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Around The NHL: Two Streaks End As Playoffs Approach, Expansion Lists Will Be Made Public

As the season winds down, the race for the playoffs in both the East and West is much less elastic. In addition, two different streaks finally came to an end.

Those two streaks couldn’t be at more opposite ends of the spectrum. Two proud franchises with championships in their history going in the opposite direction. One of them witnessed their incredible postseason streak come to an end. The other ended a playoff drought looking to build a new streak of their own.

Meanwhile, five of the eight playoff spots in each conference are clinched. The number of teams competing for the remaining postseason berths dwindles by the week. In nine days, the regular season ends and we’ll know who will be competing for the Stanley Cup.

Two months from now, the NHL’s newest team, the Vegas Golden Knights, will participate in the expansion draft to select their first roster. We’ll shed some light on new developments with that, as well as what streaks came to an end, and what the playoff races look like in this week’s edition of Around The NHL.

The Detroit Red Wings’ 25-season playoff run comes to an end.

On Tuesday night, the Red Wings’ 4-1 loss to Carolina, coupled with Boston and Toronto victories, officially eliminated Detroit from playoff contention for the first time since 1990. When the teams’s streak began in October 1990, ten players on the Wings’ current roster hadn’t been born yet. The team’s entire streak took place while playing their games at Joe Louis Arena, which will close its doors after this season. The Red Wings will move into Little Caesar’s Arena next season, and only two current NHL arenas were still in use when Detroit’s streak began; Madison Square Garden in New York and the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.

Earlier this week, I went into more detail about the Wings’ run of playoff appearances and what’s next for this team. If you’ve been paying attention over the last few years, Detroit has been in a state of decline. They had to fight and claw their way into the postseason the last three years. This is a team that has some young talented players to build around, such as Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin, and Anthony Mantha.

However, they’re saddled with a defensive corps in desperate need of help and several questionable contracts to veteran players. Despite the team’s current state of affairs, general manager Ken Holland doesn’t think the team needs a complete rebuild. As I wrote earlier in the week, I completely disagree with him. Either way you look at it, some moves need to be made to bolster this team’s blue line. Detroit hasn’t chosen in the top 10 of the draft since 1991. Don’t be surprised if things get worse before they get better.

The Edmonton Oilers are back in the playoffs

While one lengthy playoff streak ended, a lengthy playoff drought also came to a screeching halt. For the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers are Stanley Cup Playoff participants. They clinched their spot in the postseason by defeating the Los Angeles Kings on home ice by a 2-1 score. The last time Edmonton made the postseason, Twitter was only a couple of months old, the iPhone hadn’t been released yet, and two current NHL general managers, Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic, were still playing.

Before this season, Edmonton missed the playoffs 10 seasons in a row, tying the NHL record once solely held by the Florida Panthers. Heading into this weekend, the Oilers are in sole possession of second place in the Pacific Division. They’re one point behind the Anaheim Ducks and two ahead of the San Jose Sharks. Many prognosticators thought Edmonton would be improved with a healthy Connor McDavid in the lineup. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find too many people who thought they’d challenge for the division title.

McDavid has lived up to the hype, leading the league with 91 points, while Leon Drasaitl has emerged as a legitimate offensive threat riding shotgun with him. Cam Talbot continues to thrive in goal, starting a league-high 69 games. In an ultra-tight Pacific Division race, this is a team to watch heading into the postseason. I know I’m not alone when I say the possibility of an Edmonton-Calgary playoff series would be can’t-miss hockey.

NHL decides each team’s protected lists for the expansion draft will be made public.

During the general manager’s meetings a few weeks ago, speculation ran rampant that the NHL was considering making each team’s list of protected players public for the expansion draft in June. The league’s GM’s largely preferred those lists would remain private, as it means less scrutiny on them during the process.

However, those GM’s are literally the only people in the hockey world that wanted to keep those lists private. Fans want to know who their teams are protecting and who they might lose to the Vegas Golden Knights. Media members want to know because it gives us something to talk about.

On Wednesday, the NHL announced that each team’s protected and unprotected lists would be made available to the public:

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly then stated that the league will likely make the lists public on June 18 at the same time it’s distributed to the other 30 teams:

“After a lot of internal discussion following the General Managers meeting (March 6-8), we determined it would be best to disclose those lists publicly,” Daly said. “One of our guiding principles from the start of this process was to prioritize transparency, and certainly here, keeping the lists private would not have promoted that particular objective. 

“Also, while I think the [general] managers on balance favored maintaining the privacy of the process, I can’t say I felt anyone expressed particularly strong views on the subject one way or the other. So, in the end, we ran it by the (NHL) Players’ Association and it ultimately became a pretty easy decision.”

Every team must submit their protected lists by 5 pm EST on June 17. The Golden Knights must submit their selections by 5 pm on June 20. Their pics will be revealed the following day as part of the NHL Awards show on NBC Sports Network.

Making the protected lists public is the right move on the NHL’s part. Anything that keeps the fans engaged is a good thing. The lists were probably going to get leaked anyway. Team employees talk. General managers talk. Inquisitive, connected reporters will find a way to obtain the lists. Transparency wins the day.

If the NHL really wanted to bring in some more publicity, why not get a camera crew from HBO or Epix and follow the Golden Knights during the expansion draft process? Remember 24/7 The Road To The Winter Classic? An uncensored look at the behind-the-scenes process Vegas’s management team while they build a hockey team from scratch would be must-see TV. Someone make it happen!

Playoff races coming into focus near end of regular season

As mentioned earlier, 10 of the 16 available playoff spots are sewn up. In the West, St. Louis and Calgary have a chance to clinch playoff spots on Friday night, leaving just one available. If both the Blues and Flames punch their postseason ticket, the last playoff spot would appear to be the Nashville Predators’ to lose, as they lead Los Angeles by 10 points despite the Kings having a game in hand.

The third place spot in the Central appears to be a dead heat between the Predators and St. Louis, as Chicago and Minnesota comfortably own the first and second place positions, respectively.

We’ve already mentioned how tight the Pacific Division race is, as six points separate the fourth-place Flames and the first-place Anaheim Ducks. That appears to be a race that will probably come down to the final day of the regular season.

In the East, the Capitals enter Friday night’s games in first place in both the Metropolitan Division and the entire NHL, owning a four-point edge on Columbus and a seven-point edge on Pittsburgh. All three of those teams have clinched playoff spots.

The New York Rangers appear to be entrenched in the first wild card spot, earning them a likely first round date with the Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens. Both the Canadiens and Rangers locked up playoff berths this week.

The Ottawa Senators are in second place in the Atlantic with 91 points, two ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boston sits just one point behind Toronto. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes recently closed the gap. The Bolts remain three points behind the Bruins, while the Canes sit four points back of Boston. However, Tampa Bay has one game remaining each against the Bruins and Leafs. Carolina is 9-0-4 in their last 13 games, meaning they can’t be discounted either.

Even though the majority of playoff spots are wrapped up, the race in each conference is far from complete. Should be a wild final 10 days of the regular season.

 

 

 

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