In hockey, it's hard to go from the outhouse to the penthouse, because playoff contenders refuse to move out.

Of the 16 teams that made the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs, 12 of them were in the midst of multiyear postseason appearance streaks. If you include the COVID-19 bubble qualification series in 2020 -- when the NHL allowed 24 teams to advance to the postseason -- the Pittsburgh Penguins haven't missed the playoffs since the 2005-06 season, when Sidney Crosby was a rookie. The Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators have eight-season streaks. The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs have qualified in six straight seasons.

The Colorado Avalanche (5), Tampa Bay Lightning (5), Carolina Hurricanes (4), St. Louis Blues (4), Edmonton Oilers (3), Florida Panthers (3) and Minnesota Wild (3) all have streaks going. The only postseason newbies last year: the Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers. And the Stars played for the Stanley Cup in 2020!

Meanwhile, take a look at the 10 worst teams at the end of the 2019-20 season. Only two have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs since then: the Montreal Canadiens, who emerged from the all-Canadian North Division to play for the Cup in 2021 before spiraling into a rebuild; and the Kings, who made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2017-18.

Yet every year, there's hope -- that one of the "sure things" falls down the standings to open up a playoff spot for an upstart. That one of the lottery teams is suddenly ahead of schedule on its rebuild and surprises with a playoff berth.

Here's a look at the most likely candidates to miss the playoffs -- and the most likely to leap into those open spots -- in each division for the 2022-23 season.



Most likely to miss: Toronto Maple Leafs

In their past two seasons, the Maple Leafs posted their two best regular-season points percentages in franchise history, including last season's .701 to earn them second in the Atlantic. Auston Matthews scored 60 goals and won his first Hart Trophy. Mitchell Marner had career bests in goals (35) and points (97). So did William Nylander, who scored 34 goals and 80 points. Their top four on defense remain solid. Their supporting cast at forward might be better year over year. GM Kyle Dubas, who doesn't have a contract beyond this season, has the Leafs' roster loaded, even if their heads are slamming against the salary-cap ceiling.

Except in goal.

The Maple Leafs amassed 115 points last season despite the 21st-best team save percentage in the NHL (.900), which would have been much worse than that were it not for Jack Campbell's .914 save percentage in 49 games. He's now a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Lacking other options, Dubas reshaped his goaltending battery into former Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov, whom Washington let leave as a restricted free agent, and former Senators goalie Matt Murray, whose relationship with Dubas dates back to their junior hockey days with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Over the past three seasons, Samsonov and Murray have combined for 7.4 goals saved above average. For comparison's sake, Boston netminders Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark combined for 45.7 goals saved above average in that span. Even last season's Leafs battery of Campbell and Petr Mrazek combined for 31.2.

Toronto is a team with Stanley Cup aspirations that is playing a hunch in goal. Even with Florida coming back to the pack and Boston nearing the closure of its contention window, that goaltending might have the Leafs on the shakiest ground. They've shown they can win despite their goaltending. But can they win despite this goaltending?