With the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Finals set to get underway, 28 teams are now analyzing their respective seasons and determining needs for the offseason.
Early exits by high seeds in the 2011 NHL Playoffs, along with teams that unexpectedly missed the playoffs entirely, are left kicking themselves at home while the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins battle for the Stanley Cup.
The NHL is all about exceeding expectations, and being held accountable when you fail to do so.
Thus, the grade a team receives is based on what it was expected to achieve and what it actually did achieve.
For instance, despite the fact that the Edmonton Oilers are once again drafting first overall, they will receive higher marks than teams like the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals, who disappointed their fans with early postseason exit.
Here are the grades for each and every NHL team for the 2010-2011 season.
Come June 24th the Edmonton Oilers will once again be on the clock with the first overall pick in the NHL Draft. Despite having the league's worst record this season, the 2010-2011 campaign was not all bad for the orange and blue.
Edmonton identified three stud forwards, all of which could become superstars in the NHL. Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi, the team's last three first round selections, all displayed the talent that made them top picks. Now, Edmonton gets to add another top tier talent in the upcoming entry draft.
In addition, Devan Dubnyk appears to be a potential starter in net for the Edmonton Oilers. He kept games close for Edmonton all season long and had a solid 12-13-7 record, considering his team's shortcomings.
As if the future is not bright enough, the Oilers have agreed to terms with the city of Edmonton to build a new 450 million dollar arena.
Better days are ahead for the Oiler faithful.
Talk about a fall from grace.
The Colorado Avalanche had won 25 games by the end of January but proceeded to win just five games the rest of the way and finish with the second worst record in the National Hockey League.
The season was a complete let down for a team that appeared to have enough talent to at least secure a playoff spot.
In addition to the poor record, the Avalanche did some questionable house cleaning at the trading deadline, getting rid of goaltender Craig Anderson and stud young power power forward Chris Stewart.
The future of the Colorado Avalanche is full of question marks.
Any season that results in the firing of a coach, the third worst record in hockey, and a team's best player as a UFA can't be considered a success in any way.
The Florida Panthers have been a floundering organization for quite some time, and the 2010-2011 campaign just brought more of the same for Florida's team.
Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers have a very solid group of prospects, headlined by goalie Jacob Markstrom. Unfortunately, the club has a shaky track record of developing top talent.
We'll see if the Panthers are able to climb out of the cellar at some point in the near future.
While the New York Islanders appear to have a reasonably bright. Garth Snow and company have drafted and developed a deep pool of young talent to build around. The team's bright future was put on display during their brilliant stretch after the All-Star break
However, that alone does not make the season a success. The Islanders finished dead last in the Atlantic Division for the fourth consecutive season and had just 30 wins on the season.
The final taste in my mouth for the Islanders in the 2010-2011 season is the excessive fighting they resorted to towards the end of the season. Whether it was out of frustration or just a ploy to fill the arena, it was a disgrace to the game.
I'm all for dropping the gloves, but displays like the Islanders put on against the Penguins in February are far from "old time hockey."
It has become quite evident that it is time for a full scale rebuilding effort in Ottawa. That's usually a sign of a lost season.
The acquisitions of Craig Anderson and Stephane Da Costa were definite bright spots in an otherwise gloomy season in Ottawa.
Fortunately, the Binghamton Senators have reached the Calder Cup Finals, meaning the cupboard is not entirely empty.
The pieces are in place for the Atlanta Thrashers. Ondrej Pavelec, Dustin Byfuglien, and Andrew Ladd provide a solid core of leaders to build around, and there are young talented players in place as well.
Despite all of that, the Atlanta Thrashers suffered a late season collapse of epic proportions. Once looking to be in control of the Southeast Division, the Thrashers managed to finish ahead of only the Florida Panthers.
To make matters worse, the team appears to be heading to Winnipeg.
I'm not sure how this season could be anything but an F for this franchise.
Same results, different year for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The team hung within a handful of points of a playoff spot for a while before slowing dropping in the standings until they were owning yet another top ten draft pick.
The Jackets do have one of the ten best prospect pools in the NHL, and another top ten pick is only going to add to the talent level.
That being said, it's time for some of the youth of this organization to mature into contributors at the NHL level.
Remember when the New Jersey Devils were being talked about as contenders for the Eastern Conference title?
Well, with the injuries to Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur and the uninspiring play of Ilya Kovalchuk, the New Jersey Devils were one of the worst teams in the NHL until the late season surge the club went on.
The Devils have the pieces to make an immediate turn around, but it is going to require a resurgence from Martin Brodeur and more consistent production from Kovalchuk.
It's just about go time for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
A lot depends on the development of the talented youngsters on the roster, but it seems as if Brian Burke has turned this organization around to the point where they can contend for a playoff spot in the near future.
The emergence of players such as goalie James Reimer and winger Clarke MacArthur should give Toronto fans reason for optimism heading forward.
Two first rounders in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft won't hurt either.
The Minnesota Wild are stuck in mediocrity.
Without the threat of an elite offensive weapon, the Minnesota Wild will struggle to qualify for the postseason.
On the back end, Niklas Backstrom and Brent Burns provide some stability, but they are not an elite defensive team capable of making up for their offensive shortcomings.
Expectations were high coming into the season for the St. Louis Blues, having traded for 2010 playoff standout Jaroslav Halak in the offseason.
However, the team once again failed to qualify for the postseason in what was a disappointing campaign.
T.J. Oshie missed a decent chunk of the season, but the entire season cannot be attributed to his absence.
The Blues were able to move some pieces around to make room for prospects that are waiting to break through, so next season once again has some promise.
Getting good grades requires consistency. Miss a few homework assignments, skip a few classes, or fail an exam and making acceptable marks can become a bit of a challenge.
The Carolina Hurricanes experienced this first hand, as they followed up stretches of brilliant play with lackluster output on the offensive end.
Cam Ward was a rock all season long, but the same cannot be said of the offense, which was up and down all season long.
That being said, the Hurricanes only missed the postseason by two points and have plenty of reason to believe that they can qualify next season.
Qualifying for the postseason gets the Rangers into the B range, but the club failed to rise to the occasion against the top seeded Washington Capitals.
Henrik Lundqvist was once again outstanding for New York, but the rest of the team didn't exactly follow suit.
The Rangers were not a threat on the powerplay all season long, which has to be addressed this offseason.
Lundqvist is only capable of carrying this team so far.
Entering Christmas with little hope of the postseason, the Calgary Flames went on an unexpected run towards qualifying for the eight and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Flames came up a bit short but the life they showed at the end of the season was encouraging.
New GM Jay Feaster has this team headed in the right direction.
During the first half of the season the Dallas Stars were the feel-good story of the NHL.
The Stars had control of both the Pacific Division and the Western Conference before it all came crashing down.
Kari Lehtonen was unable to sustain the type of workload he established in the first half, and the injury to Brad Richards buried Dallas. Despite all of that, the Stars still had a chance at the 2011 NHL Playoffs by beating the Minnesota Wild. They failed.
To add insult to injury, the team is struggling to seal the deal with an owner and risk losing Brad Richards this offseason.
Funny how much things can change in six months.
It's amazing what new ownership can do for a team.
The Buffalo Sabres' season appeared to be lost until Terry Pegula swooped in and bought the club in late February.
After that, the Sabres went on a terrific late season run culminating in a seven-game series against the second-seeded Philadelphia Flyers.
Ryan Miller had to carry the team at times, but the Buffalo Sabres put together a solid season to build on for the future.
Following up a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals with a first round exit at the hands of their biggest rival earns the Montreal Canadiens a mediocre grade.
The Canadiens had a chance to bury the Boston Bruins and failed to do so. That alone should make the fan base sick. On top of that, the B's are now playing for a Stanley Cup, and all the Canadiens can do is watch.
Not to mention all of the free agents Montreal has to attempt to re-sign in the coming months. Things could get very interesting in Montreal.
Some may think that a team that won the Stanley Cup and proceeded to be bounced in the first round the very next season deserves a lower grade.
However, considering the players Chicago lost last offseason along with the injuries they sustained throughout the 2010-2011 season, the fact that they snuck into the playoffs and nearly upset the Canucks is impressive.
The Los Angeles Kings had a nearly identical season to a year ago, losing in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual Western Conference runner up.
One has to wonder if the Kings could have taken things a step further this season if Anze Kopitar had not gotten injured, or if Dustin Penner had panned out after being traded for.
Either way, L.A. will be back for more next season and should contend for the Pacific Division crown.
It's tough to grade the Phoenix Coyotes' season.
After taking the Red Wings to seven games in their opening round series a year ago, the Coyotes were swept by the same team in the first round of the 2011 NHL Playoffs.
On the bright side, the team will remain in Phoenix for at least another year after the city agreed to support the team for the coming season.
Things could quickly go down hill if Phoenix can't re-sign Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Nashville Predators enjoyed the best season in their young existence and deserve recognition as one of the Western Conference's elite teams.
The tandem of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter established themselves as the top defensive pairing in the NHL, and Pekka Rinne developed into one of the five to ten best goaltenders in the league.
Barry Trotz is a defensive genius, and his system is clearly paying dividends for the Preds, who finally have the city of Nashville excited about hockey again.
The future is as bright as the present for Nashville. The Predators have tons of offensive talent in their system and should become a fixture in the second round of the playoffs going forward.
Given the injury trouble the Ducks had, finishing fifth in the Western Conference and battling the Predators tough in the playoffs is deserving of high praise.
Early in the season Jonas Hiller carried the Ducks, but after his injury the club was forced to lean on the top line of Getzlaf, Ryan, and Perry.
Corey Perry was the most impressive of the bunch, collecting 98 points on his way to a Hart Trophy nomination.
Anaheim will be banking on the development of some of their top blue line prospects, as the backend really struggled for the Ducks this season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have nothing to hang their heads about following a Game 7 defeat at the hands of the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals.
While Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis had a resurgence of sorts, Steven Stamkos proved to be a once in a generation type player for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Stamkos rose to the occasion in the playoffs with 13 points, including seven in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Lightning need to find a goalie to replace Dwayne Roloson, but with a solid free agent crop they shouldn't have too much of an issue doing so.
Grade: A (Potentially A+)
Plenty of people expected to see the Vancouver Canucks playing for the Stanley Cup, but how many thought the Boston Bruins would be on the other bench?
Despite not having an elite offensive scoring threat or any true superstar players, the Boston Bruins have managed to muck and grind their way to a shot at the Stanley Cup.
Tim Thomas has been incredible, Zdeno Chara has finally stepped up a bit in the playoffs, and the offense is finding ways to get it done when it matters most.
The future doesn't matter for the Bruins. They are wrapped up in the here and now.
At times during the 2010-2011 campaign the Detroit Red Wings looked like the team to beat.
Somewhere down the road the Wings lost their mojo, falling in seven games to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference semi-finals.
The fans in Mo-Town have come to expect more from their Red Wings.
Detroit has also lost Brian Rafalski to retirement and could lose Nicklas Lidstrom as well.
The Red Wings' front office has some serious reevaluating to do this offseason.
The hockey world was ready to forgive Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks for their past playoff shortcomings. That is until the Vancouver Canucks rolled the Sharks in five games in the Western Conference Finals.
Sure, the Sharks got to the Conference Finals, but last time I checked the goal is to hoist the Stanley Cup.
The 2011 NHL Playoffs were just another failure for San Jose.
If we learned anything for the Pittsburgh Penguins' 2010-2011 campaign it was that Sidney Crosby is indeed the most valuable player in the National Hockey League.
Crosby was on a ridiculous pace before getting knocked out for the season with a concussion.
The Penguins also lost Evgeni Malkin for the year with a knee injury which just made matters worse.
Marc-Andre Fleury did what he could to carry the Penguins, who still finished fourth in the Eastern Conference. However, a first-round exit is not acceptable for a roster laden with talent.
Pittsburgh was unable to overcome injuries, proving how reliable they are on their superstars.
After a surprising run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, the city of brotherly love had hockey fever once again. Expectations were high in Philly with most of the star studded roster returning.
The Flyers shot out of the gate like a cannon this season, but their slow finish combined with a horrendous goaltending situation did not give them much of a chance in the postseason.
Eventually, the Flyers were swept out of the second round of the playoffs by the Boston Bruins, who they had humiliated just a season earlier.
In most cities, a trip to the second round of the NHL Playoffs would be considered a success. However, Philadelphia is one of a handful of hockey towns that won't settle for a team that fails to meet expectations.
Well, at least the Capitals got passed the first round.
Unfortunately, the top seeded Capitals were swept in the second round by upstart Tampa Bay.
With the talent on Washington's roster it is unacceptable for them to not have reached at least the Conference Finals since Ovechkin's emergence.
The team attempted to switch to a more defensive brand of hockey this season, but all that did was limit Ovechkin's production and earn them the top seed in the Conference again.
Heads will start to roll if this team can't figure out how to take things a step further, and soon.
Grade: A (Potentially A+)
The Presidents' Trophy in hand, a relatively smooth road to the Stanley Cup Finals, and home ice advantage against the Boston Bruins for hockey's ultimate prize.
The Vancouver Canucks made the 2010-2011 season look like an easy A.
The Sedins continued to work their magic, the Canucks overcome injuries to all of their defensemen, and Roberto Luongo has shaken the playoff monkey off of his back.
This season has been everything Nucks fans could have hoped for. Everything that is, except a Stanley Cup.
Rest assured, if Vancouver Canucks fail to bring home the Cup, Canucks fans will be as unsatisfied as any fans in the league, and this grade will certainly drop.