Where it all went wrong for Central and East Division teams outside of the playoff picture

The 2020-21 shortened NHL regular season is nearing its end, and not all at once at that. Because this is the NHL and all, it won't technically be over until two games into the first round. Even so, we know who's going to the dance, and we know which teams are on the outside looking in.

The tense playoff races that we've become accustomed to in the loser-point era didn't really materialize this season, as three of four divisions were pretty much sorted out by the 50-game mark and the teams on the outside were serious longshots by mid-April. This has given the players, coaches, management, and of course fans the opportunity to languish in the misery of defeat and imagine the better days that surely lie ahead. In the interest of reflection (and filling time in a week of basically meaningless games), I thought it might be a good idea to look back on the fifteen teams that couldn't break their divisions' top-four, sorting out what went wrong, what bright spots can be found in the disappointment, and charting a path forward.

I'll be starting with what could loosely be considered the "Eastern Conference" - the East Division (Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers) and the Central Division (Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars). Statistics come courtesy of TopDownHockey

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