The 10 Biggest Rebuilding Projects in the NHL

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IFebruary 1, 2013

The 10 Biggest Rebuilding Projects in the NHL

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    Every year, we see rebuilding projects across the NHL.

    Whether it's a player hoping to resurrect his career, a particular line or position on a team that needs restructuring or a team that is in rebuilding mode, there are always players, teams or units at a crossroads.

    As we get into the thick of this abbreviated 48-game season, here is a look at the 10 biggest rebuilding projects in the NHL.

10. Vancouver's 2nd Line

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    The Canucks are without the services of second-line center Ryan Kesler, who is still recovering from offseason surgery. The date of Kesler's return remains uncertain.

    Winger David Booth is also out with an injury. Both players were expected to be key contributors to Vancouver's offense and provide secondary scoring.

    Vancouver needs its second line to be productive as it cannot only rely on the Sedin twins to score goals.

    Alex Burrows has been playing center on the second line for now while the wings on either side of him have been changing on a game-by-game basis.

    The Canucks are a talented team, but if they hope to repeat as Presidents' Trophy winners and win their first-ever Stanley Cup, they need consistent secondary scoring.

    Henrik Sedin summed it up well in a recent interview when he said (Ed Willes, The Province), "We're missing two big pieces [Kesler and Booth] right now. We're a team that wants to roll four lines and, over the course of a long season, you need guys playing where they've comfortable. We think we've got a good team when we have everyone back."

9. Brad Boyes

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    Brad Boyes has a mission this season: to rebuild his career.

    The 30-year-old native of Mississauga, Ontario scored a career-high 43 goals with the Blues in 2007-08 and followed that up with 33 goals the following season.

    Since then, Boyes hasn't even reached the 20-goal mark, and he didn't have a lot of takers this summer when he became an unrestricted free agent.

    The Islanders need secondary scoring, so they were willing to take a flier on Boyes and signed him to a one-year contract worth $1 million.

    This may be Boyes' last chance. If Boyes doesn't show that he can still be a productive top-six forward with the Islanders this season, he may not have much of an NHL future.

    If he is successful, his next contract should be longer and more lucrative than his current deal.

8. Tampa Bay's Goaltending

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    In 2010-11, the Lightning got very good goaltending from veteran Dwayne Roloson and reached the Eastern Conference Final.

    But last year, the 42-year-old Roloson seemed to age in a hurry, and the Lightning fell from 21st in the league in goals against in 2010-11 to dead last in the league a year ago and missed the playoffs entirely.

    With that in mind, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman brought in Anders Lindback from the Predators to help solve the team's goaltending problems and acquired defensemen Matt Carle and Sami Salo to help shore up the blue line.

    Lindback is big at 6'6" and has played well in limited opportunities in Nashville. Now either he or holdover Mathieu Garon has to step up and provide the Bolts with some solid goaltending so they can return to the playoffs.

7. Philadelphia's Defense

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    Injuries have really hurt the Philadelphia Flyers on defense, and the unit is definitely in rebuilding mode.

    The biggest loss took place last season when team captain Chris Pronger went down with a concussion, and his career may be over.

    Then Matt Carle and Pavel Kubina departed in the offseason, and injuries hit Kimo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros.

    The Flyers are off to a slow start this season, going just 2-5-0 in their first seven games. That's not a good start for a team that had Stanley Cup aspirations before the season started.

    The Flyers need to rebuild their defense if they hope to get back into contention this season.

6. Alex Ovechkin

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    Sure, Alex Ovechkin was fifth in the NHL last season with 38 goals, but he scored only 65 points, by far the lowest of his NHL career.

    Last year, "The Great Eight" was seen cursing his coach on the bench and had his commitment to the game questioned.

    The Capitals are depending on Ovechkin to return to form or Adam Oates' club will struggle this season.

5. The Columbus Blue Jackets

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets finished dead last in the league standings in 2011-12.

    If that wasn't bad enough, they traded their best player, Rick Nash, to the Rangers during the offseason. In exchange for Nash, they got three young players in Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky and Tim Erixon.

    In a separate deal, Columbus acquired goalie Sergei Bobrovsky from the Flyers.

    In theory, there's nowhere to go but up, but the Blue Jackets are clearly in rebuilding mode and hoping to show marked improvement this season.

4. Ryan Miller

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    Ryan Miller won the Vezina Trophy in 2010 and helped the Buffalo Sabres qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Miller's numbers were impressive that year and included a 2.22 GAA and a save percentage of .929.

    The last two seasons, however, Miller went from outstanding to just pretty good. His GAA the past two seasons  have been 2.59 and 2.54, while his save percentage was .916 in each of the past two seasons.

    Miller did finish strong last year, going 19-3-5 with a 1.82 GAA and a .940 over the final two months of the season, and this gives the Sabres cause for hope.

    GM Darcy Regier also acquired Steve Ott and John Scott to add a little grit and toughness to his lineup, which should make things tougher on opponents.

    There is little doubt that another Vezina-caliber season from Miller would be a big help for the Sabres and would help Miller get his career back on track as well.

3. Detroit's Defense

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    The Red Wings face the unenviable task of replacing Nicklas Lidstrom, one of the all-time great defensemen and a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

    Lidstrom played significant minutes and did his job with such ease that he made things easier and simpler for his teammates.

    The Wings also traded Brad Stuart during the offseason, an underrated blueliner who played a lot of minutes and was physical and solid in his own zone.

    The Red Wings defense is in rebuilding mode. Niklas Kronwall now has to take over as the No. 1 while other players have to play longer minutes and add new responsibilities.

    The only addition over the offseason was free agent Carlo Colaiacovo.

    The Red Wings were not overly confident of this group, as they reportedly asked Lidstrom to return for one more year just before the lockout ended. Lidstrom decided to remain retired.

    It's possible this bunch ends up being solid, but they are clearly in rebuilding mode after losing Lidstrom and Stuart.

2. Alexander Semin

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    Alexander Semin is at a crossroads in his career.

    The talented Russian has three seasons of 30 or more goals in his NHL career, including 40 in 2009-10 with the Capitals.

    His other three NHL seasons were less productive and more frustrating for his coaches, including a career-low 21-goal season a year ago.

    Semin was a free agent last summer and signed a one-year, $7 million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes.

    If Semin does well this season, his next contract is longer and lucrative. If he fails, he takes less money, a lower term or even heads to the KHL next year.

1. Anaheim's Top Line

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    Last year was a rough one for the top line of the Anaheim Ducks.

    In 2010-11, the trio of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan scored 103 goals and 245 points. Last year, those numbers dropped to 79 goals and 174 points.

    The Ducks are relying on their big three to bounce back and become the force they were two seasons ago if Anaheim is going to make a successful playoff run.

    Both Getzlaf and Perry are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next summer, so their performances are important to them individually and not just to the team's success.