Dear Abbey: Which NHL Teams Will Make the Playoffs and Which Will Miss out?

Abbey MastraccoAugust 24, 2022

Dear Abbey: Which NHL Teams Will Make the Playoffs and Which Will Miss out?

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    AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

    Welcome to another edition of Dear Abbey. I don't give life advice like the real Dear Abby, but I do talk about hockey.

    We're a few weeks away from NHL training camps opening up, and once players report, we'll have plenty to discuss, like positional battles, contract holdouts and salary cap gymnastics (especially considering there are so many teams over the cap right now). But for now, it's prime speculation season.

    For the most part, we can look around the league at rosters and start to determine some potential line combinations. We already know of some players that will miss the start of the season with injuries and a few others that have already been ruled out for the season.

    While rosters will be tweaked here and there throughout the season, it's pretty easy to identify which teams will be good (the Edmonton Oilers) and which will be bad (looking at you, Chicago Blackhawks). As for who is in the middle? We can speculate on that too.

    We asked members of the B/R community for their playoff predictions: Who will be in and who will be out? It's been an eventful offseason, so let's see what the fans think.

Motoring into the Postseason

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    Rich Graessle/Getty Images

    I think Detroit is going to make the playoffs. (@jcurran4)

    Ottawa and Detroit in, Boston and Washington out. (@mfreeman2214)

    The Detroit Red Wings are a popular pick to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as Steve Yzerman is ready to usher the team into the next phase of the rebuild.

    The club has Calder Trophy-winning defenseman Moritz Seider and talented forward Lucas Raymond heading into their second NHL season, while veteran forwards Andrew Copp and David Perron and defenseman Ben Chiarot signed via free agency. The Red Wings also added goalie Ville Husso to tandem with Alex Nedeljkovic.

    Derek Lalonde, a former assistant coach in Tampa Bay, is now behind the bench. The future is looking bright.

    A reasonable expectation for this team is probably the playoffs. Playing competitive games late in the regular season would be good for the team, but with someone like Perron only on a two-year contract, it's probably safe to say that Detroit is aiming to be a postseason team.

    You could maybe sell players like Copp on the potential for the team in two or three seasons, but the aggressive moves Yzerman made led me to believe that "playing in competitive games" isn't enough.

    There is still plenty of money left for Yzerman to make another move, with much of the high-end talent still playing on entry-level contracts. Only four players are signed beyond the 2023-24 season: Robby Fabbri, Copp, Chiarot and Husso. That will change in the next few years with Seider, Raymond and Filip Hronek set to become restricted free agents, and Filip Zadina is currently one.

    This is a team on the rise, but how quickly can they get to the top?

A Devil of a Deal

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    Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Devils make the playoffs. Islanders miss the playoffs and Lou gets fired. (@DekeGeke)

    Boston and Washington out. Buffalo and New Jersey in. (@deanO58)

    Fans really aren't high on the Boston Bruins or Washington Capitals. The Bruins got the band back together for at least one last run, but David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron are only guaranteed to be around this next season. The Caps will be without Nicklas Backstrom, though I think they got better in net when they signed Darcy Kuemper.

    It's no secret that the New Jersey Devils are trying to get back into the contender category. They last made the playoffs in 2018, but that was still technically a rebuilding year, and the reconstruction of this team has taken several stops and starts since then.

    Last year, the Devils made a splash in free agency by signing defenseman Dougie Hamilton, but he missed 20 games with a jaw injury, one of many injuries for the Devils. Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Miles Wood and goalie Mackenzie Blackwood all missed time but are expected to be healthy going into the season.

    Winger Ondrej Palat will bring his playoff prowess to Newark, and the club has some good young forwards like Jesper Bratt, Yegor Sharangovich and Dawson Mercer. The blueline is pretty solid, and Blackwood has a new backup in Vitek Vanecek.

    The question is still the goaltending. Blackwood and Vanecek have shown flashes of being top netminders, but consistency has eluded both. Now that Blackwood is healthy, he'll have a chance to establish himself as a true No. 1 goalie.

    It's going to be a tough battle in the Metropolitan Division, especially now that the Columbus Blue Jackets have Johnny Gaudreau (a player who spurned the Devils), but this team was constructed with the postseason in mind.

    As for the New York Islanders, team president Lou Lamoriello defended his offseason moves (or lack thereof) this week. He's a Hall of Famer, so I doubt the Isles would fire him, but perhaps they let him "retire" or step away from the position on his own terms.

Brotherly Love

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    Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

    Canucks will make it in the second Wild Card spot in the west, then push round 1 against the Avalanche to seven games but ultimately lose. (@NickyG27)

    The Vancouver Canucks have flown a little under the radar this summer. The biggest acquisitions were in the front office, with team president Jim Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin bringing Cammi Granato, Emilie Castonguay and Rachel Doerrie into their front office.

    Allvin and Rutherford have been somewhat conservative this summer, with the biggest transactions of note being an extension for Brock Boeser and the free-agent signing of Ilya Mikheyev.

    Coach Bruce Boudreau rarely misses the playoffs, and this team seems like it could be a fringe playoff team. Defenseman Quinn Hughes facilitates offense, Elias Pettersson had a bounce-back season with 32 goals and 68 points, and goalie Thatcher Demko received Vezina Trophy consideration.

    For Vancouver to return to the postseason, they'll need some of the prospects to contribute since the team is already over the cap. Production from players on entry-level contracts, like Nils Hoglander and Jack Rathbone, is of the utmost importance.

    While the current regime isn't making Jim Benning-like mistakes by relying on players like Antoine Roussel, they're clearly not in a hurry. A first-round series could be within reach, and if they were to take the defending champs to seven games, it would provide some great experience for the young players. If nothing else, it would drum up some excitement for future growth.

Ducks...Gen Z Overlords Heading into the Playoffs?

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Ducks in, Vegas out in the West. Red Wings in, Pittsburgh ages out in the east. (@MPH513)

    Last year, I predicted that the Pittsburgh Penguins would miss the playoffs. Obviously, I was wrong, and once I watched that first-round series against the New York Rangers, I realized just how wrong I was.

    Sidney Crosby is still a top-10 player in the league when healthy, and Mike Sullivan is one of the best X's-and-O's coaches in the game. Had they not been down to their third-string goalie, they may have been able to eliminate the Rangers.

    With that said, I'm withholding any predictions about the Pens. They'll attempt to contend as long as Crosby is still playing at an elite level.

    The Anaheim Ducks seemed content to use this next season to rebuild, and sources around the organization had told me as much back in the spring. With Ryan Getzlaf retiring and the club unable to retain homegrown talent like Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell, it seemed time for a transition under new general manager Pat Verbeek.

    But then Trevor Zegras nearly won a Calder Trophy, and it became clear that Mason McTavish was too good to return to his junior team for another season.

    They signed Frank Vatrano and Ryan Strome to long-term deals and John Klingberg to a one-year contract. It's clear that this is still a team in transition (hence the one-year contract for Klingberg that Verbeek could easily move for assets), but they might make the transition quicker than we initially thought.

    It's a new era in Orange County, one that will be defined by Zegras, McTavish and 20-year-old defenseman Jamie Drysdale. Already, the Ducks are leaning into the kids' content.

    Notice a theme here? Between the Red Wings' burgeoning stars, the Hughes brothers, and their good friend Zegras, the new faces of the game have quickly taken over.

    I, for one, welcome our new Gen Z overlords.

Risky Business in Toronto

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    Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

    Leafs out, a lot of good teams in the Atlantic. The Leafs made themselves worse and Leafs Nation goes crazy. (@duncanmcnaughton)

    I don't think Ontario is on a major faultline, but if the Toronto Maple Leafs were to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we might feel an earthquake in Toronto. There would no doubt be reverberations throughout the league as hockey's marquee franchise attempts to pick up the pieces, but hey, maybe all of the fans who want the whole operation blown up would finally get their wish.

    If you're asking me if I think the Leafs got worse over the summer, the answer is yes because of how they approached the goaltending situation. One of the biggest storylines of the offseason has been goaltending. There are too many teams who need a quality goalie, and there aren't enough to go around.

    Charlie Lindgren hasn't played more than 14 NHL games in one season across his six-year career and only made four NHL starts last season. Caps still gave him a three-year contract at $1.1 million AAV.

    Meanwhile, Toronto let a quality netminder walk.

    Jack Campbell is now with the Edmonton Oilers and has boosted their contender status. In his place are Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov. Murray won two Stanley Cup championships with the Penguins, but the 28-year-old is a reclamation project at this point, and his cap hit of $6.25 million is steep.

    Over the last three seasons, Joonas Korpisalo, Martin Jones and Brian Elliot are the only three goalies who have played a minimum of 60 games and have performed worse than Murray (.899 save percentage).

    Samsonov has not been the same goalie he was for Washington two years ago. The goaltending situation in Washington was so bad last year that the club cut ties with both goalies.

    There is some hope that Murray can return to his Pittsburgh-level of play by working with Jon Elkin, the Leafs' head of goalie evaluation and development. Murray attended Elkin's goalie school for years and still works with the renowned coach. He's featured prominently on the program's website.

    There is immense pressure on Toronto to get out of the first round. General manager Kyle Dubas is gambling on Murray and Samsonov. If it works out, he looks smart. If the tandem collapses and the Leafs miss the playoffs, he may be out of a job.

Kraken the Code

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    Abbie Parr/2022 NHLI via Getty Images

    Kraken just miss playoffs. Grubauer will have a bounce-back year, offense will score a lot more. But the defense corps will be its downfall. (@xDP)

    The Seattle Kraken had a good summer. Maybe not a great one, but it was solid, and the club added some pieces that can help them grow.

    Center Shane Wright fell to them at No. 4 overall. Andre Burakovsky, fresh off of a standout Stanley Cup Playoffs performance, signed with Seattle as a free agent. The club also capitalized on Columbus' cap situation and traded for winger Oliver Bjorkstrand.

    But our friend xDP is not wrong in saying the blueline is a weakness. The forwards can't put the puck in the net if the defensemen can't get it to them. Veteran defenseman Justin Schultz should help. Adam Larsson, Vince Dunn and Jamie Oleksiak are good pieces, but the blueline is kind of just fine. At least Dunn should be able to take a big step this year.

    Goalie Philipp Grubauer remains the biggest question mark. Martin Jones was signed to back him up while Chris Driedger recovers from ACL surgery, and he doesn't exactly inspire much confidence.

    Grubauer went from receiving Vezina consideration in 2021 to falling off a cliff last season. The former Caps and Avs goalie didn't get much help in front of him, but he didn't even look like the same goalie he was in Colorado, posting just an .889 save percentage, the worst among all qualified goaltenders.

    Last year could have been an aberration. Let's hope that's the case because disastrous goaltending will affect the development of the rest of the team.

Leaving Las Vegas

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Vegas has to be more likely to drop out of the postseason (as it stands today). All of their salary cap drama, recent player drama (Lehner), players who've left, players injured, Eichel has proven jack squat for that team so far. This team could be a real pain in the neck for the loyal VGK fans. (@Pierson)

    Has there been another team that fans turned on as quickly as the Vegas Golden Knights? They went from being the best story in hockey with their surprising 2018 Stanley Cup Final appearance to being a team that others love to hate.

    The front office has not done a great job managing assets in recent seasons. They have a lot of high-end players who are all in the win-now stage of their careers, but several are over the age of 30. Jack Eichel might not be pushing 30 yet, but he was not a point-per-game player for the Golden Knights last season like he was for the Buffalo Sabres.

    Over the last year, Vegas has lost Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, Dylan Coghlan and Max Pacioretty. The club got nothing in return for Coghlan and Pacioretty.

    Going back even further, Vegas traded Tomas Tatar and Nick Suzuki (for Pacioretty). And who could forget the disastrous Evgenii Dadonov situation? They failed to manage the cap last season, and they would be right up against it this season as well, but goalie Robin Lehner is out for the season while recovering from hip and shoulder surgeries.

    So, what now? The goalie market has completely dried up. Logan Thompson and Laurent Brossoit will have to shoulder the load this season. It's a lot of pressure on an unproven rookie and a career backup.

    Plus, they'll have to contend with improved teams in the Pacific Division.

    What a mess.

Bonus Community Takes

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    I'll let a few of these stand on their own or offer some minimal commentary, but since the community is all about the members, I wanted to highlight what more than just a few of them are saying. There are some pretty spicy takes and some interesting observations.

    Supposedly the Minnesota Wild were built for the playoffs, yet they get to the first round and perform miserably. Not looking forward to the new season. (@geeksquad21)

    Kevin Fiala and Cam Talbot are gone. Everyone is mad. But, hey, they've still got Kirill "The Thrill" Kaprizov in the State of Hockey!

    One of (the Florida teams), Tampa Bay Lightning or Florida Panthers, misses the playoffs. (@RJames8)

    I give the heat level on this one four peppers.

    Jets are back in and the Predators are out. (@bruinsarebears)

    Preds make a deep run. (@Gigantes88)

    No one can agree on how good or bad the Nashville Predators and the Winnipeg Jets will be. But if you're asking me, I like Nashville's chances with Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi, Vezina-caliber goalie Juuse Saros and an underrated coach in John Hynes. New Jets head coach Rick Bowness, while very respected, showed little creativity behind the Dallas Stars' bench last season. That's just my two cents.

    Flames go back-to-back in the Pacific. (@DekeGeek)

    The Calgary Flames are the favorites in the Pacific Division after signing Nazem Kadri, but the Oilers finally have a goalie, and we can't forget about the Los Angeles Kings.

    Well, Chicago is only dropping further into the lottery. (@Havoc31)

    Well, there is always hope for Connor Bedard, but Matvei Michkov might be the better play for a team that will be rebuilding for a few more years, at least. Michkov is still signed with SKA St. Petersburg through 2026.


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