Like it or not, parity is in full-bloom in the NHL.
It's been said that there really are no "bad teams" in the NHL anymore, merely teams that may be having bad seasons.
Looking at the number of top flight players currently headed toward an early summer, that logic is hard to argue with.
What follows is a list of the top 10 players we (and by that I mean, "me", or at least, the royal "we") would love to see on the ice beyond Game 82 but, sadly, will have to wait until next season to watch them work their playoff magic.
Guys like Oshie are built for the playoffs.
They love the physical side of the game, are decent offensive contributors and have the versatility and hustle coaches can't get enough of come the postseason.
Oshie got his first taste of the playoffs last year as a rookie. He didn't do much, which is to say he was held without a point in four games.
But after raising his game this season to become St. Louis' third leading scorer, he'd have been a key playoff contributor for the Blues had they made it to the 2009-10 playoffs.
Oshie is quickly becoming a fan favorite in St. Louis. However, until he can exhibit his skills on the larger stage that is the NHL playoffs, the rest of the hockey world won't have the same appreciation for the young, combustible forward.
Though he now has an Olympic Gold Medal to add to his Stanley Cup win in 2006, it still feels as if the elder Staal has something to prove in his career.
At only 25, he's got time to do it.
The newly minted Carolina captain is perhaps one of the most underrated pure goal scorers in the game, and it may not be until he matures into the leader the Hurricanes believe he can be that Staal will be considered one of the league's best.
The large frame and goal scoring instincts he exhibits in the regular season would (and have) become all the more valuable in the post-season.
Sadly, thanks to an utterly horrendous first half, the Canes and Eric Staal won't get a chance to taste playoff hockey until next year.
If a coach could design his ideal playoff center, he'd likely come up with an exact replica of Ryan Getzlaf.
He's 6-foot-4, loves to hit, sees the ice extremely well and has hands of melted butter.
He's a coach's dream come true down the middle.
Last season in the playoffs, Anaheim was criticized for being a "one-line team." However the line centered by Getzlaf (and flanked by Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry) did more damage than most other team's top six forwards combined.
With Getzlaf anchoring the middle, the Ducks will always be an offensive threat in the postseason. Well, except for this year.
As the first permanent captain of the Minnesota Wild, (they previously rotated the "C"), watching the Finnish center lead his team in the postseason would be a real treat for Wild fans.
Saku's younger brother has developed into an outstanding hockey player and leader. His tenacity and scoring would certainly be the engine driving Minnesota's playoff run.
That is, if they were actually in the playoffs.
With Koivu as their leader, the Wild don't figure to be out of the playoffs too much longer. However, they must find a way to provide him with the right supporting cast in order to become perennial playoff participants.
Call it grit, call it sand paper, call it guts...what ever "it" is Brendan Morrow's got it.
He's not the most talented player on his team, but you could survey the whole league and not find a more dedicated, energetic and passionate leader than Morrow.
He's already proven himself to be an indispensable playoff performer, particularly in the Stars' 2008 run to the conference finals.
However, his team will need to find a way to dominate consistently in the offensive and physical side of the game if they are to once again rise to power in the West.
If it were possible to loan non-playoff players to other teams, the Stars would be getting calls from 16 teams who'd love to have a guy like Morrow on the ice and in their dressing room come playoff time.
Yet another Olympic Gold Medalist that will have that magical win in Vancouver as his most memorable moment of the 2009-10 season.
On the back of Rick Nash and first-year phenom goalie, Steve Mason, the Jackets made the post-season in 2008-09 for the first time in team history.
Nash's supreme talent and Mason's unbelievable play throughout the season even had some pundits talking upset when Columbus faced off against their divisional rivals, and defending Stanley Cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings.
Four games later, Columbus' trip through the postseason was over. However there was hope that this was just the start of regularly playing deep into April.
So much for hope.
With Columbus eliminated from playoff contention, Rick Nash won't have a chance to display his tremendous physical and offensive talent when it matters most. A shame considering players like Nash are made for post-season hockey.
Olympic scoring title—check.
Stanley Cup winner—check.
Ending his brilliant career in the playoffs—d'oh!
Even pushing 40, the Finnish Flash has more offensive skill than most players half his age. Nevertheless, the elite forward and sure-fire Hall of Famer has made it clear that this will be his last season in the league.
Though his timing is right, as he has nothing left to prove, it will sting just a little bit that he'll leave the game without having taken just one more shot at glory in the playoffs.
2009-10 hasn't exactly been a banner year for the Calgary Flames.
A major mid-season roster shake-up and inconsistency have them headed to an early summer for the first time since 2002-03.
While rumors already have started popping up regarding the major changes to come in Calgary this summer, Jerome Iginla should remain a core of the Calgary Flames.
His leadership, physicality and uncanny scoring ability make him one of the larger threats in the league come playoff time.
If the Flames have designs on rebuilding their team into a playoff contender, Iginla will need to remain a major part of their plans.
Iginla can put a team on his back both in the regular season and the playoffs.
However, he still needs a decent and consistent supporting cast in order for the team to reap the benefits of having such a dynamic player as its leader.
Players like Iginla don't come around very often, unfortunately for him, neither do first-line centers.
I recently bought my four-year-old his first set of hockey equipment.
I'm not sure how I'd ever have the chance, but I'd love to see how much of it would fit Martin St. Louis.
The pint-sized winger, very generously listed as 5'9" (yeah, maybe with skates on) may look like a mite compared to most of his teammates. But what he lacks in stature, he more than makes up for in offensive brilliance.
St. Louis has reached a career high 63 assists this season and would make the Lightning a very dangerous opponent for any top seed team in the East if they were, in fact, making the playoffs.
St. Louis may not have the physical frame to punish his opponents but his blinding speed, tenacity and offensive creativity make him an ideal playoff superstar.
Too bad we won't be seeing him shine this postseason.
When he was drafted in 2008, it was thought that Steven Stamkos may, someday, rise to the level of a Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin.
Well, someday, is here.
The second-year forward is having a mind-boggling year for Tampa Bay and is right in the thick of the Rocket Richard Trophy race, trailing Sidney Crosby by one goal at 46.
After a disappointing (although not all that bad) rookie year, all the promise and hype surrounding the Ontario, Canada native has been made good on in 2009-10.
His ability to get into open spaces and find 101 (okay, okay, 46) ways to score a goal would make him the equivalent of a stealth bomber in the playoffs: you know he's there, but you don't see the strike until it's all over.
If Tampa Bay can settle its goal-tending and front-office issues, it won't be long before we see one of the league's best goal scorers skating in the playoffs, which is right where he belongs.