With only two teams remaining in the 2014-15 NHL season, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks, we begin to look forward to the NHL Draft and the 2015-16 season. Although it’s still very early to begin to predict the outcome of next season, with tons of roster changes to come in the offseason, there are a few leading candidates to have a better season next year.
Each year several teams overachieve while many others underachieve significantly. Surely, not too many people could have predicted that both the Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings would not make the playoffs in 2015. At the same time, who would’ve predicted the Calgary Flames or the Ottawa Senators to make the postseason? It was an absolute roller coaster season, and likely will be again in 2015-16. But here’s an attempt at predicting three playoff teams from this season who will not be able to make it again in 2015-16.
The Ottawa Senators ended the 2015-16 regular season on an incredible streak, going 21-3-3 in their final 27 games to comeback from 14 points down in the standings. Their run was thanks, in most part, to goaltender Andrew Hammond. That effort earned him a three-year contract with the Senators. But, what is expected of the Ottawa Senators for the 2015-16 season? Not much probably.
The Sens relied heavily upon their rookies this season, but will they all be able to avoid a sophomore slump? Unlikely. They also have an extremely crowded crease that needs to be sorted out. They currently have four goaltenders who each expect to play in the NHL. Overall, Ottawa has a fairly thin blueline and pretty weak forwards, which aren’t deep at all.
The Nashville Predators were likely the biggest surprise of the past season. Slated to be a team way outside of the playoff picture before the season began, they hit a hot streak and never came back down. Ending up with 104 points and the 3rd seed in the Western Conference was very impressive. The Preds are certainly an up-and-coming team, led defensively by Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber and now Roman Josi.
Up front, rookie Filip Forsberg led the team with 63 points and free agent signee Mike Ribeiro was one point behind. However, Nashville will need a lot to go their way in 2015-16 if they hope to make the playoffs for a second consecutive year. Continued offensive depth, and retaining Forsberg and Ribeiro’s form will be the most unlikely of outcomes in Music City.
Yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins will continue their cliff dive from stardom to mediocrity. As usual, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were spectacular. After that, there is a significant drop off and very little depth up front. And, as usual again, the Penguins came up extremely short during the playoffs, losing in just 5 games to the Rangers. At the end of the day, Pittsburgh only made the playoffs by a two point margin.
Looking ahead to the 2015-16 season, the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets will all be challenging to take over a playoff spot. Will Pittsburgh be better than those teams? Maybe not. Both Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff are UFA’s this offseason, so their blueline may be very young and inexperienced. They still face the trouble of having virtually zero forward depth, so Crosby and Malkin will need to carry the team more than ever before just to ensure a playoff spot.
Which current playoff team will be on the outside next year? Let us know in the comments below!
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at email@example.com or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.