Which teams could be hurt most by 2020-21 NHL division alignment?
On Monday, we took a look at the teams that could benefit most from the divisional temporary alignment for the 2020-21 NHL season.
Now let's look at the teams that are on the other side.
Buffalo Sabers (East Division)
The Sabers enter the 2020-21 season with a nine-year playoff drought, and it will take a Herculean effort on this list to prevent that drought from reaching a decade.
There is reason to be optimistic, yes. Jack Eichel is great, and they had a lovely off season on paper adding Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, and Cody Eakin to the list to add to their depth.
The problem? Their goalkeeper is still a major weakness, and the division's temporary realignment puts them into what is almost certainly the toughest of the four. All they have to do to make this season's playoffs is a better record than four of these teams: Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals.
While you only play against these teams on a 56 game schedule. This group includes four of the seven best teams in the NHL a year ago and five of the eleven best teams. The Sabers record against the teams in their new division during the 2019-20 season: only 6-9-1. Not good.
Regardless of division, the Sabers have always faced an uphill battle this season when it came to ending their playoff drought. But this task makes it much more difficult.
[Related: Teams That Might Benefit Most From Hosting NHL Division 2020-21]
New Jersey Devils (East Division)
Like the Sabers, this is a team desperately trying to reach the playoffs that are just stuck in the absolute nightmare of a division.
Corey Crawford and Mackenzie Blackwood should make a stellar goalkeeping duo, but will it be enough to walk the team through this schedule and put them in front of four of those teams?
Even in the Metropolitan Division, the Devils have come a long way to make the playoffs. But swapping Carolina for Boston and the division's playoff format is doing the Devils no favors.
Vegas Golden Knights (West Division)
A year ago, Vegas was in a division where only one other team finished within eight points and set a record among the top 17 teams in the league (that one team was Edmonton). They were by far the best team in the division, the runaway favorites, and would still be the same in a normal alignment.
[Related: Plans for NHL 56-game NHL season]
But this season? You will be transferred to a division that includes the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues, two of the top three teams in the league a year ago, and two legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. In addition to being able to finish in second or third place in the division, Vegas may have to survive two of the top teams in the league in the first rounds to advance to the semi-finals. Quite the challenge.
The Golden Knights are good enough to make it through this, but a big part of the Stanley Cup team is having good luck along the way. Getting the right matchups in the playoffs is part of that luck.
More NHL Offseason
PHT Morning Skate: Capital Cities Sign Conor Sheary; More trades soon? Reports: Predators surprisingly bring Mikael Granlund Lightning back Cernak, Rutta; The salary cap situation is still evolving
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk for NBC Sports. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.
Which teams could be injured the most by the time the 2020-21 NHL division hosts? originally published on NBCSports.com
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