7 NHL Teams Whose Bandwagons You'll Want to Hop off in 2012-13
Moments after the Los Angeles Kings finished skating around the Staples Center with the Stanley Cup, the 2011-12 season was declared over and preparations for the 2012-13 were underway.
All teams had to put the previous season behind them and start preparing for the NHL draft, free agency and potential trades.
One team, the Minnesota Wild, appeared to take a huge step up the NHL ladder by landing superstar free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter as free-agent signees in early July.
Other teams have failed to improve and have fallen down the mountain during the offseason. Here’s a look at seven NHL teams whose bandwagon you need to jump off in 2012-13.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings were jolted at the end of the season when they dropped their first-round playoff series to the Nashville Predators in five games. This was clearly not the way the Red Wings operate. They have been the most consistent NHL team since the 1990s and losing in the first round is clearly not the way they do business.
Shortly after the season ended, the Red Wings suffered an even bigger blow when they lost defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement after 20 brilliant seasons in Detroit. A good case can be made that Lidstrom was perhaps the second-best defenseman in NHL history behind Bobby Orr. Making up for his absence will be all but impossible.
The Wings were hoping to make a big splash in free agency by signing Ryan Suter and/or Zach Parise. They fell short with both players.
The Wings also lost shifty scorer Jiri Hudler to the Calgary Flames and that's not going to help the offense.
They still have a very talented roster led by Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, but the arrow is clearly pointing down for the Red Wings.
The Nashville Predators had become the little team that could.
The odds were against success from the moment the NHL announced it would put a team in the Honky Tonk in 1998, but that assessment never played out. General manager David Poile and head coach Barry Trotz had found a way to get the most out of their players and the team worked itself into the hearts of many of the country music capital's residents.
The Predators had become a key factor in the NHL's Western Conference, and they were at their best when they defeated the Detroit Red Wings in their first-round playoff series this year.
After that win, the Preds could not capitalize on their momentum and dropped a second-round series to the Phoenix Coyotes.
A couple of weeks later, the Predators are considering an even bigger loss as superstar defenseman Shea Weber has signed a $100 million offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers (source: TSN.ca). The Predators will have the opportunity to match the deal, but it's clear Nashville has been fighting a losing battle in the offseason.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils were hockey overachievers last season.
Not only did the Devils make it back to the playoffs following a disastrous 2010-11 season, but also they ripped through the Eastern Conference playoffs and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
However, once they got to the championship round against the Los Angeles Kings, it's been a downhill slide for the Devils.
Not only did they lose in six games, they took a major body blow when superstar forward Zach Parise decided to leave the Devils in free agency so he could return to his home state of Minnesota and sign with the Wild.
Parise was the best player on the Devils and he played with passion and relentlessness on an every-night basis. His quick skating and ability to get off a shot with ease has made him one of the most dangerous players in the game.
While the Devils lost Parise, future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur re-signed with the team after considering signing elsewhere. They also brought back No. 2 goalie Johan Hedberg and defenseman Bryce Salvador, but the loss of Parisewill cause the Devils to lose ground in 2012-13.
The Phoenix Coyotes are the troubled children of the NHL.
Potential owner Greg Jamison withstood one potential challenge when a petition drive failed to garner enough signatures to challenge the Glendale City Council's support of the franchise. The only thing that must happen now to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix is that Jamison must show that he has the cash to take control of the franchise. As of mid-July, the NHL was still waiting for Jamison to show the NHL the money.
The Coyotes are waiting on Shane Doan to decide if he wants to remain with them (source: Chuck Pleiness of Macomb Daily) or move elsewhere. Doan is the franchise's signature player and he has expressed loyalty. However, if the team's future in Phoenix is not secure—and this is why Jamison has to step up quickly—Doan is quite likely to move on. Detroit seems a likely option at this point if he does decide to leave the desert.
The Florida Panthers were one of the surprise teams in the NHL last season. They finished the regular season as the Southeast Division champions, beating out the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
General manager Dale Tallon did an outstanding job of turning one of the NHL's tail-enders in 2010-11 into a competitive team that was prepared to play every night.
While the Panthers played hard on a consistent basis, they took advantage of a poor season by the Lightning. Tampa Bay had made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins in 2010-11 before falling apart in 2011-12. The Lightning will have every chance to bounce back with Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier leading the way.
Adam Oates takes over behind the bench in Washington, and if he can create an untroubled atmosphere, the Capitals should also be a factor in the division race.
That means the Panthers may have to improve just to stay close to those two rivals. Losing puck-moving defenseman Jason Garrison will not help. Garrison signed with the Vancouver Canucks in free agency.
San Jose Sharks
The window of opportunity is closing for the San Jose Sharks.
While the Vancouver Canucks have been criticized for their failure to bring home the Stanley Cup, the Sharks have never even made it out of the Western Conference.
The Sharks are getting older and their leadership has never taken the steps to climb up the ladder and seize the opportunity.
After the Chicago Blackhawks failed to bring back goalie Antti Niemi following the team's Stanley Cup triumph in 2010, the Sharks signed him hoping he would give them the ability to win big games. Niemi has yet to match his Chicago performance.
Then there's Joe Thornton. He was a postseason failure in the first part of his career with the Boston Bruins. Since coming to San Jose his numbers have been better in the playoffs, but there's no denying that the Sharks are postseason disappointment. Their best all-around player needs to be held accountable for failure after failure.
It seems unlikely that the 33-year-old Thornton will suddenly turn tiger and finally lead the Sharks to glory. It's time to jump off this bandwagon.
The good will from the 2010 Stanley Cup victory has all but dissipated in the Windy City.
Chicago fans still have their memories, but the last two seasons have been disappointing. They dismantled their Stanley Cup championship team in the summer of 2010 due to salary-cap issues and they have done little since to make up for those losses.
General manager Stan Bowman made a too-little, too-late pitch to Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils during free agency and he also went after goalie Martin Brodeur. The Blackhawks were never really in the picture for the future Hall of Famer.
Then there's the case of Patrick Kane. The former No. 1 draft pick is one of the most skilled players in the league but he has only scored as much as 30 goals once in his career. He seems more devoted to offseason partying (source: Chicago Sun-Times) than he does to preparing for the 2012-13 season.
This team seems destined to be a middle-of-the-pack Western Conference team once again. Get off that bandwagon.