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Highs and lows of 2015 in the Eastern Conference

As we close out 2015, let's take a minute to look back at all the great moments when a team seemed to be invincible and the horrible moments when it seemed like it couldn't get any worse.

Boston Bruins

It hasn't been a great year for the Bruins. They missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007; they still struggle against their rivals from Montreal; they fired general manager Peter Chiarelli and then left coach Claude Julien in limbo for weeks before new GM Don Sweeney announced he was staying.

The low point of 2015 was likely trading 22-year-old blueliner Dougie Hamilton to Calgary. Salary-cap restrictions forced the Bruins to make a move, but many wondered why the team wouldn't want to retool around Hamilton instead of moving him for just a first-round pick and two second-round picks.

It's not all bad in Boston. Patrice Bergeron won the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward for the third time in his career.

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Buffalo Sabres

There's nothing better than when a plan comes together. The Sabres put a lot of effort into losing in the 2014-15 season to try to win the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, knowing the consolation prize for having the worst record in the league but losing the draft lottery would be Jack Eichel. It's not pretty watching a team try to lose -- even if no one is admitting it -- by trading away anyone playing well and acquiring injured players. But it worked. And, in addition to landing Eichel, the team quickly rebuilt in the offseason by adding Ryan O'Reilly, Jamie McGinn, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson.

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Carolina Hurricanes

The question all year for the Hurricanes has been, what will happen with Eric Staal? The team needs to rebuild, but do the Canes want their captain to be part of that? And does he want to be part of it? And there remain some ownership questions as Peter Karmanos Jr. wants to sell a stake in the team but still keep control of everything.

The high point? They've seen Justin Faulk emerge as a top-tier defenseman this year. And when McDavid and Eichel were on the line, the Canes still tried to win games; they weren't very successful, but they weren't tanking. That's something, right?

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Columbus Blue Jackets

It would be an understatement to say the Blue Jackets were hit hard by injuries in the 2014-15 season. They led the league with 508 man games lost, according to mangameslost.com. But despite this, the team still pulled together to finish the season strong, going 16-2-1 in its final 19 games. After making a splash in the offseason by acquiring Brandon Saad from the Blackhawks, the Blue Jackets looked as if this would be the season their young guys would take the next step and the team would make some noise in the Metro.

That would have been an nice story, but it's not even close to what happened. They were 0-8 to start the season; they fired coach Todd Richards; and they are surrounded by trade rumors with center Ryan Johansen not living up to new coach John Tortorella's expectations. Maybe a new year will bring new life to Columbus.

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Detroit Red Wings

The low point for the Red Wings in 2015 was dealing with the questions about Mike Babcock. But the organization already had a replacement lined up in Jeff Blashill, and it got a draft pick back for Babcock by allowing him to interview before his contract was up. And as the team moves on, rookie Dylan Larkin is progressing even faster than expected and Detroit remains in the mix for its 25th consecutive playoff appearance.

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Florida Panthers

The Panthers have a lot of young talent, the best goalie on Twitter and ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr. And that combination has them in strong position to make the playoffs this season. The highlight of the year is the return of the mullet, with Jagr agreeing to grow his hair back; unfortunately, fans in South Florida aren't exactly rushing out to Sunrise to see their team play, as the team was last in attendance in 2014-15 with about 11,265 fans in the stands per game.

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Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens put everything on Carey Price's shoulders every night. He is their leader on and off the ice, and it has worked out really well. Last season, Price helped the team earn the second-most points in the league on his way to winning the Hart and Vezina trophies. Then they started the season a perfect 9-0-0. But now the team is struggling and its big lead in the Atlantic Division slipped away as Price remains injured.

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New Jersey Devils

The Devils have gone through a lot of change, the biggest being the departure of Lou Lamoriello, who had been with the organization since 1987. Since this was such a shocking move, it would be easy to say this was the low point of their year. But it could also be the high point. With new blood -- in GM Ray Shero and coach John Hynes -- leading the team, the Devils are not as bad as most expected as we close out 2015.

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New York Islanders

The Islanders said goodbye to Nassau Coliseum by giving Long Island one last exciting playoff series. The Islanders forced the Capitals to Game 7 in a physical and closely contested series. The big move to Brooklyn hasn't been all roses. The move away from their fan base to an arena not built for hockey (which results in many obstructed seats) has the team's attendance at 29th in the league.

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New York Rangers

There isn't much to be disappointed about if you are a Rangers fan. The obvious is losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals at home to the Lightning. That had to sting. But in 2015, the Rangers thrived while Henrik Lundqvist was out with a neck injury, made some good moves before the trade deadline and made it to the Eastern Conference finals, and they are once again one of the best in the Metro Division.

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Ottawa Senators

Two words: The Hamburglar. Andrew Hammond became a star in the spring of 2015 by winning 20 of 24 games and posting a .941 save percentage. The Senators even put a scare in the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. Fall hasn't gone as well for Hammond as injuries have kept him out, and he's not the only one hurting. Hopefully, the holiday break will give them some needed rest as they fight for a playoff spot.

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Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers haven't had a great year. They haven't won many games. Their stars haven't been as good as they should be. And they had to fire coach Craig Berube after last season and are taking a gamble on former North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol. But at least they got some cap relief by finding a buyer for Chris Pronger's contract.

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Pittsburgh Penguins

Things looked great for the Penguins in the offseason. Their stars were supposed to be healthy. Phil Kessel, acquired from the Maple Leafs, was going to create magic with Sidney Crosby. And the team was going to charge all the way to the Stanley Cup.

Then Pittsburgh actually had to play some games, and things didn't go so well. There hasn't been any offensive magic anywhere in the Penguins' lineup; coach Mike Johnston got fired; and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, one of the few bright spots this season, was sidelined a few games with concussion symptoms.

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Tampa Bay Lightning

It doesn't get much higher than making it to the Stanley Cup finals -- obviously winning it all would be better, but still, give them some credit. They got past the Red Wings, Canadiens and Rangers before being stopped by the Blackhawks. That all seems like so long ago as the speculation surrounding the team now isn't whether they will return to the Cup finals but how much longer Steven Stamkos will be in Tampa. Stamkos is set to be an unrestricted free agent, yet he doesn't appear to be close to signing an extension. And the star center holds all the cards with his no-movement clause.

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Toronto Maple Leafs

Fans in Toronto are wishing that signing Stamkos will be the high moment of 2016, but right now they will have to settle for bringing in Babcock and getting rid of Kessel. Things have been pretty bad in Toronto for a while, so there really isn't a point in kicking them while they're down by pointing out a low moment. Brendan Shanahan is trying to turn things around. Only time will tell whether it will work.

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Washington Capitals

The low moment of 2015 is pretty familiar to the Capitals: They take a lead in a series, fail to close out their opponent when given a chance and then lose in Game 7. All you need to do is fill in the opponent and the year, and you can retell the tale multiple times.

But it's a new season, they added some important pieces to the puzzle, like T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, and right now they look like one of the best teams in the league. With any luck, 2016 will be their year to tell a new tale.

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