The NHL season is quickly approaching as Opening Night is slated for Tuesday, October 10th, preseason games have kicked off and training camps are fully underway.
It is an exciting time of year for hockey fans. There are dozens of big games, individual performances, and storylines for fans to watch play out this season.
As with every season, there are plenty of teams that have plenty of hype. Unfortunately for others, there is less excitement due to being in a stage of rebuilding.
Fans of rebuilding teams can watch with an eye on the future beyond this season as the players look to gain experience.
With the dust settled on last year and the offseason, assessments are beginning to be made of teams for their 2023-24 outlook. Some teams got better, some teams are still middling and some teams got worse.
And, with multiple potential outcomes this year, who are the few that have taken a step back from their 2022-23 form?
This is not to say that the Boston Bruins will miss the playoffs this year, but with how historically good they were last season, there really is no direction for the team to go other than down.
The Bruins still have one of the best goaltender tandems in the NHL with Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark, as well as a strong back end held down by Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm, but the turnover at forward is where they may see regression from last year.
The Bruins had many more significant departures than arrivals. Among departures were of course stalwart, reliable centers captain Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
Other significant departures included former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, Stanley Cup winner Dmitry Orlov, productive role players Garnet Hathaway and Tyler Bertuzzi.
Each position’s depth took a hit for this year’s edition of the Bruins, who are still -300 To Reach the Playoffs.
Look for Boston to still compete for a playoff spot, but take a significant step down from 135 regular season points.
Yes, the San Jose Sharks were already bad, but also, yes, they do appear to have regressed even more.
Any damage they did last year was led by Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, who was traded to Pittsburgh in the offseason.
The Sharks have recognizable names on their roster from objectively strong NHL careers, but the production of Karlsson will likely not be replaced with this lineup and the depth just does not exist to even be a thorn in the side of contending teams.
San Jose finished 29th in the NHL last season. There is not much room to regress, but the teams that finished below the Sharks appear to be in a position to surpass them this year.
This looks to be another tough campaign for the Sharks and their fans, with San Jose +300 to have the Worst Regular Season Record.
The St. Louis Blues stood out as an underachieving team last year. They largely had the same players that led them to the playoffs year after year and wound up being sellers.
The players who left include Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ivan Barbashev, and Noel Acciari.
While St. Louis has added pieces to backfill those losses, the departures appear to outweigh the replacements.
A lot needs to go right if this team is going to compete for a playoff spot. Young players need to take the next step, older players need to maintain historical production and everyone needs to stay healthy.
Players that have been reliable for St. Louis over the years are either gone or a year older. The ceiling and floor are both lower for this version of the Blues than that of last year.
St. Louis is +150 to make the playoffs.
One of the aforementioned additions to the Blues was Kevin Hayes, courtesy of the Flyers.
Philadelphia is another team that was not good, but appears to have regressed as well.
Hayes and Tony DeAngelo were key pieces for the Flyers last year and they are no longer on the team. Other notable exits were James van Riemsdyk and Ivan Provorov.
The projected roster does not give fans much to be excited about. If players can overachieve then maybe the Flyers can compete, but Philadelphia’s front office may not even want that as it would lead to another middling draft pick.
In a great sports city with great fans, this season may be one for fans to forget and instead look ahead to the future, with the Flyers having the sixth-shortest odds at +800 to have the worst regular season record.
It seems like the Capitals have been on cruise control since 2008. Clinching the playoffs year after year, it looks like this franchise has rarely faced real adversity.
Then last year happened. Washington missed the playoffs and finished 6th in the Metropolitan division. Looking around the Eastern Conference, last year’s result looks to be a best-case scenario for the Caps this season.
Below Washington in the Eastern Conference were Philadelphia, Columbus, and Montreal, while Detroit tied the Capitals in the standings.
The bottom three teams should remain in the bottom three, but Detroit have made steps to surpass Washington.
The Caps have less depth than they have had in years and did not have salary cap room to make significant improvements.
Despite Alex Ovechkin’s historic goal watch, this looks to be another sub-.500 season, with the Capitals +220 To Reach the Playoffs.