NHL Power Rankings: Non-playoff teams most likely to return to playoffs next year

NHL Power Rankings
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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.

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    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

    Chase Agnello-Dean/Getty Images

    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

    mark stone surgery
    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports

    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

    brunette dui
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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”