NHL Teams Most Desperate for a Great 2013 Draft
While most of the NHL is focused on the Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, there is a lot of action going on with teams that, for the most part, either didn't make this year's playoffs or made a quick exit.
At a time when players for most of those teams are enjoying an early vacation or hitting the golf course every day, management of each team is looking at ways to best improve their clubs for the future so that some day soon they may be in the Stanley Cup Final discussion.
Mark your calendars for Sunday, June 30, as all seven rounds will take place. It'll make for a long day, but the roots of the future for the eight teams we talk about here may potentially be laid.
Also, for more about the upcoming draft, check out Franklin Steele's keen report here on Bleacher Report.
Let's look at the teams that are most desperate to really have a great 2013 draft:
8. New York Rangers
For the Rangers, improvement won't start with the draft. Rather, it'll start with whomever they pick as head coach—and they better get somebody to sign on the dotted line in the next week.
Not only do the Rangers need a new coach, especially someone who is a better motivator than recently fired John Tortorella—maybe a Mark Messier or Wayne Gretzky—they need more offensive help.
But there's a big problem: The Rangers do not have a first-round pick in this year's draft (it was traded away to Columbus).
That doesn't mean they won't still try and pull off a trade before or even on draft day, but honestly, this is a team that can admittedly use some help but won't be overly hurt if it doesn't make a deal.
Tortorella just didn't seem to be the right guy for the Rangers on the bench. Rather, this is a team that needs a coach with more charisma, more openness (especially to the media) and someone who has more character rather than the gruffness that Tortorella oftentimes displayed.
And while the Rangers' roster is strong—after all, they did make the playoffs—they could use some improvement in spots. Plus, this would give the new head coach, whomever it will be, the chance to mold the next generation of the team with significant input in draft selections.
Also, let's not forget this is the Big Apple, one of the NHL's highest-profile jobs. If the Rangers can get a coach with the attributes of a Messier or Gretzky—maybe even signing Messier as head coach—they may not need all that much more help on draft day.
7. Edmonton Oilers
It didn't take long for the Edmonton Oilers to replace Ralph Krueger—a one-and-done leader for just the 2013 season—with Dallas Eakins.
Eakins will likely shake things up in a team that needs more shaking than a cocktail container.
One of the first places Eakins will likely look to improve is at center. While they had 44 assists between them, Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins combined for just 18 goals for the Oilers. Add in Shawn Horcoff and you're still talking only 25 goals between the leaders of the Oilers' top three lines.
In one word, the center play was "pathetic" this past season.
If the Oilers take Sean Monahan, as expected, they could be getting one of the biggest steals of the draft. There's no question Monahan is good, but in my mind, he deserves to be chosen much higher than seventh.
Don't be surprised if one of the six teams ahead of the Oilers in the picking order finally realize that before it's too late. But if the Oilers get their man, we're talking a player who has the potential to become Edmonton's version of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Sidney Crosby combined.
6. Nashville Predators
Considering the Predators play in Music City USA, I thought I'd pen a quick country song to explain this team's woes and needs in the upcoming draft.
"Pekka Rinne is great in goal, but Chris Mason (1-7-1) has got to go.
"And given that Predators in real life are extinct, this team's defense is similarly way too slow.
"Scoring is where the biggest need is, with only three players in double figures for goals.
"And defense, oh defense, at times you shined, but most other times you looked like trolls.
"The Predators need help, it's plain to see.
"And hopefully on draft day, that's exactly what will come to be."
(Okay, so I'm not Garth Brooks or Tim McGraw. But hopefully you get the gist of what Nashville needs most—defense and scoring, and not necessarily in that order.)
5. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes were nowhere near as potent as their nickname suggests. Heck, they weren't even close to being a tornado, for that matter.
But this is a team that, while its record indicated a bad season overall in 2013, its roster isn't all that bad when you compare it to some of the other clubs in this report, teams that need lots more help than Carolina does.
If there's one area that the Hurricanes need to focus on more than any other, it's at right and left wing. Guys like Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner, Patrick Dwyer and Drayson Bowman need a lot more backup support.
Valeri Nichushkin has been projected as the Hurricanes' top pick in the draft, and for good reason. He has incredible talent, coupled with rare versatility that lets him play both sides of the wing equation, right and left side.
When Nichushkin's name comes up on conversation, he is usually compared to league stars such as Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, even a bigger Patrick Kane (Nichushkin is 6'4" and 200 pounds).
Not only is that a flattering compliment, it could spell a return to the Stanley Cup-winning team of several years ago.
4. Calgary Flames
The Big C definitely needs some Big D—defense, that is.
This year's edition of the Flames had little in comparison to some of the more successful Flames teams of the past, and much of the reason for that is defense.
Give credit to goalie Joey MacDonald, as he did a great job with marginal defensive play in front of him.
It was even worse for Mikka Kiprusoff and Leland Irving, who not only had little defensive support in games they were in the net, they didn't have much offensive support, either.
Speaking of offense, Curtis Glencross had a team-high 15 goals, but this is a team that needs someone who can score double that amount (particularly next season, when we'll have a full, rather than lockout-shortened, schedule).
While many projections have the Flames picking center Elias Lindholm with their top pick, we would urge them to weigh Lindholm's talent (and he definitely has a lot of it) against perhaps picking up a defenseman who will plug holes in the Flames' zone.
One good thing about the Flames in an otherwise dismal season was the team attitude. There was very little hogging the puck on this team: players believed in passing it more so than shooting it. Lee Stempniak was Mr. Assist for the Flames with a team-high 23 helpers.
But without better defense, especially with a number of outstanding defensive prospects primed for the picking in the upcoming draft, the Flames may be more of a flicker for the near future.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
Believe it or not, I actually like what the Lightning have, particularly Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. Heck, I'd even throw in Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell in the group.
Even goalies Anders Lindback and Matthieu Garon are decent, both with identical GAA's of 2.90.
Even though we rank the Lightning third, and they definitely need improvement, but we may not necessarily want to use the "D" (desperate) word as much as we'd use it with other teams.
So where do the Lightning need help the most?
Well, defense could use some shoring up. More goal scoring is also needed, as Stamkos had 29 goals and St. Louis had 17, but then it dropped off rather precipitously with 11 from Purcell and 10 from Lecavalier.
If early projections hold true to form and the Lightning take left winger Jonathan Drouin in the draft, that will be a big, big step towards getting more scoring offense.
As for goalie, we kind of like what they have in place for now. A better defense and more goal scorers will definitely help improve the goal keeping play, for sure.
2. Florida Panthers
This is a team that needs help—make that lots of help.
First off, the Panthers had three goalies this season that were terrible. Jacob Markstrom was 8-14-1 with a 3.22 GAA. Scott Clemmensen was 3-7-2 with a ridiculous 3.67 GAA, and Jose Theodore was 4-6-3 with a 3.29 GAA.
Then there was the front line—or shall we say a front line with very little punch.
Only four Panthers managed to finish in double figures when it came to goals: Tomas Kopecky (15), Shawn Matthias (14), Jonathan Huberdeau (14) and Tomas Fleischmann (12).
And in overall points, only six players managed 10 or more assists in the lockout-shortened 2013 season: Fleischmann (23), Brian Campbell (19), Huberdeau (17), Kopecky (12), Marcel Goc and Drew Shore (10 assists each).
Plain and simple, the Panthers need a big scorer. On second thought, they need two or three big scorers that can develop fast and have the potential to make the big club within one to three seasons, if not sooner.
Nathan MacKinnon has been projected as the Panthers' likely No. 1 pick, and if that comes to be, he could definitely play a big role fairly quickly.
As for goalie, there has to be somebody better out there, somewhere.
1. Colorado Avalanche
Since the Avalanche will likely go for projected No. 1 pick Seth Jones, that should help Colorado's shortcomings on defense.
But let's hope the Avalanche doesn't stop there. If anything, they should try and grab at least two or three overall defensemen to shore up a unit that was almost as porous as Swiss cheese this past season.
They also need to start looking to the future in goal. Semyon Varlamov's 3.02 GAA was pathetic, and backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2.84 GAA) wasn't much better. Sami Aittokallio only saw time in two games and could very well be the Avs' goalie of the future, but he's going to need help.
That's why we won't be surprised to see the Avs take a goalie, perhaps in the late rounds.
But it never hurts to have another good netminder in the farm system.
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