Each NHL team’s biggest concern a month into the 2023-24 season

One month into the 2023-24 NHL season, the optimism and excitement of the preseason are beginning to fade. Linger doubts have transformed into major concerns for teams across the league. Whether it’s a missing piece in the top six, a struggling special-teams unit, or simply nothing going according to plan, each team has its own biggest worry at this stage. The Athletic recently asked its NHL staff to identify these concerns, and the responses cover a wide range of issues.

For Trevor Zegras, there’s a mix of good and bad news. On the positive side, he’s showing improvement in faceoff work and commitment to defense. However, his offensive production has been lacking, with just one goal and one assist in 10 games. Additionally, playing on the wing seems to be a discomfort for him. Despite his struggles, there’s hope that stepping out of his comfort zone may ultimately make him a better player in the long run.

The Arizona Coyotes have had a decent start in most areas except for penalty killing, which has been a long-standing issue. Currently ranked 27th out of 32 teams, their penalty-killing unit is succeeding at just a 72.2 percent rate. This is an area that still requires improvement for the team to find success.

The Boston Bruins initially believed that their weakness would be at center following the retirements of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. However, unexpectedly, Matt Poitras and Johnny Beecher have made an impact on their respective lines. Instead, the team’s biggest holes are now at the wing positions on their top two lines. James van Riemsdyk and Morgan Geekie have been tasked with filling these spots, but they are better suited for the third line.

The Buffalo Sabres have started to improve defensively and have seen progress in their offensive game. However, their power play has been underperforming, ranking among the worst in the league in terms of conversion percentage and expected goals per 60 minutes. If they can regain the consistency they had earlier in the season, their offensive production could significantly improve.

The Calgary Flames are lacking dynamism and speed on offense. Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau, who have a combined cap hit of $17.5 million, have been struggling to find the back of the net. The team as a whole has had trouble keeping up with other teams and lacks creativity in the offensive zone. If they continue to lose, they may need to make some changes to their roster.

The Carolina Hurricanes had a shaky start to the season, with defensive breakdowns and a struggling penalty kill leaving their goalies with little support. While they have made some improvements, the team is still waiting for consistent performance from their goaltenders. Both Antti Raanta and Frederik Andersen have had their moments, but they need to exhibit 60-minute consistency for the Hurricanes to succeed.

Lukas Reichel, a promising forward prospect for the Chicago Blackhawks, has struggled to produce points this season. Despite showing potential last season, he has yet to register a point in nine games. The team is trying to find ways to get him going and contribute to their offense.

The Colorado Avalanche made significant changes to their forward group in the offseason, but some of the new additions are taking time to adjust. Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Drouin have struggled to score goals, and both were healthy scratches in their most recent game. While there is no cause for immediate concern, it will be important to monitor the progress of these forwards in the coming weeks.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are relying on their young players to make an impact, but so far, they have struggled to find their footing. Kent Johnson has been benched and sent to the AHL, Alexandre Texier has yet to register a point, and Cole Sillinger and Kirill Marchenko have had minimal offensive production. These players are still developing, and Coach Pascal Vincent is focused on their long-term growth, but their improvement is crucial for the team’s success.

The Dallas Stars have seen a decline in their power-play performance this season. Despite having the same top unit as last season and an upgraded second unit, they have struggled to score with the man advantage. However, their overall success in terms of wins has masked this issue.

In the first season under coach Derek Lalonde, the Detroit Red Wings focused on improving their defensive play, which resulted in a better expected goals against in five-on-five situations. However, this season, their emphasis has shifted to scoring goals, and as a result, their five-on-five defense has suffered. While the increased scoring is a positive development, they will need to tighten up their defense to make a significant impact.

The Edmonton Oilers have several issues to address, but consistent goaltending would greatly benefit the team. Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell need to make more saves to provide better support for the team.

By addressing these concerns, NHL teams can work towards resolving their issues and improving their performance throughout the season.


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