How they miss the playoffs: It’s not as much about Alfredsson as injuries, which were the reason the Senators almost missed the playoffs last season. Spezza can’t shake the injury bug, and the Senators miss Silfverberg, who goes on to have more success with the Anaheim Ducks than Ryan does in Ottawa.
3. Detroit Red Wings
Last season: 24-16-8, 56 points, seventh seed in West, lost in conference semi-finals to Chicago
Who’s gone: C Valtteri Filppula, D Carlo Colaiacovo
Who’s new: RW Daniel Alfredsson, C Stephen Weiss
How they make the playoffs: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg beat up on the Eastern Conference and show that Alfredsson was right to think the Red Wings had a better shot at the Cup than the Senators. Jimmy Howard makes good on the first year of his new contract.
How they miss the playoffs: The stars age fast, unable to keep up with the physicality of the division. Well removed from Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement, Detroit’s blue-line still misses him badly.
4. Montreal Canadiens*
Last season: 29-14-5, 63 points, second seed in East, lost in conference quarter-finals to Ottawa
Who’s gone: RW Michael Ryder, D Tomas Kaberle, D Yannick Weber
Who’s new: F Danny Briere, D Jarred Tinordi
How they make the playoffs: Size really doesn’t matter, as the Habs use their speed to remain a productive offensive team. Norris Trophy-winner P.K. Subban is a contender for the trophy again.
How they miss the playoffs: Carey Price plays like the goaltender who finished last season, forcing coach Michel Therrien to rely too much on Peter Budaj. Alexei Emelin’s early absence with a knee injury has a long-term effect on the blue-line.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last season: 26-17-5, 57 points, fifth seed in East, lost in conference quarter-finals to Boston
Who’s gone: C Mikhail Grabovski, F Clarke MacArthur, F Matt Frattin, D Mike Komisarek, G Ben Scrivens
Who’s new: RW David Clarkson, LW Mason Raymond, C Dave Bolland, D Paul Ranger, G Jonathan Bernier
How they make the playoffs: The goaltending is stellar, whether it’s James Reimer or Bernier stealing the job or the two splitting the starts almost down the middle. Phil Kessel finally scores 40 goals in a contract year.
How they miss the playoffs: Giving big money to Clarkson and Tyler Bozak turns out to be a disaster, as neither can produce the kind of goals the Leafs need to keep up in a tough division. The Game 7 heartbreak lingers, even as players deny it’s a factor.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last season: 18-26-4, 40 points, 14th in East, missed playoffs by 15 points
Who’s gone: C Vinny Lecavalier, F Benoit Pouliot, F J.T. Wyman, D Brendan Mikkelson
Who’s new: LW Jonathan Drouin, C Valtteri Filppula
How they make the playoffs: Drouin and Steven Stamkos are magic together, and the Lightning’s young players like Alex Killorn and Brett Connolly show they’re ready to fill full-time NHL roles. Victor Hedman shows he can be a legitimate No. 1 defenceman.
How they miss the playoffs: Goaltending still isn’t right with Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback clearly the league’s tallest tandem but not a good one. Art Ross Trophy-winner Marty St. Louis’ production falls off dramatically.
7. Florida Panthers
Last season: 15-27-6, 36 points, 15th in East, missed playoffs by 19 points
Who’s gone: C Stephen Weiss, RW Jack Skille, F George Parros
Who’s new: C Aleksander Barkov, RW Bobby Butler, G Tim Thomas
How they make the playoffs: Thomas, signed to a professional tryout during training camp, shows Conn Smythe Trophy form all season, stealing countless games for the Panthers. Jonathan Huberdeau leads the youth movement up front.
How they miss the playoffs: Young goalie Jacob Markstrom struggles again, making the future in net one of the biggest roster questions facing GM Dale Tallon. There are plenty more questions too, like who’s going to score goals and who on defence can prevent them.
8. Buffalo Sabres
Last season: 21-21-6, 48 points, 12th in East, missed playoffs by seven points
Who’s gone: C Jochen Hecht, D Andrej Sekera
Who’s new: D Jamie McBain, D Henrik Tallinder
How they make the playoffs: Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth combine to be one of the best goaltending tandems in the league, and young players like Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko shine when given the playing time. Big defenceman Tyler Myers bounces back in a big way.
How they miss the playoffs: Miller is trade bait at the deadline because the Sabres simply don’t have enough talent to get by. Cody Hodgson can’t handle the pressure of a new contract, and Ville Leino continues to prove he can’t stay healthy.