Los Angeles Kings and 4 Other Teams That Will Fall out of the NHL Playoff Race
It's crunch time in the NHL, and the Los Angeles Kings and 13 other teams won't get through it.
Of course, not all 30 teams are in contention for a playoff spot. But outside of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens, it's possible for anyone to get there.
The battles outside of the No. 8 seed are more interesting and intense than any in recent memory. In the West, just a few points separate the Phoenix Coyotes (No. 7) and the Calgary Flames (No. 11).
In the Eastern Conference, however, six points separate Ottawa and Winnipeg, the final two playoff spot-holders. It looks as if Ottawa will hold on to a playoff spot. Only the No. 8 seed is up for grabs.
So who will get it?
It's anyone's guess.
But here's who won't. These are the teams that will lose their grip before season's end.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings made the biggest splash at the NHL trade deadline by acquiring Jeff Carter from Columbus in exchange for Jack Johnson.
And it won't pay off. Not this year at least.
While the Kings have won three straight and seem to be progressing, I don't believe the team will keep it up for the last 16 contests.
Los Angeles has seen superb goaltending from Jonathan Quick in his All-Star campaign, but the Kings have failed to give him much support. Only the Minnesota Wild (144) have scored fewer goals than the Kings, who have scored 147.
The addition of Carter helped the cause, but it did weaken the defense in front of Quick. The hype around youngster Slava Voynov allowed for Johnson's departure, but Johnson is an Olympian. He is better than Voynov.
Maybe next year, Los Angeles.
Tampa Bay Lightning
What a disappointment this season has been for the Lightning.
After nearly reaching the Stanley Cup last season before being ousted by Boston, the Bolts are a bad apple that has fallen from a very high tree.
The team is only four points behind Winnipeg for the final playoff seed. But if the Jets lost that spot, it'd be to the Washington Capitals.
The Lightning just don't have a chance. Not with senior citizen Dwayne Roloson in net.
The club had looked better of late with Mathieu in net, but his torn right groin muscle will take him out of the rest of Tampa's push for the playoffs.
Expect to see the Lightning surge back to greatness next year with a better goaltending situation. But right now it is just too messy.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a very good situation.
For the future. Not this season.
Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul have been great this season, but it just hasn't been enough for Toronto. The Leafs are five points behind Winnipeg and the next few nights will be tough with games against Philadelphia, Florida and Washington.
GM Brian Burke has done a great job building such a young corps of players. But they aren't ready yet, at least not with the current goalie tandem.
James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson have shown promise but have also looked suspect at times. If the two can develop into better netminders, Toronto might be onto something great.
But it's too late now. The Maple Leaf faithful will have to wait again.
The Calgary Flames may look like a solid squad, but the franchise is in horrible shape.
The team is comprised of veterans and has such a weak prospect pool that it hardly exists at all. With the team in place now, Calgary should have been active at the trade deadline to help it get into the playoffs.
The Flames didn't. So they'll be lacing up the skates after the 82nd game.
I would say next year might be better for the Flames. But in reality, they might be in need of a rebuild. The longer they prolong it, the darker the future will get.
Although they are two points behind San Jose for the No. 8 seed, the Flames won't get hot enough to make it count.
The Phoenix Coyotes have been one of the feel-good stories of the NHL this season. But it is going to end in disappointment.
Kudos to Shane Doan and company for keeping focused through the turmoil the franchise is going through with ownership issues and a fanbase that is probably just waiting for free tickets.
But things are getting worse in the desert.
The Coyotes have dropped their last four games (recently to Columbus) and have fallen from the top of the Pacific Division. Can they fight off Dallas, San Jose and Los Angeles?
The Coyotes have upcoming games against the Sharks, Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators, all of which are dangerous teams this late in the year.
Who knows what the near future holds for Phoenix, but it isn't a postseason.
Steven Conklin is a contributing writer for the Bleacher Report and a student at the University of Central Missouri. He joined B/R in October 2011 and is a B/R intern. Any comments, questions or suggestions are more than welcome.