Nearly 30 games into the 2022-23 season, we now have a pretty good idea of which teams are the top of the crop and those that are bottom feeders that will be in the hunt for Connor Bedard. That said, most teams are in a log jam in the middle, failing to separate themselves from the bunch.
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Most of the middle teams were expected to be there, but many others were expected to be plenty better. It is still relatively early, but it is clear that some teams have not had the starts that both fans and media had envisioned before the season. With that said, here’s a look at the five that have disappointed the most thus far.
St. Louis Blues
Though they lost in the second round of last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the consensus was that the St. Louis Blues gave the Colorado Avalanche the stiffest test during their Cup run. As such, the expectation was they’d be extremely competitive again in 2022-23, especially with one of the best rosters in the Western Conference.
Through 29 games, that has been far from the case, as the Blues have an ugly 13-15-1 record, placing them sixth in the Central Division and 12th in the West. The absence of players like David Perron and Ville Husso has played a part, but the bigger concern is the struggles of some of their star players, particularly Ryan O’Reilly and goaltender Jordan Binnington.
Given their second-half run in their Stanley Cup-winning season in 2019, it is impossible to count this team out, but they will need to figure things out in a hurry if they want a chance to be in a playoff spot by season’s end.
The 2022 offseason started out horribly for the Calgary Flames, as they lost Johnny Gaudreau to free agency and found out just days later that Matthew Tkachuk wasn’t interested in signing a long-term deal, essentially forcing general manager Brad Treliving to trade him. The narrative on the disastrous offseason changed shortly after that, however, as they flipped Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and prospect Cole Schwindt.
That move in itself had fans in Calgary believing their team would be competitive again in 2022-23. They then went from being competitive to a potential Stanley Cup contender when management signed free agent forward Nazem Kadri to a seven-year deal.
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Despite their promising roster on paper, they have struggled to mesh through their opening 29 games, going just 13-11-6 so far. Huberdeau hasn’t yet clicked with his new team, while goaltender Jacob Markstrom’s play hasn’t been anywhere near the level it was a season ago. That said, they still find themselves in the final wild-card position in the West, which gives them a bit of breathing room to figure things out.
New York Rangers
Let me preface this by saying that the New York Rangers have looked much better as of late, given their four-game winning streak. However, this was a team many believed could lead the Metropolitan Division after advancing to the Eastern Conference Final in last year’s playoffs, but they instead find themselves sitting in fourth.
From an outsider’s perspective, there was some reason to expect a bit of regression from the Rangers; the chances of Chris Kreider scoring 50 again seemed very slim, given that he had never topped 28 in a season before and as good as he is, it was a big ask to expect Igor Shesterkin to continue playing at the same dominant level.
The Rangers still have a ton of top-end talent with Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox and Shesterkin, and they will more than likely be a playoff team at season’s end. But not many would have expected them to have just a 15-10-5 record through their first 30 games.
After several acquisitions this offseason, including Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux and Cam Talbot, many thought the Ottawa Senators would be able to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Unfortunately, a horrid start put them behind the eight ball, and they are still struggling to make up ground.
Through 28 games, the Sens have a 13-14-2 record, which has them in seventh in the Atlantic Division. Though they have looked better as of late, they will still need to put together wins in bunches just to get back into the playoff race. Not helping is DeBrincat who hasn’t looked like his usual goal-scoring self yet, with only nine through 28 games.
Like the Rangers, the Edmonton Oilers have shown signs of turning things around; their win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday was their third in four games. Their top stars also continue to dominate, as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have combined for a ridiculous 110 points already, while both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman have been fantastic as well.
The issues have been everywhere else. Their blue line needs improvement, as does their scoring depth in the bottom-six. On top of that, free agent acquisition goaltender Jack Campbell has been nothing short of horrible, looking far from the number one goaltender the Oilers believed they were getting.
In the Oilers’ defense, they have been without Evander Kane for a good stretch and will improve tremendously once he is able to return. Their elite talent in McDavid and Draisaitl alone will keep them afloat, but they haven’t looked like the Stanley Cup contenders many believed them to be heading into 2022-23.
Plenty of Time Remains
As mentioned, there is still plenty of hockey to be played, meaning several teams listed here could turn things around in a hurry. That said, the mid-way point of the 2022-23 season is quickly approaching, so these same teams that are outside of a playoff spot don’t have a ton of time to continue playing this way.