10 NHL Teams with the Most Question Marks This Offseason
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Teams like the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins are in need of some tinkering during the offseason. A free-agent pick-up here, a trade there and possibly creating some competitive situations in training camp should prepare those teams for successful runs during the 2012-13 seasons.
But there are a lot of teams that need a lot more than minor adjustments to have productive seasons in 2012-13. Here's a look at the 10 teams with the most questions during the upcoming season.
No. 10: Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are trying to go from the division cellar to a playoff spot in 2012-13.
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
The Carolina Hurricanes were not a bad team in 2011-12. They swept the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in four games last season. Despite that, they finished in last place in the Southeast Division and missed the playoffs again.
They made a big move on draft day in acquiring center Jordan Staal from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Staal gets to play with his brother, Eric Staal, but will this move be the impetus for a climb up the standings for the team?
Head coach Kirk Muller seemed to have a positive impact after replacing Paul Maurice behind the bench. How will he do in his first full season as Carolina's head coach?
Where will the goal scoring jump come from? The Hurricanes scored 213 goals last season, a figure that was exceeded by all but three teams in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes need to play more of a puck-possession game to help out goalie Cam Ward.
Can the Hurricanes improve their performance in shootouts? They were only 1-6 in the end-of-game battles lat season
No. 9: Tampa Bay Lightning
General manager Steve Yzerman wants his team to perform more consistently.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Few teams were more impressive in the 2010-11 season than the Tampa Bay Lightning. They played consistently from start to finish, rode the scoring of Steven Stamkos and battled all the way to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals.
General manager Steve Yzerman and head coach Guy Boucher thought the Lightning would pick up where they left off last season. It didn't work out that way. A poor start left them buried and while there were occasional surges in the second half of the season, they didn't even make the playoffs.
If they are going to return to the playoffs, they are going to need a top-level goaltender. The Lightning struggled badly when it came to keeping the puck out of their own net. They were dead last in the Eastern Conference with 281 goals allowed. At this point, Yzerman must pull off a trade or make a move in the free-agent market to help the defense.
Can Marty St. Louis remain a viable scorer in the NHL? St. Louis, 37, has a lot of mileage on a small body and you have to wonder how many more hits he can take.
Can defenseman Victor Hedman step up and become a superstar. Hedman needs to play like a No. 1 defenseman, yet he had a minus-5 plus-minus rating last season.
No. 8: Anaheim Ducks
Mike Ridewood/Getty Images
The Ducks finished in last place in the Pacific Division. A slow start that cost Randy Carlyle his job doomed them and they brought in Bruce Boudreau to turn the situation around. Boudreau had a difficult time instituting a strong defensive system during his tenure with the Washington Capitals. It may be a struggle for him to do the same with the Ducks.
Will high-scoring Teemu Selanne come back for yet another season? If so, will he be an effective scorer? The Ducks have made it known that high-scoring Bobby Ryan is on the trade market. Will they be able to make an effective trade or will they pull him back? Either way, how will that move impact team chemistry?
Did the Anaheim Ducks blow it by drafting defenseman Hampus Lindholm with the No. 6 pick in the draft? He was expected to go in the middle of the first round and general manager Bob Murray may have reached a little to far to select him.
Is Jonas Hiller a strong enough No. 1 goalie? Center Ryan Getzlaf had an impressive 46 assists last year, but can he score more than 11 goals?
No. 7: Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers' crew of explosive young talent is expected to turn the team around.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Once again, the Edmonton Oilers ended up near the bottom of the league. They lucked out in the draft lottery and had the No. 1 pick for the third straight year.
That allowed them to select Nail Yakupov, an explosive skater and scorer who has patterned his game after former Russian star Pavel Bure. Will Yakupov be able to make the jump to the NHL and become an impact player quickly?
The Oilers are loaded with young talent. In the previous two drafts, they selected Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the No. 1 selections. Prior to that, they picked explosive Jordan Eberle. How much longer will it take this overwhelming talent to mesh and for the Oilers to live up to the talent level?
Speaking of Hall, he ended the season with a shoulder injury. Will he be 100 percent and ready to go at the start of the season?
Will the Oilers learn to play on the road? They were often overwhelmed when playing away from home, recording a 14-23-4 record.
No. 6: Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are still trying to move Rick Nash.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
It's clearly not going well for the Columbus Blue Jackets. They finished with the worst record in the league last season at 29-46-7 and they never could put anything together following a miserable start.
Sometime around midseason, general manager Scott Howson made the decision that the team would be better off rebuilding and that included trading superstar Rick Nash. The big left wing was expected to be the top prize at the trade deadline, but Howson's asking price proved to be too much for teams like the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.
With the offseason well underway, Nash is still on the Columbus roster and it seems that Howson is asking too much. Will they ever move Nash and get an acceptable package?
By holding on to Nash for so long, questions have to be asked about Howson. There are many areas to fix and he can't even take the first step by trading Nash. Is he the right man for the job?
The Blue Jackets played better in the second half under head coach Todd Richards, who took over from Scott Arniel. Can Richards lead the team out of the abyss for a full season?
Will new goalie Sergei Bobrovsky provide the Blue Jackets with competent play in the net?
No. 5: Montreal Canadiens
The pressure on Marc Bergevin will begin immediately.
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
A non-playoff season is simply not acceptable in Montreal. That's just what the Canadiens endured and they cleaned house as a result. Marc Bergevin takes over as general manager and there's not going to be much of a honeymoon period. That's just the way it is in Montreal.
Hockey's winning-est franchise has not won a Stanley Cup since 1993 and there are many weaknesses. The biggest one would seem to be the inability to put the puck in the net. Max Pacioretty and Eric Cole are legitimate scorers, but who will step up and join them. Tiny David Desharnais has quickness and explosiveness, but he has not shown the consistency at this point.
Who will take some of the pressure off of Carey Price? It seems that most nights Price has to shut out Canadiens' opponents or hold them to one goal if the Canadiens are going to win. Price has great ability but no goalie can work under those circumstances consistently.
Can defenseman P.K. Subban play strong enough defense and dominate on offense? He had seven goals last year but he should be able to score more.
What will the Canadiens do with defenseman Tomas Kaberle and center Scott Gomez, two of the most disappointing players in the league?
No. 4: New York Islanders
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wants a new home for the Islanders.
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
The New York Islanders have a history that includes a run of four straight Stanley Cup championships in the 1980s. They also have had some brilliant players who made those memories happen. Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Billy Smith and Butch Goring are among the team's all-time greats.
However, if it were not for that history, the Islanders would be among the most insignificant franchises in sports. Start off with the fact that they are a distant third in the three-team market that is the New York metropolitan area. They play in an arena that is no longer deemed good enough for a major league franchise.
Owner Charles Wang has been trying to work out a new arena plan for years but he has grown frustrated. The Islanders are scheduled to play a preseason game in the Nets' new home in Brooklyn, but this team has been on the list of teams that could move for several seasons.
In addition to their lack of security, the Islanders can't seem to make much progress in the Eastern Conference. They have a star in John Tavares, but when will he get enough support so the Islanders can contend for a playoff spot?
Did the Islanders reach by drafting defenseman Griffin Reinhart with the No. 4 pick? Central Scouting had him rated as the No. 1 prospect.
No. 3: New Jersey Devils
Will Zach Parise leave the Devils during free agency?
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
The New Jersey Devils had a brilliant turnaround in 2011-12 after missing the playoffs the previous season. They finished the regular season as the No. 6 team in the East and outlasted the Florida Panthers in the first round of the playoffs.
They followed that series win with impressive victories over the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers. They extended the Los Angeles Kings to six games before falling in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Nevertheless, the Devils are loaded with questions. The biggest one concerns the team finances. Will the Devils remain solvent or will the league have to take the team over and run it the way it does the Phoenix Coyotes?
What will happen to free agent Zach Parise? The high-scoring forward enjoys playing in New Jersey and has said he will not sign with the Rangers. However, will the Devils' poor finances prevent him from staying with the Devils? Will he sign with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia or Minnesota? What will the Devils do if he leaves?
How much longer will Marty Brodeur play goal for the Devils? He had a reasonably good season and was strong in the playoffs but Brodeur, 40, can't go on forever.
Can forward David Clarkson repeat the 30-goal season he had a year ago? He gave the Devils the kind of supplemental scoring needed for teams to win consistently.
No. 2: San Jose Sharks
The window of opportunity appears to be closing on the Sharks.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The San Jose Sharks have been one of the lead franchises in the Western Conference for years. It seems the Sharks are perennial contenders with the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings for the conference title.
However, they have never gotten out of the conference and have never made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Despite star power that has included Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle, something always prevents the Sharks from playing their best game during the postseason.
Much of the blame usually falls on the shoulders of Thornton, who has never been a stellar performer in the postseason, either with the Sharks or the Boston Bruins. You have to wonder if the Sharks still remain a legitimate championship contender.
There are indications that the window is closing. They made the playoffs as the No. 7 seed and were easily dispatched by the St. Louis Blues. Is it possible that they could still turn it around after years of frustration?
Is goalie Antti Niemi as good as the Sharks thought he was when they signed him after the 2009-10 season? He won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks, but he has looked quite ordinary since then. Niemi had a 2.42 goals against average last season
No. 1: Phoenix Coyotes
The Coyotes playoff success was quite unexpected.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Like the New Jersey Devils, the Phoenix Coyotes enjoyed surprising postseason success, but there are still tons of questions surrounding the franchise.
The questions begin with ownership. The NHL appears to have the framework of a deal in place with Greg Jamison, but there are still hurdles to cross before the deal is completed.
If the deal does not get completed, can the team possibly remain in Arizona? Quebec is clamoring for a team and Seattle has made noises to get an NHL franchise as well. Would the team move to either of those cities? Also, when would such a move take place.
If Jamison is successful, will the team change its name? Jamison has indicated he wants to call the team the Arizona Coyotes, which would follow baseball's Diamondbacks and football's Cardinals. The Coyotes play in Glendale. They haven't played in Phoenix since 2003.
On the ice, the Coyotes could face several key free-agent losses. Forwards Shane Doan and Ray Whitney are both free agents and both have leadership value as well as talent. Other free agents they could lose include Taylor Pyatt, Daymond Langkow, Adrian Aucoin and Michal Rozsival.