How they miss the playoffs: It ends with goaltending, where Emery and Mason struggle behind a questionable defensive corps. Defencemen like Andrej Meszaros and Niklas Grossmann suffer enough injuries to deplete depth and an offence led by Giroux and Vinny Lecavalier can’t keep up.
5. New York Islanders
Last season: 24-17-7, 55 points, eighth seed in East, lost in conference quarter-finals to Pittsburgh
Who’s gone: LW Nino Niederreiter, C Keith Aucoin, D Mark Streit, G Rick DiPietro
Who’s new: F Pierre-Marc Bouchard, RW Cal Clutterbuck
How they make the playoffs: John Tavares is an MVP candidate in his first season as captain, carrying the Islanders back into the playoffs. Lubomir Visnovsky stabilizes a largely unproven blue-line that lost Streit to Philadelphia.
How they miss the playoffs: Evgeni Nabokov struggles, and Kevin Poulin has no chance of saving the Islanders. Tavares, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo can’t do it all themselves, especially in front of a defence that is counting on Andrew MacDonald to play big minutes.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
Last season: 24-17-7, 55 points, ninth in West, missed playoffs on tiebreaker
Who’s gone: G Michael Leighton, LW Vinny Prospal
Who’s new: RW Nathan Horton
How they make the playoffs: Vezina Trophy-winner Sergei Bobrovsky isn’t a fluke, gets close to being the first goaltender since Dominik Hasek to put up back-to-back seasons with save percentages above .930. Horton returns from shoulder surgery in January and provides Columbus with a welcome offensive spark.
How they miss the playoffs: Bobrovsky is human and can’t almost singlehandedly get the Blue Jackets in. There’s simply not enough offence beyond Marian Gaborik after Prospal was not re-signed, and Horton isn’t the same without the kind of talented linemates he played with in Boston.
7. Carolina Hurricanes
Last season: 19-25-4, 42 points, 13th in East, missed playoffs by 13 points
Who’s gone: D Joni Pitkanen (injury), D Joe Corvo, D Jamie McBain, D Marc-Andre Bergeron, D Bobby Sanguinetti, G Dan Ellis
Who’s new: C Elias Lindholm, D Ron Hainsey, D Mike Komisarek, D Andrej Sekera, G Anton Khudobin
How they make the playoffs: Goaltender Cam Ward and forward Jeff Skinner stay healthy for a full season and play at peak performance. Eric and Jordan Staal play their solid, consistent game and Justin Faulk bounces back from a rough year.
How they miss the playoffs: Ward gets hurt again and can’t recapture past magic, and the loss of defenceman Joni Pitkanen from an already thin blue-line proves disastrous. Prospects Lindholm and Ryan Murphy aren’t yet ready to take on NHL roles.
8. New Jersey Devils
Last season: 19-19-10, 48 points, 11th in East, missed playoffs by seven points
Who’s gone: RW Ilya Kovalchuk, RW David Clarkson, D Henrik Tallinder, G Johan Hedberg
Who’s new: LW Ryane Clowe, RW Michael Ryder, RW Jaromir Jagr, RW Rostislav Olesz, G Cory Schneider, F Damien Brunner
How they make the playoffs: Martin Brodeur and Schneider make magic as a goaltending tandem, and the Devils get big-time production from Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique. Additions Ryder, Clowe and Jagr make up for the surprising departure of Ilya Kovalchuk.
How they miss the playoffs: Kovalchuk leaves a gaping offensive hole that can’t be filled. The Devils respect Brodeur too much to make him Schneider’s backup, and the 41-year-old plays like his age.
1. Boston Bruins
Last season: 28-14-6, 62 points, fourth seed in East, lost in Stanley Cup final to Chicago
Who’s gone: F Tyler Seguin, F Nathan Horton, F Jaromir Jagr, F Rich Peverley, D Andrew Ference, G Anton Khudobin
Who’s new: F Matt Fraser, F Loui Eriksson, F Jarome Iginla, F Reilly Smith, F Nick Johnson, D Joe Morrow, G Chad Johnson
How they make the playoffs: Steady as Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask go. Claude Julien’s team keeps natural chemistry even while adding Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla to the mix.
How they miss the playoffs: Injuries that took their toll in the Cup final pile up. The Bruins can’t afford to lose Rask for any length of time, especially with Chad Johnson replacing Anton Khudobin as the backup.
2. Ottawa Senators
Last season: 25-17-7, 56 points, seventh seed in East, lost in conference semi-finals to Pittsburgh
Who’s gone: RW Daniel Alfredsson, F Jakob Silfverberg, F Peter Regin, D Sergei Gonchar
Who’s new: LW Bobby Ryan, F Clarke MacArthur, D Joe Corvo
How they make the playoffs: Alfie, who? Bobby Ryan makes up for Daniel Alfredsson’s departure, and centre Jason Spezza and defenceman Erik Karlsson stay healthy. Reigning coach of the year Paul MacLean’s system is made to last and goaltenders Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner thrive behind it.