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2023/24 NHL season: Five teams who need to improve

A new NHL season quickly approaches, and following an exciting 2022/23 season, we now look to the next. More specifically, we will take a look at five teams who are in need of a bounce-back season.

Pittsburgh Penguins

It is make it or break it time for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who missed the playoffs in the 2022/23 campaign for the first time in 17 years.

This season, it is imperative they make a return. 

The main core of the Penguins have been dominating the league for years, but they aren't getting any younger. 

Captain Sidney Crosby, along with forward Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang are all over 35 years old. 

Time is running out with this group, so they must take advantage of the years they have left in the league. 

Furthermore, the Penguins spent a lot in a trade to acquire one of the NHL’s best defenseman in Erik Karlsson. While Karlsson has proven his offensive ability for many years, he is also on the wrong side of 30. 

This adds to the desperation of a successful season, with the Penguins listed at -180 to reach the playoffs and +2800 to win the Stanley Cup. 

There are not many seasons left with this Penguins core that won three Stanley Cups in less than 10 years, so they must make an improvement from last year to squeeze out every bit of greatness they have left.

Buffalo Sabres

It seems like now is the time to shine for the Buffalo Sabres. 

This Atlantic Division team has not made the playoffs since 2011, but they are quickly building a strong roster, and are poised to build on last season. 

While this is a young team, it is time to make a big improvement with the Sabres -105 to make the postseason. 

Led by superstars Rasmus Dahlin and Tage Thompson, this roster now has many great pieces that can help earn this success. 

For the past few years, Buffalo has teased their fanbase as they have had much early-season success, but they would later fall off and miss the playoffs. 

This year, they will be looking to earn the same early success, but remain strong throughout the season. 

It has been a long wait since this team made the playoffs, and as the strongest Sabres team in years is about to hit the ice, it is time to make that improvement. 

Toronto Maple Leafs

In the blink of an eye, the Toronto Maple Leafs went from being on cloud nine, to falling right off. 

After they made the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004, their Stanley Cup hunt was over in just five more games. 

They know that is not good enough, and it is crucial they take a much larger step. 

The core of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander have been at this since 2017 - and the Leafs are +800 favorites to end their Stanley Cup wait this season. 

Yes, they've made the playoffs for seven straight seasons, but their results have been unacceptable as they have one appearance past the first round which resulted in one win. 

These guys have been a top regular season team for many consecutive years, but they have not been able to translate that into playoff success. 

The threat of blowing up the team by trading one or more of their stars is a topic that is increasingly talked about due to this. 

It is time for the Maple Leafs to improve even further and finally take that next step, because if not, we could see a completely new roster within the next few years.

Edmonton Oilers

Similarly to the Toronto Maple Leafs and their star-studded team that hasn’t done much after the regular season, is the Edmonton Oilers - third favorites at +900 to win the Stanley Cup. 

The Oilers have arguably the two best players in the entire NHL in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and while they have been playoff contenders for many years now, they have not been close to the ultimate goal. 

Since McDavid’s first year, the Oilers have made the playoffs in five out of eight seasons. 

This is a decent total, but their only Western Conference Finals appearance ended in a 4-0 sweep. 

For a team with what many call the best player in NHL history, this is unacceptable. 

The Oilers have the pieces to make it much further than they have, and patience could be running thin. 

Edmonton has built a team mostly consisting of veteran talent, as the expected average age for this season is over 28 years old. 

This Oilers team knows pressure, and it is time for them to start showing up when it counts, and build on their usual regular season success.

Calgary Flames

What happened to the Calgary Flames? In 2021/22, they won the Pacific Division, but were then bested by the Edmonton Oilers in the second round. 

Then, they followed that up by missing the playoffs last season.

The Flames have built a great team on the backs of Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, and Elias Lindholm. 

They’ve also got very good defensive depth, and a goalie in Jacob Markstrom who we have seen play Vezina-like. That is why this past year was such a failure. 

It is on the players in the locker room to improve and get back to their success. Odds of -150 suggest they should expect to return to the playoffs this season.

They are a group who is not getting any younger, so it is time for them to get back to their winning ways. If they don’t, we could see a lot of changes.

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