The Pittsburgh Penguins may have won back-to-back Stanley Cups, but the teams heading into the playoffs in the past years have been quite different from one post-season to the next.
Seven of last spring’s 16 playoff teams didn't qualify the season before. In 2016, five newcomers headed into the post-season. Seven new teams made the playoffs the previous year.
Hence, Kevin Allen of USA Today made a list of the top five teams most vulnerable to missing the playoffs in 2018. He started with the San Jose Sharks, who haven't made enough roster additions to compete in the West this season. Although the Sharks present a strong defensive core, the lack of offense is what will bring them down.
"They were a below average offensive team last season, ranking 19th in goals per game, and Patrick Marleau, second with 27 goals, left through free agency," Allen writes.
San Jose might have to turn to young players and prospects to make it to the playoffs. Another team in danger is the New York Rangers. Though they look good on paper, Allen wonders if Mika Zibanejad ready to be a No. 1 center after the departure of Derek Stepan. Several players, like new defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey will need to step to change this prediction...
The Boston Bruins returned to the playoffs last year, but Allen doubts they will be back this coming spring. There is too much competition in the East, and Allen cannot imagine the Tampa Bay Lightning missing the playoffs for a second season in a row.
"That means at least one team has to go in the Atlantic. It’s not unthinkable that five teams make the playoffs from Metropolitan," Allen explains.
The Ottawa Senators surprised many last season by pushing their way to the Eastern Conference final against the Penguins. Despite the great Erik Karlsson, Allen believes that the Sens last year "seemed to rely heavily on emotion."
"They rallied around goalie Craig Anderson, whose wife was battling cancer. It is difficult to maintain that emotional edge season to season."
As for the Chicago Blackhawks, the Central Division is heavily competitive and the Dallas Stars will be a bigger treath this season, not to mention other Western teams in the running.
"The St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators should be at least as strong as last season."
The Hawks, although they can count on Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, have lost Niklas Hjalmarsson. The blue line is not as strong as previous years, and the loss of Artemi Panarin could affect Kane.