3 teams that won't make it back to the playoffs
Making the playoffs in consecutive seasons in today's NHL is no easy feat.
Each year, the cycle of teams to qualify features some fresh faces, and since we've already guessed who those newcomers will be, let's estimate who they might be replacing.
New Jersey Devils
Nobody anticipated that New Jersey would qualify for the playoffs within a calendar year of drafting first overall, but the feisty Devils shocked naysayers with a fast-paced attack, a collection of breakout campaigns, and an MVP season from Taylor Hall.
Hall's Hart-worthy effort was so dominant that his 93 points were 41 clear of Nico Hischier, who finished second in team scoring despite the former missing six games. Hall will be the central figure in New Jersey's offense again, but the gap in production down the roster is too vast to comfortably rely on the Devils squeaking back into the playoffs.
New Jersey certainly has some nice pieces outside of their MVP. Hischier, Kyle Palmieri and Will Butcher are all solid players, but even in last year's dream season, the Devils only eked into the dance by one point, fending off the charging Florida Panthers. Not to mention, a loaded Metropolitan Division will make it even more difficult for New Jersey to qualify in back-to-back seasons.
Just call them Devils West.
Mirroring New Jersey, Colorado came out of nowhere last season to claim the final Western Conference playoff spot, and like the Devils, did so on the strength of MVP-level play from Nathan MacKinnon. The 23-year-old's 1.31 points per game trailed only Connor McDavid league-wide, but a middling Avalanche team will need more than his individual brilliance to reach for the postseason again.
MacKinnon's linemates Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen also put forth standout seasons in 2017-18, but Colorado's output as a whole is underwhelming for a team that needs to stay afloat in the Central Division gauntlet. Last year, a 10-game win streak in the middle of the schedule largely inflated the Avs playoff odds. Beneath the surface, the numbers suggest a repeat bid is unlikely.
Even with one of the best lines in hockey on their side, at five-on-five, Colorado ranked 27th in possession at 47.57 percent and 28th in expected goals for percentage 46.29, according to Corsica. However, a gaudy PDO (shooting percentage plus save percentage) of 101.45 was enough to mask their flaws and erase the memory of a dreadful last-place finish 2016-17.
They have the pieces to contend soon - and could make another major addition with the Senators' first-round pick in their back pocket - but don't count on the Avalanche to be in the Western Conference playoff picture this season.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are an interesting team.
Primarily, it's the pieces supplementing Los Angeles' nucleus. Outside of Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter, and Kovalchuk, the Kings lack impact players down the roster. That collection of players is by no means anything to scoff at, but with Dustin Brown's gigantic shooting percentage increase last season, factored in with a less-than-stellar bottom six, L.A.'s offense - which ranked 16th in goals for in 2017-18 - has to be better in order to contend in the Pacific. The Kings face the same problem on their blue line, which apart from Doughty and Jake Muzzin, features some sizable holes.
Overall, the Kings have the pieces to compete if they stay healthy and things continuously fall their way over 82 games, but that's not exactly an encouraging diagnosis for a team looking to get back to the postseason.
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