The season may be on hold, but Gary Bettman has made it clear that a Stanley Cup will be awarded in 2020. Here are three NHL teams that cannot afford to miss the playoffs.
Getting into the playoffs his half the battle for the Stanley Cup. Once you get in, anything can happen as both the Columbus Blue Jackets and the St. Louis Blues showed last season. The NHL postseason is the best of all the sports because it’s so unpredictable.
These three teams have a lot on the line this season and cannot afford to miss the playoffs.
3. Nashville Predators
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The Nashville Predators have made it to the playoffs for five straight years under the guidance of Peter Laviolette and the support from Pekka Rinne. They have always played a strong defensive game and never had much success scoring.
This season, David Poile tried to change the team’s identity and bring in more goals to shore up the offence. He signed Matt Duchene to a massive 7-year, 56 million dollar deal. Halfway through the season, he fired Laviolette and hired John Hynes. While Nashville saw a spike in production (3.1 goals per game), they also saw a decline in goaltending. This year has been Rinne’s worst season of his career, with his save percentage dipping under .900 for the first time ever.
Juuse Saros has had to pick up the load and while he has been pretty good, not having Rinne at the top of his game has really hurt the team. At 37 years old, Rinne’s career is coming to an end. The Predators will want to win with him still on the team and they cannot afford to waste a year of his career by missing the playoffs.
2. Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers have made it to the playoffs twice in this millennium. This team has been the butt end of many jokes over the years and for good reason. They have never experienced success before. The most puzzling thing is that they have a really good team on paper but are never able to execute.
For years, the Panthers have had no problem scoring goals, they just struggled to keep the puck out of their own net. In an attempt to fix this, Dale Talon signed free agent Sergei Bobrovsky to a 7-year, 70 million dollar contract. That should have been the solution but Bobrovsky is playing the worst hockey of his career since 2011-12. His save percentage is exactly .900 which is just not good enough, especially considering the money he’s making.
The team cannot afford to miss the playoffs for the fifth season in a row for all the money that they have bet on Bobrovsky. This is a very good team on paper but if they continue to be mediocre, it might be time to blow the whole thing up.
1. Arizona Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes did everything in their power to try and address the team’s offensive weaknesses. They traded for Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall and it only made the team worse. John Chayka has done everything in his power to try and make this team better and nothing has worked. The Coyotes cannot afford to miss the playoffs because of the sheer amount their general manager has sacrificed to try and improve this team.
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If these moves don’t pan out and the Coyotes miss the playoffs eighth straight season, it will really tank their chances at bringing more fans in. Arizona is a small market and not having any success after bringing two big names to town does not look good for the team. This team cannot afford to miss the playoffs again, not only because Chayka gave up a ton of prospects and high draft picks, but also because this team desperately needs to sell tickets.