NHL Trade Scenarios: Ideal Move for 2011 Playoff Teams Prior to 2011-12
Every NHL team has needs coming into the 2011-12 season. It is just that some have more needs than others.
This list identifies and prioritizes each team's needs and looks for one player who would fill the most of them. It does not identify what trades are realistic. This is about identifying what player epitomizes and encapsulates that team's needs most.
In other words, in a dream scenario, what one player could move his new team to the next level?
Since anyone can pick the Sedins, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Lidstrom, Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara, the one rule I am instituting to make it more interesting is that no player can be chosen twice.
The following list is ideal moves for each of the playoff teams of 2011; a list for non-playoff teams (with slightly different rules) comes before the weekend.
The Boston Bruins won Lord Stanley's Cup in 2011. They have everything they need, right?
Wrong. While I thought of putting Ponce De Leon on their wish list so they could keep Tim Thomas for another decade, this team does have weaknesses.
They traded for Tomas Kaberle late in the season because they lacked puck-moving defencemen who could quarterback a power play.
That is why Thomas set a record for saves in the playoffs. Boston actually spent a lot of time defending in its own end because it lacked a guy who could get the puck out.
They could solve the problem in one fell swoop if they could trade for Dan Boyle.
Boyle is a great skater who is arguably the best in the league at advancing the puck and is almost as good on the power play. He scored 50 points in 76 games and the Sharks potent power play was nothing when he was out.
The Vancouver Canucks struggled with injuries on their blueline, or they likely would have hoisted the Cup instead of Boston. But because Dr. James Andrews cannot even guarantee a lineup stays healthy, I chose to focus on something else.
On paper, they had everything. It was almost enough, but there were things this team lacked.
They lacked mettle. They lacked hunger. You might even say they lacked character. And that link only details half the story:
Every time they had a lead, they played with less urgency. They were 3-6 in games in which they held a two-game series lead. They were also 3-6 when their opponents were facing elimination.
Their penalty kill, the unit that must work hardest, left them when they needed it most. During the regular season, it was first in the league. Then they gave up as many power play goals in the five games against San Jose as the Sharks scored in their previous 13 and as many in seven games against Boston as the Bruins had managed in their previous 18.
They need a no-nonsense leader with a championship ring to hold them accountable, preferably one who is vocal. Since they are strong at forward and in net, it might as well be a defenceman.
They need Chris Pronger. Even if he is not healthy, he provides them what they are missing. When he is healthy, he fits their edgy (read: dirty), puck-moving style.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning overachieved in 2010-11.
This is not to say they were not a great team, but they came within one goal of knocking off the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. On paper, they were not one of the best three teams in the league.
The reason the Lightning got as far as they did is three-fold: great leadership, great coaching, and great goaltending.
That was why Sean Bergenheim and Teddy Purcell played out of their minds in the playoffs. Teams focused on stopping Vincent Lecavalier, Martin-St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. They were good enough to all finish in the teens for points anyway, and the Lightning forwards behind them (including the now-departed Simon Gagne) stepped up.
But no one from the Lightning blueline managed more than seven points in 18 playoff games, only two had more than three points and the unit scored just 25 between them. Adding Keith Yandle would give the Lightning a young puck-mover to round out their defence.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks have lacked a number of things in being conference finalists two years in a row. One of them was their back end, and they took care of that this offseason.
However, they also lacked the killer instinct to put away the Detroit Red Wings early in the second round and the speed to keep up with the Vancouver Canucks in the next. They lacked the net presence to beat the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars in the seasons before that.
Shane Doan would solve both problems. He is a leader hungry for a Cup who has the killer instinct, and he makes his living in front of the net. He would perfectly compliment Patrick Marleau's speed and Joe Thornton's passing, especially from behind the net.
Detroit Red Wings
This Detroit Red Wings are aging. They have a number of young players, but too many players they rely on are well into their 30s.
Chances are, they have already hit their expiration date. However, they got younger on the blueline, replacing a deteriorating Brian Rafalski with a comparable Ian White. They dumped older forwards Kris Draper and Mike Modano to make room for young talent.
But they have too much talent to dump everyone old (what are they going to do, get rid of their oldest player, Nick Lidstrom, who won the Norris Trophy for best defenceman in the game?). And I have already used the Ponce De Leon joke...I suppose I could rephrase it as having a way to wind back the clock, but that is a cop out.
Unfortunately, this makes the decision tough. The Red Wings still possess one of the best bluelines in the league, and are deep and talented up front.
That leaves us with goaltending.
Please understand this is not to say that Jimmy Howard is not a good goalie. He did not play well in the San Jose series in 2010, but could not be blamed for that loss in 2011.
It is just that upgrading one player in net is about the only place one player could make a difference. And if it is going to be just one player, it almost has to be the best to have enough impact...Tim Thomas would fit right into the Detroit mold because he is over 35.
The one thing the Philadelphia Flyers have lacked since the days of Ron Hextall is a championship calibre goalie.
They think they are getting one in Ilya Bryzgalov. They are wrong.
Bryzgalov tended to shrink in the biggest games. That he was 3-8 in the playoffs with the Phoenix Coyotes could be forgiven since they were over-matched by Detroit.
Just look at the regular season games against the kings of their division, the San Jose Sharks. The Coyotes would have actually won the Pacific in each season had they won the season series against San Jose. Instead, they lost 10 of 12.
One reason why is Bryzgalov played some of his worst games. He gave up three or more goals in all but one of their last 10 games, and 33 overall in that span. (He played well in the first two of 2009-10, giving up just one in each. However, that was before the Coyotes were truly contenders for the division title.)
So why choose Miller, who has little more playoff success than Bryzgalov? Because he has played better when he was there, and was much better than Ilya in the Olympics; he has an Olympic MVP and Vezina Trophy more than his Russian counterpart.
Bryzgalov is not a bad goalie, he is just not a championship goalie. Put Miller on a team like the one Philadelphia had last year and he wins a Cup easily.
Thus, I am bending the rules; Philadelphia is being allowed to undo the trade for Bryzgalov to add Miller instead.
The Nashville Predators have always had great goaltending. They currently possess a formidable blueline.
But the only time they ever had forwards was when they traded for Peter Forsberg in 2007. And they were the lowest-scoring team to make it to the playoffs from the Western Conference last season.
Sure, they scored very well in the playoffs. But they faced a team that had a cast-off goalie and another that was reeling from nearly blowing a 3-0 first-round series lead over their nemesis.
The Preds need a scoring forward. One such player could have gotten them past the eventual Western Conference champions.
If you want a scoring forward, there is no better choice than Alex Ovechkin. His physical style fits right in with Barry Trotz's coaching style.
But why take the captain of the most underachieving playoff team in the league? Because none of those playoff failures were on Ovechkin. He has scored more than a point per game in all four playoffs he has been to, and has 50 points in 37 games.
The Washington Capitals are one of only two teams to win their division four years-running. They have done it by being the most prolific scoring team over that span.
Much like the other four-time champ (San Jose), they have not won their conference in that span. And while both teams started slow but ended hot last year, the Capitals could not win more than four games.
What has been their problem? Scoring, of all things.
The Ovechkin line puts up points, but there is too little secondary scoring to win in the playoffs. A lot of that has been because their blueline does not play as well in the playoffs as they do in the regular season.
Does the team lack professionalism? Do they wilt under pressure? Do they fail to adjust to the way teams sacrifice more in May?
Perhaps all three. Either way, enter Nicklas Lidstrom.
No one is more professional. No one in the league has won more big games at the biggest times.
Few move the puck or get it towards net as well. Fewer still play the position better on both ends of the ice.
Pittsburgh mostly just needed Sidney Crosby last year. It seems unlikely they will have him to start this year, and there is speculation it may affect his career.
That is the only way the crazy Philly and Anaheim fans could be right about Bobby Ryan being a better draft choice.
But Pittsburgh showed last year that they could absorb his loss and remain competitive. They did not fail because they lacked good forward play. They lacked good blueline play.
Since Sergei Gonchar began to descend the other side of the hill, the Pens have not had the play on the back end they have needed to win a title. No matter what moves they have made, they have come up short: Pittsburgh was the worst team in the playoffs in power play (2.9 percent) and second-worst on the penalty kill (70.4 percent).
They need a two-way defenceman. With the number of teams looking for this, you can see why the typically cheap Nashville Predators re-signed Shea Weber. And he is the perfect player to get the puck up into the hands of Evgeni Malkin and (hopefully) Crosby.
Les Habitants de Montreal, the most storied team in NHL history, have not made the NHL finals in nearly 20 years.
They spend to the cap. They have talent. They churn out goalies. They have rabid fans.
Okay, maybe that last part is not a help as much as a harm. But still, the foundations for a Stanley Cup champion are there, but the results are always a bit short.
In 2010, they made it to the Eastern Conference finals, but had to go through the top two seeds and were absolutely spent after 14 games. They won just one in the third round.
In 2011, they took the first two games on the road against the eventual Stanley Cup champion before falling in seven.
What has been missing?
A great two-way defencemen. Like the one they have on their payroll who is always hurt, Andrei Markov. So once again I am bending the rules, since the one player they could acquire who could help them most would be a healthy Markov come playoff time.
The Chicago Blackhawks went from winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 to barely making the playoffs in 2011. Instead of going 16-6 once they got there, they went 3-4.
Funny how all those homeristic Chicago fans who lambasted me for ending my 2010 offseason analysis with "How the mighty have fallen" were nowhere to be found once they had. But then they still have not faced the music for all their talk about how the Chicago Bears were better than my Green Bay Packers, either.
But enough ragging on sports fans of the fine city. (Really, it is one of the better ones in this country if not the world.) It is not their fault they have had so little to brag about since Michael Jordan retired.
In 2010, they had one shot at a Stanley Cup and they made the most of it. Since then, they have been in salary cap purgatory, causing them to lose their starting goalie, a top-six forward and their most versatile player plus almost every supporting cast member on the team.
Considering all that, making the playoffs at all was an accomplishment. But they did well when they got there, out-scoring the potent Vancouver Canucks in the first round by almost a goal per game. Corey Crawford had a .927 save percentage, much better than former starter Antti Niemi.
And now they are financially in the clear thanks to moving arguably the most overpriced player in the league. While Brian Campbell was still one of the top-50 defencemen in the game, the Blackhawks maintain one of the top three bluelines in the NHL.
Where they needed help was on the checking lines. Vancouver has a potent power play, but did better against the Blackhawks (22.2 percent) than the playoffs as a whole (20.4).
An intimidator would perhaps have prevented Raffi Torres' cheapshot on Brent Seabrook. I am sure this is a reason Chicago sought nasty in the offseason, but a washed up Jamal Mayers does not help secondary scoring.
Milan Lucic would make the opposition think twice while contributing offensively. He would not actually play on the checking line, but his presence drops a top-six player down and makes that third line potent.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings have not won a playoff series in a decade. It is never painful for a San Jose Sharks fan to admit that, and that is why the one goal LA has is to pass the Sharks in the division.
What is painful to admit is that this young team has all the elements of a contender. They have a top-three blueline, top-five goalie tandem and have bolstered their forwards.
All from a team that was two overtime goals away from beating the Sharks in the first round while playing without their best scoring forward. Which brings me to what they were missing: The ability to finish.
They added a leader and clutch scorer this year in Mike Richards. They added a good second-line scorer in Simon Gagne. They are getting leading scorer Anze Kopitar back.
They have taken care of that problem. Yet they still might not be as good as the Sharks.
One move would have changed that. If the Kings took Michal Handzus back from the Sharks, his addition to their squad and loss from their rival's would make the difference.
Thus, Handzus is the one non-marquee player I am putting in this list for the shift he represents.
The Anaheim Ducks would probably have won their first round series if stellar goalie Jonas Hiller had been healthy.
That was a blessing for not only Duck haters (like me), but for those of us who feel sorry for the budget-conscious Nashville Predators. It is a little ironic that the team that lost their best chance to advance in the playoffs when Tomas Vokoun was hurt for the 2006 playoffs got their best chance when another goalie went down.
Hiller looks like he will be ready for the beginning of the season. Whether Teemu Selanne returns is another matter.
If not, the Ducks have a dearth of scoring beyond their stellar top line.
As it was, they relied too much on special teams, including a 36.6 percent success rate on the power play. In five-on-five hockey, they scored about two goals for every three of their first-round opponent, Nashville.
Since this is a wish list for trades, regardless of whether or not Selanne is coming back the Ducks need a scorer for their second line. Or one that supplants a first line forward, like Pavel Datsyuk.
What is wrong with me? I have just handed the team I hate most the forward I respect most.
Maybe it is to make Ducks fans wish for something they cannot have. Either way, his two-way talent would be a perfect fit for a team that is not in need of physical grit but skill players.
The Buffalo Sabres have been carried by Ryan Miller for years. Rarely have they spent the money to surround him with enough talent, and when they did there were other teams in the Eastern Conference that were better.
Except for 2007, when the Sabres were dealing with four injuries to their blueline at the same time in the playoffs.
Since the rules of this slideshow do not allow giving a team a horseshoe for good luck or Warren Buffet for payroll, we need to focus on the here and now to find just one player to put them over the top this year.
Much like Anaheim, Buffalo lost their first-round series because they could not compete five-on-five. Only three teams scored fewer goals per game.
Since Buffalo was missing that scoring from both forwards and the blueline, they could use the only player who is among the top 100 forwards and top 60 defencemen. Dustin Byfuglien could not only make life easier for Miller, but make it harder for the opposing goalie.
Plus, what better person to send to Buffalo than a champion wing nicknamed Buff?
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers have been all goaltending and no scoring for too long. It is not a formula that is working, as they have only two series wins and a 15-20 post-lockout record.
During that time, they have had some pretty good forwards come through. Since the 2007-08 season, the following forwards have hit career lows in points while playing for the Blue Shirts: Chris Drury, Marion Gaborik, Scott Gomez, Ales Kotalik, Markus Naslund and even Jaromir Jagr (though he did quite well in earlier seasons with the Rangers).
And that has happened under two different coaches.
So is it the fault of the blueline? Maybe not, as Wade Redden and Bryan McCabe also looked great until they called Madison Square Garden home.
Still, neither of them was as established as many of the forwards. What the Rangers need is a sure thing on the blueline, someone they can absolutely count on to put up points. Someone who can handle the pressure of playing in New York.
Duncan Keith finished with 45 points last season, and it was a disappointment. Therefore that is probably what he can expect regularly in New York, and it is more than enough. Plus, he will play well enough in his own end to fit in with the Rangers.
There is only one thing the Phoenix Coyotes need to be a successful franchise: An owner who has the deep pockets and knows how to get the most of his money.
Without such an owner, they have too little talent to stay afloat. This year, they have too little to compete for a playoff spot and no one player will get them there.
For that reason, I wanted to put Mike Illitch, owner of the Detroit Red Wings, on the list. But since he would have to bring his front office with him, I did not want to break the rules by not including a player.
Maybe Sidney Crosby would not only elevate the team's play, but bring enough excitement to start selling tickets at a lucrative price and lining up sponsors.
True, Wayne Gretzky being part of ownership and behind the bench was not enough. But there is a great difference between selling a team for its owner and coach than for a star player.
As a marketing professional in live theatre, a former star as artistic or executive director will not sell as well as the star on stage. The excitement surrounding having Crosby on the ice just might be enough to make hockey in the desert lucrative.