Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Death Watch

Mirtle has released his annual playoff push standings, which gives us a simplified window into each team's playoff chances as we head toward the finish line.

The great thing about these standings is that it allows us to officially begin a Death Watch for the teams who aren't going to make the cut. On the flip side it can give us a pretty good idea who has already unofficially clinched a berth -- though last year's Sens proved that home-ice seeds can't be predicted until at least March.

Based on Mirtle's standings, here's how the Death Watch shakes out so far*:

Islanders - Expect the Fishsticks to go into firesale mode during the month of Feburary. They're done and have nothing to compete for except Tavares.
Thrashers - Nothing has gone right for this franchise since the lockout, and this will simply be another wasted season. They have no chance at winning 2/3rds of their games from here on.
Lightning - One would think that a team stocked with high-end talent and lots of veteran grinders would have a shot at the 8th seed. Not the case with this dysfunctional group.
Blues - They were a darkhorse to begin with, and didn't get a break all year. Without Kariya they don't stand a chance.
Senators - The Sens' current 8-game road trip has only added nails to their coffin. They're 1-for-6 with games still to play in Buffalo and Boston... and their final 6 games of the season are all against playoff qualifiers plus a season-closer at rival Toronto.

Kings - Here's where things get interesting. Los Angeles would have to put together a 26-18 finish in order to reach 90 points, which is a bare-minimum threshold for playoff qualifiers. That's a tall order, but the Kings roster is stuffed with great young talent -- they lack only a hot goalie to have a chance at a playoff run. We should know whether they belong on the "dead" list in about two weeks.
Stars - They've been better since Avery's suspension, but Dallas is still inconsistent and lacks a playoff mojo. Having to play three games each against Detroit and San Jose could seal their season.
Blue Jackets - The time is now for Columbus, which plays ill-timed games in Detroit and Washington this week. Currently, they're only a point out of 8th place. They have a favorable late-season schedule, but are a flawed team and will need a lot of help if they don't pick up a few major upsets.
Maple Leafs - The Team That Wouldn't Die is somehow still in contention for a playoff seed. Could they go 27-18 down the stretch? Not unless they make a major trade for a true #1 goalie. Would you put it past Brian Burke?

Panthers - Believe it, this motley crew could actually make the playoffs. Don't forget their hot run at the end of last season that briefly resurrected hopes of postseason hockey in Miami. They've already ripped off a similar streak this season, and since the New Year have demolished the Pens and tied the Habs.
Avalanche - Colorado has just enough top-end talent to keep pace and wait for someone else to slip. The Avs beat the Wings twice in December, and also served up victories over Vancouver, Nashville and Minnesota. If they can consistently win games against other bubble teams, they'll stay in the playoff equation until the final weeks.
Predators - The Other Team That Wouldn't Die has a tough road to travel, but they could be the club that inexplicably sneaks in the back door. Trotz gets 100% out of his spartan roster, and the Preds still have three homestands of 4+ games left to play. A 26-17-1 finish is not out of the question. However, their current losing streak has to be reversed immediately for them to have a chance.

* Based not only on standings and Mirtle's calculations, but also their darkhorse potential as measured by upcoming opponents, likelihood of a firesale at the trade deadline, injury problems, team history and quality of coaching.

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1) Interesting post/analysis. Only slight disagreement is the panthers. We wouldn't call their roster a 'motley crew' with a good roster and excellant goaltending on most nights
2) They traditionally get off to bad starts then fall short of the post season by <5 pts

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