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In a Rebuilding Year, Can an NHL Team Make the Playoffs?

carolina hurricanes
When a team is in a rebuilding year, it's focus is usually on being successful. But is it possible for a team to also make the playoffs during that time?

arizona coyotes

Every sports team goes through a phase that includes rebuilding.  It’s not an easy time, because it usually means that they have lost some of their best talent, and that they also aren’t likely contenders for a championship.  I mean, that can’t be applied across the board, but it is certainly something that the team has to consider.  Some teams may end up with a lot of young talent, which is great, but veteran players are also necessary.  There are nearly a dozen teams in the NHL who are currently in the rebuilding phase of their career.  Although, some are refusing to call it that.  But when it comes to returning to the championships, who will that be?  Below we look at two teams that we think just might make the cut.

Carolina Hurricanes

They have 12 players who are 25 and under.  Under former general manager Ron Francis, the strategy was patience.  In fact, they held onto their draft picks and nurtured a collection of young defensemen.  Meanwhile, their team’s offense spun out of control. Don Waddell was part of that management team and has since taken over as general manager under new owner Tom Dundon. At the draft, the team made an aggressive deal for defenseman Dougie Hamilton, trading away Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm.  This strategy is mostly cost-effective and analytical.

The question that we’re trying to decide is if it’s working. The short answer is yes.  Or a strong “most likely”.  There are only two things that could hold this team back from a trip to the championships:  Ron Brind’Amour as novice head coach, and the goaltending of Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek.

Arizona Coyotes

They have 11 players who are 25 and under. GM John Chayka has utilized the Coyotes’ limited advantages in order to build his roster.  He’s used his draft choices boldly, and in one significant trade, he was able to get center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta from the Rangers.  In addition, he’s leveraged his cap space as an asset. Stepan and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (acquired in a trade from Chicago) were essentially cap casualties, while he also snagged picks and prospects for taking on the dead weight contracts of players like Pavel Datsyuk, Dave Bolland, Chris Pronger and most recently Marian Hossa. Chayka’s strategy has shifted a little bit and he’s now thinking long-term.

As I said earlier, Chayka’s biggest virtue is his patience. Is this strategy working?  Like in the instance of the Hurricanes, mostly.  The Coyotes posted the same standings points share (.427) in back-to-back seasons but dropped from sixth to eighth in their division.  The problem is that the Coyotes have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons, but on paper, this team seems to be building toward a collection of veterans in their prime. As well as some incredibly talented youth.

The question of whether or not they can make it to the playoffs is up in the air.  That said, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibilities.

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