The NHL off-season is winding down, and as training camps loom on the horizon, let’s turn our focus to the teams that have made the least progress during the summer break.
While betting against the Bruins has often proved futile, their trajectory seems to be shifting this year. The 2022-23 season saw them defy expectations and deliver an unprecedented regular-season performance, but now signs point to a potential decline.
The departure of key talent from Boston during this off-season is nothing short of staggering. The retirements of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci in early August left a void not only in terms of skill but also in the intangible influence they had on the team’s culture. The impact of their absence, both in terms of production and cap efficiency, is hard to replicate. Additionally, the departures of Hall, Bertuzzi, Hathaway, and Foligno without gaining any assets in return have significantly depleted the Bruins’ offensive power from the previous season.
The defense hasn’t fared much better. While Orlov’s arrival was initially seen as a luxury addition, his absence has created a noticeable gap in the defense corps. Even Clifton, who could have filled the void, chose to move on.
Although stars like McAvoy, Pastrnak, and Lindholm remain, the ripple effect of this talent drain extends throughout the team. It could even affect the performance of their Vezina-winning goaltender, who, while impressive in his own right, benefited from a solid lineup in front of him.
Interestingly, the Flames might find a path to redemption by parting ways with Darryl Sutter, whose tenure seemingly created a toxic environment within the team. The decision appears to have resonated positively among players, as evidenced by the rescinded trade requests after his departure.
However, examining the Flames’ current roster reveals some gaps. They’ve been notably inactive in the free-agent market, with Sharangovich being their most significant addition, acquired via trade. Despite the potential for Sharangovich to exceed expectations, it’s uncertain whether his contribution can offset the loss of Toffoli. The Flames’ failure to bolster their lineup with complementary pieces could pose challenges, especially as their star players age and become more expensive.
In the case of the Panthers, their remarkable journey to the Stanley Cup final, characterized by intense play, exceptional goaltending, and infectious enthusiasm, captured hearts. However, this masked the reality that they were a 92-point team during the regular season, barely clinching a playoff spot.
Now, the roster that fueled that playoff magic appears fractured and diminished. With Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour likely starting the season on LTIR due to post-season injuries, the defensive lineup faces challenges. Up front, Tkachuk’s absence due to a broken sternum place added offensive burden on Barkov and a depleted forward corps.
While the return of Spencer Knight to the crease provides hope, the unpredictable performance of Bobrovsky and the potential injury to Knight could test the team’s goaltending depth.
Despite boasting remarkable talents like Vasilevskiy, Kucherov, Point, Hedman, Stamkos, and Sergachev, the Lightning have experienced the impact of salary cap constraints. This off-season has seen key contributors like Killorn, Bellemare, Cole, Maroon, and Perry depart, replaced by Sheary and lower-tier veterans.
Although the Lightning still possesses star power, their depth has taken a hit, particularly in the competitive Atlantic Division. Their forward corps must rely on Jeannot’s resurgence to come close to replicating their past success.