With the NHL finally entering the playoffs, there are many teams fighting for the Stanley Cup. For the next month and a half, all attention will be put on the playoffs as fans watch their favorite teams make cup runs.
The thing we can't forget is that many other teams missed the playoffs. These teams have already started their off season, and are hopefully getting ready to make the necessary changes for next season.
The NHL will not allow a team to make any trades before the Stanley Cup finals are over. However, this won't stop the speculation. You could argue that every team that missed the playoffs needs at least a little bit of work. That's completely true, but here are the three teams that need it the most. These will probably be the teams that you hear a lot of speculation about for the next month and a half.
#3. Toronto Maple Leafs
There are a lot of teams that I could consider for number three (or two, or one). But I chose the Toronto Maple Leafs mainly because of their stats this season.
Right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in need of some big change. Their offense was tied for the fifth worst in the NHL with only 2.56 goals per game. However, their defense was a little more alarming. It was the second worst in the NHL and allowed 3.21 goals per game during the season.
At the beginning of the season, the offense wasn't too bad. They actually had a fairly decent power play and were ranked in the middle of the NHL. Unfortunately, that didn't last the whole season. As the season wore on, their offense got worse and worse. Most of that has to do with the fact that they gave up Matt Stajan, and Niklas Hagman to the Calgary Flames.
Defensively, they also need have room for to get better. Jonas Gustavsson has had an okay rookie season, but there's a lot of room for improvement. However, he's a rookie, and I'm sure that his numbers will improve over the next few years. I won't pick on him.
As important as it is for Gustavsson to get better, it's even more important for the defense in front of him to get better. This year, there were only two defenders with positive +/- ratings. They were Luke Schenn (+2) and Carl Gunnarsson (+8), and Gunnarsson was a rookie. However, Gunnarsson only played in 43 games this season, so we'll have to see if he can do it again next year.
Personally, I think the Maple Leafs' defense will get better as the rookies gain more experience. I think that offense is going to be more of a concern during the off-season because Toronto gave some of their better goal scorers to Calgary. Now, they have to find replacements for these players. This is going to be their biggest challenge during the off season.
#2. Florida Panthers
The Panthers haven't seen the playoffs since the 1999-00 season when they finished fifth in the Eastern Conference. Through the years, they have been mismanaged, and many poor decisions have been made. It seems like they're always rebuilding.
This trend has to stop. Tomorrow never comes, and neither does next season. At some point, you have to stop investing in the future and start hoarding your talent for the present.
As the Florida Featured Columnist, I've heard many fans talk about how you need to give up good players to get good players in return. Florida has a few good players in Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton, David Booth, Michael Frolik, and most importantly, Tomas Vokoun.
Many fans want to see these players traded to get more talent. The problem is that these players have done good things for the team. There are many other players on the lower lines that don't have the work ethic or determination to be successful in the NHL. They are the ones causing the problems.
So, you tell me who needs to be dropped. The good players that are producing for the Panthers, or the bad players that are hampering the good players' effort. Personally, I have a hard time getting rid of the players that aren't causing trouble. You need to get rid of the players on the lower lines and get players with a better work ethic and more talent. In fact, there are only seven players on the team with more than ten goals this season. Trading any one of those players for another player that only scores ten goals will not help the team.
There will be plenty of players on the free agent market that the Panthers could sign. Some or these players could play on the second or third line and score 10-15 goals in a season. Not only that, but many of the players that are currently on the second or third line could be moved down a line and will be facing easier opponents. Granted, their ice time would drop, but their on-ice performance should be more productive.
The thing that puts Florida at number two is the fact that they are at least developing the attitude they need to win. Randy Sexton, the GM, is not happy with his team's performance, and made a few explicit comments to the media about how important change is.
He's right, change is a necessary thing in Florida, and it will only come if the front office knows how to attract good players. More importantly, they must keep the good players they already have.
#1. Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton finished dead last in the NHL this season. Offensively, they were ranked 27th in the NHL and defensively they were ranked as the worst. Needless to say, there were many problems with both areas of their game.
A lot of these problems had to do with injuries. Ales Hemsky and Sheldon Souray were two of the biggest players who missed the majority of the season.
As much of an effect as I think injuries had on the team, I don't think that they would have seen a lot more success anyway. They finished 33 points away from a playoff position. Even if they made up that ground, they would still find themselves against a one seed in the first round. If this team wants to get past the first round, they need to completely revamp their lineup.
That's going to be even more difficult now that Souray has demanded a trade. Personally, I think that Edmonton is pretty much forced to give Souray the trade he wants. After all, they would rather have a player that was willing to be on the team than a player that doesn't want to be there. However, the big thing that Souray did was re-raise some questions about Edmonton's management.
I have to somewhat agree with him. The management has not done a good job of building this club. They can't win games. Even at the beginning of the season, before injuries got as out of control as they eventually did, the Oilers struggled to win games.
Edmonton needs more than a draft pick. They need to get talented players on the team through whatever means necessary. Not only do they have to get the good players on the team, they have to keep the good players on the team. If the management is truly as bad as Souray says it is, then they're going to have a hard time doing either one of those.
See More of Eric's NHL Opinions at Tips for Hockey
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