How the East Has Fared Post-Lockout

As fans CONTINUE to patiently wait for the NHL and NHLPA to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), many are reminded of a time just eight years ago when the ’04-’05 NHL season was cancelled due to a lockout. When the NHL resumed play for the ’05-’06 season, many new rules were in place that changed how owners, general managers, and players went about their business. Amongst these rules were:

  • The inclusion of a salary cap, which began at $39 million per team in ’05-’06 and has since risen to $70.2 million going into ’12-‘13
  • Player contracts were rolled back by 24 percent
  • Unrestricted free agency began at the age of 27 or after seven years of service, instead of age 31
  • Entry-level players were restricted to a maximum salary of $850,000 with a strict limit on bonuses

A comprehensive list can be found at: NHL.com’s CBA FAQ

Now that the CBA, which required a season-long lockout, is about to expire, it is a good time to reflect upon which teams succeeded in the new salary cap era and which teams struggled to adapt to a new NHL.

Last week, I covered how the Western Conference has fared since the lockout.  The following is now a list of the Eastern Conference teams from worst to best in terms of total points accumulated since the lockout, along with some of their highlights and low-lights.

15. New York Islanders

Rick DiPietro has not made things easy on the Isles. (RagingMike/Flickr)

Record: 235-268-71, 541 points
Division Championships: 0
Playoff Appearances: 1
’06-’07: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Buffalo

Highlight: The Isles only “successful” season after the lockout was in ’06-’07 when they made a surprising run to the playoffs. Though they were quickly eliminated in the first round, the playoff berth provided hope during the first season of goaltender Rick DiPietro’s 15 year contract.

Low-light: Signing Rick DiPietro to a 15 year contract worth $67.5 million. After signing the deal in September 2006, DiPietro led the Isles to the playoffs and looked like a franchise goalie. The following season saw his numbers drop, but not beyond recovery. However, in the four seasons since then, DiPietro has played a total of 47 games due to injuries and poor play.

Random Fact: Since signing DiPietro in 2006, the Isles have used 13 other goalies: Wade Dubielewicz, Mike Dunham, Joey MacDonald, Yann Danis, Peter Mannino, Dwayne Roloson, Martin Biron, Al Montoya, Kevin Poulin, Nathan Lawson, Mikko Koskinen, Evgeni Nabokov, and Anders Nilsson.

14. Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 252-243-78, 584 points
Division Championships: 0
Playoff Appearances: 0

Highlight: The highlight for the Leafs and their fans may have been their placement in the 2013 Winter Classic in Detroit.

Low-light: The entire post-lockout era. The low-lights range from missing the playoffs every year, to Mats Sundin leaving for Vancouver, to trading two 1st rounders and a 2nd rounder for Phil Kessel.

Random Fact: The Maple Leafs are the only team in the entire NHL to not make the playoffs since the lockout.

13. Winnipeg Jets / Atlanta Thrashers

Record: 259-247-68, 586 points
Division Championships: 1 (’06-’07)
Playoff Appearances: 1
’06-’07: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to New York (Rangers)

Highlight: The return of hockey to Winnipeg and the first game in the MTS Centre in front of a raucous crowd. Season tickets for the team sold out within 17 minutes of being available to the public.

Low-light: The sale and relocation of the franchise from Atlanta, where hockey had only a small chance of succeeding as the Thrashers remained a largely unsuccessful team.

Random Fact: Atlanta was originally supposed to host the ’04-’05 All-Star game which was cancelled due to the lockout. The league awarded them the ’07-’08 All-Star game to make up for the loss.

12. Tampa Bay Lightning

The 3 centerpieces of the Lightning…for now. (Tampa Bay Lightning/Scott Audette)

Record: 260-245-69, 589 points
Division Championships: 0
Playoff Appearances: 3
’05-’06: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Ottawa
’06-’07: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to New Jersey
’10-’11: Lost in the Conference Finals to Boston

Highlight: After years of disappointing play, the Lightning returned to the playoffs in ’10-’11 and took the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins to 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals, losing 1-0. The team was led by budding superstar Steven Stamkos, who scored 91 points that season.

Low-light: The ’08-’09 season was full of inconsistencies, beginning with the hiring of Barry Melrose as head coach. Melrose was fired after just 16 games and the Lightning continued on to one of the worst records in the NHL.

Random Fact: Martin St. Louis is one of only three Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winners since the lockout. He broke up Pavel Datsyuk’s 4 year streak by winning the award in ’09-’10 and ’10-’11.

11. Florida Panthers

Record: 251-233-90, 592 points
Division Championships: 1 (’11-’12)
Playoff Appearances: 1
’11-’12: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to New Jersey

Highlight: In ’11-’12, the Panthers recorded their first division title in franchise history and returned to the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Though they lost in the first round, the appearance ended the league’s longest streak of playoff futility.

Low-light: While the streak of missing the playoffs was certainly a low-light for the Panthers, the best remembered incident is likely when Keith Ballard took out his frustrations on goalie Tomas Vokoun by accident in 2009.

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Random Fact: Brian Campbell became the first player in franchise history to win an honor (Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in ’11-‘12) that was awarded based on votes at the end of the season.

10. Carolina Hurricanes

Record: 288-220-66, 642 points
Division Championships: 1 (’05-‘06)
Playoff Appearances: 2
’05-’06: Defeated Edmonton to win the Stanley Cup
’08-’09: Lost in the Conference Finals to Pittsburgh

Highlight: The Hurricanes set numerous franchise records in the season after the lockout, posting over 50 wins and 100 points for the first time. They won the Southeast Division by 20 points on their way to winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Low-light: Carolina then proceeded to miss the playoffs in the next 2 seasons, making them only the 2nd franchise in NHL history to do so after winning the Stanley Cup.

Random Fact: The Hurricanes set a record for most playoff losses in a Stanley Cup winning playoff run with 9 in the 2006 playoffs. The feat was later matched by Boston in the 2011 playoffs.

9. Montreal Canadiens

Jaroslav Halak shut down the likes of Ovechkin, Crosby, and Malkin with ease. (mark6mauno/Flickr)

Record: 286-218-70, 642 points
Division Championships: 1 (’07-’08)
Playoff Appearances: 5
’05-’06: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Carolina
’07-’08: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to Philadelphia
’08-’09: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Boston
’09-’10: Lost in the Conference Finals to Philadelphia
’10-’11: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Boston

Highlight: Despite finishing first in the East in ’07-’08, the highlight for the Habs was certainly their unexpected run in the 2010 playoffs. As the 8th seed, Montreal upset #1 Washington in the first round and then the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Pittsburgh, in the second round. The run came to an end in the Conference Finals, but no one will ever forget the brick wall that Jaroslav Halak had up in his net.

Low-light: The past season was a certifiable disaster for Montreal. They got off to their worst start in decades, fired an assistant coach just hours before a game, replaced their head coach a couple months later, fired their general manager, and finally finished in last place in the East. While all of this took place, they managed to stir up a language debate for the ages.

Random Fact: Montreal introduced their first mascot ever in 2005, employing Youppi, who was left homeless after MLB’s Expos left for Washington DC.

8. Philadelphia Flyers

Record: 288-214-72, 648 points
Division Championships: 1 (’10-’11)
Playoff Appearances: 6
’05-’06: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Buffalo
’07-’08: Lost in the Conference Finals to Pittsburgh
’08-’09: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Pittsburgh
’09-’10: Lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Chicago
’10-’11: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to Boston
’11-’12: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to New Jersey

Highlight: While Philadelphia enjoyed their most successful playoff run after the lockout in 2010, one series comes to mind for their highlight. In the second round, Philadelphia spotted Boston a quick 3-0 series lead and faced an almost insurmountable comeback ahead of them. Almost. Philadelphia became only the third team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit by coming back from a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 to win both the game and series 4-3.

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Low-light: Despite appearing in the playoffs 6 out of 7 times after the lockout, the Flyers’ one miss was a massive disappointment of a season. The ’06-’07 Flyers set franchise records for longest losing streak, longest home losing streak, most losses, worst winning percentage, and finished dead last in the NHL to top it off.

Random Fact: The Flyers were the only team in the ’10-’11 season to record zero shutouts.

7. Ottawa Senators

Record: 296-215-63, 655 points
Division Championships: 1 (’05-’06)
Playoff Appearances: 5
’05-’06: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to Buffalo
’06-’07: Lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Anaheim
’07-’08: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Pittsburgh
’09-’10: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Pittsburgh
’11-’12: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to New York (Rangers)

Highlight: The Senators made their only Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history in the ’06-’07 season, losing just 3 times before the Final.

Low-light: In retrospect, the biggest lowlight for the Senators was letting Zdeno Chara go to Boston in free agency before the ’06-’07 season. Instead, they chose to spend their money to retain Wade Redden. While it did not affect the team that season, Chara has been a Norris contender ever since and Redden was never the same.

Random Fact: When Mike Fisher was traded to Nashville at the 2011 trade deadline, a local Ottawa radio station protested by banning music by his wife, Carrie Underwood.

6. Boston Bruins

Zdeno Chara Bruins
Zdeno Chara is easily one of the best free agent signings since the lockout. (Icon SMI)

Record: 292-210-72, 656 points
Division Championships: 3 (’08-’09, ’10-’11, ’11-‘12)
Playoff Appearances: 5
’07-’08: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Montreal
’08-’09: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to Carolina
’09-’10: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to Philadelphia
’10-’11: Defeated Vancouver to win the Stanley Cup
’11-’12: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Washington

Highlight: Behind the strength of three Game 7 victories, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the 6th time in franchise history in 2011, ending a 39 year Stanley Cup drought.

Low-light: Despite signing Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard before the ’06-’07 season, the Bruins finished last in the Northeast Division and 13th in the Conference. The poor finish led the team to fire coach Dave Lewis and even introduce a “new logo”.

Random Fact: In order to sign current GM Peter Chiarelli away from Ottawa, the Bruins agreed to give up a conditional draft pick to the Senators in 2006. The pick ended up being a 3rd rounder, the 68th pick overall in the 2006 draft (Eric Gryba).

5. Washington Capitals

Record: 294-206-74, 662 points
Division Championships: 4 (’07-’08, ’08-’09, ’09-’10, ’10-‘11)
Playoff Appearances: 5
’07-’08: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Philadelphia
’08-’09: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to Pittsburgh
’09-’10: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Montreal
’10-’11: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to Tampa Bay
’11-’12: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to New York (Rangers)

Highlight: The ’07-’08 season was a special one for the Caps as it marked their return to the playoffs and some spectacular individual performances. Alexander Ovechkin won the Hart Memorial Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, and a First Team All-Star spot. Meanwhile, Coach Bruce Boudreau won the Jack Adams Trophy as well.

Low-light: Despite two subpar years after the lockout, the most disappointing moment for the Caps was getting knocked out in the first round of the 2010 playoffs. Washington had just won the Presidents’ Trophy after a dominant regular season but could not solve Jaroslav Halak in the playoffs.

Random Fact: In ’07-’08, the Caps became the first team in NHL history to make the playoffs after sitting in 14th place or lower at the season’s midpoint.

4. New York Rangers

Record: 304-203-67, 675 points
Division Championships: 1 (’11-’12)
Playoff Appearances: 6
’05-’06: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to New Jersey
’06-’07: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to Buffalo
’07-’08: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to Pittsburgh
’08-’09: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Washington
’10-’11: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Washington
’11-’12: Lost in the Conference Finals to New Jersey

Highlight: The Rangers won the Atlantic Division and the #1 seed in the East for the first time since the lockout during this past season. Henrik Lundqvist easily won the Vezina Trophy and even earned a Hart Trophy nomination as he led the Rangers to a dominant regular season.

Low-light: The Rangers were just one shootout victory away from making the playoffs in all 7 years since the lockout. In ’09-’10, the last playoff spot in the East came down to a final day shootout between Philadelphia and New York. Philadelphia won the shootout, made the playoffs as the 8th seed, and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final while New York watched from home.

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Random Fact: The Rangers suffered tragedy in 2008, when prospect Alexei Cherepanov collapsed after a KHL game and passed away from heart complications. Cherepanov was the Rangers 1st round pick in 2007 and they were given a compensation pick in 2009 (2nd round, 47th overall) by the NHL.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins

Record: 308-203-63, 679 points
Division Championships: 1 (’08-’09)
Playoff Appearances: 6
’06-’07: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Ottawa
’07-’08: Lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Detroit
’08-’09: Defeated Detroit to win the Stanley Cup
’09-’10: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to Montreal
’10-’11: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Tampa Bay
’11-’12: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Philadelphia

Highlight: After a magical run to the Stanley Cup Final that ended in defeat in ’07-’08, the Penguins completed the task in ’08-’09. The 2009 Stanley Cup Final was a rematch of the previous year as Detroit and Pittsburgh created a rare rivalry between teams in opposing conferences. Sidney Crosby became the youngest captain in NHL history to lift the Stanley Cup.

Low-light: The Pens-Islanders rivalry turned into an embarrassment for the NHL during the ’10-’11 season. It began with a goalie “fight” between Brent Johnson and Rick DiPietro that ended after 1 punch, resulting in a fractured orbital bone for DiPietro. It continued just 9 days later as the teams combined for 346 penalty minutes and 3 suspensions. Owner Mario Lemieux then released a harsh statement, widely seen as hypocritical, about how he didn’t know if he wanted to be involved in a league that allowed such unacceptable play.

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Random Fact: Adding Sidney Crosby after the lockout not only helped the Penguins on the ice, but created a massive boost in attendance figures immediately. Despite finishing in last place in the division in ’05-’06, attendance still rose by almost 4,000 people per game in comparison to the season before the lockout.

2. Buffalo Sabres

Record: 312-197-65, 689 points
Division Championships: 2 (’06-’07, ’09-‘10)
Playoff Appearances: 4
’05-’06: Lost in the Conference Finals to Carolina
’06-’07: Lost in the Conference Finals to Ottawa
’09-’10: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Boston
’10-’11: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Philadelphia

Highlight: The Sabres’ first season after the lockout was filled with success. They won over 50 games for the first time in franchise history and set a franchise record with 25 road wins. Head Coach Lindy Ruff narrowly won the Jack Adams Trophy. The Sabres also became the first NHL team to clinch a playoff series with a shorthanded goal, defeating Ottawa before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Hurricanes.

Low-light: After signing Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff to big long-term deals in an exciting 2011 offseason, the Sabres floundered to an awful start in the ’11-’12 season. Things only went further south as Ryan Miller suffered a concussion in an incident with Boston’s Milan Lucic and Buffalo struggled to find themselves. Despite a promising end to the season, the Sabres missed expectations completely this past year.

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Random Fact: Lindy Ruff is currently the longest tenured head coach in the NHL, entering his 15th season this upcoming year. It has been 6 seasons since his team has won a playoff series though.

1. New Jersey Devils

Martin Brodeur
Martin Brodeur has been the lasting image for New Jersey’s success. (Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE)

Record: 326-201-47, 699 points
Division Championships: 4 (’05-’06, ’06-’07, ’08-’09, ’09-‘10)
Playoff Appearances: 6
’05-’06: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to Carolina
’06-’07: Lost in the Conference Semifinals to Ottawa
’07-’08: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to New York (Rangers)
’08-’09: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Carolina
’09-’10: Lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to Philadelphia
’11-’12: Lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Los Angeles

Highlight: This past season, the Devils returned to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2003 despite finishing 4th in the Atlantic Division in the regular season.

Low-light: The John MacLean era was short-lived, and for good reason. MacLean coached the Devils to a 9-22-2 record in the fall of 2010 before getting fired. Coupled with injuries to Martin Brodeur and Zach Parise, the ’10-’11 season was a massive disappointment for New Jersey despite a strong finish.

Random Fact: In contrast to the #15 Islanders, the Devils have only used 5 goalies since the lockout. Martin Brodeur has played in 451 out of the 574 regular season games (79%) for New Jersey.

 

There you have it for the Eastern Conference in the post-lockout era. Do you see any unexpected surprises in retrospect?

Look for Part 3 of the post-lockout performance review next week as I provide some surprising facts from the past 7 years.