With the 2011-12 NHL regular season coming to an exciting close on Saturday evening, several teams were left on the outside looking in on the sixteen teams who performed well enough to extend their season's onward to the playoffs. Some of these teams were surprised to not be included in the playoff picture this campaign, while others seemingly packed it in and started their "Fail for Nail" campaigns early. Regardless, with so much parity in the NHL these days, many of the outsiders should find themselves in contention and even in the playoffs a year from now.
At the beginning of the 2011-12 season, there were big expectations for teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Buffalo Sabres and of course the Toronto Maple Leafs, but for whatever reasons their respective playoff hopes were dashed at some point along the way. Out West it was surprise starts by the likes of the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild that had fans scratching their heads at how the season was going to end up.
Not all of the teams left out of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be contenders for next year's run (barring a lockout), but there are a select few that could swap in for spots in 2013.
John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist
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