NHL playoff hockey has one absolute, and it's this: There are none. At least when it comes to teams populating the postseason field.
Every new season inevitably produces teams putting the league on notice (we've arrived!) while simultaneously issuing eviction notices (you're out!) to previous postseason incumbents.
Who doesn't love a little parity? And maybe a little hope: Could this season end a franchise's long playoff drought, or generate the Cinderella-like story of the eighth-seeded Florida Panthers careening their way to the Stanley Cup Final?
Let's break it down: Five teams reached the playoffs in 2023 who missed out in 2022. Those newcomers were the Seattle Kraken, Vegas Golden Knights, Winnipeg Jets, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.
(Yes, Vegas went from outhouse to penthouse in less than a calendar year. That's the power of sports, baby).
Since the NHL introduced its wild-card format in 2013-14, playoff team turnover has been fairly habitual, too. In the last nine full seasons (excluding that "bubble experience" from the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 campaign) there has been at least four fresh clubs entering the playoff picture.
As a result, certain teams fall out of the equation -- even ones we'd never expect. Like when Pittsburgh failed to reach the postseason last year for the first time since Sidney Crosby was a rookie in 2005-06. Will that be the Penguins' fate again this season? Or will they push a previous Eastern Conference contender out of the way?
Before that time comes, here's a look at teams most likely to sit outside the playoff mix -- and ones with an inside track to take over those vacant spots -- broken down by division.