NHL Teams That Are Doomed to Disappoint During the 2013-14 Season
It happens every year in the NHL.
Each season there are a handful of NHL teams that come out of the offseason hyped as potential postseason contenders, but for whatever reason, they don't come close to meeting expectations.
Last year, due in part to the fact that it was a lockout-shortened season, a number of clubs surprised the hockey world by orchestrating unexpected runs to the playoffs. But in a full 82-game grind, replicating that feat will prove to be much more difficult.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche each entered the 2013 season with postseason aspirations, only to come crashing down to earth by the time the 48-game regular season ended.
In preparation for the 2013-14 NHL campaign, here's a look at the teams that will disappoint by failing to meet expectations.
The Ottawa Senators have shocked the hockey world for two years in a row by qualifying for postseason play despite suffering through a series of devastating injuries to their star players. However, Paul MacLean's club won't have such an easy time catching the rest of the Eastern Conference off guard over a full 82-game schedule.
Though the addition of Bobby Ryan will certainly ease the pain lingering from longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson's departure, it's difficult to see how this club has enough offensive firepower to finish with the top eight in the East.
Craig Anderson has been an elite goaltender, and with Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris up front, the Sens have some talent, but the depth isn't there. And the same can be said on the back end, because after Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot and Chris Phillips, there's a considerable drop-off.
It's conceivable that this squad could earn a bottom-end playoff berth, but making it out of Round 1 seems like a pipe dream.
The Anaheim Ducks were a feel-good story a year ago, as Bruce Boudreau took the team to a second-place finish in the Western Conference, and despite a Round 1 loss to the Red Wings, it was an encouraging season for fans in Anaheim.
However, the Ducks will be hard-pressed to win a second consecutive division championship, especially without Bobby Ryan—and potentially Teemu Selanne, who has yet to determine his fate for this season.
The continued development of Cam Fowler, Emerson Etem and Kyle Palmieri will be critical to the team's success, as will the performances of All-Stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
Ultimately, the Ducks have little to no chance of finishing second in the West again this year, but a low-seeded berth is attainable.
The Edmonton Oilers have arguably the most enviable collection of young offensive talent in the game, but the team's deficiencies on the back end have hindered Edmonton's development as a whole.
With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle in the fold, this is a team on the rise, especially with veteran talent in the form of Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth and David Perron in the mix as well.
But there's much to be desired defensively, and until Devan Dubnyk demonstrates that he's a legitimate No. 1 goaltender in this league, the Oilers will continue to be on the outside looking in come postseason time.
New York Islanders
After the New York Islanders ended their postseason drought by sneaking into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, Jack Capuano's squad put a scare into mighty Pittsburgh, taking the top-seeded Penguins into overtime of Game 6 before ultimately falling to Sidney Crosby and Co.
Given John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo and the rest of the Isles' improvements, it'd seem logical that the team would make its last two seasons on Long Island special, but that will be much more difficult in the newly formed Metropolitan Division.
With the New York Rangers, Penguins, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, Flyers, New Jersey Devils and Hurricanes all on the docket in terms of divisional play, the Islanders will be in a tough spot to make it two postseason berths in a row.
While that doesn't mean it's impossible, unless Tavares continues to produce superstar-caliber numbers, and Evgeni Nabokov continues to regain his form of the mid-2000s, the Islanders will finish outside the top eight in 2013-14.
Tampa Bay Lightning
During Steve Yzerman's first year as general manager of the Lightning, Tampa Bay advanced to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2004, and the future looked bright for Steven Stamkos and Co.
However, since then, the Lightning have been in a free-fall, as coach Guy Boucher lost his job and longtime captain and former No. 1 overall pick Vincent Lecavalier was bought out this summer.
Now, with Stamkos, scoring champion Martin St. Louis, former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula and rising star Teddy Purcell leading the way offensively, the Bolts have a shot at finding their way back to the playoffs.
But until one of Ben Bishop or Anders Lindback proves themselves, it doesn't matter how much Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer, Sami Salo and Matt Carle limit the opposition's chances.
Jonathan Drouin should give the Bolts another legitimate offensive weapon, but unless Tampa does a better job of holding opposing teams at bay defensively, this isn't a playoff-caliber team.