The day your favorite team’s season is done is when the months of speculation and predictions begin. Offseason additions and subtractions will fuel countless articles and heated discussions. The success of signings and trades remain purely speculative until the season begins, and your team stumbles or flies out of the gate. The experienced fan never gets excited over trivial things like preseason success. The seasoned fanatic wisely lets the first 20-30 games go by before passing any judgement. Right around the Christmas trade freeze, every team should know: where they stand, what they have, and most importantly, what they need. Whether to get out of the basement, into the playoffs, become a cup threat, or keep that cup winning team together, sometimes one piece is all you need.
The New York Islanders famously began their four cup dynasty after picking up “the final piece to the puzzle”, Butch Goring. More recently, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were significant pieces added to the L.A. Kings immediately before they won two cups in three years. A team like Tampa Bay sits near the top of the East and would be wise to add a missing piece in their quest for the cup. A perpetual bottom feeder like Edmonton should attempt some sort of move to stop the bleeding and show the fan base they are at least trying.
Really, besides the actual game itself, nothing is more interesting in the NHL than trades. This list will highlight every team in the league’s biggest need as they reach this pivotal point of the season.
30 Anaheim Ducks: Health and playoff depth
29 Arizona Coyotes: A goal scorer
28 Boston: Scoring winger
27 Buffalo Sabres : Good return on players leaving town
26 Calgary Flames : A scoring forward
25 Carolina Hurricanes : Connor McDavid
24 Chicago Blackhawks : Cap space
23 Colorado Avalanche : A quality defenceman
Colorado flew high last season finishing second in the West. It turned out to be a little too close to the sun as they have crashed back down to earth, also known as 12th place. Colorado is 22nd in goals for, even though they are blessed with young offensive talent that should eventually get back to their scoring ways. They've also allowed the eighth most goals, although they have a former Vezina candidate in Semyon Varlamov tending the nets.
22 Columbus Blue Jackets: A lottery pick with dignity
21 Dallas Stars : A solid veteran D-man
Only three defenders in Dallas have played over 300 games. They decided to run with the youth and even dumped Sergei Gonchar’s contract earlier this season. Instead of trading for or signing some defensive help, the Stars' owner used his words to improve the team instead, stating “I think for people to criticize our defence is flat wrong”. Dallas is finding out that belief alone doesn’t keep the puck out of the net.
20 Detroit Red Wings: Tyler Myers
19 Edmonton Oilers : A quality stay-at-home defenseman
18 Florida Panthers : An elite scorer
Nick Bjugstad led the Panthers in scoring last season with 38 points, and it was not a lockout year. This year, he’s currently on pace to lead the team again with just over 40 points. Heck, it takes them 20 rounds to win a shootout! Their highest paid forward is defensive specialist Dave Bolland. This team needs serious help scoring. GM Dale Tallon has solidified the goaltending and has an exciting young group of defencemen to work with. Maybe he can bring in some more ex-Blackhawks during Chicago’s next scheduled salary dump. Tallon was responsible for most of the Chicago roster that won two cups, and his magic is starting to work in Florida. It should be very interesting to see what he comes up with for the Panthers.
17 L.A. Kings : Trading partner for Mike Richards
16 Minnesota Wild: A stop-gap number-one goalie.
15 Montreal Canadiens : A second-pairing defenseman
14 Nashville Predators: Top-six forward
13 New Jersey Devils : A young scoring forward
12 New York Islanders : A solid back-up goaltender
11 New York Rangers : Another goal-scorer
10 Ottawa Senators : Another goal scorer
9 Philadelphia Flyers : A top-pairing defenceman
8 Pittsburgh Penguins : Scoring depth
7 San Jose Sharks : Reliable fourth liners
6 St. Louis Blues : Trading partner for Patrick Berglund
5 Tampa Bay Lightning : A gritty vet for a playoff run
4 Toronto Maple Leafs : New leadership
3 Vancouver Canucks : A young quality defenceman
2 Washington Capitals : A new captain
1 Winnipeg Jets : A top-four or better defenceman
The Jets usual top-four defensemen Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom, Jacob Trouba and Mark Stuart are all injured, leaving the Jets in a very tough spot. Lucky for them, they have extremely versatile and extremely large Dustin Byfuglien, who can switch back to defense for the time being. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff managed to acquire Jay Harrison for sixth rounder to help out in the meantime as well. But with goaltender Ondrej Pavelec proving to be less than elite, they could still use one more solid vet in that top four. The bad news is that half the league could use another player of that description. Who knows, the Jets weren’t poised to contend for the cup anytime soon, so maybe they ride out the decimation of defense into a lottery pick, making the conservative Cheveldayoff look like a genius in the end.
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