All 32 NHL teams will try to start fast when the puck drops in October on the 2022-23 regular season. A winning record within the opening weeks can set the right tone for the remainder of the season. Those early points could also make the difference in the race for a playoff berth down the stretch in late March and early April.
Some teams, however, have glaring roster weaknesses that could send them stumbling out of the gate unless they're suitably addressed in training camp and the preseason.
Some, such as the Montreal Canadiens, are rebuilding teams with several critical problems that could require more than one season to fix. Others, such as the Vegas Golden Knights, are hoping to bounce back into playoff contention after a disappointing 2021-22.
Here are six NHL teams that could be poised for a disastrous start to the coming campaign.
Much of the focus on the Arizona Coyotes ahead of this season is their move into the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena at Arizona State University while awaiting the hoped-for construction of a new arena in Tempe by 2025-26. It's helped to overshadow the fact that the Coyotes were awful last season and could be again in 2022-23.
General manager Bill Armstrong has engaged in a major roster rebuild since taking over the role in September 2020. He's made several trades, shipping out veterans Darcy Kuemper, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland and Christian Dvorak for draft picks and young players to restock his prospect pipeline.
The result saw the Coyotes finish with last season's second-worst record with 25 wins and 57 points in 82 games. Their 2.51 goals-per-game average was the league's lowest, while their 3.77 goals against and 13.9 power-play percentage were each third-worst.
Armstrong and head coach Andre Tourigny will need scoring leader Clayton Keller (leg fracture) and top defenseman Jakob Chychrun (ankle) to make full recoveries from season-ending injuries. They'll also require breakout performances from youngsters such as Barrett Hayton and Conor Timmins as well as improved goaltending depth behind starter Karel Vejmelka.
Even if those things come through, the Coyotes remain a team very much in the midst of a rebuild, as they lack experienced NHL talent throughout the lineup.
The Chicago Blackhawks know only too well how a bad start can affect a season. They had just one win (1-9-2) in their first 12 games in 2021-22 before they replaced head coach Jeremy Colliton with Derek King on Nov. 7. The Blackhawks showed some improvement under King with 27 wins, 33 losses and 10 overtime losses but still finished outside the playoff picture.
Kyle Davidson took over the full-time duties as general manager on March 1 with the intent of rebuilding. He replaced King with Luke Richardson and shipped out Brandon Hagel, Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach with the focus on getting back draft picks and prospects.