Every NHL crew’s greatest concern a month into the 2022-23 season, from ‘every part’ to ‘too good to tank’

November 5, 2022
Every NHL crew’s greatest concern a month into the 2022-23 season, from ‘every part’ to ‘too good to tank’

A month in, the 2022-23 NHL season is now not recent and enjoyable for a lot of franchises and their fan bases. Issues that this gained’t be the season they envisioned within the preseason are starting to mount.

Living proof: When The Athletic requested its NHL employees this week for every crew’s greatest concern at this level within the season, one reporter masking a preseason-projected playoff crew requested if he may submit a response of “Every part.”

One other stated the crew he covers now regrettably appears too good to tank.

It’s a full spectrum of considerations. Listed below are the largest ones for every crew.

The horrendous penalty kill: You would have your decide of considerations right here — John Gibson being annihilated nightly, Mason McTavish’s Calder candidacy by no means getting off the bottom, Dallas Eakins’ teaching, and so forth., and so forth. — however while you regularly take penalties and might’t kill them, it destroys any momentum you do construct. The Geese’ 4.63 penalties per 60 minutes isn’t essentially the most within the NHL (Ottawa is at 5.80), however they’re atrocious at erasing them. They’ve allowed a league-high 15 power-play targets, and their 61.5 p.c kill fee is flat-out unacceptable. Gibson (.768 shorthanded save share) isn’t masking up the leaky kill like he used to. Guess changing Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson is tougher than you suppose. — Eric Stephens

Easy methods to survive their upcoming 14-game highway journey: The Coyotes have been an unexpectedly robust out most nights this season, however the biggest problem comes now — a report stretch of no residence video games between Nov. 5 and Dec. 7 that would be the final check for the resiliency that coach Andre Tourigny is making an attempt to instill in his talent-thin roster. Arizona’s 3-6-1 report could possibly be about to worsen in a rush. — Eric Duhatschek

How they’ll clear house for Charlie McAvoy: McAvoy (shoulder) is scheduled to return round Thanksgiving. However he’s presently on long-term injured reserve. Assuming the remainder of the roster is at close to or full well being when McAvoy is cleared, the Bruins must create cap house to accommodate his $9.5 million common annual worth. They’ve already positioned Nick Foligno ($3.8 million AAV) and Mike Reilly ($3 million) on waivers. Each cleared, indicating that the Bruins must half with belongings to clear both wage. Craig Smith ($3.1 million) is unrestricted after this yr. However the fitting wing has been injured and is averaging a career-low 11:48 of ice time per sport. — Fluto Shinzawa

Accidents on protection: Buffalo is off to a 7-3 begin and has been taking part in with out its high three defensemen for the previous week. Mattias Samuelsson is out for a minimum of a couple of extra weeks. Henri Jokiharju is getting nearer to a return, as is Ilya Lyubushkin. However the Sabres’ depth on the blue line has been examined. Whereas they’ve gotten robust goaltending and respectable play from those that have stuffed in, they’ll have a a lot stabler scenario when the lineup is again at full power. — Matthew Fairburn

Jonathan Huberdeau: By 9 video games, the star ahead and prize acquisition has only one purpose, and he has gone pointless over his previous three video games. Solely one in all his 5 factors has come at five-on-five. Huberdeau is making an attempt to shoot extra and create performs, but it surely hasn’t all clicked simply but. In the meantime, Darryl Sutter is making an attempt to determine if Elias Lindholm or Nazem Kadri ought to be his middle, going ahead. There’s nonetheless time for Huberdeau to get going, however he’ll want stability. — Julian McKenzie and Hailey Salvian

An uncharacteristically mediocre penalty kill: A lot of the griping by Hurricanes followers has been in regards to the crew’s energy play, which had transformed on 17.8 p.c of its possibilities by Friday’s win over the Sabres however has failed quite a few instances in key conditions. The true concern, although, is Carolina’s vaunted penalty kill. Since Rod Brind’Amour took over as coach in 2018, the Hurricanes have the league’s finest cumulative penalty kill (84.5 p.c), rating eighth or higher every season and main the NHL at 88 p.c a yr in the past. This yr, it’s at 77.3 p.c, has allowed a minimum of one purpose in eight of the crew’s first 11 video games and hasn’t regarded almost as stingy. — Cory Lavalette

Being too aggressive for their very own good: Look, everyone knows that gamers and coaches don’t tank. No one within the Blackhawks locker room is sitting there ready round for a teen to come back take their job and save the franchise. However to Kyle Davidson and the Blackhawks brass, the entire level of this season was to be unhealthy sufficient to ensure a top-three decide subsequent summer season, with Connor Bedard in thoughts. By 11 video games, the Blackhawks aren’t essentially “good,” however they seem far too competent, far too aggressive and much too well-coached to be as unhealthy as they’re purported to be — and as most suppose they have to be. It’s enjoyable proper now, however ending in tenth or eleventh place within the Western Convention is actually the worst-case situation for administration. — Mark Lazerus

Depth forwards and secondary scoring: Colorado has leaned closely on high forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Valeri Nichushkin. Apart from these three, Evan Rodrigues (4 targets), Logan O’Connor (two) and Artturi Lehkonen (two), no different ahead on the crew has a couple of purpose. Alex Newhook remains to be adjusting to added accountability, and the crew hasn’t been in a position to replicate the manufacturing misplaced when Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky left in free company. Plus, Jared Bednar has not discovered a fourth line he trusts. — Peter Baugh

Objectives allowed: The Blue Jackets spent all summer season taking a look at methods to chop down their goals-against after permitting a franchise report 298 in 2021-22. No matter they got here up with, it hasn’t labored. A mixture of leaky goaltending and maddening defensive breakdowns have spelled doom within the early season. The Jackets have allowed 50 targets by 11 video games, together with 23 over their previous 4. If this doesn’t get markedly higher and shortly, they’re a lottery crew. — Aaron Portzline

Accidents: The Stars are nonetheless largely within the honeymoon part of the Pete DeBoer period by way of outcomes. They’re scoring targets, not letting too many in and once they have an off efficiency, they reply nicely. Nevertheless, the harm bug has proven up and given a glimpse as to how a lot of a difficulty it may be. Miro Heiskanen, the crew’s finest participant, missed three video games, and through that point, the ability play went freezing chilly. Jake Oettinger started the season at a Vezina stage however has been out for per week. Not solely are accidents gamers of this caliber robust to take care of, however the Stars are additionally strapped towards the cap. Although they’ve organizational depth, Oettinger’s harm has pressured the crew to hold solely 12 forwards for cap causes. Issues are going nicely for the Stars, however accidents have the potential to derail issues. — Saad Yousuf

Turnovers and sloppy puck play: In some methods, the Crimson Wings have taken actual steps ahead defensively this season — wanted ones after an abysmal exhibiting in 2021-22. Their penalty kill is improved, and their new additions (each at ahead and on protection) have helped make them harder to play towards. However they’re nonetheless turning too many pucks over, particularly in essential elements of the ice. Their inconsistency in making an attempt to cleanly exit the defensive zone is an enormous a part of that, and it’s resulting in prolonged time on offense for his or her opponents. The Crimson Wings have managed to begin 5-3-2 anyway, however they’ve already began to pay for these errors on the scoreboard — and the report will comply with if they’ll’t clear it up. — Max Bultman

The penalty kill: Possibly Thursday’s good 3-for-3 efficiency is an indication that issues are on the mend. The Oilers must hope so. The PK hasn’t been ok this season. Edmonton has allowed a minimum of one purpose whereas shorthanded in 9 of 11 video games and stymied opponents’ energy performs simply 75 p.c of the time. That success fee had them within the backside quarter of the league getting into play on Friday. The Oilers have Stanley Cup aspirations. The PK work isn’t near that stage. — Daniel Nugent-Bowman

The facility play: It’s not a brand new challenge for the Panthers — a near-total power-play outage was a part of the rationale their season ended within the second spherical of the playoffs. The personnel is totally different, although; Jonathan Huberdeau and Claude Giroux are gone, Aaron Ekblad and Anthony Duclair are injured and the unit is struggling much more. Florida is thirty first within the league with a ten.6 p.c conversion fee (5-for-47), forward of solely Columbus (0-for-25). Florida is getting its share of alternatives (tied for second within the league), and Ekblad’s return will assist, however each components can solely go up to now. — Sean Gentille

Persistently being inconsistent: The Kings’ 6-6-1 report says all of it. They aren’t the one membership that’s nonetheless making an attempt to determine all of it out, however they simply wrapped up a 1-1-1 highway journey with an additional time loss at Chicago, a defeat during which they managed to place just one shot previous goalie Arvid Soderblom, who had three NHL begins and no wins to his title coming in. Mockingly, it isn’t the offense that’s a difficulty. The Kings rating sufficient (3.31 targets per sport) however haven’t put stretches collectively of defending persistently by 60 minutes. Paired with that’s Jonathan Fast (.889 save share) and Cal Petersen (.868) not stealing video games. Each step or two ahead is met with one or two backward. — Eric Stephens

Accidents to huge forwards: The Wild are instantly inundated with accidents, notably to 4 huge, bodily forwards: Jordan Greenway, Ryan Hartman, Marcus Foligno and Brandon Duhaime. This can be a smallish crew to start, and the injured gamers’ absence was felt and seen throughout Thursday’s shutout loss to Seattle. Greenway is near returning, but it surely’s unclear how lengthy the others will likely be out, significantly Hartman, who scored 34 instances final season. — Michael Russo

Producing worth with commerce belongings: Contemplating the low expectations, you possibly can say the Canadiens choosing up factors early is a deterrent to fetching a excessive draft decide subsequent June. However since this isn’t their prime purpose, we’ll go together with the dearth of worth being generated by the gamers they’re hoping to flip on the commerce deadline. You would hope that gamers like Evgenii Dadonov, Sean Monahan, Jonathan Drouin, and to a lesser extent Mike Hoffman, would have the ability to generate good returns, however up to now, the probabilities of that occuring look a bit grim. — Marc Antoine Godin

Younger gamers who aren’t growing: Cody Glass goes from camp nice shock to top-six look to wholesome scratch. Eeli Tolvanen from early success to top-six look to wholesome scratch. Dante Fabbro from top-four begin to wholesome scratch. Philip Tomasino from presumed top-six alternative to the AHL. And he’s nonetheless there. That is purported to be the inspiration of the long run. — Joe Rexrode

Getting the goaltending to maintain up within the Metro: There’s lots to love in regards to the Devils’ begin. After a few disappointing video games to open the yr, this crew has been crushing it at five-on-five, is weathering the lack of Ondrej Palat and is getting outcomes from the John Marino addition. However the goaltending — which isn’t good to begin with — might get dicey relying on Mackenzie Blackwood’s standing. The Devils are doing nicely to guard their goalies, however they should discover a approach to stability Vitek Vanecek’s workload sufficient that they’ll hold the tempo down the stretch. There’s plenty of competitors, from final yr’s playoff groups to squads just like the Islanders pushing for a return. That was already a problem for New Jersey, however it might have gotten a bit tougher with the newest harm. — Shayna Goldman

New York Islanders

The facility play: There isn’t a lot that’s gone mistaken recently for the Islanders, who received their fifth straight win, all in regulation, in St. Louis on Thursday. If there’s one space for enchancment, although, it’s the ability play, which is simply 5-for-34 and infrequently appears to be like immobile. If the Islanders can get that going whereas sustaining what has been an impressive penalty kill, they might take their place among the many NHL’s elite groups in brief order. — Kevin Kurz

Their luck: The Rangers lead the league in anticipated targets by 12 video games. They’re twenty eighth in capturing share at five-on-five, although, so they’re final in anticipated goals-versus-actual targets differential. Every part else of their sport is nice or a minimum of ok, however there’s been little or no luck on their aspect. It may possibly’t final, proper? Proper? — Arthur Staple

Lack of consistency from the defensive pairings: Heading into the season, we knew Ottawa’s greatest potential weak spot was its blue line. Ten video games into the season, these fears have come to fruition. The Senators have but to seek out consistency of their defensive pairings, and the latest harm to Artem Zub has solely magnified the difficulty. The Senators might want to handle this challenge quickly in the event that they don’t need the season to slide away. Recalling prospect Jacob Bernard-Docker on Friday is a possible inside resolution, however that’s plenty of strain to put on a younger defender. Ottawa’s blue line will definitely be beneath the microscope over the following 10 video games. — Ian Mendes

They barely ever have the puck At first look, the Flyers positive appear to be they’re exceeding expectations. By ten video games, they’ve a strong 5-3-2 report, and going purely by factors share, they’re truly sitting in a playoff spot within the loaded Jap Convention. The issue? They’re getting completely crushed nightly, and Carter Hart is the first cause they’re successful any video games in any respect. Hart’s .943 save share and common heroics deserve reward, however the skaters in entrance of him don’t. To date, the Flyers have collected simply 36.6 p.c of the anticipated targets (per Evolving-Hockey) at five-on-five, good for thirty first within the league, and 38 p.c of the shot makes an attempt (useless final). In different phrases, they’re taking part in protection for almost two-thirds of their video games. Until Hart continues to provide traditionally unbelievable outcomes, the ground goes to fall out from beneath the Flyers in the event that they don’t repair this main challenge — quick. — Charlie O’Connor

Irresponsible play with the puck: The Penguins are giveaway machines early this season, which has uncovered a subpar protection corps and goaltending that has taken a step again. Forwards are sending blind passes by the offensive zone at an alarming fee, and neutral-zone turnovers are an everyday prevalence. Coach Mike Sullivan is annoyed together with his membership’s careless puck play, and rightfully so as a result of it’s contributed to a shedding streak that soured a promising starting. — Rob Rossi

An improved course of not resulting in outcomes: The Sharks began 0-5 however have performed considerably higher since then. Erik Karlsson has been unbelievable, different high gamers have improved and so they’ve cleaned up some main points from the unhealthy begin … however San Jose can be simply 3-3-2 since then and has gained only one sport in regulation. We don’t know if the membership can proceed to play this nicely for a protracted stretch of video games, or the way it will react when there are issues like accidents or dips in efficiency which can be inevitable. The Sharks haven’t banked sufficient factors when the instances are good to soak up one other stretch when the instances are unhealthy. — Corey Masisak

Goaltending depth, particularly after the Philipp Grubauer harm: It’s not just like the Kraken got here into the season with out considerations in internet, however the Grubauer harm solely places extra strain on an space of weak spot. Anytime a crew has to depend on Martin Jones as a starter, there’s cause for concern. Whereas Joey Daccord is within the fold now, he solely has a lot NHL-level expertise. The brilliant aspect is that Seattle actually does have the purpose help it was lacking final yr, which helps it come again in video games. However the Kraken’s goaltenders have allowed extra targets than anticipated and solely have so excessive of a ceiling. — Shayna Goldman

Every part (besides the goaltending): After a 3-0 begin, the Blues are on a slide that hasn’t been seen in St. Louis because the finish of the 2013-14 season. They’re 0-6 and their subsequent sport is on the league’s high crew, Boston (10-1). There was hope that normal supervisor Doug Armstrong addressing the crew earlier this week would flip the tide, however two days later, the identical points — restricted scoring and defensive lapses — led to a 5-2 loss to the Islanders. The Blues are actually final in targets for (2.33 per sport) and No. 28 in targets towards (3.89). They’re most likely higher than they’ve proven, but it surely may get to some extent quickly the place Armstrong has to resolve if a commerce may help salvage the season or if it’s time to start the rebuild. — Jeremy Rutherford

The blue line and penalty kill: The Lightning blue line underwent a makeover within the offseason, and they’re nonetheless making an attempt to make up for the lack of Ryan McDonagh. Additionally they needed to change Jan Rutta, and Zach Bogosian has been out. It’s telling that Tampa Bay is in the midst of the pack in targets allowed (sixteenth, 3.09 goals-against common) whereas having one of the best goalie on the earth. They’re giving up an excessive amount of defensively, as Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 52-save effort confirmed in Thursday’s shootout loss. There’s nonetheless loads of time and the Lightning can determine it out. They simply want to regulate to their new gamers in numerous roles. — Joe Smith

The state of the protection: The Leafs’ greatest battle within the opening month — shockingly — was the offense, significantly from the celebs. They simply weren’t producing as traditional nor trying all that harmful. Inevitably, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner will warmth up. John Tavares got here up with a hat trick the opposite evening in a hopeful signal of issues to come back for the celebs up high. The protection is extra unsure. Jake Muzzin is out indefinitely and should not return this season. Justin Holl has struggled. Mark Giordano is the oldest defenseman within the league. And Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren are each younger of their careers. There are plenty of query marks right here. About the one two defenders the Leafs can utterly depend on are Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie. They usually’ve needed to cut up these two up within the title of stability. — Jonas Siegel

The penalty kill: The place do you start? The Canucks rank thirty first within the NHL by crew save share, twenty seventh in factors share, twentieth by anticipated targets share (rating adjusted). So we may go on and on with this. However we have now to choose the penalty kill, which has surrendered 14 targets towards and has the worst kill fee within the league. Just one crew has surrendered extra power-play targets towards — the Geese — and solely by one, and so they’ve spent 17 extra minutes shorthanded than Vancouver has. When you modify to targets towards per hour fee, the Canucks are surrendering over 20 targets per hour and the Geese — who’re second-worst — are at about 15 targets per hour. In different phrases, Vancouver’s penalty kill is about 33 p.c worse than the following worst crew within the league by the primary few weeks of the season. Yikes. — Thomas Drance

The particular groups: The Golden Knights rank seventeenth within the league in each power-play and penalty-kill share by 12 video games. We knew getting into the season each could be works in progress, as Bruce Cassidy and assistant coach John Stevens try to enhance Vegas’ struggling particular groups, and up to now it’s been simply that. The excellent news is Cassidy has already shuffled the ability play a number of instances, and it’s regarded significantly better since he put Jack Eichel on his robust aspect and Mark Stone within the bumper spot. The penalty kill is coming alongside, efficiently killing 11 of the previous 12 (91.7 p.c) after a tough 11-of-16 (68.8 p.c) begin. Nonetheless, each models will have to be higher shifting ahead. — Jesse Granger

Washington Capitals

$35 million in salaries on injured reserve: Earlier than the season, I requested a high Caps government what retains him awake at evening. His reply: “Accidents.” Not even a month in, a nightmare situation is taking part in out. As of Friday, Nicklas Backstrom ($9.2 million), John Carlson ($8 million), T.J. Oshie ($5.75 million), Tom Wilson ($5.17 million), Connor Brown ($3.6 million), Carl Hagelin ($2.75 million) and Beck Malenstyn ($762,000) have been on some type of IR. Goaltending — final yr’s greatest deficiency — is vastly improved. However scoring is down and down considerably. After years of outrunning Father Time, it’s onerous to not marvel if he’s lastly caught as much as the veteran-laden Caps. — Tarik El-Bashir

Self-inflicted wounds: Winnipeg has forechecked higher, backchecked higher and roughly maintained higher defensive protection early this season when in comparison with final. Excellent news, proper? Sure, and … 1) Final yr’s course of is a low bar to clear, and a couple of) Regardless of exhibiting indicators of enchancment, the Jets proceed to throw the puck away at their very own blue line. Whether or not the decision-making is sluggish, the help is lacking, or Winnipeg is fleeing the zone in the hunt for offense, the Jets are making the sorts of puck-management errors that take the air out of their general enhancements and bury the crew in its personal zone for lengthy stretches of play. When you may snap your fingers and repair it, Winnipeg is nice sufficient at every part else to be fairly a aggressive crew. — Murat Ates

(Prime picture of Ryan Lindgren and Igor Shesterkin: Bruce Bennett / Getty Photographs)

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