NHL Teams That Will Turn It Around to Make the Playoffs
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
The NHL season is young, but some teams off to slow starts may need to think about pushing the panic button if they want to make the playoffs.
For those teams who haven’t started hot out of the gates, the lockout-shortened year presents an extra challenge. With the season only 48 games long, they have to turn it around sooner rather than later.
Some teams like the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers entered the season with championship hopes and have struggled early, while others like the Edmonton Oilers were expecting a resurgent season but haven’t played up to expectations.
The bottom line is some of these teams are too talented to not make the playoffs. Expect them to right the ship and go on to play for postseason glory.
All statistics are gathered from ESPN.
New York Rangers
Forward Rick Nash was supposed to be the missing piece for the Rangers.
After adding power forward Rick Nash from Columbus in the offseason, the Rangers were expected to be a serious threat in 2013. ESPN’s Katie Strang even named the team as one of a “handful” of teams considered to be Stanley Cup contenders.
Unfortunately for New York, the team has gone off-script. The Rangers actually would make the playoffs if the season ended today, as they currently sit at eighth in the Eastern Conference standings.
That's too close for comfort though.
The team isn’t supposed to just sneak in—New York needs to be a beast in the East. With a star lineup led by Vezina-winning goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers will not only make the playoffs but challenge for the Stanley Cup.
Los Angeles Kings
Kopitar and the Kings have suffered from a Stanley Cup hangover.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Talk about a Stanley Cup hangover. The defending champions currently sit at second to last in the Western Conference, just above the lowly Blue Jackets.
The team has produced eight points in 10 games and ranks near the bottom of the league in both goals against and goals scored per game.
Don’t expect this madness out West to continue for much longer.
With Anze Kopitar leading a talented corps of forwards, Drew Doughty leading the defense and Jonathan Quick in net, the Kings are simply too talented to miss out on the playoffs.
Expect Los Angeles to not only make the playoffs but challenge for a second consecutive Stanley Cup.
Hall and many other young Oilers played together in the AHL during the lockout.
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
This was supposed to be the year the Oilers turned it around after several awful campaigns in a row. The team had collected the No. 1 overall draft pick after another, stockpiling young talent.
Forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall and defenseman Justin Schultz all played together during the lockout in Oklahoma City in the AHL. The team was supposed to hit the ground running out of the gate.
Sports Illustrated’s Adrian Dater even ranked the Oilers third in his preseason power rankings.
Though the team sits at ninth in the Western Conference, expect youthful Edmonton to pull it together and make the playoffs.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett always gets the most out of his teams.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Currently sitting at 10th in the Western Conference, Phoenix needs to do some serious work if it wants to make the playoffs.
This is a team that made it all the way to the conference finals last season only to lose to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Kings (who also are on the list).
But instead of making the next step, the Coyotes are mired in a slump to start the season. The team isn’t bad—it ranks near the middle of the league in most statistical categories—but it hasn’t played that well either.
Head coach Dave Tippett always gets the most out of his teams, so expect him to steer the ‘Yotes out of their cold streak and into the playoffs.
Miller is talented but has faced too many shots this season.
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Forward Thomas Vanek leads the league in scoring with 11 goals and 23 points in 11 games, and the Sabres are spoiled with Olympic goaltender Ryan Miller in net.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t spelled success in Buffalo. The team has 11 points in 13 games and allows the second-most goals per game in the league.
Miller has played well, but not great. Compounding that problem is the fact the team allows way too many shots against per game at 33.7, the second-worst in the league.
If the defense can give Miller a chance, he can steal games. Led by the dynamic Vanek, expect Buffalo to charge into the playoffs.
St. Louis Blues
Halak and the Blues have underperformed this year.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The Blues currently sit at seventh in the Western Conference, so like the Rangers they actually would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
The problem is expectations were so much higher in St. Louis. ESPN’s Scott Burnside predicted the team would win the Stanley Cup prior to the season, and the team was a trendy pick to go all the way in the playoffs.
Instead, the Blues sit at fourth in their division and have lost four straight. Scoring hasn’t been a problem for St. Louis, as it ranks third in the NHL in goals per game. Defense, however, has been an issue—the team allows 3.2 goals per game.
If the goaltending duo of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott can raise its game to the level it played last season when the two won the William M. Jennings Trophy, expect the Blues to rise in the Western Conference standings.