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Chicago Blackhawks' goalie Corey Crawford and teammates react as Phoenix Coyotes celebrate a third-period goal during Game 4 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series at the United Center in Chicago, Thursday, April 19, 2012. The Coyotes won 3-2. (AP Photo/Daily Herald, John Starks) (John Starks/AP)
Chicago Blackhawks' goalie Corey Crawford and teammates react as Phoenix Coyotes celebrate a third-period goal during Game 4 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series at the United Center in Chicago, Thursday, April 19, 2012. The Coyotes won 3-2. (AP Photo/Daily Herald, John Starks) (John Starks/AP)

A changing of the guard in the NHL Add to ...

So another one bites the dust.

But another what, exactly?

Well, with the Chicago Blackhawks bowing out on Monday night against the Phoenix Coyotes, there goes another team that over the last few years established itself as one of the best in the league.

The Blackhawks may appear to be on the downswing a little, but they not only won the Stanley Cup in 2010, they have won more games over the last five seasons than 22 other franchises – eight of which are among the 10 teams left in the playoffs.

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In fact, if you look back over the past five years of regular season success, almost every team at the top of that list has already bowed out of the playoffs.

The most successful team over that stretch has been the Detroit Red Wings, who won the 2008 Stanley Cup to go along with 244 regular season wins, or an average of 107 points a season.

Tied right with them in wins over that period are the San Jose Sharks, who never had much playoff success but have been one of the NHL's best regular season teams for nearly a decade.

Both are out after five games in Round 1.

It's a list that goes on and on. After Detroit and San Jose, the most successful teams between 2007-08 and this season have been Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Washington, New Jersey, Boston and Chicago.

And only one may be playing in Round 2 this year, depending on the results for the Capitals, Devils and Bruins.



<h5 style='border-top: #000 1px solid; border-bottom: #000 1px dotted; font:14px Georgia,serif; font-weight: normal; width: 460px; padding: 5px 0; margin: 20px 0 0'>NHL teams ranked by regular season wins, last five years</h5><p style='font:12px Verdana,sans-serif; width: 460px; margin: 5px 0 0 0; line-height: 1.4em;'>Hockey's old guard, led by San Jose and Detroit, appears to be making way for up-and-coming teams like Nashville, St. Louis and Los Angeles</p><iframe src='http://www.theglobeandmail.com/static/test/charts/google/google_iframe_04.html?id=000&type=bar&ssid=0Ar3M_smeSBJsdHF5VndtV3VJSk1uTXRVNVhiSGVKRFE&bm=40&lm=120&w=460&h=300' scrolling='no' frameborder='no' width='460' height='300' style='border-bottom: 1px dotted #000; margin: 20px 0 0' ></iframe>


Here's a full list of all 30 teams' records over the last five seasons: link

Could this trend simply be a one-year wonder? Or is there more to it than that?

Some of the teams at the top of that chart there are in good enough shape that they should stay there over the next three or four years.

Pittsburgh, for example, has enough elite, top end talent that being a good regular season team shouldn't be a problem. Vancouver is in that boat, too, especially if they can turn one of their goaltenders into more depth elsewhere.

But teams like Nashville, Philadelphia, the Rangers and St. Louis all also look like they're here to stay. These are young teams built around pieces that they'll have in place for a few years, and they may be able to knock off the likes of Detroit or New Jersey that have aging rosters.

To some extent, the top teams in the NHL are always going to look similar, as franchises that spend to the top of the salary cap and that are in big markets, always tend to be toward the top.

The top nine teams in the chart above, for example, were all among the highest spending over this period.

This is the first year under the salary cap that a few of the really low salaried teams have had some postseason success. Ottawa is spending only $3-million more than the salary floor, while Nashville, St. Louis, Phoenix and Florida are between $4-million and $7-million above it.

It could well be that the salary cap, now at $64.3-million, is high enough that teams at the low end (around $50-million) are able to compete better than they were three or four years ago.

Either way, that's having an effect on which teams are successful and contributing to a changing of the guard at the top of the league.

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