â†µThough a lot more can happen in the offseason to change a team's fortunes these days -- with all the activity at the draft and the start of the free agent signing period on July 1, it almost seems as if the offseason can be as busy as the trade deadline -- here are a few teams I've got my eye on that could take a significant drop in the standings next season. â†µâ†µ
â†µMontreal Canadiens -- While the Penguins were energized by a mid-season coaching change, the Habs simply didn't perform once GM Bob Gainey slipped back behind the bench. The team slumped down the stretch, almost missing the playoffs, and then provided only momentary trouble for the Boston Bruins in the opening round of the playoffs. â†µâ†µ
â†µNow the team will more than likely experience a number of key personnel defections, and I'm not sure that bringing Jacques Martin into the mix as head coach is going to change things all that much. What's worse, I'm anticipating that Toronto, Buffalo and Ottawa will turn in marginally better performances than last season, something that's sure to crimp Montreal's style. â†µâ†µ
â†µFlorida Panthers -- In the four seasons since the resolution of the NHL lockout, the Florida Panthers have posted season-ending point totals of 85, 86, 85 and 93, the most recent performance being just good enough for an 8th place tie. Unfortunately, they dropped the tiebreakers to the aforementioned Canadiens, slipping to 9th place and missing the playoffs for the eighth-straight season. Unrestricted free agent defenseman Jay Bouwmeester will not be back, while the GM, Martin, has already fled seeking greener pastures. â†µâ†µ
â†µMy friends, next season Bank Atlantic Center is going to be an absolute tomb, as there is little of anything for the dwindling fan base to be excited about. Here's hoping the new owners have some sort of plan, because I'm at a loss to figure out what it could possibly be. â†µâ†µ
â†µSan Jose Sharks -- The last year has been quite a roller coaster ride for Todd McLellan. First, he got to celebrate a Stanley Cup as an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings, only to depart a few weeks later to coach a team of his own in San Jose. And when he got the opportunity, he made the most of it, as the Sharks posted 117 points to lead the NHL and capture the Presidents' Trophy. Unfortunately, that's where the good news ended, as the Sharks meekly bowed out to the Anaheim Ducks in six games in the first round of the playoffs, only the fourth time in playoff history that a No. 1 seed has fallen in the first round. â†µâ†µ
â†µI'm not suggesting that the Sharks will fall out of playoff contention next year, as I don't think any of the other teams in the Pacific Division are even close to competing for the division title. I do think, however, that the team will be less concerned with regular season success, and more concerned about playing hockey in April, May and June â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.