'Help Wanted' Ads for Every NHL Team Early in the 2013 Season

Erik Cotton@https://twitter.com/ErikCotton2Correspondent IFebruary 21, 2013

'Help Wanted' Ads for Every NHL Team Early in the 2013 Season

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    While it's unlikely you'll ever walk by your local NHL team's arena and see a "help wanted" sign in the front window, most organizations are always looking to improve.  At the same time, though, one of the most played-out sports clichés is saying "we have to get better every day."  So what does your squad really need to do to get to where it wants to go?

    Keep in mind, we're only about 15 games through what is already a shortened season.  Injuries could change an area of concern overnight.

    Plus, it's not until the trade deadline approaches that teams, especially those in contention, are willing to overpay for a player who addresses their biggest weakness.  "Rent-a-players" hopefully fill those proverbial help-wanted signs.

    Coming up, we're going to examine each NHL team's (in alphabetical order) biggest need so far as we close in on the halfway point of this abbreviated 2013 schedule.

1. Anaheim Ducks

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    Anaheim has surprised many with their 12-2-1 start, but a lack of talent was never the issue as they struggled through 2011-12. 

    They have gotten a boost, though, from the emergence of Viktor Fasth.  If he continues to play at or even near the level he's started the season at, the Ducks should seriously consider dealing Jonas Hiller at the deadline.

    Biggest Need:  A veteran forward to help their PK unit, which currently ranks 26th.

2. Boston Bruins

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    The Bruins don't have any glaring weakness position-wise.  While they might lack a superstar, they're as balanced as any team in the NHL.

    However, head coach Claude Julien knows that his team had better pick it up with the man advantage if they want to make it out of the East. 

    Someone like Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell could solve that power-play void for the B's.  If Florida continues to struggle and Boston can make the cap numbers work, that's the type of deadline move that can put a team over the top.

    Biggest Need:  A quarterback (preferably a defenseman) for their 28th-ranked PP unit.

3. Buffalo Sabres

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    While the Sabres certainly could use another scoring winger, right now they're a team that has added by subtracting.

    Lindy Ruff was in his 15th season behind Buffalo's bench, which might as well have been a century in the world of professional sports.  He was fired on Wednesday.  This team is much more talented than its record indicates, and the message in the locker room seemed stale at this point.

    Drew Stafford's one goal in 17 games isn't helping either.  He seems like another one who would benefit from a change of scenery.

    Biggest Need:  To find another voice that can get the most out of the players on this roster.  Ron Rolston will be given that opportunity, at least for the rest of this season. 

4. Calgary Flames

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    If there have been two constants for the Flames for close to a decade now, they're Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.

    But with their captain set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season and their aging goalie struggling mightily so far, Calgary should be in rebuilding mode at this point.  They're 5-7-3 and in last place in the Northwest.  The Flames are multiple moves away from being a playoff team again.

    Biggest Need(s):  Get as much as they can for Iginla and Kiprusoff, bottom out, and get a top-five pick in this year's draft.

5. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Carolina currently sits tied with Tampa Bay atop the Southeast Division, despite goalie Cam Ward's slow start.

    However, a huge area of concern so far has been their penalty killing.  They rank 29th in the league and sit below 71 percent on the season.  Those are numbers the Canes have to improve if they expect to get out of the first round in the East.

    Biggest Need:  A veteran, defensive-minded forward with some grit to help out their PK.

6. Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Hawks remain on fire as they still have yet to lose in regulation.  They've scored 21 more goals than they've allowed, and they have an impressive 8-0-2 record on the road.

    Those are the kind of stats that indicate this team is primed to make another Cup run.  As long as they continue to get outstanding play in goal, Chicago really doesn't have any weaknesses. 

    This squad has a perfect mix of talent, grit and toughness, not to mention a "core" group that is only three years removed from its Cup win in 2010.

    Biggest Need:  A depth defenseman for what looks like a team destined for a long playoff run.

7. Colorado Avalanche

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    The Avs, much like their division rival in Calgary, are a team that needs to make multiple moves to be in playoff contention again.

    Shipping Paul Stastny and Ryan O'Reilly out of Denver should be their first priority.  For a team that ranks in the bottom third in GPG, GA, PP and PK, there is no quick fix.

    Biggest Need:  To get a buyer at the deadline to overpay for either one of those players, especially Stastny, who's grossly overpaid at $6.6 million per year.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    It should come as no surprise that Columbus sits in last place in the Central and is the worst team in the NHL so far.

    After trading the only reason (Rick Nash) their fans had to come to the rink, the Blue Jackets cemented their position as a league doormat.  They're currently third-worst in attendance, and there's nothing indicating that or their record will change.

    Biggest Need:  A new city to call home.  This franchise is failing on the ice and in the stands.  Would you go see a team that's made the playoffs once in its 12 years of existence?

9. Dallas Stars

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    This is a team that seems like it's on the cusp of being a perennial playoff contender.

    They have good, young talent with players like Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn, and they're solid in goal with Kari Lehtonen.  Dallas also made some key acquisitions over the summer as well.  They signed Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney, then traded for Derek Roy.

    Look for them, under new ownership, to be players in this summer's unrestricted free-agent market.

    Biggest Need(s):  The Stars are still looking for a No. 1 center and a No. 1 defenseman, things they probably won't be able to address until the offseason.

10. Detroit Red Wings

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    Losing Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement was bound to affect this group. 

    Yet, few saw coming the mediocrity that has befallen all parts of Mike Babcock's squad.  They're in the bottom half of the league in goals for and against, and their PP and PK are even worse.

    At best, Detroit's a bubble playoff team that has serious questions on D and needs scoring help on the wings.

    Biggest Need(s):  A puck-moving defenseman to take some pressure off Niklas Kronwall, and another offensive winger to jump-start their stagnant PP.

11. Edmonton Oilers

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    Ask the Pittsburgh Penguins how quickly you can rebuild a franchise with a couple high draft picks.

    Edmonton has had the first pick three years in a row now.  But at 6-6-3, they're still probably another season away from making a playoff push.  That unfortunately means Oilers fans are looking at a seventh straight spring without a postseason appearance.

    There's obviously reason for hope, though.  What this team really needs to focus on is playing better at even strength, since they're in the top 10 in both special teams categories.

    Biggest Need(s):  Major upgrades on the blue line, and a stabilizing, veteran forward to help their kids progress.

12. Florida Panthers

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    After making the playoffs last year for the first time since 2000, Florida is back to its losing ways again this season.

    Not only are they 4-7-4 through their first 15 games, they're tied for the league lead in goals allowed.  The Panthers' PK ranks 27th, and only averaging 2.3 goals per game is not going to overcome their defensive shortcomings.

    Did we mention how bad the goaltending's been, too?

    Biggest Need(s):  Pick a position.  But their first-round pick in June should be used on the highest-rated goalie, because Jose Theodore is not the answer between the pipes moving forward.

13. Los Angeles Kings

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    The Kings don't have a bonafide superstar other than the guy in net, yet everything fell into place at the right time for them last spring. 

    However, many forget that the Kings were the second-lowest scoring team in the league during the regular season in 2011-12.  That struggle has continued through the first part of 2013.  Los Angeles sits tied for 28th in goals for. 

    Combine that with the early struggles of Jonathan Quick, and that explains why they're in last in the Pacific, a division that could easily produce four playoff teams come April.

    Biggest Need:  A top-line offensive forward.  They probably won't address this until free agency, but don't be surprised to see them make a strong push for either Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry.

14. Minnesota Wild

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    Much like the Kings, Minnesota is another offensively-challenged team. 

    In fact, no one has scored fewer goals so far than the Wild.  Even with the acquisition of Zack Parise, this team's issue has always been a lack of scoring, dating back to the beginning of the franchise.

    They need to get more out of Dany Heatley, who's been pretty disappointing since coming over before the 2011-12 season.  If they don't, you could certainly get something useful in return for him at the deadline.

    Biggest Need:  Someone to put the puck in the net.  They seem like the perfect situation for a rent-a-player.  Jarome Iginla fits that bill to a tee, and with that one move, Minnesota could be this year's L.A.

15. Montreal Canadiens

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    We continue with another team that with the right move, could propel themselves to be one of the favorites in the East. 

    The Habs have won five in a row and are now atop the Eastern Conference.  They have as talented a defensive corps as anyone else in the league, and Carey Price is off to hot start as well.

    Montreal is winning the Northeast, another division like the Pacific that could produce four playoff berths.

    Biggest Need:  Like almost every other team we discuss, more offense.  This seems like another perfect fit for Iginla to make a run with.

16. Nashville Predators

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    If you're noticing a pattern here, the most common thing NHL teams need is more scoring.  Nowhere else is that more true than in Nashville.

    The Preds are 29th in GPG and rank 21st on the power play.  If it weren't for Pekka Rinne in goal, this team would be a bottom-dweller in the West.

    Even if they make a play for someone like Iginla, one player is not going to solve all of their offensive problems.

    Biggest Need:  You guessed it; a goal-scorer.  Or two, if management really wants to go for it this year.

17. New Jersey Devils

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    Few teams in the league at this point in the season have shown the balance that New Jersey has.

    Both David Clarkson and Ilya Kovalchuk have blossomed over the last couple years.  Clarkson has become one of the best power forwards in the game.  And Kovalchuk, previously known for his defensive liabilities and lapses in effort, is now killing penalties and is a complete hockey player.

    Martin Brodeur has shown no signs of slowing down, and we know these guys know how to play defense. 

    Biggest Need:  In reality, it's to stay healthy, because this team the way it is could make a cup run.  But if anything, it would be to add some scoring depth, at center if possible.

18. New York Islanders

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    Once a proud and incredibly successful franchise, the Isles have become an afterthought in today's NHL.

    They are once again on pace to miss the playoffs for the 14th time in 18 seasons since 1994-95.  They're also second-worst in attendance, partly because Nassau Coliseum is a small and outdated arena.  But it's also because this fanbase is sick of the losing.

    There is hope, though, with the upcoming move to Brooklyn in 2015, and because this team has some really good, young talent.

    Biggest Need:  By far, it's goaltending.  They're dead last in goals allowed, and neither Evgeni Nabokov nor Rick DiPietro is the future in net for this organization.

19. New York Rangers

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    The Rangers have been a slight disappointment so far.  For a team that many picked to win the cup before the season started, their 8-6-1 record to date is pretty underwhelming.

    New York's problem continues to be its PP.  It's been an Achilles heel for them over the last couple years, and 2013 has been no different.  They're currently last in the NHL with the man advantage. 

    This team acquired Rick Nash to help fix this problem, yet he remains without a power-play goal for the Blueshirts.

    Biggest Need:  A true quarterback for the PP.  GM Glen Sather should already be calling the Florida Panthers about Brian Campbell's availability.

20. Ottawa Senators

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    Despite a pretty glaring lack of scoring depth, the Sens have quietly gotten out to a 9-6-2 start.

    But for them to continue that success, they're going to have to do it without their two best players.  Erik Karlsson is out for the season after having his Achilles tendon sliced, and Jason Spezza's out until at least April after having back surgery.

    Plus, there's no way Craig Anderson can continue to play like this, right?  He's been out of this world so far, and has put himself in the Hart Trophy discussion.

    Biggest Need:  Assuming they're not major players at the deadline, for Spezza to come back at 100 percent in time for the playoffs.

21. Philadelphia Flyers

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    At 8-9-1, Philly is underachieving at this point.

    It's not just because of Ilya Bryzgalov, though, whose struggles were well-documented last year.  The Flyers need better production from both Claude Giroux and Danny Briere.  Not having Scott Hartnell for much of the season hasn't helped either.

    This is, at least on paper, as deep an offensive team as anyone else in the NHL.  But they rank only 16th in GPG so far, a number that has to improve for them to overcome their defensive shortcomings.

    Biggest Need:  Another puck-moving defenseman to take some of the load off Kimmo Timonen.  Have we mentioned Brian Campbell's name yet?

22. Phoenix Coyotes

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    We could write an entire piece on what a joke it is that the Coyotes are still in Phoenix.  Or how incomprehensible it is that this team has had the league it belongs to controlling it and paying its debts since late 2008.

    They made it to the Western Conference Finals last year, and yet still rank last in attendance at an average of almost 4,000 fans under capacity, despite a decent 8-6-2 record.

    Biggest Need:  On the ice, it's more production up the middle.  But as a franchise, it's to be relocated.  Sorry Phoenix, you've had your chance.  The lack of support for this team should no longer be tolerated by the NHL.

23. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The Pens are a really well-built team, from top to bottom.

    Despite his collapse in last year's first-round loss to the Flyers, Marc Andre-Fleury has rebounded in starting the season 8-3.  At 11-6 overall, Pittsburgh is tied with New Jersey for the Atlantic lead and sits only one point behind Montreal for the top spot in the East.

    Their PP is clicking on all cylinders right now and is second in the league.  And that's still with Evgeni Malkin only scoring four goals so far.  Watch out when he gets hot.

    Biggest Need(s):  For Fleury to prove last April was a fluke.  Adding a tough, physical defenseman couldn't hurt, too.

24. San Jose Sharks

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    After starting the season 7-0, San Jose has fallen back to Earth, and then some.

    Their 2-1 victory over St. Louis Tuesday night snapped a seven-game winless streak.  Peaks and valleys like that make it difficult to assess whether this team is still a contender or not.

    One thing is for sure, and it's that this version of the Sharks is on its last legs.  Another early-round playoff exit could mean the end for both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in Northern California.

    Biggest Need:  Some scoring punch on the wings.  Martin Havlat has disappointed, so this could be another temporary destination for Jarome Iginla.

25. St. Louis Blues

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    After coming out of nowhere last year to win the Central and finish with 109 points, St. Louis has gotten off to a solid, if not spectacular start in 2013.

    How they've won games, though, couldn't be a more opposite blueprint than what they employed in 2011-12.  They have the No. 1 PP in the league and are fourth in GPG.  Yet, the Blues, after allowing fewer goals than anyone last year, currently rank 25th in that category this season.

    Their goaltending has been pretty spotty as well, especially Brian Elliott.

    Biggest Need(s):  A veteran penalty-killer and much better play in net. 

26. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The Bolts are a team only two years removed from a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

    One thing that hasn't changed since then is Tampa's strengths and weaknesses.  Their explosive offense ranks first in GPG and has the fourth-rated PP.  But they're 22nd in GA, and their goaltending has been mediocre at best.

    It looks like the Lightning's only competition in the division at this point is going to be Carolina.  If they make a few moves, they could be a sleeper pick in the East.

    Biggest Need:  Anders Lindback has yet to prove he's ready to be a No. 1 netminder.  So if Calgary makes Miikka Kiprusoff available, he could be the final piece of the puzzle for this organization.

27. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    An early-season surprise so far has been the start Toronto has had.

    At 10-7, they're tied for second in the ultra-competitive Northeast with the Bruins and Sens.  They've gotten excellent play between the pipes from both Ben Scrivens and James Reimer.  Phil Kessel will get going at some point too, and the return of Joffrey Lupul will be huge. 

    The Leafs are also in the top 10 in GPG and GA.  Where they're struggling is special teams (23rd in PP, 18th in PK).

    Biggest Need(s):  A gritty, two-way forward (Brenden Morrow?) or a puck-moving defenseman who can skate.  But anticipate Toronto's big moves after the season, where they figure to be big spenders in a much anticipated free-agent market.

28. Vancouver Canucks

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    The Canucks have had a relatively good start, sitting at 8-3-4.  It's doubtful anyone will challenge them for the division lead in the Northwest, which looks like it will only produce two playoff teams this year (Vancouver and Minnesota). 

    Certainly the biggest surprise for them so far has been the play of Roberto Luongo.  Despite daily rumors about his imminent departure, he's been outstanding, and has yet to lose in regulation.

    This is truly a complete lineup.  Getting Ryan Kesler and David Booth back only solidifies that.

    Biggest Need:  To make up their mind with Luongo.  Either trade the guy or make a public statement that he won't be dealt during the season.

29. Washington Capitals

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    Few teams have fallen the way Washington has so far in 2013.

    After making the second round last year following a schizophrenic regular season, only Columbus has fewer points than the Capitals through 15 games.  Their defense and goaltending have been below average, as Michael Neuvirth and Braden Holtby both have GAAs over 3.00.

    Michael Ribeiro has really been the only bright spot in the nation's capital to this point.

    Biggest Need:  To be a seller at the deadline and seriously examine whether it's time to "blow" this core group up. 

30. Winnipeg Jets

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    It's refreshing to have a team back in Winnipeg, even if their presence in the Southeast Division couldn't be more geographically ironic.  Thank you, city of Atlanta.

    How long will it take for this fanbase, though, to settle into another period of mediocrity?  The Jets of the 80s and 90s were the definition of average. 

    This city brought back hockey for more than that.  It just looks like this is closer to a work in progress than it is to an overnight fix.

    Biggest Need:  To draft well over the next couple years, unless ownership opens up the checkbook to make this squad better.