To borrow from a famous phrase, expectations are the enemy of good in the NHL.
There are 12 teams in the league that qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs but did not reach the second half of the tournament. All of them had, by some measure, a good season.
For some of those clubs, good wasn’t enough because the expectations were higher. Failing to meet expectations can make for an interesting offseason. Having several high-profile teams feeling the weight of those unmet expectations, now that could make for a really interesting offseason.
Let’s call this the “DO SOMETHING!” rankings, in honor of those sports talk radio show callers who have been burning up the hotlines with hot takes about what their favorite team has to do this offseason to make sure the 2023-24 campaign does not end with a similar amount of simmering discontent.
Bonus: Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals
Of the 16 teams that did not qualify for the postseason, the two that feature a top-10 player of all time nearing the end of his career certainly stand out. The Penguins’ longstanding trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang all still played like stars this past season, but a new general manager is going to have to find a better mix around them.
Ditto in Washington, where Alex Ovechkin scored 42 goals but an avalanche of injuries and a couple of key players underperforming sunk the Capitals. Will either club be able to find the right additions to help give the co-faces of the NHL for 15 years one more run at the Stanley Cup?
Past three seasons: Did not exist, 30th in the league standings, 12th (second round)
Top free agents: Vince Dunn (RFA), Carson Soucy
Projected cap space: $20.343 million
They just improved by 40 points and knocked off the defending champions in the first round. Seattle doesn’t need to do anything, but the Kraken do have plenty of financial flexibility and draft capital if they want to make a significant move.
Related reading: Why the Kraken, despite a Game 7 loss, are built for the long haul
Past three seasons: 29th, 28th, 3rd (second round)
Top free agents: Timo Meier (RFA), Jesper Bratt (RFA), Damon Severson, Ryan Graves
Projected cap space: $34.282 million
The window to compete for a championship is open, and it could be for a long time. They have two key defensemen that could walk, but also two of the best prospects in the world at the position on the way. The Devils might still be unsure if they have a long-term solution in net, but Akira Schmid might be it. General manager Tom Fitzgerald needs to get a couple of elite players signed, but he and New Jersey are definitely in first-world NHL problems territory now.
Past three seasons: Eighth (champions), eighth (finals), 13th (first round)
Top free agents: Alex Killorn (UFA), Ross Colton (RFA), Tanner Jeannot (RFA)
Projected cap space: $8.475…
Read More: The NHL ‘do something’ rankings: Which teams are most likely to have a spicy 2023-05-20 11:53:21