NHL Power Rankings: Non-playoff teams most likely to return to playoffs next year
In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the 16 teams that missed the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and which ones have the best chance to make the postseason in 2023.
Every year there is at least one playoff team that missed the previous season (this season we have four: Rangers, Kings, Stars, and Flames) so it is a good bet that at least one of these teams will back in the playoffs next season.
Some of them might seem like easy bets. Some of them might be real long shots. But we take a look at them all. Obviously, the offseason moves will play a role here, but these teams have enough pieces in place that we should have at least some idea as to which teams have a realistic chance and which teams do not.
Where does your non-playoff team rank?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!
1. Vegas Golden Knights. I am not in a charitable mood when it comes to the 2021-22 Golden Knights and will not listen to excuses. A lot of their problems were by their own creation, and they were not the only team that had to deal with significant injuries to core players. Many others (Pittsburgh, Washington, Colorado) overcame them. Having said that, this is still an excellent team on paper, they missed the playoffs by just three points, and should -- should! -- be able to return next season. If they miss two years in a row then there is a major problem somewhere in that organization.
[Related: Golden Knights have nobody to blame but themselves]
2. Winnipeg Jets. I had way higher expectations for this team this season, and the talent is absolutely there in a lot of important places. They still need to upgrade their defense, but I am not going to rule out a team that has Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Connor Hellebuyck on it.
3. New York Islanders. Might have had them ahead of the Jets before the firing of Barry Trotz. Not sure there is another coach that is going to get more out of this group, and I am not sure how they significantly change the roster. Goaltending is the thing that will give them their best chance.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets. I like this team a lot more than most people and think they can be a real sleeper team going into next season. The Seth Jones trade has a chance to set them up for a long time, while Patrik Laine and Zach Werenski are legit top-line line players. A strong bounce back year from Elvis Merzlikins would be significant. The problem: Somebody else in the East would have to miss the playoffs. Who are they going to jump over? Even with that I think they are a factor next season.
5. Vancouver Canucks. Total mystery! Who is going to be their coach? No idea! If it is Bruce Boudreau, I like their chances. If it is not, who know? Will they trade one of their core pieces? How do they add to the roster with the salary cap situation? A lot of questions here, but also a lot of talent. They also play in the right division for a potential bounce back.
6. Anaheim Ducks. They took a nice step this season before running out of steam in the second half. Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, and Troy Terry is a nice core. John Gibson can still be good. There are some pieces here. Also, like Vancouver, the right division for a bounce back.
7. Detroit Red Wings. The pressure has to be on here. Like Anaheim they looked like a team that took a big step forward in the first half before taking a step back in the second half. Lucas Raymond, Moritz Seider, Dylan Larkin, and Jakub Vrana are outstanding, but they have to do something about the depth and goaltending. The good news: They have a ton of salary cap space to work with. The bad news: There is a significant gap between them and the playoff teams in the Eastern Conference.
[Related: Pondering Red Wings’ offseason after letting Blashill go]
8. Buffalo Sabres. I do not know how much I fully buy into their play down the stretch or how much that will carry over to next season. I also question if Tage Thompson flirts with 40 goals again. But there are some pieces here, and they seem to have done very well for themselves with the Jack Eichel trade.
9. New Jersey Devils. A lot of good young talent here and some salary cap space to play with. But like Detroit and Buffalo they have a ton of ground to make up. Fixing the goaltending has to be at the top of the list.
10. San Jose Sharks. They seem to still believe their window for contention is open and that they can return to the playoffs. I do not see that happening.
11. Montreal Canadiens. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong this season went wrong. But even if more things go right next season, is this anything close to a playoff roster?
12. Ottawa Senators. They are not without talent and promising players, but it is hard to see them taking a meaningful step forward this season. So many holes, so many other good teams around them.
13. Seattle Kraken. Ah, yes, this is what a normal expansion team is supposed to look like. So many missed opportunities in the expansion draft. It is going to be an actual building process here.
14. Philadelphia Flyers. You get the sense ownership and management thinks this team is better than it actually is. That is a problem.
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 First Round schedule, TV info]
15. Arizona Coyotes. Even in the Pacific Division this team is far away from contending. This is a long, long, long, long-term rebuild.
16. Chicago Blackhawks. This team has some lean years ahead of it, and if it is smart, it will dismantle what is left of the core this offseason if it still can.