6. New York Rangers
This one is difficult to rationalize due to the same level of offseason progress that they made. The Rangers drafted Kappo Kakko, have Vitali Kravtsov ready to play, have signed Artemi Panarin, and traded Niel Pionk for Jacob Trouba and acquired Adam Fox from Carolina. The Rangers have improved nearly every aspect of their team but I still don’t see them as a playoff contender yet.
For one, past Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers lack talented centers to play with their high-caliber wingers. Also, the blueline past Trouba and Fox is not great and the Rangers really don’t have a number one proven defenseman. Additionally, I don’t see the team having a true identity or direction under head coach David Quinn either. The former Boston University coach is heading into only his second year as an NHL head coach and as such haven’t seen anything to convince me otherwise.
Finally, goaltending is a facet that I don’t see the Rangers coming up great in. Henrik Lundqvist is 37 and will turn 38 midway through the season and with how much he has been worked by the Rangers in his fourteen seasons with the team, it is only a matter of time before the inevitability of time catches up to him. Alexander Georgiev is not the answer on the backend yet either. With so many new faces in New York, it is a question of is it enough and can what has been added mesh?
Notable Additions: Kappo Kakko, Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, Greg McKegg
Notable Losses: Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Shattenkirk
7. New York Islanders
Another difficult rationalization, the Islanders are a team I don’t see repeating the success they had last year. The Islanders were not an impressive offensive team last year by any means and I don’t see that changing this year either.
While Matt Barzal is becoming a top player in the league, he can’t solely run a team, i.e. Connor McDavid. Head coach Barry Trotz was the reason the Islanders found any success due to the defensive nature of his system shutting down most teams offenses, but will the system work for new goalie Semyon Varlamov as well as it did with Robin Lehner? Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier are two other players who had big years for the Islanders and if they can replicate, maybe the Islanders move back up to bubble potential.
With how much other teams in the division improved compared to the very little the Islanders did, I see them definitely having a fall-off year. With last season more than likely being an overachievement, it may show that the Islanders have a lot more work to do, which maybe should have been addressed in the offseason.
Notable Additions: Semyon Varlamov
Notable Losses: Robin Lehner, Valtteri Filppula