Even though the 2013 NHL season isn't even a week old yet, if certain teams continue to struggle and fall behind in the standings, it's going to be really tough for them to make up ground and earn a playoff spot in this shortened season.
With just 48 games on the schedule, teams won't have a lot of time at the end of the year to make a late-season push for the playoffs.
General managers cannot be patient and hope that their team turns it around. If they wait too long to make a trade to improve their roster, the season could be lost.
Let's look at five teams that are in trouble after starting the new season poorly.
The Flyers' struggles continued on Tuesday night with a 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Philadelphia is now 0-3 at the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings, and they have a laundry list of problems that must be dealt with.
General manager Paul Holmgren has to acquire a top-pairing defenseman or make a major goaltending change for Philadelphia to avoid the possibility of missing the playoffs because you cannot try to outscore teams and expect to win consistently.
A lot of fans point to the goaltending of Ilya Bryzgalov as the first problem, and even though the defensive performance in front of him has been abysmal, the veteran goaltender has simply not played well so far this season. He hasn't made any big saves when the Flyers have needed them through three games.
Aside from Bryzgalov, the biggest issue for the Flyers is the power play. They are just 1-for-15 with the man advantage, which is unacceptable for a team with a ton of offensive skill. The Flyers have been outscored 11-3 on the season so far, and the power play failures are a major part of that.
This is the first time that the Flyers have started a season 0-3 since the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. Luckily for the Flyers, they turned it around in 1994-95 and won the division title with a 28-16-4 record.
It wouldn't be wise to expect a similar turnaround after watching how awful the Flyers have played thus far. Four of the team's next five games are against playoff teams from last season, including two matchups with the New York Rangers, who swept the Flyers 6-0 last season.
New York Rangers
The Rangers are 0-2, but it's not time to go into full-panic mode just yet. The team's two losses were against the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, both of whom are capable of defeating anyone in the NHL.
However, there are some reasons for Rangers fans to be concerned about the team's start. Henrik Lundqvist is 0-2 with a 4.77 GAA and a .865 save percentage, and if he continues to struggle, New York will be in a lot of trouble.
Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin all have zero points through two games. Making matters worse for head coach John Tortorella is the lack of scoring that he's gotten from his third and fourth lines.
Arron Asham, Mike Rupp, Jeff Halpern, Brandon Segal and Brian Boyle also have zero points combined this season, and they are giving New York no scoring depth.
Another issue for the Rangers is the power play. They are 1-for-9 with the man advantage, and these struggles could continue on Wednesday when New York plays the Boston Bruins for the second time this season. Boston is one of two teams that haven't allowed a power play goal yet.
The Rangers' schedule is very tough over the next two weeks. The team's next seven games include matchups against the Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs and two games versus the Flyers.
If New York doesn't win the majority of these seven games, general manager Glen Sather might have to make some roster moves.
Los Angeles Kings
The defending Stanley Cup champions are 0-2 and have allowed eight goals thus far. They are also one of three teams with zero power play goals (0-for-11 so far) this season.
Reigning Conn Smythe trophy winner Jonathan Quick has not played well, and with defenseman Matt Greene set to miss a lot of games because of an injury, the Kings need a quick improvement from their star goaltender.
The Kings play in a tough division, which looks like it could be even more challenging this season with the Anaheim Ducks playing well and sitting at 2-0.
Los Angeles does not have an easy schedule over the next week-and-a-half. Three of the team's next five games are against playoff teams from last season, and the other two are against the Ducks and the Edmonton Oilers, which are two good teams.
With the Kings offense struggling to score goals, especially in the third period, Quick has to return to an MVP-level or the team will continue to lose games in the early part of the season.
The Hurricanes were a popular pick to win the Southeast Division this season after they added star forwards Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal in the offseason, but the team has started 0-2 and is really struggling offensively.
Carolina has been outscored 9-2 through two games, and star goaltender Cam Ward has not played well with a 6.00 GAA and a .789 save percentage.
Star forward Eric Staal has no points, and Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal and Semin all have just one point each. The Hurricanes need more offensive production from their top-six forward group and a better effort from Ward to avoid another disastrous season.
Here's where Carolina ranks in four important categories at the moment.
|Stat||Goals Scored||Goals Against||Power-Play||Penalty Kill|
It's no secret that the Hurricanes need another defensive defenseman, but there's no chance that the team will improve unless Ward plays like the No. 1 goaltender that he has the talent to be.
The Flames are the only Northwest Division team to start the season 0-2, and even though two top-six forwards—Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka—haven't played yet, there are a number of issues for fans in Calgary to be concerned about.
Star goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who has to play at an elite level and start about 40 games for the Flames to have any chance of making the playoffs, must improve quickly. The veteran goalie has allowed nine goals with a .830 save percentage.
Veteran forwards Jarome Iginla and Mike Cammalleri, along with rookie winger Sven Baertschi, have a combined two points and zero goals scored. These three players need to be productive offensively for the Flames to win games in a competitive division.
Calgary's next two games are against the Vancouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers, so it's quite possible that the Flames could start the year 0-4.
If the Flames continue to lose games and the playoffs become an unrealistic goal in mid-February, the team should strongly consider entering its inevitable rebuild, which would include trading Iginla.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL columnist at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.
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