against Khabibulin as an empty-net goal.
Many teams are still fighting tooth and nail for the few remaining postseason spots. Others are struggling to improve their playoff seeding. A fortunate few are already locked into a spot at the top of the standings, and are focused on staying healthy over the season's final days in anticipation of long playoff runs.
And then, there are the sad sack teams with nothing to play for. The also-rans. The basement dwellers. This year brought us five teams that never managed so much as a meaningful late-season game. For fans of those teams, their only intrigue to the season came from calculating their odds for the draft lottery.
Those teams are all but forgotten now, but that's not fair. So before we move on to our post-season previews and playoff pools, let's take one last look back at the five teams who brought so much joy to the rest of the league by spending their season getting stomped every night.
Where it all went wrong: The team's talented rookie forwards were clearly overconfident, partly due to youth and inexperience but mostly due to shooting on Nikolai Khabibulin in practice every day.
Reason for optimism: Have plenty of cap room to sign free agents, which is great since that always works out really well for them.
Future outlook: Their embarrassing streak of being the sixth best team in all of Canada will almost certainly come to an end next year, once the Coyotes move to Winnipeg.
New York Islanders
Where it all went wrong: The season got off to a rough start when the team revealed their plan to ice a roster consisting entirely of New York Islanders.
Reason for optimism: Team doctors are optimistic that injured star goaltender Rick DiPietro can recover in time to get hurt in next year's season opener.
Future outlook: The team is on the right track and the future is bright, you think, if you want to keep your press pass.
Where it all went wrong: While it was only natural to look for a scapegoat after last year's disappointing playoff loss to the Sharks, it was probably a bad idea to fire the guy in charge of reminding the players not to get injured all the time.
Reason for optimism: Even through the tough times, the team's young players have stuck together. For example, just the other night they all told Paul Stastny to go out there and break a leg, and… hey wait guys, he does know that's a figure of speech, right?
Future outlook: Will need to regroup quickly if they want to be ready for Peter Forsberg's next comeback.
Where it all went wrong: It hasn't; the 20-year rebuilding plan is proceeding exactly according to schedule.
Reason for optimism: Should finish around .500 next year, assuming the NHL adopts their "get one point for a regulation loss, too" proposal.
Future outlook: Their offseason will begin in just five more days, according to that giant calendar hanging in Tomas Vokoun's locker right above his packed suitcase.
Where it all went wrong: In hindsight, Cory Clouston's plea to the players to treat every game like a playoff game was a bad idea.
Reason for optimism: Newly acquired Craig Anderson has established himself as the best goaltender in recent franchise history, since he seems to remember which direction to face without his defencemen constantly reminding him.
Future outlook: Most experts agree with owner Eugene Melnyk's recent prediction that the team can return to contention quickly, in that sense that in an infinite universe seven or eight years isn't really all that long.