Non-Playoff Teams that are On the Doorstep
(Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Washington Capitals, Calgary Flames, Detroit Red Wings)
These are the teams that either just narrowly missed the playoffs and will be back in 2024, or they’re trending in a positive direction and next year is their year to finish the deal.
Two long playoff streaks ended in the NHL with the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins both failing to qualify. I still have the Penguins firmly as playoff contenders for 2023-24. As long as Sidney Crosby is still on this team and they’re effectively building around him, then the Penguins aren’t going to just fade into irrelevancy.
The Buffalo Sabres looked poised to crack into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2010-11. They were one of the most prolific offensive teams in the NHL led by Tage Thompson, and have one of the better rising defensive talents in Rasmus Dahlin.
Obviously the goalie position has to be addressed for Buffalo, but they’re a high-end goalie away from being a dangerous team in the Eastern Conference in 2024.
The Washington Capitals fell flat down the stretch run of 2022-23. A major letdown to not qualify, and although they’re Stanley Cup aspirations are pretty low, they’re definitely a team that can easily return to the postseason in 2024.
Same goes for Calgary in the Western Conference. They have all the pieces and there’s no excuses to be on the outside looking in right now. The Predators put the final nail in by formally eliminating the Flames from contention late in the regular season, and it was a putrid effort on their part, while the Predators played galvanized and treated it like a playoff game.
Finally, I finish this off with the Detroit Red Wings, My way-too-early surprise pick of 2023-24. I’m calling my shot that they make the biggest leap forward among the non-playoff teams.
I’m a huge believer in the Steven Yzerman plan with a young and talented lineup led by the likes of Moritz Seider, Dylan Larkin, Lucas Raymond, Andrew Copp and Dominik Kubalik. All under the age of 30, with veterans David Perron, Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta also signed through 2023-24.
Power Rankings of the Non-Playoff Teams
- Detroit Red Wings
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Calgary Flames
- Buffalo Sabres
- Washington Capitals
- Nashville Predators
- Vancouver Canucks
- Ottawa Senators
- St. Louis Blues
- Anaheim Ducks
- Arizona Coyotes
- Montreal Canadiens
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Chicago Blackhawks
- San Jose Sharks