5 NHL teams that will face a “playoffs or bust” season in 2024-25

The NHL is an unforgiving league for head coaches and front offices, so the old “playoffs or bust” cliche will affect a few teams next year.
Buffalo Sabres v Edmonton Oilers
Buffalo Sabres v Edmonton Oilers / Lawrence Scott/GettyImages
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Pittsburgh Penguins

Assuming the Penguins bring back Sidney Crosby and they make another run at the playoffs, general manager Kyle Dubas must build a team with so much playoff-caliber potential, it’s all but a guarantee the Pittsburgh Penguins will return to the postseason in 2025. If not, then there should be no point to keep this aging team together any longer, and someone must be brave enough to dismantle it. 

Crosby, along with Evgeni Malkin, Rickard Rakell, Erik Karlsson, Ryan Graves, and Kris Letang still hold value, but if they can’t punch a ticket into at least the final weeks of April with what theoretically should be a better hockey team, it makes no sense to keep falling short. 

This season, we saw the Calgary Flames stick around the playoff race, but they weren’t afraid to start ‘selling.’ Fortunately for the Penguins, they have players who hold far more value even at their advanced ages. 

Trading who he can and retaining a few contracts along the way would load the Penguins with future NHLers who should eventually find themselves on the top-six or the top-four, and they would also acquire plenty of draft picks for 2025, 2026, 2027, and likely, even 2028. It would require a year or two of “rebuilding,” but give it a couple of seasons, and the fans would thank Dubas.