The real star of the expansion draft wasn’t Marc-Andre Fleury or James Neal, it was George McPhee. The general manager’s draft has set Vegas up to be contenders sooner rather than later.
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Seven of last spring’s 16 playoff teams didn’t qualify the season before. In 2016, five newcomers were in the playoff field. Seven new teams made the playoffs in 2015.
Many fans understand that the NHL postseason turnover rate is high, but no one believes it will be his or her team that doesn’t make it.
Here is our list of the top five teams most vulnerable to missing the playoffs in 2018:
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks are a quality defensive team. They boast skilled players. But they may be growing stale.
They were a below average offensive team last season, ranking 19th in goals per game, and Patrick Marleau, second with 27 goals, left through free agency.
Teams in Pacific Division seem to be improving, while the Sharks are primarily relying on the same cast. Key performers Joe Thornton, 38, Brent Burns, 32, and Joe Pavelski, 33, are all older than 30. The Sharks need younger players to win roster spots and provide a new spark.
New York Rangers: On paper, the Rangers still have a playoff-caliber roster. But there are enough questions about this team to wonder if the Rangers will take a half-step backward.
Center Derek Stepan was dealt. Is Mika Zibanejad ready to be a No. 1 center? Will defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk be a dominant performer? Can Kevin Hayes step up? Will Jimmy Vesey take another step in his development? Will Pavel Buchnevich have a breakthrough season?
The Rangers have enough unknowns to put them on the watch list.
Boston Bruins: It’s hard to envision the Tampa Bay Lightning missing the playoffs for a second season in a row. That means at least one team has to go in the Atlantic. It’s not…