NHL Playoffs 2012: What Now for the Eliminated Teams?
When Adam Henrique got his goal past Jose Theodore after 83:47 of hockey, the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs finally came to an end.
For eight teams, their Stanley Cup dreams remain alive. Should the eventual champion come out of the Western Conference, it will be the first in their team's history.
For eight other teams, their seasons have come to an end far sooner than they'd imagined. Now forced to watch the rest of the postseason from their couches, there's a lot to wonder about and prepare for in the 2012-13 season.
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For the Senators, this was a building season. While longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson may be on the way out, this is a team on the rise.
The best thing for the team would be for Alfredsson to come back for another year and keep the youngsters motivated. If this is a building year, they could face an easier opponent this time next year.
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The Blackhawks, who at one point held the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, saw their postseason end after six games with much of the blame on themselves.
The 'Hawks have a laundry list of issues to address: a top goalie, defensive prowess, toughness on the top two lines and improved special teams play.
Chicago will have to be aggressive this offseason to avoid a third straight first-round exit.
San Jose Sharks
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There's no two ways around it: The Sharks need something to change.
Personally, I feel they need a retooling. Not a blow-it-up thing, but just changing some parts around, much like Philadelphia did this offseason with rather good results.
Regardless of what happens, something has to. They tried righting the ship in a couple of trades with Minnesota, but that only led to a first-round exit. San Jose is in need of a change of some form. This team is too good to keep getting eliminated.
Detroit Red Wings
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A first-round exit in what was the latest of their streak of playoff berths—the longest active one in the NHL, the Red Wings lost to their divisional rival, the Nashville Predators.
While some might argue that the Red Wings are at a crossroads, they have a ton of cap space. It wouldn't be unlikely for them to go out and grab both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and possibly others; $22 million is a lot of money.
The Wings aren't going anywhere.
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Pittsburgh lost to one of their biggest rivals in the first round in a series that shattered records in terms of goal scoring.
For the Penguins, the issue is just execution. Their 10-3 win to stave off elimination showed why they're such a powerhouse, but they still didn't mange to get past the new-look Flyers.
The biggest question facing Pittsburgh is fixing Marc-Andre Fleury. When he's on top of his game, he's a top goalie. When he's not, the team has major issues.
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In one offseason, former Chicago GM Dale Tallon turned the Florida Panthers from a team needing to add salary in buckets to reach the cap floor into a division champion.
There's not much to be disappointed about with this team. The main key will be much like Ottawa's—to keep building off this success. Brian Campbell won a Stanley Cup back in 2010 with Chicago on a roster nearly entirely assembled by Dale Tallon, so he's been there before.
The major move will be making sure that mega-prospect Jacob Markstrom has a capable backup. A veteran goalie would be preferred to mentor Markstrom. If he's all he's hyped up to be, this could be the first of many division titles for the Panthers.
For the second straight season, the defending Stanley Cup champions failed to make it out of the first round, with the Bruins following in the footsteps of the 2010-11 Blackhawks.
Thing is, the 'Hawks were the No. 8 seed last season playing the Canucks, who had the NHL's best record. Boston held the No. 2 seed facing a Washington Capitals team that barely managed to squeak into the playoffs.
The Bruins will have about $5-6 million in cap space this coming offseason, but most of that will be needed to retain Tuukka Rask, so major moves are unlikely. Instead, they'll have to improve as a unit. The Bruins will have to hope that the development of guys like Tyler Seguin comes along fast enough for Tim Thomas to anchor the team.
Could Luongo head back to Florida?
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The first No. 1 seed to fall in these playoffs, Vancouver lost to the surprising Los Angeles Kings in five games.
Right now, there's a lot of questions going around. For a team that was one win away from hoisting the Stanley Cup last season, a first-round exit is nothing but a disappointment.
In the wake of all this, starting goaltender Roberto Luongo has said that, if asked, he would waive his no-movement clause in order to open up the starting job for Cory Schneider (per NHL.com).
While some will argue that Luongo's massive contract could be a detriment, any team taking him on would have to pay less than his cap hit every year in salary. They would be getting a guy who can contend for the Vezina Trophy every season.
Whether it's Luongo or Schneider on the move, expect the goaltending situation to be the first in a domino effect of changes for the Canucks this offseason.