NHL Power Rankings 2012-13: Which Team's Top Scorer Is Most Crucial to Success?

Dan Kelley@@dxkelleyCorrespondent IIAugust 24, 2012

NHL Power Rankings 2012-13: Which Team's Top Scorer Is Most Crucial to Success?

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    A great hockey club knows the importance of team chemistry, great goaltending, reliable defense and overall toughness, but when it comes down to it, there is nothing quite as exciting or important as scoring.

    After all, it's impossible to win a game without ever putting the puck in the net.

    The onus is on the organization to build a strong offense, and to designate certain players around whom the offense can be built.

    This list looks at each team's reigning top point producer and ranks a combination of their offensive capabilities and their importance to the team in 2012-13.

    Some players are crucial parts of offense-heavy teams, expected to carry the workload in the offensive zone. Other players are merely the most productive members of a more balanced offense, and thus, they are not quite as important.

    Let's see where your team's biggest producer ranks in this year's list of incumbent point leaders.

30. Vaclav Prospal, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 16G/39A/55P

    The Blue Jackets' offense was not horrible last season, but with Rick Nash departing for the New York Rangers, this group will be looking for a big-time producer.

    Prospal had the highest point total of any player on the current roster, which is a sign of just how anemic Columbus's offense will be. Things are going to get worse in Ohio before they get better.

29. Radim Vrbata, Phoenix Coyotes

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 77 GP 35G/27A/62P

    Vrbata put up an impressive 35 goals in 2011-12, but he is hardly the sort of player that you would build an offense around.

    His 62 points were a career high, but can he really put up another breakthrough year amidst the turmoil of Phoenix's ownership situation and the possibility of Shane Doan's exit from the franchise?

28. Martin Erat, Nashville Predators

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 71 GP 19G/39A/58P

    Martin Erat played the fewest games of any player on this list, and still managed to lead the Predators with a very modest 58 points.

    Nashville's offense is extremely balanced, making Erat a less crucial part of the equation.

27. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 80 GP 17G/47A/64P

    Wheeler finished 2011-12 atop the Jets' list of scorers, beating out players like Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien.

    Still, his 64 points show just how modest Winnipeg's offense was. A major jump in Wheeler's production would not only help the Jets, but it would also make a statement for Wheeler, who is due for an extension.

26. TJ Oshie, St. Louis Blues

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 80 GP 19G/35A/54P

    Oshie finished tied with Backes for the team lead, with Oshie's 54 points in two fewer games proving the more impressive of the two.

    Either way, the defense-first style of play in St. Louis begs the conclusion that Oshie's offensive production will not be a focal point for the Blues. As long as the Halak/Elliott combo remains impenetrable, St. Louis will have no problem competing for another Central Division title.

25. Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 26G/40A/66P

    It's hard to believe that a 41-year-old winger led the Ducks in scoring last season, but that may serve as evidence for why Anaheim was overjoyed to hear that Selanne was putting off retirement for another year.

    But with Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry still on the roster, there is no reason for Selanne to be the center of the offense. If those three forwards do not step up, this team is in trouble.

24. Ray Whitney, Dallas Stars

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 24G/53A/77P

    Whitney joins Selanne in the 40-and-over club, and his stats last year with Phoenix were good enough to make him the highest 2011-12 point producer on the Stars' current roster.

    Still, Whitney's role is one of mentorship, not necessarily production. The focus of the offense will be on Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder and Jamie Benn, making Whitney's offensive characteristics less critical to the franchise.

23. Tomas Fleischmann, Florida Panthers

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 27G/34A/61P

    Like many of Florida's offseason acquisitions, Fleischmann turned out to be a pleasant surprise in 2011-12, setting career marks in goals, assists and points.

    Still, it's hard to view Fleischmann as a bona fide star, and the Panthers made the playoffs thanks more to the mediocrity of their division than their own performance. It will take more than another 61-point year from Fleischmann for the Panthers to build upon their success.

22. P.A. Parenteau, Colorado Avalanche

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 80 GP 18G/49A/67P

    Colorado signed Parenteau to a four-year, $16 million deal this offseason, considered by some to be a major steal given his 67-point season with the Islanders.

    Parenteau will be another cog in the balanced offensive wheel of the Avalanche, which looks primed to see big seasons from Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and others.

    Parenteau's importance in the system cannot be denied, but he is not a truly critical player for the Avs.

21. Jason Pominville, Buffalo Sabres

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 30G/43A/73P

    Pominville returned to form in 2011-12, playing in all 82 games and eclipsing 30 goals and 70 points for the first time since 2006-07.

    He will carry much of the burden for the Sabres this season, whose 213 goals were fifth worst in the Eastern Conference. Players like Ville Leino and Tyler Ennis will need to step up over the course of the season, but it will be Pominville's lead they will be following.

20. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 22G/47A/69P

    Zetterberg's Red Wings face a new type of year with the losses of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart from the defense.

    With the team's blue line weakening, Zetterberg will be relied upon to make Detroit a more potent offensive team. He will have help from players like Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula, but he may need to build upon his 69-point 2011-12 campaign to keep Detroit competitive.

19. Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 78 GP 34G/42A/76P

    It's no secret that Eberle is part of a soon-to-be highly potent Edmonton offense, with players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov slated to skate alongside Eberle in the top six.

    However, while Eberle is not the only offensive powerhouse on the team, his near point-per-game pace in 2011-12 makes him the most valuable. Combine that with the team's questionable defense and goaltending, and Eberle, despite not being the only young gun in the lineup, has plenty of pressure going into the new season.

18. Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 41G/35A/76P

    Gaborik scored a goal every other game in 2012, but don't expect a repeat of his 41 goals in 82 games. Shoulder surgery could keep him out through November and into December.

    In addition to presumed time lost, Gaborik's role will be eased by the presence of Rick Nash, who came to the Rangers last month. These factors will combine to drop the guy who finished third in the league in goal scoring last season to the bottom half of this list.

17. Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 79 GP 33G/32A/65P

    Pacioretty's 33 goals were enough to land him a six-year contract from the Canadiens, making him one of the few bright spots on an otherwise struggling offense.

    The rise of David Desharnais should keep Pacioretty putting up points, but it would take a superhuman contribution to dig the lowly Canadiens out of the Eastern Conference basement.

16. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 24G/46A/70P

    Carolina needs more than just bigger offensive contributions to turn the franchise around, but when it comes to putting up points, Eric Staal is clearly in command.

    Staal has amassed between 70 and 82 points each season since his absurd 100-point sophomore campaign in 2005-06, and who knows how his productivity will change now that brother, Jordan, is playing on the same team?

    Still, it is going to take some hard work on defense for Staal's point total to mean anything.

15. Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 81 GP 29G/38A/67P

    It's hard to fathom that the leading scorer for the mighty Boston Bruins was a sophomore who only put up 67 points, but that gives you an idea of how dangerous this team is.

    Seguin is undeniably on his way to becoming one of the premier scorers in the NHL, but it's hard to rank him higher knowing that players like Bergeron, Krejci, Lucic and Marchand all contributed significantly to Boston's 269 goals last season, good for second in the NHL.

14. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 78 GP 38G/27A/65P

    Who would've thought Ovechkin would ever be ranked 14th on a list of point producers and their importance to their teams?

    Ovechkin's 38 goals are nothing to scoff at, but his 65 points were 20 points off his previous career low of 85. With Washington finally shifting to a defensive-minded squad, Ovechkin's dynamic offensive abilities are becoming less and less critical to the success of the team.

13. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 25G/51A/76P

    While Kopitar's 76 points seem modest to the untrained eye, keep in mind that he contributed to 39 percent of the goals scored by the Kings in the regular season.

    The first-line centerman is clearly the biggest offensive influence on a team that relies on defense and goaltending. On a team this defensively sound, Kopitar doesn't need to break 80 points to be a highly valued offensive player.

12. Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 32G/35A/67P

    Iginla has been the top offensive contributor on the Flames for years, and with Olli Jokinen gone, the offensive burden sits squarely on this 35-year-old's shoulders.

    Unfortunately, Calgary has struggled to get back into contention, leaving Iginla's future in Calgary in doubt. But there is no doubt whatsoever about his importance to the offense of this team as it tries to break the top eight in the Western Conference.

11. Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 37G/45A/82P

    Phil Kessel was drafted fifth overall in the 2006 NHL entry draft, but it wasn't until 2011-12 that he finally emerged as a star, amassing 82 points while playing all 82 games for the Maple Leafs.

    Unfortunately, the team missed the playoffs, but Leafs fans can take this from the frustrating season: Going forward, Phil Kessel is the offensive superstar that Toronto can build a team around.

10. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 18G/59A/77P

    Joe Thornton gets a ton of criticism for his inability to perform in the playoffs, but that reputation seems to cloud his status as an elite performer in the NHL.

    He may be far removed from his 114-point campaign in 2006-07, but Thornton has led the Sharks in regular-season points in five of the last six seasons. He has an undeniable tendency to make his wingers better, from Jonathan Cheechoo to Milan Michalek to Logan Couture.

9. Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 77 GP 37G/46A/83P

    After a disappointing 60-point campaign in 2010-11, Kovalchuk rebounded to accrue a better-than-point-per-game scoring pace last season, becoming the offensive force the front office expected him to be when they signed him to a 15-year deal worth $100 million.

    With Martin Brodeur aging in the crease and the defense falling short of its traditional impenetrability, Kovalchuk is going to have to put up even bigger numbers to keep the Devils in contention. Without him, the team falls to the basement of the Eastern Conference.

8. Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 81 GP 29G/48A/77P

    Hossa is a part of a high-powered Blackhawks offense that includes Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews, but it is Hossa's versatility that makes him so valuable.

    He is a perfect sniper for a playmaker like Toews, but an ideal setup man for shooters like Sharp and Kane. Hossa brings invaluable depth to a top six that is among the best in the league.

7. Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 31G/38A/69P

    Arguably, no free-agency move was bigger than Minnesota's signing of Zach Parise, which, in conjunction with the simultaneous signing of Ryan Suter, catapulted the Wild to playoff contention.

    Minnesota's defense and goaltending have traditionally been points of pride for the franchise, but until now it has lacked a sculpted scorer for its top line. Should Parise develop chemistry with center Mikko Koivu, the Wild will easily break 200 goals in 2012-13 and easily qualify for the playoffs.

6. Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 80 GP 34G/50A/84P

    Jason Spezza quietly returned to form in 2011-12, amassing more than 80 points for the first time since 2007-08.

    Ottawa gave up more goals than any other playoff team in the NHL, meaning that Spezza's offensive contributions were largely responsible for grabbing the Sens the eighth seed. As the team improves and Daniel Alfredsson nears retirement, look for Spezza to become the rock of this franchise.

5. John Tavares, New York Islanders

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 31G/50A/81P

    John Tavares is here to stay, even if the Islanders are not.

    Amidst rampant speculation that the team could relocate, Tavares put up 81 points for the worst offense in the Eastern Conference. With third-best scorer P.A. Parenteau gone to Colorado, Tavares will be relied upon to make any and all waves the Isles make in the Atlantic Division this season.

4. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 50G/59A/109P

    No player in the 2011-12 season scored more points than Evgeni Malkin.

    The reigning Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy winner was easily the most threatening offensive force in the league. So why is he not ranked first?

    Simple. In 2011-12, Malkin carried the team during the absence of Sidney Crosby. This year, he will not have to do that. His offensive importance has been cut in half with the return of hockey's top player.

3. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 77 GP 28G/65A/93P

    Did any player do more with less than Giroux did in 2011-12?

    Playing on a line with a career agitator and prodigal ex-NHL superstar, Giroux put up 65 assists and 93 points to finish second and third on the league-wide leaderboards in those respective categories. He'll be a critical part of the Flyers' offense as sophomores try to dodge slumps and up-and-comers like Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds look to increase their production in 2012-13.

2. Henrik Sedin

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 14G/67A/81P

    The slightly more dynamic portion of the league's greatest dynamic duo deserves No. 2 on this list, as Henrik Sedin contributed 67 assists over the course of the season.

    Refusing to be rendered useless by the absence of brother Daniel, who missed 10 games, Henrik Sedin helped lead his team to the best goal total in the Western Conference. The Vancouver Canucks are clearly a well-rounded team, but losing Henrik would take the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners from Stanley Cup contender to complete pretender in the trenches of the Western Conference playoffs.

1. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    2011-12 Stat Line: 82 GP 60G/37A/97P

    No team relies more on the contributions of one player to shape its offense than the Tampa Bay Lightning do with Steven Stamkos.

    Stamkos's 60 goals made up more than one-third of the goals scored by the entire Lightning roster last season, meaning that removing him from the team would render the entire squad completely impotent offensively.

    Tampa is by no means a favorite to win the Stanley Cup in 2012-13, but whatever chance they do have rests firmly, solely and dramatically on the shoulders of their 22-year-old sniper.