of movement doesn’t seem likely, especially since the team has gone 1-3-1 in its last five games. The Canucks are struggling in a few departments, namely keeping a lead, and scoring on home ice. In fact, the Canucks are a better team away than they are at home, and that’s usually not a recipe for making the playoffs.
3. Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators made the playoffs last year, finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference with 99 points, five points more than the ninth-place Boston Bruins. Right now the Senators are 12th in the East with 56 points, five points away from the wild-card spot. The team made a big trade early this week, picking up Dion Phaneuf in a nine-player trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, which will help, but it won’t be enough to get the Senators into the playoffs.
The Senators have not been consistent this season, but they have also strung together a streak of more than two wins only once this year (when they won four straight between November 19 and November 25). If they can find consistency and score goals, despite the injuries they have suffered, the Senators have some hope of making the playoffs. Unfortunately, we just don’t see that becoming a reality down the stretch.
2. Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets franchise made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2006-07. The franchise reference is included in that statement because the Jets were still the Atlanta Thrashers back then; they didn’t relocate to Winnipeg until the 2011-12 season. Last year they finished in seventh place in the Western Conference. Right now they sit in 13th place in the conference with a record of 24-26-3. The only team in the conference with a worse record is the Edmonton Oilers at 21-29-5.
On February 1, Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice told the Winnipeg Free Press, “We’ve got 33 games left and we pretty much have to go 26-7 or 25-8. We’ve gotta win games so we’re going to have that mentality and go at them one by one, starting [today].” Since then the Jets have gone 2-2, not leaving them much wiggle room in the loss department for the rest of the season.
1. Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames were a surprise playoff team last year, finishing the season in eighth place in the Western Conference with a record of 45-30-4 and earning the team’s coach, Bob Hartley, the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year. This season, the Flames are struggling. They are 12th in the Western Conference; only the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers trail the Flames at this time.
The Flames are not bad on home ice, with a record of 16-11-0, but on the road, it’s a different story. The team has an 8-14-3 record away from home, which is the second-worst road record in the NHL, above only the Edmonton Oilers’ 7-19-4 record. Of the Flames remaining games, 16 will be played on the road, including seven road games between March 20 and April 2. With that schedule, it looks like the Flames will be on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.
Statistics courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com.