Power Ranking the Most Important Trios for the 2012-13 NHL Season
After one of the most wild playoffs in National Hockey League history, the most important factor for the 2012-13 underdog teams is simply to make the playoffs.
As the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings proved, anything can happen once the playoffs begin.
The Kings finished a disappointing regular season with the second-worst offense in the league, which barely snuck them into the eighth seed in the playoffs. Behind the record-setting goaltending of Jonathan Quick, the Kings posted a 16-4 postseason record en route to the franchise's first Stanley Cup—whether anyone in Los Angeles realized it is regardless.
Headed into the 2012-13 NHL season, here are the 15 most important trios in the league...
Honorable Mention: Toronto Maple Leafs
Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf
While the Leafs boast one of the most booming fanbases in the entire National Hockey League, they have not brought home a Stanley Cup in over 40 years.
Regardless, fans will continue to pack the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and support their beloved Maple Leafs.
Going into the 2012-13 campaign, the most important players on the Leafs roster are Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel and captain Dion Phaneuf.
The trio were the most important pieces to the 2011-12 season; however, the Leafs missed a playoff spot by 12 points. If Toronto wants to make a much-needed run at Lord Stanley's Cup in the near future, the coaching staff will turn to the trio for more production.
No. 15: Carolina Hurricanes
Eric and Jordan Staal and Cam Ward
Since the historic Stanley Cup run in 2006, the Hurricanes have only made the playoffs once over six years.
Knowing that a change was an immediate need, the club traded for Penguins forward Jordan Staal, linking him up with his older brother and Carolina captain Eric.
Adding Jordan Staal will prove to be key for the Canes, as the 23-year-old is fresh off his coming-out party. In the 2012 playoffs, Jordan posted nine points in just six games. Hurricanes fans can only hope that the Staal duo will make up for a weak defense in front of goaltender Cam Ward.
No. 14: Edmonton Oilers
Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Edmonton's top three scorers are a combined 61 years old, so it's quite obvious why they pull all of the babes Western Canada has to offer.
Like Toronto, the Oilers are supported by a passionate fanbase despite lack of playoff success.
While Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins are poised for another high-scoring season, the Oilers organization will need to add more depth on defense to help put Edmonton back in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.
No. 13: Anaheim Ducks
Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry
In 2011-12, the Anaheim Ducks finished a disappointing season 15 points shy of a playoff spot.
In order to get the Ducks out of the fifth spot in the Pacific Division, the front office will need to finally dump Bobby Ryan to help team captain Ryan Getzlaf and his club get back into playoff contention.
From the future Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne to the former MVP, Corey Perry, Anaheim has the offense to pile up enough points to land a 2012-13 playoff spot.
No. 12: Ottawa Senators
Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson
From the franchise scoring leader in Daniel Alfredsson to Jason Spezza's alternate captaincy, the Ottawa Senators are poised for another Stanley Cup run.
In the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Sens nearly overpowered Henrik Lundqvist's New York Rangers in seven games.
However, aging forward Alfredsson is running out of time. Senators fans will look to the veteran forwards and budding star Erik Karlsson for a much-needed Stanley Cup run.
No. 11: Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards
After inking promising goaltender Jonathan Quick for 10 seasons, the Kings front office will need to light a fire under one of the worst offenses in the league.
While Los Angeles will look to repeat its first ever Stanley Cup championship, the rest of the Pacific Division will structure their game-plan around the Kings lack of scoring.
Throughout the 2011-12 regular season, the Kings finished with the second-worst offense in the entire league.
However, from the moment the playoffs began, the Kings looked like an entirely new team.
Behind record-setting goaltending from Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick, the Kings had little trouble winning games and finished the playoffs with an incredible 16-4 record.
If Quick continues the stellar play in the net, the Kings will be a true Stanley Cup contender for years to come.
No. 10: New Jersey Devils
Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias and Martin Brodeur
After an incredible Stanley Cup run, the New Jersey Devils are seeking a new captain, as their former team leader has moved to Minnesota.
Along with forwards Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias, the Devils will need goaltender Martin Brodeur to continue standing on his head to bring New Jersey another shot at Lord Stanley's Cup.
The 2012-13 regular season will be a great test to see how the club responds to losing its team captain and first-line center.
No. 9: San Jose Sharks
Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Antti Niemi
While the consistent play from Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Brent Burns will help propel the Sharks to another Pacific Division crown, fans of the fin will continue to pressure past Cup winners Dan Boyle and Antti Niemi to erase the "Cup pretenders" title.
No. 8: Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Braden Holtby
The Washington Capitals are the most over-scrutinized team in the National Hockey League.
From one of the best all-around players in recent history in Alexander Ovechkin to one of the most overrated players in the league in Mike Green, the Washington Capitals are considered failures until they bring the nation's capital a Stanley Cup.
On a more positive note, however, the Caps blossomed their third-string goaltender, Braden Holtby, into a playoff producing machine.
In the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Holtby out-dueled last year's Conn Smythe winner, Tim Thomas, in seven games, shining a light on a bright future for the Capitals defense.
No. 7: Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith
The Madhouse on Madison is in for another sellout season, as the Blackhawks have one of the most stacked rosters in the league.
From Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith anchoring the defense to the prolific scoring of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and captain Jonathan Toews, it would be a major shock if the Hawks miss the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
No. 6: Detroit Red Wings
Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard
After a disappointing run in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs and losing team captain Nick Lidstrom to retirement, the Red Wings are under a major microscope headed into the 2012-13 season.
In order for the Wings to rebound from their recent woes, the club will need to name either Datsyuk or Zetterberg team captain and continue riding the stellar regular season goaltending from Jimmy Howard.
No. 5: Vancouver Canucks
Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Cory Schneider
The reigning President's Cup Champions made a very early exit in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs despite being heavily favored to win Lord Stanley's Cup.
With starting goaltender Roberto Luongo unhappy and likely on his way out, the Canucks will turn to promising backup Cory Schneider and his three-year contract to continue bringing the Canucks their regular season success.
No. 4: Minnesota Wild
Dany Heatley, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter
After a surprising 4th of July, the Minnesota Wild vaulted into a playoff contender after the signings of free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
The Wild have been tremendously busy the past two offseasons, as they dealt Brent Burns and Marty Havlat to the Sharks for sniper Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in 2011.
On Independence Day in 2012, the Wild announced the free agent signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, instantly creating one of the best trio's in the NHL.
Minnesota is America's "State of Hockey," and hockey fans throughout the state finally have a promising roster to back the title.
No. 3: Philadelphia Flyers
Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger and Ilya Bryzgalov
I am a firm believer that had Chris Pronger been healthy for the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers would have won the 2012 Stanley Cup.
Backed by the league's top core of young talent in Braden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Matt Read, the Flyers lack depth at the defensive position without captain and future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger.
Claude Giroux is quickly blossoming into the league's top forward, while wingmate Scott Hartnell continues to develop with the utmost confidence.
From "G-Sus" to Pronger, the Flyers skaters are simply stacked. The most important piece, however, is goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
No. 2: Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury
Along with the Vancouver Canucks, the Pittsburgh Penguins were favored to win their conference, yet fell in the first round of the playoffs.
With captain Sidney Crosby back in full force, the Pens will need "Sid the Kid" and reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin to propel the Pens back to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Of course, their most important defensive piece remains in Marc-Andre Fleury, who failed to show up in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.
No. 1: New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards
Behind the prolific goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist, the New York Rangers are easily one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Luckily for Hank, the Rangers have two of the best forwards in the league in Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.
While both Richards and Gaborik are poised to break out for 100-point seasons, they are also two of the highest-paid players in the league, meaning the offensive production is a must in 2013.
If the Broadway Blueshirts can clean up the consistency in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Rangers are favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1994.