NHL Early Season Surprises and Disappointments
Five weeks have already skated by us during this early NHL season. To some, there have been a few teams that have been early surprises not only to fans but the rest of the league. With early-season surprises, there are also quite a few disappointing teams as well.
Surprise - New York Islanders (11-6) 2nd in Metropolitan Division, 4th in NHL
Without splashing a huge deal in the offseason, the Islanders are finding ways to win with their core.
Since Oct. 26, among NHL teams the Islanders lead in wins (nine), points (18), most (38), most 5v5 goals (25), most 5v5 shots on goal, and best 5v5 save percentage (.956).
In their last 10 games, New York is 8-2-0, being able to bounce back and stack multiple wins coming off the losses.
Mat Barzal is 3rd in the league in assists behind Nathan Mackinnon and Leon Draisaitl. Barzal has the most assists by a forward with zero goals through 17 games in NHL history, with 18 assists for 18 points.
Brock Nelson has been playing sharp leading the team in goals with 9 and tied for the team leader in points with Barzal at 18. Ilya Sorokin is 4th in the league in goals against average at 2.17 and tied for third in save percentage at .932.
Disappointment - Pittsburgh Penguins (6-7-3) 7th in Metropolitan Division, 24th in NHL
Although they blew a heart-breaking 3-1 lead in the first round, I thought this Pittsburgh team was going to regroup in the off-season and be another Metropolitan Division powerhouse.
The rough stretch has gone on for long enough, as the Penguins are just winners of two games in their last 11.
Sidney Crosby has not looked like himself out there, and Bryan Rust has gone cold turkey. Meanwhile, the fans aren’t letting anyone off the hook in this drought.
Pittsburgh’s defense has been getting worked for 60 minutes, given the struggles of the top defense pairing in Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin. What Coach Mike Sullivan needs to do is realign the pairs.
Lastly, goaltending has been a struggle for both stars Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith. Jarry has gone 0-3-2 and given up 24 goals, decreasing his other statistics on the year.
Surprise - New Jersey Devils (13-3) 1st in Metropolitan Division, 2nd in NHL
Vitek Vanecek has provided the team with much-needed consistency between the pipes, boasting a .915 save percentage.
Jesper Bratt is leading the way with 21 points through sixteen games, with Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and Dawson Mercer providing a level of speed many teams struggle to keep up with.
Nathan Bastian, Michael McLeod and Miles Wood have established the “BMW Line,” New Jersey’s identity line, known for its gritty, not pretty play style.
John Marino and the rest of the defense have been solid on the blueline and have improved greatly since last season.
After starting the season 0-2, head coach Lindy Ruff has found traction with his team, who have a +21 goal differential to show for, only being outshot twice through 16 games.
Disappointment - Colorado Avalanche (8-5-1) 3rd in Central Division, 16th in League
The reigning Stanley Cup champions do not look the same after parting ways with center Nazem Kadri and goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
Colorado’s first line of Nathan MacKinnon centering Artturi Lehkonen and Mikko Rantanen has been an absolute juggernaut with Cale Makar and Devon Toews on the back end, but the production of the other three lines has been lackluster.
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar has struggled to fill the voids of captain Gabriel Landeskog, and defensemen Kurtis MacDermid and Bowen Byram who are both week-to-week.
The Avs must become less top-heavy, remain healthy and stop playing down to bad competition in order to get back to the postseason.
Surprise - Seattle Kraken (8-5-3) 3rd in Pacific Division, 11th in League
Seattle has had a huge turnaround since its inaugural season last year. After a 27-49-6 record, the Kraken have improved over the offseason with the acquisitions of free-agent Andre Burakovsky and the trade for Oliver Bjorkstrand from Columbus.
Burakovsky leads the team in points, followed by Bjorkstrand and Jordan Eberle, who was claimed in the team’s expansion draft. Offensive productivity by players who weren’t on the inaugural team shows the strength of offseason moves and a desire to spend for the playoffs.
First-round draft pick Matty Beniers has been a huge addition for Seattle, getting time on the ice last season and playing on the second line alongside Eberle and Jared McCann.
Disappointment - New York Rangers (8-6-3) 4th in Metropolitan Division, 13th in League
The team that made an intense playoff run last season got off to a rather slow start this time around.
They opened the season with a well-fought win over the team that beat them in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since the first few games of the season, they’ve dropped to teams that they should have beat, like the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks.
Goalie Igor Shesterkin has looked decent for the Blueshirts, but the team as a whole has struggled in overtime play and shootouts.
Captain Jacob Trouba has yet to record a goal, and much of the scoring has been placed on the backs of Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox.
Surprise - Dallas Stars (9-5-2) 1st in the Central Division, 8th in the League
After finishing last season with a record of 46-30-6 the Dallas Stars made the Stanley Cup Playoffs but were eliminated in the first round by the Calgary Flames.
With a very good record and a promising future, things were looking on the rise for the Dallas Stars.
The start of this year is better than anyone could have predicted. During the NHL offseason, the Dallas Stars signed goaltender Scott Wedgewood to a two-year contract extension, and he has been an amazing backup for when he gets the call with a .903 save percentage. Dallas also signed a new head coach in Pete DeBoer.
Currently, the Dallas Stars are 9-5-2 and in first place within the Central Division. They are led in points by the young 23-year-old forward Jason Robertson who has 25 points in only 16 games and also has a +9 rating.
Disappointment - Washington Capitals (7-9-2) 6th in Metropolitan Division, 21st in the League
The Washington Capitals have always been a team that many fans refer to as a “powerhouse.” How could you not especially with a player like Alexander Ovechkin on your side?
After finishing last season with a record of 44-26-12, they were eliminated in the playoffs last year by the Florida Panthers.
Nonetheless, hockey fans everywhere thought they would still be a good team. As the start of the 2022-23 season would tell you that has just not been the case. With an aging core in Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Oshie the Capitals look to be a team falling off that is going to need a rebuild.
When the only positive thing going for this team is the “Great 8’s” goal chase, that should raise alarms.
Matt Cabram is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email
Owen Gelber is a first-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Adrianna Gallucci is a first-year student majoring in journalism. To contact her, please email email@example.com.
Chris Machado is a third-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Third / Broadcast Journalist