The Stanley Cup: beautiful, majestic, and notoriously hard to win.
Even qualifying for the playoffs in today's fast-paced NHL continues to get more difficult with each passing year, leading to a growing trend of teams making the postseason one year, only to miss out the very next one - to wit: seven teams that qualified for the 2016 playoffs failed to do so in 2017.
Next campaign will be much of the same.
Here are three postseason teams from last year that won't be competing in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
An Eastern Conference powerhouse for most of the last decade, the Bruins have seen a steady drop in the standings over the past three seasons, impacting their ability to be a legitimate playoff threat.
However, that doesn't change the fact that Boston lacks offensive depth, touts an injury-prone 30-year-old No. 1 goalie, and has an unproven blue line.
While Pastrnak and McAvoy have the potential to be cornerstone pieces for years to come, the team will still be hard pressed to qualify for this season's playoffs.
Especially when you consider some of the other talented Eastern Conference teams that will be vastly improved when the puck drops on the 2017-18 season. Toronto, Carolina, and Buffalo (yes, Buffalo) will all be stiff competition for Boston in search of the seventh or eighth playoff seed.
Simply put, the East has drastically improved around them, while the Bruins are still waiting for their youth movement to pay off. No matter how you slice it, the conference is no longer full of teams the Bruins can steamroll.
Expect them to be on the outside looking in come April.
Since entering the league in 1991, the Sharks have failed to qualify for the postseason only six times, so calling for them to miss the playoffs this season may be a bit of a bold prediction.
But, after analyzing some of the other Western Conference bubble teams, predicting the Sharks will miss out on the postseason isn't actually that audacious.
Los Angeles, Dallas, and Arizona missed out on spring hockey last year and will be breathing down San Jose's neck for one of the final playoff spots this year as all three stand to ice much-improved rosters in 2017-18.
Meanwhile, the Sharks will throw out almost the exact same lineup as last year - minus franchise-leading goal scorer Patrick Marleau, of course.
Losing a 37-year-old veteran nearing the end of his career doesn't usually signify the end to a team's playoff reign, but the Sharks already lacked the elite scoring punch needed to hang with the big boys in the West, so Marleau's lost production will be amplified.
The Joes can score, Brent Burns - beard aside - is a perennial Norris Trophy threat, and Martin Jones has shown flashes of brilliance. But that doesn't change the fact that San Jose's roster is filled with holes up and down the lineup, a fact that will lead them to miss the playoffs this season.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, take in the forward lineup the Canadiens are prepared to play with this season:
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Max Pacioretty||Phillip Danault||Jonathan Drouin|
|Alex Galchenyuk||Tomas Plekanec||Artturi Lehkonen|
|Paul Byron||Andrew Shaw||Brendan Gallagher|
|Charles Hudon||Torey Mitchell||Ales Hemsky|
Regardless of how you spin it, Montreal will struggle to score goals, as not a single one of their centermen has surpassed 29 tallies in a single season. As for the rest of the group? Well, let's just say Carey Price better have another Hart-caliber year in his back pocket.
General manager Marc Bergevin continues to take heat for his lack of offseason moves. Despite bringing in Drouin, Hemsky, and defenseman Karl Alzner, Bergevin has come up short of providing his club with the talent needed to ensure a deep playoff run.
Following another up-and-down season and subsequent turbulent offseason, the Canadiens will be in tough to qualify for the playoffs in 2017-18. Don't forget, as was the case with the Bruins and Sharks, the teams around them have drastically upped their games.
Montreal would be wise to do the same.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)