NHL Teams Whose Stanley Cup Window Is Closing Rapidly
The 2013-14 season will be underway in less than a month. Teams will report to training camp in early September, and the chase for Lord Stanley's Cup will be in its infancy.
Several teams will have a legitimate chance to win, others will have a longshot chance and a few will be building for the future.
Some teams, like the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks, don't have to worry about their window of opportunity closing. Stars like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford are in the prime of their careers.
However, other teams may be running out of opportunities. Here's a look at six teams who may have to win soon, because their window is closing rapidly.
The 2013 Anaheim Ducks had an excellent regular season. They started the season on a hot streak, and they finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference.
The Ducks could not get out of the first round. That doesn't mean they don't have a talented roster, but the loss to the seventh-seeded Red Wings was a significant blow.
The Ducks have a core group of talented players, and many have youth and size on their side. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are their two best players, while youngsters Emerson Etem and Jakob Silfverberg (acquired from the Senators) should bring quite a bit of explosiveness to the lineup.
Goalie Viktor Fasth was an excellent addition last year and should be consistent in net.
Here's the problem. The Ducks were a non-playoff team in 2011-12, and they could revert to becoming an underachieving team again.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau had an excellent year behind the bench, but he had not distinguished himself during his years in Washington. He may not be able to match the job he did last year. The Ducks may have lost confidence after their first-round defeat to Detroit, and their window of opportunity may be closing.
The Boston Bruins have one of the most talented teams in the league, and the Stanley Cup finalist should be one of the dominant teams in the Eastern Conference once again.
However, there's no denying the importance of captain Zdeno Chara, and he could be starting to slow down at the age of 36.
While Chara keeps himself in excellent shape, he was not at his best when a young, strong team like the Chicago Blackhawks pressured him in the Stanley Cup Final. Defense partner Dennis Seidenberg also struggled a bit with Chicago's quickness.
While general manager Peter Chiarelli is a sharp leader, and he will attempt to reload as soon as he believes his two best defensive players start to lose their effectiveness, it's quite difficult to find players who can compete at that high a level.
The Bruins should be strong enough to compete for one or two more years, but that could be it before the window closes on them.
San Jose Sharks
The window has been closing on the San Jose Sharks a while now. The Sharks have been led by Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau for years, but they have never gotten out of the Western Conference in the playoffs.
General manager Doug Wilson knows this, and he has been attempting to change the focus from Thornton and Marleau to Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski.
The Sharks seem to be responding to Couture and Pavelski, but as long as they still depend on Thornton and Marleau, they seem destined to fall short.
The window of opportunity appears to be nearly closed on the Sharks.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers are not an old team that is suddenly going to lose its legs or the ability to skate with swifter opponents.
The problem with the Rangers is that they have had a strong team for three straight seasons, and they have struggled badly in the playoffs. They lost in the first round to the Washington Capitals in 2011, they fell to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Final in 2012 and they fell to the Boston Bruins in the conference semifinal this year.
That defeat cost head coach John Tortorella his job, and now, it's Alain Vigneault's turn to try and win with this team.
Vigneault should have far more offensive touch than Tortorella. However, if he can't help Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan contribute significantly, it will be time to rebuild this team.
The Vancouver Canucks had a 3-2 lead in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, and they could almost taste champagne crossing their lips.
They never got the final win that would have given them the Cup, and after watching the Bruins celebrate on their ice, the Canucks have lost in the first round two years in a row.
The Canucks have tried to turn things around by firing head coach Alain Vigneault and bringing in disciplinarian John Tortorella to toughen up the Canucks. This is a desperate move by a team on its last legs. Tortorella and the Sedin twins do not seem like a match made in heaven, and he will learn that Roberto Luongo is not Henrik Lundqvist.
The Canucks have one last chance under Tortorella and then it's time to bring in a new crew.
The Philadelphia Flyers have had their moments over the years, including their Stanley Cup Final appearance vs. the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and their first-round victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012.
The Flyers have an excellent offensive nucleus with Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, but they could not even make the playoffs in 2013. They have attempted to upgrade their defense and goaltending so they could return to contending status in 2013-14.
However if new additions Mark Streit and Ray Emery don't help the Flyers back to upper-echelon status, don't be surprised if Philadelphia cleans house next year.