A normal NHL season features plenty of time for general managers to evaluate their team, examine various options and make deals to upgrade their rosters. Of course, this isn't a normal season. It's a 48-game sprint to the playoffs.
For front offices around the league, that means there's less time to evaluate. The trade deadline isn't until April 3, which is less than a month from season's end. Teams that aren't living up to expectations won't be able to wait that long to make moves.
With that in mind, let's examine three teams that should already be looking to make moves after slow starts to the shortened season. If they wait until early April, there's a good chance it will already be too late to turn things around.
The Sabres have a complex problem to deal with. The team's defense has been an absolute mess in the early going, in large part due to the struggles of Tyler Myers. But they already have eight defensemen on the roster.
Instead of focusing on the defense, Buffalo should attempt to add another forward to take some pressure off the blueliners. Thomas Vanek has been on fire with 23 points in 12 games, and his linemates, Jason Pominville and Cody Hodgson, are also playing well.
The Sabres are getting very little secondary scoring, however. Drew Stafford is the prime example. He scored 51 goals over the past two season, but has none through 13 games. They need another veteran goal-scorer to help pick up the slack.
Which of these teams needs a trade the most?
Joel Ward, who scored 18 points all of last season, is tied with Alex Ovechkin in scoring through 12 games. The Capitals have allowed 41 goals, the second-highest total in the league. Those two facts illustrate why Washington sits in last place.
Ultimately, the Capitals should be able to scrape together enough goals. Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom should both pick up the pace while players like Wojtek Wolski and Jason Chimera will both contribute more than they have so far.
The main focus for should be finding a more reliable goalie. Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby have both struggled so far. Washington's inconsistent production up front means it needs a goaltender who can steal a game. It will need to look outside the organization to find one.
Los Angeles Kings
The defending champions are already feeling the heat. The physical style based heavily on Jonathan Quick and the defense isn't working as well as it did during last season's playoffs. The team's offense has produced just 22 goals, which is one more than the league low.
Anze Kopitar and Kyle Clifford have only scored six points each, but that's enough to lead the team. Dustin Brown, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are all playing well below expectations. It's been a struggle. Certainly not what Kings fans were expecting in defense of the title.
Los Angeles needs to find a player who can reinvigorate the offense. The team doesn't need to lead the NHL in goals to be successful, but the top two lines must do more to help Quick. It starts by trying to find another winger on the trade market.