Top Surprises And Disappointments From 2022-23 NHL Season

Photo: The Toronto Star

Another NHL season came to a close on Tuesday night. As with any campaign, there were full of team and player performances that no one saw coming while there were others that did not live up to expectations from September. NoVa Caps reviews the surprises and disappointments of the 2022-23 campaign.


Vegas Golden Knights

The eventual Stanley Cup Champions lost left-wing Max Pacioretty and right-wing Evgenii Dadonov for nothing in the offseason before learning that starting goaltender Robin Lehner would miss the entire season due to a hip injury. Due to NHL salary cap restrictions, Vegas, who replaced Pete DeBoer with Bruce Cassidy after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in five seasons of existence in 2021-22, was unable to bring in adequate replacements and forced to start the season with a goalie threesome in Logan Thompson, Adin Hill, and Laurent Brossoit that had a combined 126 games of NHL experience going into it.

Vegas brought in left-wing Phil Kessel last August and bounced back, leading the Western Conference with a franchise-best 51-22-9 record. They also went 16-6 during the Stanley Cup Playoffs en route to their first championship after acquiring center Ivan Barbashev and goaltender Jonathan Quick at the NHL Trade Deadline.

Right-wing Jonathan Marchessault (13 goals, 25 points), captain Mark Stone (11 goals, 24 points), center William Karlsson (11 goals, 17 points), center Chandler Stephenson (10 goals, 20 points), Barbashev (seven goals, 18 points), and center Jack Eichel (six goals, 26 points) led the way in what was ultimately the deepest team during the postseason.

Florida Panthers

After losing defenseman Ben Chiarot, right-wing Claude Giroux, right-wing Mason Marchment, head coach Andrew Brunette, left-wing Jonathan Huberdeau, and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar over the 2022 offseason, a huge chunk of Florida’s depth that won them the Presidents’ Trophy in 2021-22 disappeared. The acquisition of left-wing Matthew Tkachuk was expected to help but not to the degree of replacing the players that they lost.

Florida met or even exceeded expectations in the regular season where they finished 42-32-8, just one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The team finished 17th in the overall standings.

They trailed their first-round postseason series against the NHL-record setting Boston Bruins, 3-1, after four games before rattling off six straight and 11 of their next 12 against Boston, the Toronto Maple Leafs (who finished fourth overall in the league standings), and Carolina Hurricanes (second) to power their way to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996. However, the magic would stop there as Vegas steamrolled them throughout the series and won it in five games.

Defenseman Brandon Montour (eight goals), center Nick Cousins (five assists, seven points), and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky were among their players who stepped up.

Boston Bruins

Boston entered the season with left-wing Brad Marchand, defenseman Charlie McAvoy, and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk all on the shelf and expected to miss significant time. With that and the aging core of center Patrice Bergeron, center David Krejci, and Marchand, the team was expected to take a major step back entering 2022-23.

However, that was not the case as Boston won six of their first seven games before getting Marchand back and 11 of their first 13 prior to McAvoy returning.

Boston never looked in the rearview, setting the NHL’s all-time record in wins (65) and standings points (135) during one regular season. They had eight players with at least 50 points and 13 with at least 30. Five players finished with more than 20 goals and 12 earned at least 10.

Seattle Kraken

After coming 37 points short of the postseason in their inaugural season, finishing 15th in the Western Conference, Seattle started their second one 15-5-3 and remained steady to complete the season with a 46-28-8 record, finishing as the first wild-card in the Western Conference.

Center Jarred McCann (4o goals, 70 points), defenseman Vince Dunn (50 assists, 64 points), center Matty Beniers (24 goals, 57 points) all had standout seasons while the team featured 14 players who tallied at least 30 points (eight with 40+) and six players who notched at least 20 goals (13 with 13+).

Despite missing left-wing Andre Burakovsky in the postseason, they upset the defending champion Colorado Avalanche in seven games during the first round and pushed the Dallas Stars to the limit in the second, falling in Game 7. 19 of 20 Seattle skaters who appeared in the postseason recorded at least two points and nine tallied at least seven. Eight players scored at least three goals.

New Jersey Devils

Heading into the season having missed the postseason in four straight and starting 2022-23 with two straight regulation losses, New Jersey went 21-2-1 in their next 24 to vault themselves near the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

They would go through a few tough stretches after that but finished the season third in the Eastern Conference with a 52-22-8 record. After dropping the first two games of their first-round series against the New York Rangers, New Jersey came back to win the series in Game 7. Unfortunately, they got rolled by the Carolina Hurricanes in five games during the second round.

New Jersey had five skaters with at least 27 goals and 65 points, respectively, including center Jack Hughes (43 goals, 99 points). Center Nico Hischier tallied 31 goals and 80 points. In addition, the team finished eighth in the NHL in goals-against per game (2.71) and tied for fourth with Seattle in goals-per-game (3.52).

Hill — Vegas

After setting a career-high with just 27 regular-season games and making his postseason debut in Game 2 during the second round vs. the Edmonton Oilers, Hill went 11-4 with a .932 save percentage and 2.17 goals-against average. The 27-year-old posted a 16-7-1 record, .915 save percentage, and 2.50 goals-against average during the regular season. Vegas’ starter during the regular season was Thompson.

LW Matias Maccelli — Arizona Coyotes

The 98th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft finished the season with 38 assists and 49 points in 64 games, a 49-assist, 63-point pace over a full 82-game season.

D Erik Karlsson — San Jose Sharks

After not eclipsing 42 assists, 45 points, or 56 games-played, respectively, in any of his first four seasons in San Jose, the 33-year-old set career-highs in goals (25), assists, (76), and points (101) in 82 games. Karlsson is a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman for the regular season.

RW Tage Thompson — Buffalo Sabres

After popping off for 38 goals and 68 points in 78 games during the 2021-22 campaign (he did not have more than 14 points in a single season during his three-year NHL career prior), the 25-year-old broke out with 47 goals and 94 points in 78 games to almost get Buffalo into the postseason for the first time in 12 seasons.

G Linus Ullmark — Boston

The 27-year-old tied the NHL lead with 40 wins with Alexander Georgiev of Colorado and led it with a .938 save percentage and 1.89 goals-against average. Ullmark also tallied two shutouts and is expected to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie during the regular season later this month.

G Filip Gustavsson — Minnesota Wild

After getting acquired from the Ottawa Senators last July for goaltender Cam Talbot, the 25-year-old went 22-9-7 and finished second in the NHL in save percentage (.931) and goals-against average (2.10). Gustavsson also tallied a .921 save percentage and 2.33 goals-against average in five games during Minnesota’s first-round postseason series against Dallas.

Bobrovsky — Florida

The 34-year-old posted a .905 save percentage and 2.97 goals-against average in 185 regular-season games over his first three seasons in Florida.

Alex Lyon started the team’s postseason before Bobrovsky took over in the third period of Game 4 vs. Boston. From there, Bobrovsky went 11-2 with a .935 save percentage and a 2.21 goals-against average through the Eastern Conference Final.

However, after a nine-day layoff, Bobrovsky fell off, finishing the Stanley Cup Final against Vegas with an .844 save percentage and a 4.70 goals-against average.


Calgary Flames

Though the team lost left-wings Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau last July, they brought in Huberdeau, Weegar, and center Nazem Kadri, which should have been enough to remain a Stanley Cup contender. However, after a 5-1-0 start to the season, Calgary finished it with a 38-27-17 record and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs by two points. They also fired head coach Daryl Sutter, who won the Jack Adams in 2021-22 after leading Calgary to a Pacific Division title, and parted ways with GM Brad Treliving following the season.

Huberdeau — Calgary

After signing an eight-year contract extension ($10.5 million cap hit) a month following the trade from Florida, the 30-year-old finished with just 15 goals and 55 points in 79 games. Huberdeau tied for second in the NHL with 115 points and led it with 85 assists the season prior in Florida. In addition, he ranked second in helpers (243) and fourth in points (346) in 286 games over his final four campaigns in Florida. A large reason why Huberdeau’s production dropped was because of the way Sutter deployed him, as a checker. With a new coach in Ryan Huska on the way, expect Huberdeau to be one of the NHL’s top bounce back candidates for 2023-24.

G Jacob Markstrom — Calgary

The 33-year-old was the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy in 2022-23 and faced an average of only 27.1 shots-per-game during the regular season (tied for the eighth fewest among goaltenders who played at least 10 games). However, Markstrom finished the season with an .892 save percentage (tied for 61st of 79 goalies) and a 2.92 goals-against average (36th).

Vancouver Canucks

Following a 32-15-10 finish to the 2021-22 season under Bruce Boudreau and adding right-wing Ilya Mikheyev in free agency, Vancouver was expected to take a step forward this past season.

Instead, the team opened the season 0-5-2 where they blew leads in each of their first five games (three of which by multiple goals) and 18-24-3 before firing Boudreau on January 22 and trading captain Bo Horvat eight days later. They improved under Rick Tocchet but finished the season with a 38-37-7 record, missing the postseason by 12 points, and an average of 3.61 goals-against per game (25th). Vancouver also tallied a league-worst 71.6% penalty-killing efficiency.

G Jack Campbell — Edmonton Oilers

Signing the 31-year-old to a five-year contract ($5 million cap hit) appeared like a mistake from the very start as Campbell finished the season with an .888 save percentage (tied for 68th) and a 3.41 goals-against average (tied for 58th) in 36 games during the regular season. Edmonton gave rookie goaltender Stuart Skinner the keys in mid-November and never looked back.

C Evgeny Kuznetsov — Washington Capitals

The 31-year-old led Washington in assists (43) and finished third in points (55) in 81 games this past season after a bounce back season where he notched 54 assists and 78 points in 79 games in 2021-22. Kuznetsov also finished with a career-low -26 rating in a season where Washington recorded over 350 man-games lost due to injury. Players who missed significant time included center Nicklas Backstrom, right-wings Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie, and defenseman John Carlson. Captain Alex Ovechkin, defenseman Dmitry Orlov (before he was traded to the Boston Bruins on February 23), and goaltender Darcy Kuemper also were out at points due to injury.

LW Andrew Mangiapane — Calgary

After breaking out for 35 goals and 55 points during the 2021-22 season, the 27-year-old’s production fell back to earth with 17 goals and 43 points in 82 games.

C Ryan Johansen — Nashville Predators

The 30-year-old followed up a renaissance campaign where he finished with 26 goals and 63 points in 79 games with 12 goals and just 28 points in 55 outings this past season.

G Thatcher Demko — Vancouver

Following back-to-back seasons with a .915 save percentage and owning a 2.79 goals-against average in 99 games over that time, the 27-year-old went 14-14-4 with a .901 save percentage and 3.16 goals-against average. Though, Demko was limited to 32 games due to injury and did not play in front of a strong defensive team.

G Ville Husso — Detroit Red Wings

After establishing himself as an NHL starter with a .919 save percentage and 2.56 goals-against average in 40 games with the St. Louis Blues in 2021-22, the 28-year-old went 26-22-7 with an .896 save percentage and a 3.11 goals-against average in 56 games.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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5 Responses to Top Surprises And Disappointments From 2022-23 NHL Season

  1. Prevent Defense says:

    It’s worth asking: Was the Boston Bruins flame-out in the First Round of the Playoffs THE all-time NHL playoff disaster?

    I was among the many NHL fans who were delighted to see a Marchand-led team get their fesses kicked. But was it the worst of the other recent President’s Trophy catastrophes? Were the Alzner-Caps of 2009-10 the biggest offender?

    • redLitYogi says:

      Neither loss should diminish the accomplishments of those two teams. Put simply, the Caps of ’09-10 dominated the league that year and were far and away the best the NHL had to offer. It was a magical team derailed partly by the pressure of that excellence and the expectations it put on them and by their playing a team totally committed to a shut down style of play. The Bruins, likewise, were a team of historic excellence this season. Unfortunately for them age caught up with them in the end and they suffered not one but three key injuries. It is also clear that Florida was a team peaking at the right time. The fact that no playoff team has ever gone through such excellent opposition in the playoffs and made it through also makes it clear that Florida was a formidable opponent. They beat the teams with the three best records in the sport but then also had the injury bug in the end.

    • hockeydruid says:

      I understand where you are coming from however in the NHL the Presidents Cup winner is not usually the Stanley Cup winner. there have been 36 President Cup winners and of those 36 only 8 have won the Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks team of 12-13 were the last team to accomplish both. I wonder how much it takes out of a team to be that perfect and win enough games to win the Presidents Trophy and what they have left in the tank after the season . But I am glad, like you, that a team that has Marchand on it did not win the Cup. To answer your question about the biggest offender I think that there are 28 of them that are pretty equal The reason is if you are the best team that year and you don’t win the Cup does it really matter if there is another team that won 1 game more or less than you did? For me the Presidents Cup is something nice to have but totally meaningless when it comes to judging teams in the playoffs.

  2. novafyre says:

    Today Vinick sold a minority part of the Lightning. Lightning is now valued at $1.4 billion (Sens were just sold for under $1 billion). Vinick bought the team for $170 million in 2010.

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