Hockey fans around the world tuned in for last night’s game one of the Stanley Cup Final. Also tuning in: The 14 teams who came into the playoffs hoping to be there, but didn’t make the cut.
Of course, not all losses are created equal. Every playoff loss hurts, but some are far more crushing than others. So today, let’s take a look back at those 14 teams and try to answer the question: Who suffered through the most heart-breaking playoff exit?
We’ll look at three factors for each team. First, the expectations they were facing heading into the playoffs; obviously, the higher the hopes, the more drastic the drop when they’re not met. We’ll also factor in when and how the end actually came, with more dramatic losses adding to the pain. And we’ll consider what the future looks like, since a team with better days ahead won’t feel as devastated as one whose window is slamming shut.
We’ll count our way down from the least to most heartbreak, meaning we’ll start with the fan base that should be the least miserable with how things turned out. Let’s just say they may not be used to that.
No. 14: Philadelphia Flyers
Playoff expectations: 2/10. The Flyers came in as the East's eighth seed, drawing a matchup with the powerhouse Capitals. Some of the more analytically inclined made the case that they had a shot at the upset, but for the most part nobody really expected them to win.
How it ended: 4/10. After dropping the first three games by a combined score of 12-2, the Flyers switched to Michal Neuvirth in goal and stole Games 4 and 5. With their sense of hope springing back to life and visions of a historic comeback starting to percolate, their season ended with a 1-0 game six loss on home ice.n Hextall, one that's being carried out with uncharacteristic patience. Just making the playoffs this year was an accomplishment.
Bottom line: 7/30. Bracelet-tossing aside, this was about as painless as an early exit can be.
No. 13: Nashville Predators
Playoff expectations: 1/10. Heading into the Pacific Division as a crossover wildcard team, the Predators were given little hope by the experts. After all, everyone knew this division was coming down to an inevitable second round showdown between the Ducks and Kings.
How it ended: 6/10. After upsetting Anaheim, the Predators dropped a seventh game against the Sharks. Losing in seven is always tough, although at least this one was over quickly.
Window status: 3/10. The Predators are relatively young and still viewed as a team on the rise, although they're well into the diminishing returns section of Shea Weber's mega-deal.
Bottom line: 10/30. They were one win away from the conference final, so it certainly wasn't a pain-free experience. But they won a round, and you could make a good case that they were the only team in the playoffs that unquestionably exceeded expectations.