The 2023-24 NHL season is almost upon us, with just less than a month remaining before the opening night on October 10. With a new season comes new hope—hope for fans and the organization for an improvement from the last campaign and going deep into the season.
This previous season, we came across an intense battle between the teams vying for a berth in the playoffs, particularly in the Eastern Conference, where the battle for the last wildcard spot went through the very last day of the regular season.
Ultimately, it was the Florida Panthers who grabbed the spot, made their way to the playoffs, and never looked back until the Cup finals, when the Vegas Golden Knights came out winner.
Nevertheless, as the NHL gears up for the brand new 2023-24 season, here are three teams that will be interesting to watch and could make a shocking playoff run.
#1 Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are one of the most successful teams in the league, with 11 Stanley Cup wins. There was a time when the Red Wings were predicted as a strong contender for the championship, year in and year out.
However, the narrative has not been the same in the past six to seven years, as the Red Wings have not made it to the playoffs since 2016.
This past season, they finished 24th in the league and were 12 points behind the second wild card, the Florida Panthers. Nonetheless, the Red Wings have been one of the busiest teams throughout the offseason.
GM Steve Yzerman has made some significant moves to add a mix of emerging talent and a wealth of experience and has injected depth into the roster, which highlights improvement. It could also turn out to be a turning point in the Red Wings finally ending their playoff drought in the coming NHL season.
#2 Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres have been going through a rebuilding phase for a long time and each year they are getting closer to reaching the heights. In the previous season, if any team from the East's wild card looked like a legitimate contender, it was Buffalo.
However, they just missed by one point to get there. The Sabres are serving the longest playoff drought streak of 12 years in the NHL. They last qualified for the postseason in 2011. Nevertheless, this time around, there are high hopes among Sabres fans to put that streak to rest.
The Sabres currently have one of the most talented rosters. The young players like Tage Thomson, Alex Tuch, Dylan Cozens, Rasmus Dahlin, and Devon Levi have all shown significant development and have the potential to turn out as franchise icons.
Additionally, the addition of veteran players Erik Jonson and Connor Clifton has further added depth to the roster. The Sabres will be a team to watch out for in the coming NHL season.
#3 Ottawa Senators
The Senators are another team from the highly competitive Atlantic Division of the East that could surprise many in the 2023-24 NHL season. The Sens last made the playoffs in 2016 and only missed out by six points last term to make it to the playoffs.
One of the main reasons for the Sens' failure last season was injuries to their key players, which caused them to struggle throughout the season and enter the rink without depth. Nonetheless, there has been a mood of optimism among fans for the new seasons and a hope that the Sens will end their six-year drought this time.
With the addition of Vladimir Tarasenko and Dominik Kubalik, combined with other top-six skaters in Brady Tkachuk and Josh Norris (if he stays healthy), the Senators have one of the best offensive firepower to compete for a spot in the Division.
Although the club solidified the depth of their blue line with the addition of Jakob Chychrun, there are still a few concerns for them in the blue line. Nevertheless, consistency and contribution from the entire roster will be key roles for the Ottawa Senators this NHL season.
Consistency will be essential for Ottawa, Buffalo, and Detroit to compete against the other powerhouses in the highly competitive Atlantic Division, and therefore, it wouldn't be surprising to see these three teams battling for a wildcard spot.