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NHL: Five teams who must improve in 2023

The Boston Bruins have enjoyed a superb start to the 2022-23 NHL season, but there are a number of teams who need to improve their play as the New Year approaches.

Ottawa Senators

After missing the playoffs for five seasons straight, the Ottawa Senators made a significant investment in their team over the off-season in attempt to become more competitive.

However, the optimism has been short-lived as the Senators find themselves 11 points behind the final Wild Card spot into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Ottawa - 33/4 To Reach the Playoffs - are last in the Atlantic Division and with a 14-16-3 record are producing at a .470 points percentage which ranks 26th in the league.

The up for sale Senators have played with better consistency in December going 6-3-2 and had production from their biggest summer acquisition, Alex DeBrincat who had 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in that span.

Despite their recent upturn in form, Ottawa must improve at both ends of the ice in 2023, currently scoring an average of 3.03 per game (23rd) and conceding 3.21 (17th).

While they can take confidence in their 27.9% powerplay (fourth), their five-on-five numbers particularly won't be enough to close the hefty gap to the playoffs without significant improvement.

Nashville Predators

But for much better in 2023, the Nashville Predators are in great danger of having their streak of eight consecutive playoff appearances ended.

The Predators - 2/1 To Reach the Playoffs - are sixth in the Central Division (14-13-5) and playing at a point percentage rate of .516 which places them six points from the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.

The position is far below where Nashville would have expected to be after adding two-time winning Stanley Cup defenceman Ryan McDonagh and productive forward Nino Niederreiter in the off-season.

Scoring has been a major problem for the Predators who are averaging just 2.51 goals per game which is only better than the tanking Chicago Blackhawks.

Most notably Fillip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, Tanner Jeannot and Ryan Johnasen have taken a significant step back from the numbers they produced last season, and their powerplay has dropped from sixth in the NHL (24.5%) to 16.2% which is 29th in the league.

Goalies Juuse Saros and Kevin Lankinen are the main reason Nashville remain in the playoff hunt, helping to keep their goals allowed at 3.03 per game which ranks 16th.

Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers (18-15-2) face the opposite problem to the Predators, scoring plenty but conceding far too many.

Currently fifth in the Pacific Division and 5/16 To Reach the Playoffs, the Oilers are just one point behind rivals Calgary Flames for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.

The position is far from a disaster, but after making the Western Conference Final last season and splashing out on goalie Jack Campbell in the summer, the Oilers would have expected to take another step forward this season which hasn't yet materialised.

Connor McDavid leads the NHL for points (66), goals (30) and assists (36) with teammate Leon Draisaitl second for overall points with 56 (21 goals, 35 assists).

Their world-class production has helped the Oilers score an average of 3.60 goals per game which is third best in the NHL.

However, their average goals conceded currently stands at 3.46 which is 24th in the NHL. Similarly, their powerplay ranks first in the league (32.3%), but their penalty-kill is 26th (72.3%).

Campbell is 8-6-1 with a .876 save percentage and 4.02 GAA. His partner Stuart Skinner has provided the Oilers with some relief, going 10-9-1 with a .911 save percentage and 2.90 GAA, but a vast improvement will be needed on the defensive side if the Oilers are to have any chance of making another deep run in the playoffs.

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Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers enjoyed the best season in their history last year, winning the Presidents' Trophy with a 58-18-6 record and .744 points percentage.

After they were disappointingly swept aside by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the playoffs, coach Andrew Brunette was replaced by long-time Winnipeg Jet Paul Maurice and rugged forward Matthew Tkachuk was acquired from Calgary Flames to give them some much missing snarl.

Tkachuk has settled immediately and leads the Panthers with 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists), but his team-mates have misfired dropping from 4.14 average goals per game last season to 3.23 this (14th).

The Panthers, 20/23 To Reach the Playoffs, find themselves sixth in the Atlantic Division with a 15-16-4 record and .486 points percentage which is eight points behind the last Wild Card spot into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Pressure is mounting and the Panthers must re-discover themselves quickly in 2023 before time runs out.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets signed the biggest name available in free agency over the off-season in Johnny Gaudreau from the Calgary Flames.

Gaudreau scored a career best 115 points last season (40 goals, 75 assists) and, while he leads the Blue Jackets with 34 points (ten goals, 24 assists), his presence alone hasn't been enough to transform the fortunes of a team who are two years removed from the playoffs.

Columbus - 9/2 to have the Worst Regular Season Record - find themselves bottom of the Metropolitan Division (10-21-2) and 30th in the overall NHL standings.

In their defence, Columbus have been hit hard with injuries, not least to number one blue-liner Zach Werenski who has been ruled out for the season.

In their most recent fixture, the Blue Jackets had ten rookies in their line-up and, while the season is clearly now about their development, a pile of defeats is unlikely to serve them well.

To have an improvement, their goaltending will need to be much better, with Elvis Merzlikins struggling badly with a 4-8-0 record, .864 save percentage and 4.68 GAA.

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