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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NHL Buffalo Sabres Chicago Blackhawks Columbus Blue Jackets Dallas Stars Detroit Red Wings Detroit Red Wings New Jersey Devils Philadelphia Flyers NHL Ben Bishop Oliver Bjorkstrand Mackenzie Blackwood Adam Boqvist Kirby Dach Rasmus Dahlin Alex DeBrincat Max Domi Pierre-Luc Dubois Jack Eichel Brian Elliott Adam Fox Johnny Gaudreau Vladislav Gavrikov Claude Giroux Carter Hart Kevin Hayes Miro Heiskanen Nico Hischier Filip Hronek Jack Hughes Seth Jones Kaapo Kakko Patrick Kane Duncan Keith Anton Khudobin John Klingberg Joonas Korpisalo Dominik Kubalik Alexis Lafrenière Patrik Laine Kevin Lankinen Scott Laughton Anthony Mantha Elvis Merzlikins Artemi Panarin Joe Pavelski Ivan Provorov Sam Reinhart Jason Robertson Jack Roslovic Tyler Seguin Moritz Seider Damon Severson Yegor Sharangovich Igor Shestyorkin Jeff Skinner Dylan Strome Malcolm Subban P.K. Subban Joe Thornton Jacob Trouba Linus Ullmark James van Riemsdyk Jakub Voracek Jakub Vrána Scott Wedgewood Mika Zibanejad John Davidson Chris Drury Jeff Gorton Don Granato Jarmo Kekäläinen Ralph Krueger John Tortorella Alain Vigneault