NHL: Did Every Team Exceed, Meet, or Fall Short of Expectations This Season?

Jacob BetznerCorrespondent IIJune 5, 2012

NHL: Did Every Team Exceed, Meet, or Fall Short of Expectations This Season?

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    As legendary country music star Toby Keith sings, "We got winners; we got losers."  True in the world of professional sports, a winner always emerges and the rest are, for this year at least, losers.

    Some NHL teams were expected to make a serious run at a Stanley Cup this season, only to fall well short, while other teams not expected to quietly go away made some serious noise.

    Arguably the strangest story this season is that of the Los Angeles Kings.  Many had high expectations for the team prior to the start of the season, only to watch them barely clinch the final seed in the Western Conference.  However, the Kings have dominated this postseason and need only one more win to claim the franchise's first ever Stanley Cup.

    Joining the Kings in the final are the New Jersey Devils, the sixth seed out of the East who took down favorites like the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers en route to an Eastern Conference Championship.

    While both of these teams are still fighting for hockey's ultimate prize and arguably joining several other teams who finished above expectations, some of the NHL's best went down easily, some of the basement teams stayed in the basement and some teams used the 2011-2012 season to build a bright future.

Anaheim Ducks

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    The Ducks finished a mediocre 2011-2012 NHL season in fifth place in the Pacific Division with a 34-36-12 record.

    High Points: Teemu Selanne reached 650 career goals and 1,400 career points.

    Low Points: Cam Fowler finished with a minus-24 rating.  Corey Perry failed to match last season's Hart Memorial trophy performance and recorded 127 PIMs.  Goaltender Jonas Hiller disappointed more than he impressed.

    Conclusion: Anaheim played in a very talented Pacific Division but failed to meet expectations after a fourth place finish in the Western Conference last season.  

Boston Bruins

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    After a slow start, the Boston Bruins managed to win the Northeast Division for a second consecutive year and the second seed in the Eastern Conference for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, losing to the Washington Capitals in a seven-game first-round series.

    High Points: Six players (Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Chris Kelly) scored 20 or more goals for the Bruins.  Tim Thomas played well in net, finishing with a 1.32 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.  Every Bruin defender finished with a positive plus-minus rating, typically in double digits.

    Low Points: Prompt exit from the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Conclusion: No team wins the Stanley Cup every season.  While a first-round exit in the 2012 NHL Playoffs proved to be disappointing, the Bruins finished with a very good regular season record.  Despite faltering in the playoffs, it's safe to say the Bruins met expectations this season.

Buffalo Sabres

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    After new ownership took over in Buffalo and restructured the look of the Buffalo Sabres, not much changed with the team finishing three points out of a playoff spot.

    High Points: Jason Pominville showed why he earned the captaincy, scoring 30 goals and 73 points.

    Low Points: Key players including forward Tyler Ennis, defenseman Tyler Myers and, most notably, goaltender Ryan Miller sustained lengthy injuries.

    Conclusion: Sabres fans thought the team was ready to make some noise in the Eastern Conference.  However, the young Buffalo team failed to live up to expectations, missing the playoffs and finishing with a 39-32-11 record, mediocre by Eastern Conference standards.

Calgary Flames

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    Despite showing some life at times, the Calgary Flames finished in ninth place in the Western Conference, missing the NHL Playoffs for a third straight season.  Is Jarome Iginla ever going to win the Stanley Cup?  His team needs to qualify for the tournament first.

    High Points: Miikka Kiprusoff looked okay in net for the Flames, compiling a 35-22-11 record with 4 shutouts.  The team also called up a player with one of the longest names in the history of sports in Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond.

    Low Points: Only Jarome Iginla scored more than 30 goals and only Iginla and Olli Jokinen posted more than 60 points.  Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester finished with a minus-21 plus/minus rating as the Flames suffered some growing pains in Southwest Alberta.

    Conclusion: Unfortunately for Calgary fans, the Flames lived up to expectations.  The team just missed the playoffs and posted average regular season numbers.  Management named Bob Hartley the new head coach for next season, hoping the former Stanley Cup champion coach turns the team's performance around.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    The Carolina Hurricanes finished fifth in the Southeast Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 33-33-16 record.

    High Points: Goaltender Cam Ward managed to post a winning record, going 30-23-13 and finishing with a .915 save percentage and five shutouts.

    Low Points: Eric Staal led the team with 24 goals.  Only Jeff Skinner joined Staal in the 20-goal club.  Team defense played horribly in front of Ward.  None of the starting six finished with a plus/minus rating close to zero.

    Conclusion: Nobody expected the Hurricanes to be that good, but a 12th place finish in the East is pretty bad.  This is the fourth time in five years the Hurricanes missed the playoffs, and it looks like a shakeup is in order in Raleigh.

Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Chicago Blackhawks managed to finish sixth in the Western Conference despite a fourth place finish in the strong Central Division.

    High Points: Five Blackhawk players scored 20 or more goals with winger Patrick Sharp leading the way with 33.

    Low Points: Goaltending proved a big issue in the Windy City.  Both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery earned the "starting" title at different points in the season, with Crawford getting the nod for the postseason.

    Conclusion: The Blackhawks needed better goaltending and at least one more shutdown defenseman.  Chicago lived up to expectations, making the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but disappointed fans with a first round exit at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Colorado Avalanche

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    A team with a ton of potential, the Colorado Avalanche considered the 2011-2012 NHL season a bit of a rebuilding year.

    High Points: Gabriel Landeskog exploded for 22 goals in his rookie campaign with Colorado.  Third-year forward Ryan O'Reilly doubled his point total from last year with 55 points.

    Low Points: Matt Duchene spent much of the year battling injury, finishing with 14 goals and 28 points in 58 games.  Goaltender Semyon Varlamov finished with an average 26-24-3 record, and O'Reilly led the team with only 55 points.

    Conclusion: Colorado finished with a 41-35-6 record, good for 11th in the Western Conference.  The team is right about where they should be in terms of development, but probably expected better results with some offseason acquisitions made by management.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make it to the postseason for the 10th time in the franchise's 11-year existence, finishing with the worst record in the NHL.

    High Points: None. 

    Low Points: The trade to acquire center Jeff Carter didn't work out.  Long-time captain Rick Nash made it very public that he wants to be traded.  Goaltender Steve Mason again proved his Calder trophy winning season in 2009 was a fluke, and fellow netminder Curtis Sanford thought baby blue pads looked good.

    Conclusion: Quickly becoming the laughing-stock of the NHL, the Blue Jackets' bad luck continued when they lost the 2012 NHL Entry Draft Lottery and the rights to heralded prospect Nail Yakupov.  Unfortunately for Columbus, they lived up to expectations, continuing a tradition of losing in the Buckeye state.

Dallas Stars

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    The Dallas Stars finished with a 42-35-5 record, good for 11th in the Western Conference and fourth in the Pacific Division.

    High Points: The Stars top forwards, Loui Eriksson, Mike Ribeiro, Jamie Benn and Michael Ryder, played like top forwards, all finishing with 60-or-more points.  Additionally, goaltender Kari Lethonen played well, finishing with 32 wins and a .922 save percentage.

    Low Points: Forward Steve Ott finished fifth on the Stars with 39 points, 23 behind Ryder, who finished fourth on the team.  Lack of depth scoring proved to be the Stars undoing.

    Conclusion: The Stars failed to live up to expectations, as many thought they would finally make a push for the playoffs after a three-year absence.

Detroit Red Wings

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    Nick Lidstrom's last season in Detroit brought a fifth place finish in the Western Conference and a strong 48-28-6 record.

    High Points: Despite battling some injuries, goaltender Jimmy Howard played strong for the Wings, going 35-17-4 with six shutouts and a .920 save percentage.  Four players, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen and Jiri Hudler all scored over 20 goals, and forward Pavel Datsyuk managed 19 in a shortened 70-game season.

    Low Points: The Red Wings went down fairly easily to the Nashville Predators in a five-game first-round series between the two Central Division Rivals.  Nick Lidstrom decided to call it quits after 20 NHL seasons last week.

    Conclusion: The Red Wings lived up to expectations, quietly finishing in fifth place in the Western Conference and losing to a much younger Nashville Predators team in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Look for some big names to be considering the Motor City this offseason.

Edmonton Oilers

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    After advancing to the 2006 Stanley Cup Final and falling one game short of lifting the cup, the Oilers started a six-year playoff drought, allowing the team to draft several high-round draft picks along the way.

    High Points: The Oilers' youth started putting up good numbers, 22-year-old Jordan Eberle leading the way with 76 points.  Taylor Hall, the 2010 first overall draft pick finished with 53, and 19-year-old rookie and 2011 first overall draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins registered 52 points.  Another first rounder in 22-year-old Sam Gagner scored 47 points.  Goaltender and former 14th overall pick Devan Dubnyk took the starting job in net from the aging Nikolai Khabibulin.  Dubnyk went 20-20-3 with a .914 save percentage.

    Low Points: While the Oilers are still somewhat of a "work in progress," fans in Central Alberta are starting to become anxious.  The team missed the NHL Playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, finishing ahead of only the Columbus Blue Jackets in the the entire league.

    Conclusion: The Oilers don't appear to be getting much better even with an influx of youthful talent.  Give them time and the young Oilers may live up to the hype, but for now they haven't proven anything and haven't lived up to expectations.

Florida Panthers

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    The Florida Panthers did a near complete overhaul of their roster last offseason, bringing in several experienced veterans to help the traditionally under-performing team make a playoff push.

    High Points: Florida managed to win a relatively weak Southeastern Division despite a negative goal differential and virtually no offensive stars.  Defenseman Brian Campbell finished with a team-high 49 assists while former Vezina trophy winner José Theodore compiled a 22-16-11 record in net.

    Low Points: The Panthers automatically finished as the third seed in the Eastern Conference for winning the Southeast Division, though they technically earned the seventh-highest point total in the East, two behind the New Jersey Devils who beat the Panthers in round one of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    Conclusion: The roster overhaul worked and the Panthers finished a lot better than most would have suspected at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season.  Despite an early exit in the postseason, the Panthers actually exceeded expectations this year.

Los Angeles Kings

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    The story of the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Kings is very much a tale of two teams.  While they disappointing in the regular season, the Kings exploded in the postseason, losing only two games en route to the franchise's second ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance.

    High Points: As good as goaltender Jonathan Quick has been in the postseason, he was just as good in the regular season.  The 26-year-old backstopped an inconsistent Kings' attack to an eighth seed finish in the Western Conference with a 35-21-13 record, a 1.95 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.  Up front, center Anze Kopitar finished five points short of his career high, leading the team with 76.  In the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Kings beat the West's top-three seeds in a combined 14 games.  Oh, by the way, Los Angeles is currently up 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final against the New Jersey Devils.

    Low Points: Only three players scored more than 20 goals during the regular season, despite a roster loaded with offensive talent.  The team also fired head coach Terry Murray because of the team's poor performance.

    Conclusion: The Kings, considered a Stanley Cup favorite by some at the start of the season may actually live up to those expectations despite a sub-par regular season performance.

Minnesota Wild

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    The Minnesota Wild started out hotter than Kate Upton's last photo shoot, but quickly cooled off.  The team finished in 12th place in the Western Conference with a losing record.

    High Points: Both goaltenders in Nicklas Backstrom and Josh Harding played pretty well for the Wild, finishing with save percentages of .919 and .917 respectively.

    Low Points: Dany Heatley led the team with a lowly 53 points.  Heatley's 24 goals along with the surprising Kyle Brodziak's 22 tallies proved to be the only individual goal totals to break the 20-mark.  Injuries plagued the Wild for much of the season, taking away the chance for new head coach Mike Yeo to develop team chemistry.

    Conclusion: The Wild had a rough year, but expectations weren't that high after missing the playoffs for three straight years.

Montréal Canadiens

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    The Montréal Canadiens missed the postseason for the first time since 2007, finishing dead-last in the Eastern Conference.

    High Points: Carey Price still looked good in net for the Canadiens.  The 24-year-old is in the final year of his contract with the team, and it seems the fanbase is split on whether or not to keep him.  Max Pacioretty, a player many thought might never play again after being the recipient of a vicious hit from Zdeno Chara a season ago, scored 33 goals and a team-high 65 points.

    Low Points: Pacioretty and Erik Cole scored 33 and 35 goals, respectively.  Next on the list is Tomas Plekanec with 17.  Lack of scoring and inconsistent defense proved to be the downfall for the Montréal Canadiens.

    Conclusion: While the Canadiens weren't necessairly a Stanley Cup favorite, missing the Playoffs entirely and finishing at the bottom of the Conference was a huge disappointment for Habs fans, who undoubtedly expect another Stanley Cup every season.

Nashville Predators

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    The defensively sound Nashville Predators shutdown their way to a fourth place finish in the Western Conference.  Many considered the Predators a legitimate Stanley Cup contender because of the team's defensive capabilities, but the team lost in the second round to the Phoenix Coyotes.

    High Points: The Predators consistent scoring and shutdown team defense helped the team to a 48-26-8 record.  Goaltender Pekka Rinne won 43 of those games for Smashville.

    Low Points: The Predators looked ready to finally make a run at the Stanley Cup and played a strong first-round series against the consistently strong Detroit Red Wings.  However, the team quietly lost to the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference semi-finals, possibly missing out on the team's best chance at a title in recent years.

    Conclusion: Fans would have liked to have seen just a little bit more from the Nashville Predators.  While they finished the regular season strong, and advanced past the first round for the second consecutive season, they finished slightly below expectations.

New Jersey Devils

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    After missing the postseason for the first time since 1996 in 2011, the New Jersey Devils finished as the six seed in the Eastern Conference and the fourth place team in the highly competitive Atlantic Division.

    High Points: Ilya Kovalchuk scored 37 goals and finished with 83 points.  Zach Parise netted 31 goals, and the surprising David Clarkson scored 30 goals for the first time in his five seasons with the Devils.  The Devils beat the Florida Panthers, cooled off the red hot Philadelphia Flyers and shocked the New York Rangers in the playoffs to earn a trip to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.

    Low Points: None really.  The Devils weren't the best team in the East during the regular season, but they stayed consistent and finished with a very respectable 48-28-6 record.

    Conclusion: Not really considered a Stanley Cup favorite at the start of the season, the Devils greatly exceeded expectations by advancing to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final after missing the postseason entirely in 2011.

New York Islanders

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    Unfortunately for the New York Islanders, losing has become expected.  The team finished in 14th place in the Eastern Conference and missed the NHL Playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons since the 2004-2005 lockout.

    High Points: Former first-overall draft pick John Tavares led the team with 81 points, 28-year-old Matt Moulson led the team with 36 goals, his third consecutive 30-plus goal season.

    Low Points: Goaltending.  That is all.

    That and captain Mark Streit finished minus-27.

    Conclusion: It's hard to say the Islanders failed to meet expectations when, in fact, few had high expectations for the Islanders.  The team may be on the move if they can't find a place to play on Long Island next season, becoming the second NHL franchise to re-locate in two seasons.

New York Rangers

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    The New York Rangers lived up to the hype in the regular season, but fizzled out in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    High Points: The Marian Gaborik/Brad Richards combination worked out for the Blueshirts.  The two linemates combined for 66 goals and 143 points.  Third-year defenseman Michael Del Zotto scored four more points than his 37-point rookie season two years ago, but flipped his minus-20 plus/minus rating to a plus-20.  Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist finished yet another Vezina worthy season with a 39-18-5 record with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.

    Low Points: Come on.  It was the Rangers' year.  As the number one seed out of the East, missing the President's Trophy by only two points, the Rangers looked ready to bring the Stanley Cup back to the Big Apple.  However, it took the Rangers seven games to beat both the eighth seed and the seventh seed, and they ultimately lost in a seven-game Eastern Conference Final to the sixth seeded New Jersey Devils.

    Conclusion: Failing to win the Stanley Cup this season constituted a failure to live up to expectations for the Rangers.  Don't worry Rangers fans, they'll be just as good next year.

Ottawa Senators

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    The Ottawa Senators sneaked into the postseason as the eighth seed out of the Eastern Conference, and almost upset the top-seeded New York Rangers in the first round.

    High Points: Holy Erik Karlsson.  The third-year, 22-year-old defenseman led all NHL defenseman with 78 points and earned a Norris trophy nomination.  Jason Spezza led the team with 84 points, and Milan Michalek led the team with 35 goals, a career high for the Czech winger.

    Low Points: The Senators lacked scoring depth at times, and experienced some goaltending issues at different points throughout the year.

    Conclusion: The Senators were more than happy to make the NHL Playoffs, even as an eighth seed, giving some of their young players postseason experience.  The team even almost managed a first round upset to the heavily-favored New York Rangers.  Finishing slightly higher than expectations, the team hopes to give long-time captain Daniel Alfredsson one more chance at a Stanley Cup next season.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    After a significant roster shakeup in the offseason, the Flyers went through some growing pains early in the year, but quickly turned into one of the most dangerous teams in the NHL.

    High Points: Ladies and gentleman, Claude Giroux has arrived.  The 24-year-old scored 93 points in 77 games, helping linemate Scottie Hartnell reach a career high of 37 goals.  Jaromir Jagr showed he's still got a little left in the tank, and freshly acquired power forward Wayne Simmonds doubled his goal total from last year, finishing with 28 tallies.

    Low Points: Goaltending was, surprise, an issue in the city of brotherly love, even after clearing salary cap space to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to a lucrative deal.  The defense, especially in the postseason didn't help him much as the team lost to the New Jersey Devils in the second round.

    Conclusion: Not a particularly bad season for the Flyers, but many seemed to expect big things out of the team after a first round defeat of the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Flyers will be back, just as good if not better, next season.

Phoenix Coyotes

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    The Phoenix Coyotes advanced past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history.  Yes, franchise history.

    High Points: Mike Smith.  The 30-year-old goaltender finished 38-18-10 with a 2.21 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage and blanked opponents 8 times.  Ray Whitney led the team with 77 points at age 40, and @BizNasty2point0 scored one regular season goal.

    Low Points: None really.  It was a pretty magical season in the desert.

    Conclusion: With a Pacific Division championship, a third seed finish in the Western Conference and a trip to the Conference Final, the Coyotes definitely surpassed expectations for the 2011-2012 season.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The bigger they are, the harder they fall.  And the Penguins fell hard.

    High Points: Geno Malkin won his second Art Ross trophy with 109 points, James Neal silenced critics from last season by scoring a career-high 41 goals, three other Penguins, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Jordan Staal, scored 25 or more goals, and one of the game's best players in Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup after a lengthy recovery from post-concussion symptoms that kept him out for parts of the past two seasons.  Marc-Andre Fleury had 42 wins in the regular season, one behind league-leader Pekka Rinne.

    Low Points: The 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    Conclusion: After the return of Sid the Kid, the Penguins looked nearly unstoppable.  However, the team's cross-state rival figured out a way to beat the flightless birds in the opening round of the playoffs.  The Penguins didn't win their Conference or even their division to add to the disappointment of the early postseason exit, finishing well below expectations.

San José Sharks

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    Disappointing has become almost synonymous with the San José Sharks organization.  Constantly falling short of expectations in the postseason, the Sharks didn't disappoint to...well, disappoint again this year.

    High Points: Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski all scored 30 or more times in the regular season.  Antti Niemi played pretty well in net, finishing with 34 wins and six shutouts.

    Low Points: There was virtually no secondary scoring in Northern California this year.  Only three players posted goal totals in the double digits after Couture, Marleau and Pavelski.  When it really mattered in the postseason, the Sharks scorers couldn't solve Brian Elliott and the St. Louis Blues.

    Conclusion: The Sharks hovered right around their typical expectation level, advancing to the NHL Playoffs but failing to make any significant noise.

St. Louis Blues

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    The St. Louis Blues avoided a three-year playoff drought, finishing in second place in the Western Conference and winning the strong Central Division.

    High Points: Goaltending.  Jaroslav Halak went 26-12-7 with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage with six shutouts.  His fellow netminder, Brian Elliott finished 23-10-4 with a 1.56 goals against average, a .940 save percentage and nine shutouts, helping the Blues to a second place finish in the West.  The tandem captured the William M. Jennings trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league.

    Low Points: Only two players, team captain David Backes and winger David Perron, scored more than 20 goals.  The Blues really lacked an offensive star in a second round sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.

    Conclusion: It's probably safe to say no one expected the Blues to finish as high in the standings as they did.  Even with a second-round exit, the Blues played high above expectations this season.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    A year after advancing to the Eastern Conference Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning failed to make it to past the regular season in 2012.

    High Points: Steven Stamkos captured his second career Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy, leading the NHL with 60 goals.  Stamkos' linemate, 36-year-old Martin St. Louis, put together an impressive season with 25 goals and 74 points.

    Low Points: The 42-year-old goaltender Dwayne Roloson played like, well, a 42-year-old.  He lost the starting job to former Blue Jacket netminder Mathieu Garon who went 23-16-4.  The team missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.  The team's top scorer from the blue line managed only 24 points.

    Conclusion: General manager Steve Yzerman seemed to have pieced together a pretty solid team in northern Florida, but the players failed to deliver on the ice.  After a very good 2010-2011 season, the Lightning failed to meet expectations this year.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs haven't played in the postseason since before the 2004-2005 NHL lockout.  Despite some early success, the Maple Leafs finished near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 37-35-10 season.

    High Points: Phil Kessel scored 37 goals, and team captain Dion Phaneuf scored 12 goals and 44 points from the blue line.

    Low Points: The Leafs defense and goaltending lacked consistency, leading to a low spot in the final standings and missing the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    Conclusion: The Leafs have a decent team.  They lack a proven goaltender and team chemistry faltered at times.  The team played slightly under expectations, but boast a relatively young roster with time to improve.

Vancouver Canucks

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    Winning a second consecutive President's Trophy after the regular season, the Vancouver Canucks were promptly shown the door by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    High Points: The Canucks bettered every team in the regular season.  Led by the Sedin twins up front, Henrik and Daniel, who finished with 81 and 67 points, respectively and Roberto Luongo, who finished 31-14-8, in net, the Canucks entered the postseason as the top seed in the Western Conference for the second consecutive year.

    Low Points: Even without Daniel Sedin for the start of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Canucks still believed they could easily take down the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings.  The Kings thought otherwise and beat the defending Western Conference champions in only five games.

    Conclusion: Much like the the Rangers in the East, this was the Canucks' year.  They fell one game short of winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup last year and looked ready to win it all this season.  However, the Canucks failed to live up to expectations and Roberto Luongo may have solidified his reputation as a choke artist this season.

    DISCLAIMER: I am aware Roberto Luongo won an Olympic gold medal in 2010.  Playing on a team so talented that three NHL captains skated together on a fourth line helped.  He's still a choke artist.

Washington Capitals

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    After the Washington Capitals signed Tomas Vokoun, a legitimate NHL starting goaltender for a bargain this offseason, many thought Alex Ovechkin would finally lead his team to a Stanley Cup.  Let's just say things didn't quite go according to plan in the nation's capital.

    High Points: The Capitals managed to make it into the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs in which they upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in round one as a seventh seed.  The Caps almost pulled off another upset in round two against the top-seeded New York Rangers.

    Low Points: Did anyone think the Caps would lose the Southeast Division to the Florida Panthers and finish seventh in the Eastern Conference?  Really?  During the regular season, team captain Alex Ovechkin finished with 65 points.  Four years ago he finished with 65 goals.  

    Conclusion: While the Capitals failed to live up to expectations in the regular season, they finished about right in the postseason.  Many believed the addition of Vokoun would finally push the Capitals over the edge, but come on, the hockey gods aren't going to let Ovechkin lift a cup while he's skating with a tinted visor, yellow laces and skate laces dangling from his waist.  That's just too cocky and bad hockey karma.

Winnipeg Jets

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    The NHL returned to Winnipeg for the first time since the mid-90s.  Unfortunately for Jets fans, it was pretty much the same team who called Atlanta home the year before.

    High Points: The Jets sold out every home game.  Watching a home game in Winnipeg was quite a sight.  The environment was electric.  On the ice, former fourth-overall draft pick Evander Kane managed to net 30 goals, and team captain Andrew Ladd scored 28.

    Low Points: The Jets missed the playoffs despite a late push, finishing in a tenth place tie in the Eastern Conference with a 37-35-10 record.  Goaltending and defense weren't strong points for the Jets at times this season.

    Conclusion: The Jets finished right around where most analysts would have put them, maybe even a little better.  The team rode the excitement of the fans to a winning record, but still missed the playoffs in the well-balanced Eastern Conference.  It'll be interesting to see if that success will continue on into the future.