The 2023-24 NHL season will include no shortage of games so electric that they provide a potent reminder of why hockey is one of the best spectator sports on the planet. It will also included some absolute duds.
Although there's no foolproof method for soaking up the best the NHL has to offer and shunning its least dazzling contests, you can give yourself the best odds of dodging the bad stuff by avoiding a few specific teams.
The Islanders aren't bad by any means. This is a team that made the playoffs in 2022-23, after all. They just play low-event hockey and their best player — by a significant margin — is their goaltender.
Watching Ilya Sorokin stand on his head can be fun at times, but it's hard to predict which games that will happen in as the Islanders are a middle-of-the-pack, solid shot-suppression squad that doesn't always need him to excel.
Bo Horvat adds a little spice to this team's attack, but he's not exactly a show-stopper, and he struggled to adjust to his new team last season.
There's not a lot of novelty outside of the former Canuck and superstar Mat Barzal on this squad. Not helping matters is the fact the Islanders' most notable transactions in the offseason were extensions for their own players.
When the most compelling player in your organization is in the KHL, it's a sign your NHL product might not be up to snuff.
Philadelphia has a few quality veterans on its roster, but the Flyers are not making a serious effort to win in 2023-24. Trade rumours are likely to fly around this club's established players all season long and that intrigue will make them interesting to follow — but not necessarily fun to watch.
Unlike some other teams that are a ways away from contending, Philadelphia's lineup doesn't include many young players in prominent roles — outside of blueliner Cam York. The next wave hasn't arrived yet, and it's going to take quite some time for the Flyers to become a threat in the Eastern Conference again.
While Philadelphia seems to be headed in the right direction, their road could be a long one, and 2023-24 is shaping up to be a season to forget.
The Habs should be healthier and more effective than they were in 2022-23, and their young core has a chance to drive internal improvement.
Even so, they are still extremely likely to be the worst team in the Atlantic Division and Cole Caufield is the only standout entertainer on the squad. There are other players who could reach that level, but the proof of concept isn't there.
The Arizona Coyotes made a strong bid for this spot, but Logan Cooley's rookie season brings intrigue, and the denizens of Mullett Arena could be more respectable than usual after a mini free-agent frenzy that included Jason Zucker, Matt Dumba, and Alex Kerfoot.
San Jose is in a similar predicament to the Flyers. This club is in the midst of a deep rebuild, but the exciting youngsters haven't arrived yet.
The primary difference between the two squads is that Philadelphia is likely to put a slightly more functional product on the ice. The Flyers had 15 more points than the Sharks last year — and San Jose doesn't project to improve much after trading away Erik Karlsson and not adding much to their NHL roster.
Anthony Duclair and Mike Hoffman might beef up the forward group, but neither is likely to move the needle for a struggling squad. While Mackenzie Blackwood is a worthy gamble between the pipes, he's coming off a rough three-year run in New Jersey.
The 2023-24 Sharks look like a collection of spare parts more than a team likely to either compete or entertain at a high level.
The Blues aren't among the NHL's worst teams, but they are a bit of a bummer. While there are plenty of remnants of the improbable 2018-19 champions, the team's competitive window has passed it by.
Every defenceman projected to be in this club's top-six is 29 or older — and was with the team last year — while Jordan Binnington has seen his save percentage decline in every season since the Blues won their title. That makes it tough to think the team will see much improvement on its bloated goals against mark from 2022-23, which is grim considering the Blues allowed 3.63 goals/game last season.