The 6 Deepest Teams of the 2013 NHL Season
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Depth is a great factor for any coach in the NHL.
When a coach has the depth to roll out four solid lines and three pairs of defensemen, he doesn't have to go into his bag of tricks to survive a game, a season or playoff series.
Over the course of a standard 82-game season, every team will face injuries and attrition. When a coach can tap a player on his bench to step in and take the place of a regular and get a solid performance, that's going to increase the chances of coming out with a victory in a key game.
Both the Los Angeles Kings and the Boston Bruins, the last two Stanley Cup champions, depended on their depth to help them gain their respective championships.
Here's a look at the six teams with the greatest depth in the league.
New York Rangers
The Rangers have not started the season in impressive fashion. Prior to the first game, the Rangers were one of the teams considered to have the best chance of raising the Stanley Cup at the end of the playoffs.
While they have not gotten the season off the way John Tortorella wanted them to, there's no reason to think the Rangers won't be a serious contender at the end of the season. They can roll out four lines, have three solid defensive pairs and their goaltending is stellar.
As the season moves along, that should lead to plenty of consistent performances and victories.
The top line of Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards may get broken up from time to time, but look for those three to play together when the Rangers get to the crucial part of the schedule and then the playoffs.
The Vancouver Canucks have not won back-to-back Presidents' Trophies because they lack talent and depth.
On the contrary, the Canucks are a lot more than the Sedin brothers. Injuries have hurt them early in the season—Ryan Kesler's shoulder issues continue to keep him out of the lineup—but it still takes an opponent's best game to beat the Canucks on most nights.
The goaltending issue in Vancouver may eventually hurt this team from a depth perspective. If general manager Mike Gillis ever completes a trade of Roberto Luongo, the Canucks may no longer have the depth at goaltending.
Still, the Canucks can beat a lot of opponents in the third period because they have more players with a high level of talent and that depth has paid off quite well for them.
Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma has plenty of superstars at his disposal.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin give the Pittsburgh Penguins the best 1-2 punch in the league. However, when you look down the roster, it's not just the future Hall of Famers and the superstars that produce at key moments.
The Penguins have depth up and down the lineup. Players like Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Tyler Kennedy have the ability to score big goals and they complement the explosive play of Crosby, Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang very well.
St. Louis Blues
Ken Hitchcock may not have known it at the time, but when he was hired to take over as head coach from Davis Payne, he had a winning hand at his disposal.
Though the Blues were struggling to win games, Hitchcock could see the talent on the roster was good enough to turn the team's fortunes around within just a few practices.
The Blues may not have had a lot of superstars, but they had plenty of depth.
Move on to the 2013 season.
Front-line players like T.J. Oshie and David Backes have plenty of talent to go along with their leadership skills. Andy McDonald is a speedy and opportunistic winger. Rookie Vladimir Tarasenko is a goal scoring whiz who could develop into a superstar. Vladimir Sobotka is an annoying pest who can make key plays in big moments.
Few teams have as much defensive strength as the Blues do with players like Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Roman Polak on the back line.
Furthermore, the Blues have excellent goaltending with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.
When the Boston Bruins take the ice, opponents know that Boston head coach Claude Julien has a full roster at his disposal.
His top two lines include stars like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and a young phenom in Tyler Seguin. Third-line players like Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley often score key goals while fourth-liners Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell are tough defensively and can also chip in on the offensive end.
The Bruins may have more defensive depth than any team in the NHL. Zdeno Chara is a Norris Trophy contender while Dennis Seidenberg may be the most underrated player in the league. Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid are solid while rookie Dougie Hamilton is a future star.
The goaltending took a hit when Tim Thomas decided to take a year off, but Tuukka Rask has put stellar numbers together in the past.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings had a bit of a problem...until last year's trade deadline.
General manager Dean Lombardi had a solid roster, but something was missing. That factor was one more goal scorer.
That problem was addressed when the Kings added Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Carter had been a star with the Philadelphia Flyers before he was traded to the Blue Jackets. Once he moved to Los Angeles, the Kings suddenly had the balanced scoring needed to become a very dangerous team.
Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Jarret Stoll and Carter give the Kings enough talent up front. The defensive crew includes Drew Doughty and the underrated Rob Scuderi, Slava Voynov and Alec Martinez.
Jonathan Quick is the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy-winner.
The Kings are not unbeatable, but it takes a superior effort by their opponents to tag them with the loss.