NHL Surprises and Disappointments


The Calgary Flames, led by Johnny Gaudreau, have schocked the entire Western Conference with their success (Courtesy of Flickr).

By Chris Hennessy

One week from now, the NHL regular season will be over, and the playoffs will be upon us. Before we dive deep into the playoff action, let’s look at the surprises and disappointments of the regular season.

First, the surprises.

New York Islanders: Duh. If you’ve read anything that Andrew Becker and I have written in this paper, you pretty much know the story. Coaching and goaltending. Barry Trotz should be the Jack Adams winner for the coach of the year, and Robin Lehner recently was announced as a finalist for the Bill Masterson trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey. Last year, Lehner was dealing with mental health issues and addiction and has had an unbelievable bounce-back season. The best story in hockey meets a young and exciting team in the stacked Eastern Conference. What a season it has been.

Calgary Flames: You would not have been made fun of for saying the Flames would be in the playoffs this season, but to say they would have a firm grasp on the Pacific Division Crown and first place in the West would have been absurd. Nonetheless, the Flames will be in great position in a wide-open Western Conference. Bill Peters is a candidate for the Jack Adams Trophy, and New Jersey’s own Johnny Gaudreau has put together an MVP-caliber season.

St. Louis Blues: St. Louis started out this year as a disappointment but turned its season around at Thanksgiving by firing coach Mike Yeo and hiring Craig Berube on an interim basis. Now, they are in a divisional spot in the power-heavy Central Division and are most likely going to face the Nashville Predators in the first round, a fate they gladly would have taken if you asked them in December, when they were last in the league. Rookie goalie Jordan Binnington has been the catalyst on the ice and will certainly be a candidate for the Calder trophy for Rookie of the Year.

There were also some dissapointments.

New Jersey Devils: After making the playoffs last year, the Devils are in the basement of the Metropolitan division. Coach John Hynes was given a contract extension earlier in the year, so the front office believes in him, but there will be some roster overhaul this summer. The entire season cannot be blamed on Taylor Hall’s extended absence.

Buffalo Sabres: They were the popular pick to make the playoffs in the East this year, but their winning streak at the beginning of the year was not sustainable, and they fell off the pace. They will be back in the draft lottery once again, with Phil Housley remaining at the helm. Their young core is extremely talented, and the future is bright if they improve the defense and goaltending.

Los Angeles Kings: There are many similarities between LA and New Jersey from last season to this one: a solid team which snuck into the playoffs last year, did not do much in the offseason and stinks this year. The Kings fired their coach, John Stevens, back in November and have rode with Willie Desjardins ever since, but that did not change their fate like St Louis. It is time to move on from Johnathan Quick, Dustin Brown and the other players that brought the two Cups and rebuild. It will be a long road for Los Angeles.