5 teams that are a deadline tweak away from moving to the next level

Mar 4, 1:48 PM

Not every team is built to win the Stanley Cup. That’s obvious, but what I’m saying is, not every team is built tryingto win the Stanley Cup. A good number of teams are self-aware about what they are, and would be more than happy just cracking the playoffs, or winning a round or two, depending on their history/roster/pre-season expectations and all that. And, of course, some teams are serious about the big prize.

Now that we’ve got the World’s Most Obvious Paragraph out of the way, what we’re doing today is looking at the teams who are legitimately just a move, just a tweak away from getting to their next level. The teams who could actually benefit this season from being active at the deadline.

So, with the preamble licked, let’s get to it. Here are five teams that can take their next step with one addition.

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TEAM

New York Rangers

CURRENT STATUS

3rd in Metro, 7th in the East, 69 points in 62 games. Two points from being out of a playoff spot entirely.

WHAT THEY’D CONSIDER A SUCCESS

Making it to the Eastern Conference Semifinal (as in, winning a playoff round), Conference Final would be huge.

NEED

A top-six forward, preferably top-three.

GO ON…

Let’s say the Rangers managed to acquire that one player. Let’s say…gasp…they end up being the team who lands Ryan Kesler. How much more of a threat are they in the East?

Honestly, I’m surprised they’ve struggled as much as they have this season. We know Henrik Lundqvist is a better goalie than he’s shown so far this year, and nobody would be surprised to see him play out of his mind come playoffs. So…Lundqvist gets better, they add a little bit more scoring punch (and if it comes in the form of Kesler, a two-way top minutes player), and suddenly they look around and notice that outside of Boston and (maybe) Pittsburgh, they might be the next-best team in the East. Hmm.

Couldn’t you see them climb the East ladder, get a doable first round draw and be a tough out from there?

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TEAM

Dallas Stars

CURRENT STATUS

5th in the Central, 8th in the West, 68 points in 61 games. Holding on to final wild card spot by two points.

WHAT THEY’D CONSIDER A SUCCESS

Playoffs at the very least, winning a round would be huge.

NEED

A top pair, minutes-eating defenseman (or as close to that as possible).

GO ON…

The Dallas Stars are currently in the “best of the rest” category out West. You don’t think about them like you do the California teams, or St. Louis/Chicago, but they aren’t that far off, are they? Lehtonen’s a good starter, and their depth up-front gets better with every game their young players play (guys like Nichushkin, Chiasson and Eakin). If they added one real good defenseman, I could see them separating themselves from the “will we make playoffs?” pack and moving closer to the big boys.

There’s a lot to like in Dallas; adding stability would be huge.

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TEAM

New Jersey Devils

CURRENT STATUS

6th in the Metro, T-11th in the East, 65 points in 62 games. Only three points from touching the final wild card spot.

WHAT THEY’D CONSIDER A SUCCESS

Cracking playoffs, at this point. But getting past a round would bring major smiles.

NEED

Ilya Kovalchuk with a different name. Or, say, Zach Parise, again with a different name. (A forward with some offensive punch.)

GO ON…

This is a dynamite defensive team. I wrote about the St. Louis Blues and their great d-corps earlier today – New Jersey might be Eastern Conference’s version. They give up the least shots-per-game in the entire league (and rarely get scored on as a result), they just struggle to do it at the other end.

If they were to consistently start Schneider over Brodeur and were able add one offensive weapon, I think that separates them from The Almosts in the East and gets them in the post-season. Who knows what great team defense can do from there.

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TEAM

Colorado Avalanche

CURRENT STATUS

3rd in central, 5th in the West, 83 points in 61 games. A point behind the Kings for home ice, a whopping 17 points away from falling out of the playoffs.

WHAT THEY’D CONSIDER A SUCCESS

It’s a little out of whack after their great start, because in pre-season you’d have called playoffs a success. I think they go bonkers if they win two rounds, likely consider winning a single playoff series a successful year.

NEED

A high quality defenseman. Someone to lean on back there.

GO ON…

I am baffled – baffled – that the Avalanche are still just humming along with a d-corps that consists of a couple NHL d-men, a lawnmower, a box of tinfoil wrap, and two bocci balls (note: the actual d-corps is slightly more effective than those items). If this team is serious about being seriously serious, and they seriously seem like they seriously are, then adding a guy who can take the heat of their garden/kitchen supply pairings would go a long way.

I just feel like their D would get exposed in a seven game series, as much as I like their group of forwards. A little bit of help on the back could go a long way for this talented group.

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TEAM

Philadelphia Flyers

CURRENT STATUS

2nd in Metro, 6th in East, 70 points in 62 games. Few points away from being out of a playoff spot.

WHAT THEY’D CONSIDER A SUCCESS

Even with their slow start I think the Flyers look at a first-round knockout as a disappointment. Conference Final would be a huge success for them. Winning one round seems like the expectation.

NEED

Once again, that guy they can lean on for 20-plus minutes a game on the back-end. A quality defenseman. (Yes, I’m well aware there don’t seem to be enough of these to go around.)

GO ON…

A big part of utilizing your quality forwards is by having defenseman who can get them the puck. Think of Russia in the Olympics – holy smokes they had talent up front! (Fine print: but because their defensemen were so bad they rarely got the puck in the right spots and instead spent too much time in their own zone and were rendered useless.)

I like the Flyers talent and grit up front. But until they get better on the back-end, I don’t think it matters all that much. And with Steve Mason in net, you’d probably like to avoid leaning on your goalie too heavily (he’s been fine, but whatever, he’s not exactly an all-star).

Point is, I think the Flyers have way more talent than some of the other teams they’re scrapping with in the standings. One more piece on the back could go a long way to alleviating some of their stress.