The 2022-23 NHL regular season was a record-breaking campaign for the Boston Bruins as a team and a historic season for Connor McDavid, who scored like it was the early 1990s.
But the eliminations are piling up — both from playoff series losses (including the Bruins), and those who didn't qualify. Those clubs are now looking ahead to this offseason, where the draft, free agency and trades will help put them in a better position to compete in 2023-24.
Read on for a look at what went wrong for each eliminated team, along with a breakdown of its biggest keys this offseason and realistic expectations for next season. Note that more teams will be added to this story as they are eliminated from the playoffs.
Go through every team's profile or skip ahead to your favorite team using the links below:
Note: Profiles for the Atlantic and Metro teams were written by Kristen Shilton, while Ryan S. Clark analyzed the Central and Pacific teams. Stats are collected from sites such as Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference and Evolving Hockey. Projected cap space per Cap Friendly.
Lost to Stars in seven games.
Projected 2023-24 cap space: $18,334,257
2023 draft picks: 1st, 2nd, 2nd (TOR), 2nd (WPG), 3rd, 4th (COL), 5th, 6th, 6th (WSH), 7th
What went wrong?
Finding consistency was never the issue. Finding ways to harness that consistency became the biggest challenge facing the Kraken in their second-round loss to the Dallas Stars.
The two-way reliability they used to upset the Colorado Avalanche in the first round proved harder to sustain when it came to the Stars. In the first three games of the series when the Kraken took a 2-1 lead, they found enough scoring chances, but the biggest key was goal prevention: they held the Stars to 3.3 goals per game (Dallas is at 3.75 goals per game overall). Yet what happened in Games 4 and 5 were also a harbinger of sorts, with the Kraken allowing 11 combined goals in those contests.
Then there was the goaltending. The Kraken were 10th from the bottom in team save percentage in the regular season. Everything Philipp Grubauer did in the first round — finishing with a 2.31 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage — helped the Kraken upset the Avalanche. But the fact Grubauer entered Game 7 with a 3.78 GAA and a .865 SV% against the Stars was one of the challenges that proved too hard to overcome. He had his moments in Game 7, but ultimately Jake Oettinger proved the superior netminder in this series.
Keys to the offseason
Will Borgen and Morgan Geekie made the jump from fringe players to nightly fixtures up front, while defenseman Vince Dunn may have had one of the more underrated individual efforts by any player in the NHL in 2022-23. All three of them are pending restricted free agents, with the idea that Dunn, who finished with a career-high 14 goals and 64 points, could be the most expensive on his next deal. What helps Kraken GM Ron Francis and his staff is they have what CapFriendly projects to be $18.464 million in cap space this summer.
The Kraken will have other roster decisions to make when it comes to pending unrestricted free agents such as Ryan Donato and Carson Soucy. But at what point do the Kraken begin tapping into some of their youth to fill those gaps? Of course, it starts with what Calder Trophy front-runner Matty Beniers can do in his second full season. What could next season look like for Tye Kartye? Does Ryker Evans make the team? And what is the realistic expectation for 2022 No. 4 overall pick Shane Wright?
Realistic expectations for 2023-24
They went from a lottery team in Year 1 to a playoff team in Year 2. At this point, it appears anything could be possible for the Kraken in Year 3. What is evident, however, is that the Kraken have shown they are a playoff team that could compete for a division crown, as well as a return to the postseason, in 2023-24.