Tuesday, February 24, 2009

NHL Trade Deadline Needs

By Mike Chen

With less than a month to go to the NHL trade deadline, no less than 25 out of 30 teams still have a chance at making the Stanley Cup playoffs. And, as the Edmonton Oilers demonstrated a few years back, once you get into the playoffs, just about anything can happen.

With such a tight margin separating teams — as of this writing, fifth and 15th place in the Western Conference were separated by a mere 11 points — the amount of actual sellers at the trade deadline will most likely be diminished from previous seasons. That may change if a more distinct separation forms between contenders and also-rans. In the mean time, here's a list of what teams will be targeting come trade deadline time.

Who needs goaltending?

Washington Capitals — Really, does anyone trust Jose Theodore in the long-run? Theodore's inconsistent play is a far cry from his Hart Trophy-winning days in Montreal.

Detroit Red Wings — Have you caught the latest episode of "As Detroit's Crease Turns?" It involves veteran netminder — and last year's Cup-run hero — Chris Osgood getting sent home while the Wings turn to Ty Conklin and untested Jimmy Howard.

Philadelphia Flyers — Regardless of which Philly netminder is starting, the Flyers have had inconsistent goaltending — sometimes brilliant, sometimes atrocious. By adding some stability in net (though this is Philly, the land where goaltending careers go to die), the Flyers greatly increase their chances for a long playoff run.

Montreal Canadiens — How bad have things gotten for wunderkind Carey Price? So much so that Toronto coach Ron Wilson publicly states that he wants to take things slow with rookie netminder Justin Pogge to avoid what happened to Price. Perhaps it was too high of expectations too song, or perhaps the pressures of playing in Montreal for the Canadiens' centennial was too much for a guy who can't legally buy booze in the U.S.; whatever the case, things aren't playing out as planned.

Who needs scoring?

Pittsburgh Penguins — It's rather scary to think that a team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin needs scoring help, but those two can't do it alone. Pittsburgh's lack of secondary scoring will hurt them even further should they make the postseason, where checking becomes even tighter. If only Marian Hossa had stayed...

New York Rangers — Apparently, $7 million ain't what it used to be. When you're forking over that kind of dough, you expect top-line scoring in return. Scott Gomez and Chris Drury forgot about that part of the job description. Petr Prucha fell off the planet, and Markus Naslund will be lucky if he tops 50 points this season.

Minnesota Wild — The Wild can't score. Marian Gaborik is hurt. What else is new?

Columbus Blue Jackets — Ken Hitchcock's finally got the Blue Jackets molded in his identity while Rick Nash is comfortably growing into the captain's role and Steve Mason has established himself as one of the scariest goalies in the NHL. However, hard work and two superstars can't do it alone. R.J. Umberger and Kristian Huselius have provided secondary scoring, but it's not enough.

Nashville Predators — At one point in the recent past, the Predators had one of the most high-flying cast of forwards in the league. That was before Nashville's ownership situation created a ton of roster upheaval. Now the Preds, who retained their identity of a defensively sound squad with a strong work ethic, have regressed in their ability to put the puck in the net.

Who needs everything?

Carolina Hurricanes — Scorers not scoring, inconsistent goaltending, spotty defense. The thing with the 'Canes is that they have all the tools to get it done in the organization, it's just that not all of it clicks at once. That's what a coaching change is supposed to spark, but bringing back Paul Maurice hasn't done that just yet.

Phoenix Coyotes — The funny thing about the Phoenix Coyotes is that they have the players to fill in their needs. Scoring? If Olli Jokinen and Peter Mueller woke up, the Yotes would be okay. Defense? How about better penalty killing from Derek Morris and Ed Jovanovski? Goaltending? Ilya Bryzgalov can't decide if he's a strong starter or a poor backup.

It's not to say that the teams not on this list are perfect — you can bet that Boston and San Jose would like a little more depth, and not everyone on the Calgary roster is bringing his A game (hello, Dion Phaneuf). Bubble teams like Buffalo need healthy and overall consistency more than anything else. But if you're looking for what's going to get specifically targeted come March 4th, this is what you'll see.

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