Monday, June 26, 2017

The 12 teams facing the most offseason pressure

We’re well into the off-season, with expansion a memory and the entry draft weekend now over. But for NHL teams, the work has barely started. We’ve still got free agency on the horizon — not to mention buyouts, qualifying offers and arbitration. And of course, the week after the draft has been known to produce a trade or two. It’s going to be a busy summer.

Some teams already have a big chunk of their off-season work done. The Stars finally dealt for a goaltender in Ben Bishop. The Flames did too, landing Mike Smith, and added Travis Hamonic over the weekend. The Blue Jackets, Hurricanes, Flyers and Rangers have all been swinging deals, and the Blackhawks’ annual salary-cap escape is well under way. The Lightning have cleared some space and resolved the long-running Jonathan Drouin drama, and the Oilers finally pulled the trigger on Jordan Eberle. Even the Penguins addressed a perceived need, although they raised a few eyebrows in doing so.

Other teams still have work to do. That’s a group that includes teams like the Blues, Jets and Bruins. The Sharks are still facing the possibility of two veteran franchise players, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, leaving as free agents. The Wild and Ducks both need to figure out what to do with their blue lines.

Meanwhile, rebuilding teams like the Canucks and Devils are trying to stay patient, and nobody’s quite sure what lane the Red Wings think they’re in.

But while all those teams are under varying degrees of pressure to have a successful off-season, certain teams stand out as facing an especially bright spotlight. So today, let’s count down a dozen teams who have the most at stake over the next few days and weeks, just how much they have left to do, and their odds of living up to those expectations.

12. Ottawa Senators

Already done: Nothing significant, apart from losing a top-pairing defenceman in the expansion draft. Which is probably not an optimal way to start an off-season.

The job ahead: After coming within a goal of playing for the Stanley Cup, the Senators head into the off-season trying to figure out how to repeat that success, if not exceed it. Losing Marc Methot was a blow, although one softened somewhat by the imminent arrival of top prospect Thomas Chabot. But in recent days, the possibility of a Dion Phaneuf trade has taken centre stage. Maybe that’s lingering bad feelings over his expansion draft culpability, or maybe it’s just a low-budget team being smart about its spending.

Then again, maybe it’s neither, and nothing comes of the rumours. Either way, if the Senators really think they’re contenders, Pierre Dorion has some work to do on the blue line.

Hot-seat factor: Virtually non-existent. One year into the job, Dorion has a trip to the final four and a spot as a GM of the Year finalist. He’s about as safe as they come.

Bottom line: One the one hand, last year’s playoff run bought everyone some good will in a town where patience was wearing thin. On the other, it also raised expectations, and with one more season before Erik Karlsson needs an extension, there’s pressure to take advantage of an open window. Dorion may be willing to hand himself top grades just for trying; we’ll see if Senators fans are feeling quite as generous.

11. Los Angeles Kings

Already done: They stunned much of the hockey world by firing both Darryl Sutter and Dean Lombardi, replacing them with a leadership group of coach John Stevens, GM Rob Blake and team president Luc Robitaille.

The job ahead: It’s a big one. The Kings don’t feel like a team headed for a full-scale rebuild, but this group clearly needs some changes. That’s a tricky path to weave, especially for Blake and Robitaille, two guys stepping into their respective roles for the first time. There’d been some hope that the expansion draft could somehow bail them out of an albatross contract like Dustin Brown or Marian Gaborik, but that was probably a pipe dream. Instead, the focus will be on juicing the teams’ sagging offence. In a league where goals are tough to come by, that’s a tall order.

Hot-seat factor: Blake and Robitaille just got here, so they’ll get some time to chart their course.

Bottom line: The Kings have won just one playoff game in three years, which makes them a team headed in the wrong direction. A tweak here or there isn’t going to cut it, so Blake has his work cut out for him.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

No comments:

Post a Comment