In the final regular-season installment of the weekly rankings, we put forth one of the two following statements for each team – it was a good year or it was a bad year – and explain the reason why.
1. Detroit Red Wings (54-21-7, Previous: 2) – It was a good year because the Red Wings once again put themselves in position to win Stanley Cup No. 11, and no one is calling this team old anymore.
2. San Jose Sharks (49-23-10, Previous: 1) – It was a good year because it learned to better deal with adversity during the regular season, and the Sharks finished by playing their best hockey of the season.
3. Anaheim Ducks (47-27-8, Previous: 4) – It was a good year because the defending Cup champs survived a short offseason, an early start because of games abroad, welcomed Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne back to the team and put themselves in decent position for potentially another long run.
4. Montreal Canadiens (47-25-10, Previous: 6) – It was a good year because the Canadiens proved virtually every prognosticator wrong in not only qualifying for the playoffs but also winning the East to boot, and by turning the goaltending chores over to 20-year-old big-game master Carey Price.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (47-27-8, Previous: 3) – It was a good year because not only did the Penguins finish second in the East, they learned they could have success without Sidney Crosby in the lineup.
6. Minnesota Wild (44-28-10, Previous: 5) – It was a good year because Marian Gaborik managed to stay healthier than in any season in recent memory, and the Wild rode his talents to their first division title.
7. New Jersey Devils (46-29-7, Previous: 8) – It was a good year because the Devils didn't have much offensive punch but found a way to get it done while transitioning to a new building and new coach without a hiccup.
8. New York Rangers (42-27-13, Previous: 7) – It was a good year because the Rangers pulled a number of new pieces together in time before doubt crept in during what was an otherwise slow start.
9. Dallas Stars (45-30-7, Previous: 9) – It was a good year because regardless of what they do in the postseason the team acquired a huge piece for the future in Brad Richards. Teams cannot compete in the West without size up front, and it's time to start getting young like Detroit has done.
10. Colorado Avalanche (44-31-7, Previous: 11) – It was a good year because the late-season run added up to a sixth-place finish and playoff berth as opposed to missing by a whisker like last year when they finished the regular season as the hottest team in hockey.
11. Calgary Flames (42-30-10, Previous: 15) – It was a good year because the Flames rediscovered an identity under coach Mike Keenan, and general manager Darryl Sutter locked key cogs Miikka Kiprusoff, Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf and Robin Regehr to long-term extensions.
12. Washington Capitals (43-31-8, Previous: 16) – It was a good year because the Capitals rallied big time after an early-season coaching change to usher Alexander Ovechkin into the postseason for the first time in addition to winning their first division title since 2000-01.
13. Philadelphia Flyers (42-29-11, Previous: 13) – It was a good year because the Flyers bounced back very nicely after a horrible season last year and much retooling over the summer.
14. Boston Bruins (41-29-12, Previous: 12) – It was a good year because the Bruins overcame the most in terms of injury and doubters to qualify for the postseason. Regardless of what this team does in the playoffs, they've built a strong base in terms of character and trust amongst each other.
15. Ottawa Senators (43-31-8, Previous: 10) – It was a bad year because the Senators lost their mojo after three months and couldn't rediscover it. General manager Bryan Murray didn't do enough to improve the goaltending situation and prevent Ray Emery from being a distraction.
16. Nashville Predators (41-32-9, Previous: 18) – It was a good year because after a year of salary dumping they still managed to squeak into the playoffs despite the ultra-competitive nature of the Western Conference. Kudos again to GM David Poile and coach Barry Trotz, who continue to be as good a fit as there is in the league.
17. Carolina Hurricanes (43-32-6, Previous: 14) – It was a bad year not so much because the Hurricanes lost a playoff spot in their final game, but because they never figured out a little defense can go a long way.
18. Vancouver Canucks (39-33-10, Previous: 17) – It was a bad year because the team relied too much on All-Star goalie Roberto Luongo. GM Dave Nonis has been too conservative not only on the last two trade deadlines, but also in the months leading up to the mad late-February one-day swap meet.
19. Chicago Blackhawks (40-34-8, Previous: 21) – It was a good year because the Blackhawks not only saw a number of high-profile picks shine despite their tender age and little experience, but also the team became relevant in Chicago again for the first time in ages.
20. Buffalo Sabres (39-31-12, Previous: 19) – It was a bad year because the Sabres just didn't react well to losing Daniel Briere and Chris Drury. They got something for Brian Campbell, but the best player left the room, and the room knows it.
21. Edmonton Oilers (41-35-6, Previous: 20) – It was a good year for the Oilers, who were hit especially hard by injury, but found they have very good young talent to add to an already decent core. A little luck and don't be surprised if this group shoots to the top of the division this time next year.
22. Phoenix Coyotes (38-37-7, Previous: 24) – It was a good year because Gretz & Co. stuck to the plan – play the youth, don't trade the youth, have faith in the youth. Phoenix will reap the benefits of this decision sooner than most expect.
23. Florida Panthers (38-35-9, Previous: 25) – It was a bad year because not only did the Panthers miss out on the postseason for the seventh straight year and ninth of 10, but also they didn't do anything to lighten GM/coach Jacques Martin's workload. One man can not do both jobs effectively in this age of the salary-cap era.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (34-36-12, Previous: 23) – It was a good year because the team bought into Ken Hitchcock's system. And while they are disappointed to have missed the playoffs, brighter days are ahead.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs (36-35-11, Previous: 22) – It was a bad year because management bungled this thing from the start – failing to find a way to hire Scotty Bowman last summer, leaving John Ferguson Jr. hanging for weeks on end before making up their mind, and ultimately missing out on the postseason for a third straight year.
26. St. Louis Blues (33-36-13, Previous: 30) – It was a good year because even though the Blues tailed off badly in the final quarter of the season, they became a more structured team on the ice thanks to Andy Murray, and Brad Boyes blossomed into an up-and-coming leading goal-scorer in the league.
27. New York Islanders (35-38-9, Previous: 29) – It was a bad year because the Islanders posed the least scoring threat in the league and allowed far too many shots. Good luck trying to recruit talent to the Island with the way things are going.
28. Atlanta Thrashers (34-40-8, Previous: 27) – It was a bad year for the Thrashers, who failed to realize Don Waddell's moves last year set the franchise back, and now they probably have to make a decision they should have made a year ago.
29. Los Angeles Kings (32-43-7, Previous: 26) – It was a bad year for the Kings because despite the improvement of the young players, you don’t really get the sense the team is any closer to competing for a playoff spot than they were three years ago.
30. Tampa Bay Lightning (31-42-9, Previous: 28) – It was a bad year for the Lightning because with three of the best forwards in the game they couldn't compete in a poor division, and ultimately had to let one of the Big Three go in a trade with Dallas, which will ultimately win the trade because the Stars got the best player.