Alas, there shall be no playoff hockey for the Arizona Coyotes this year. However, that doesn't mean Coyotes fans have no stake in the outcome of this year's postseason. Here are five different stories Coyotes fans should be following as the Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway.
1. Where does Chicago get off?
The Chicago Blackhawks are facing several questions going into this year. While the return of Patrick Kane is a big lift for the Hawks, the puzzling choice to bench underperforming center Antoine Vermette only goes to further demonstrate how successful the Coyotes were in obtaining Klas Dahlbeck and a first rounder for him.
Where that first rounder ends up in the draft order will depend on when Chicago's playoff run comes to an end. Although it's going to be somewhere in the twenties in all likelihood, a first round exit at the hands of the Nashville Predators would give the Coyotes two very good drafting positions in a very deep draft year.
2. How will Yandle fare?
Of all the trades Don Maloney made this season, the departure of Keith Yandle might be the most surprising. Yet Yandle's new team, the New York Rangers, took the Presidents' Trophy and secured home-ice throughout the playoffs.
How far will the Rangers go with Lundqvist back and Yandle on the power play? They came just a couple games from beating the Los Angeles Kings last year, and it looks like they're going for broke this year. Their path is tough though, with possible matchups against the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, and Tampa Bay Lightning looming large on the horizon.
3. Can Dubnyk keep doing it?
Former Coyotes goaltender Devan Dubnyk may end up being the steal of the season after the Minnesota Wild acquired him for a mere 3rd round draft pick. He's now second in the league in save percentage (.929) and goals against average (2.09) behind Carey Price, and 4th in shutouts with four.
But if Dubnyk is going to lead Minnesota to the promised land, he's going to have to buck history to do it. Recent trends strongly indicate that goalies who played a heavy workload down the stretch don't even make it to the Cup Finals. Dubnyk started a staggering 95.1% of Minnesota's games since he arrived from Arizona. Now with every game coming against the league's best, can Dubnyk still play at his best?
4. What's the state of the Pacific?
Los Angeles seems like a shoo-in to make the playoffs next year, and Calgary has quite a few young pieces on the way up. The rest of the division is a lot murkier though. For Anaheim, both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf will hit 30 in May, with no clear replacements in the system. Daniel and Henrik Sedin will both be 35 when the 2015-16 season starts. San Jose's window seems to be firmly closing, and who knows what's going on in Edmonton.
It's not out of the realm of possibility that the Pacific Division quarter of this year's playoffs may be won by the Winnipeg Jets, who crossed over from the Central via the second Wild Card spot. Arizona's window may open as much of the Pacific's closes.
5. Can the Coyotes take advantage of a blowup?
There's a decent chance a good team loses early this year. The St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks have tough matchups in the first round, and would play each other yet again should they both win those series. The Washington Capitals will probably have their hands full with the New York Islanders, and the Pittsburgh Penguins barely snuck into the playoffs.
With many of these teams up against a salary cap that isn't going to rise much this summer, the temptation to blow it up might be impossible to resist. Should that happen, the Coyotes will be in prime position to be the release valve for many of the NHL's best teams.
So what storyline intrigues you the most? Think we missed one? Tell us in the comments section.