Teams I’ll miss in playoffs

Now that the Stanley Cup playoffs finally are underway (albeit a little later than usual due to the lockout that everyone has pretty much forgotten about), nearly every sports fan in the country will be focused on which of the 16 teams will be hoisting Lord Stanley’s mug in two months’ time.
While everyone is hoping to see the two top teams in the league (the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins) battle it out in the final, there are a ton of other teams that would be exciting to watch win it all.
Teams like the Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks, and Vancouver Canucks have been seen as under-achievers in the past when it comes to the post-season, and to see them get a title would be nice to finally shut up some of their detractors.
Teemu Selanne could ride off into the sunset if the Anaheim Ducks triumph once again, and the possible celebration of a Stanley Cup victory for places like Montreal, Ottawa, or Toronto could make the New Year’s Eve festivities in Times Square look like a pre-school birthday party.
Or, the N.Y. Islanders could cause the truest sign of the apocalypse in the history of man by winning it all, which probably would cause every full-time hockey pundit to announce their retirement.
However, there are three teams on the outside looking in that I would have loved to have seen in the NHL post-season this time around.
So, with apologies to the fan bases of the 16 teams that are battling it right now in the first round of the playoffs, here are the trifecta of franchises I would have thoroughly enjoyed to have seen taking the ice this week.
•Winnipeg Jets
This is more in regards to the atmosphere the MTS Centre brings than anything else, as the roof probably would blow off of the building if the Jets happened to score an overtime winner on home ice.
Despite falling just short this year, I truly think a playoff spot is in the cards for the Jets in the not-too-distant future, though that might take a little longer than most fans want due to the incoming realignment next year.
Plus, a return to the playoffs to Winnipeg would make me dream of that event happening again in Quebec City and Hartford, and I can never go wrong with having the fantasy run through my brain.
•Edmonton Oilers
Now that the Toronto Maple Leafs have ended their long post-season drought, the five-time Stanley Cup champions now hold the honour of missing the playoffs the longest among those in the NHL (they haven’t played playoff hockey since 2006).
But when you look at this roster, it’s hard to see that dubious streak lasting much longer, especially with a forward core that possesses Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, and my (extremely biased) pick to win this season’s rookie of the year, Nail Yakupov.
Like when a horrible golf round ends with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, the fact that the Oilers scored 13 goals in their final two games brought a bright light to another disappointing season in the “City of Champions.”
And if everyone clicks together come next season, the rest of the league might be worried.
•Columbus Blue Jackets
With all due respect to the Minnesota Wild, I have never been more disappointed to see a team miss out on making it into the post-season than I was with this year’s Columbus Blue Jackets.
Having traded franchise forward Rick Nash to the N.Y. Rangers this past summer, not much was expected of a Blue Jackets’ squad that looked pretty awful on paper, especially since they finished at the bottom of the league in 2012.
But after a slow start, the Blue Jackets went on a tear, thanks largely to goalie Sergei Bobrovsky turning into the second coming of Vladislav Tretiak on some nights, and they ended up falling just short of earning their second post-season berth in franchise history.
I don’t want to hazard a guess on if the Blue Jackets can match their improved play in a year’s time, but I’m not sure a playoff appearance would be as crazy or fun as the ride they took many on this season when not much was expected of them.

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