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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Washington Capitals

There are a few teams on this list who were sitting in a top-three spot in their respective divisions at one point or another this season, and the Washington Capitals were the most recent addition until the New York Islanders had other ideas. But the Caps are also a mediocre team playing in the NHL’s weakest division, evidenced by their minus-40 goal differential heading into the season’s final full week. 

Whether they make the playoffs come the end of the week is irrelevant - this isn’t a good hockey team, and if the Metropolitan Division improves next season, if, say, the New Jersey Devils or even the Pittsburgh Penguins get better, it will show just how weak the Capitals are. 

Like the Penguins, this is an older hockey team, and it may be time to start moving some of those players who have been there for a while. Seeing the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson head elsewhere for 2025-26 and beyond while T.J. Oshie likely retiring would be strange for Capitals fans, but as with the Penguins, it would be time for a new era in the nation’s capital. 

But why keep a team together that’s continually falling short, even if they have an icon like Ovechkin? Like Crosby, he would still hold value if the Capitals don’t make the playoffs in 2024-25, so make the trade and get what you will.