It happens so often, people should start expecting it. Every year, a couple, or at least one team in the NHL rises from the ashes of their previous season and claim a playoff spot, sometimes even to the top of their division. The past few seasons, we’ve seen teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and this year the Colorado Avalanche all make runs to the playoffs.
This year, the Avalanche went from 15th in the Western Conference to first in the NHL’s Central Division and just four points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the top seed in the West. A few more wins even would’ve given them the President’s Trophy. Though they lost in Game 7 against Minnesota in the first round, it was still a remarkable turnaround for the Colorado Avalanche. A new head coach in Patrick Roy and adding Nathan MacKinnon with the first overall pick went a long way for them.
The Tampa Bay Lightning also enjoyed a great step forward with rookie head coach Jon Cooper and the spectacular goaltending of Ben Bishop. They finished second in the Atlantic Division with 101 points. The fact they were swept by the Habs doesn’t diminish the tremendous progress they made.
A key offseason trade for Tyler Seguin and hiring of GM Jim Nill and coach Lindy Ruff helped the Dallas Stars return to the postseason.
The question is, which team can enjoy a similar turnaround in the NHL next season? Is there a team in a good position to do that? Here are five possible teams. The important elements for a turnaround from these teams will include finding the right head coach, some key depth moves in free agency and breakout seasons from a rookie or just a young player in general.
5) Edmonton Oilers (29-44-9 in 2013-14)
It’s got to happen at some point, right? We ask ourselves this same question about the Edmonton Oilers year after year, and the passionate fans of Edmonton keep getting disappointed.
Management seems inept, the team is comprised of too many similar players, providing little balance and goaltending remains an issue.
Still, sometimes talent just has a knack for taking over. Currently, the Oilers have a projected $28.5 million in cap space to work with, meaning they could sign a couple of defencemen if they so choose and once again have a high draft pick, this time third overall.
Perhaps they could trade their pick for immediate help, perhaps they trade one of their current young stars to address other needs in their lineup.
All we know in Edmonton is that things cannot simply continue the way they’re going. There are only so many years you can say you’re in a rebuild. After five years or so, it just becomes a lame excuse for ineptitude. The Oilers haven’t made the playoffs since their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 and you can only jerk the fans around for so long.
Still, Edmonton’s young core still makes crazy things possible. Maybe Nail Yakupov bounces back. Maybe Viktor Fasth or Ben Scrivens have a spectacular season. Maybe Dallas Eakins gets more out of his team in a second year of coaching.
Based on their talent level, the Oilers should be higher on this list, but there are just too many uncertainties to bump them higher.Next: 4) Washington Capitals (38-30-14 in 2013-14)