20 NHL Players With The Highest Expectations In A Shortened Season
20 NHL Players With The Highest Expectations In A Shortened Season
With NHL action less than 10 days away, there is a palpable excitement in the air. Hockey fans will now get to see at least a partial season, and the Stanley Cup will still be awarded. With a shortened season comes higher expectations for star players, who will need to perform at the peak of their game with few, if any, bad nights. For Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin this is nothing new, but both will need to stay healthy for their respective teams to contend at the postseason.
The shortened season will also place a heavy emphasis on goaltending, as teams will often play multiple games over the course of a few nights. Those goalies who normally start the bulk of their teams’ games will be looked to even more this season - the pressure’s on for Martin Brodeur, Jonathan Quick, Ryan Miller and many others.
Players who shifted teams in the offseason will get their first taste of action with their new clubs - how will Rick Nash, Jordan Staal, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter perform in new surroundings? Perhaps the players with the most pressure are the ones that had the best performances last season and will be looked to for a repeat. Quick, Cory Schneider, Claude Giroux and Gabriel Landeskog are a few of the players who became household names during last season, and their respective teams will need them to shine extra bright to guarantee success in 2013.
A compact schedule puts extra pressure on every player in the league, but these 20 players face the highest of expectations headed into the 2013 season.
Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
Jordan Staal enters this season with high expectations, as he joins brother Eric Staal with the Carolina Hurricanes. The ‘Canes traded Brandon Sutter to the Pittsburgh Penguins to reunite the brothers, and Jordan will need to continue his excellent special teams play in the South. The younger Staal is coming off his best NHL season to date, with 25 goals and 50 points in 2011-12.
Jaromir Jagr, Dallas Stars
It may not look right in print yet, but Jaromir Jagr is indeed now a member of the Dallas Stars. He will be looked to for a strong offensive year, hoping there’s still something left in the tank. He exploded after the last lockout, notching 123 points for the New York Rangers in 2005-06. If he can recapture even a bit of that magic, the Stars should be headed back to the playoffs.
Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
All personal accolades aside, Ryan Miller has yet to lead the Buffalo Sabres to any kind of significant postseason success. A goaltender who usually gets the bulk of his team’s starts, he will need to be especially sharp in a shortened season. The addition of Steve Ott should make the team tougher than last season, when a run at Miller resulted in little retaliation.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks will need young winger Patrick Kane to continue to mature and play more like the 2009-10 season that saw him rack up 88 points than the 2011-12 season that saw him record just 66 points. A stint with EHC Biel in Switzerland may have helped him, but he has a lot to prove on and off the ice this season.
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
Henrik Zetterberg is expected to be officially named the Detroit Red Wings' captain in the next few days, and will be looked to for leadership and increased offensive production this season. He stayed active during the lockout by starring for EV Zug in Switzerland and could have a chance to be paired with Damien Brunner, his teammate there, in Detroit.
Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
One of the biggest stories during the lockout was how well the Edmonton Oilers’ four top prospects (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz) played in the AHL for the Oklahoma City Barons. The lockout also gave Hall time to heal a shoulder injury, and he will have a chance to be a leader on this young team as he tries to be the point-per-game player he is capable of being.
Alexander Semin, Carolina Hurricanes
This season we will find out if Alexander Semin is a truly great offensive threat, or was always helped along by playing with Alexander Ovechkin for the Washington Capitals. The Carolina Hurricanes bet a lot of money that Semin can thrive for them, and anything short of a 20-goal campaign should be looked at as disappointing.
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
There is no longer any question that the Nashville Predators are Shea Weber’s team. The departure of Ryan Suter leaves Weber as the main threat on a defense corps of a team trying to make a deep playoff run for a second consecutive season. The compacted schedule will still have the Preds meeting division foes frequently, and Weber seems to play better in those games and will need to continue doing so.
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Claude Giroux had a career season in 2011-12, scoring 28 goals and racking up 93 points for the Philadelphia Flyers. With a chance of him being named team captain, he will be looked to for leadership and a similar offensive season to the one he just had.
Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes
Goaltending will take center stage during a shortened season, which could benefit the Phoenix Coyotes and Mike Smith. Through the latter parts of the 2011-12 season, Smith put the team on his back with the best play of his career and got as far as the Western Conference Finals. He will likely see the bulk of starts for the ‘Yotes, and will need to play like he did last season, especially with free agency coming in the summer.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
It’s safe to say that Sidney Crosby faces the highest amount of pressure no matter what season it is, but he will be looked to by the Pittsburgh Penguins even more this year. He will need to stay healthy for the entire campaign if the team is to reach the playoffs, and has shown he can be one of the league’s best scorers when at full stength.
Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Alexander Ovechkin will be playing without Alexander Semin for the first time in his career, but should still have a healthy Nicklas Backstrom beside him for a shortened Washington Capitals' season. New addition Mike Ribeiro should also help, and new coach Adam Oates’ style may help Ovechkin’s offensive totals once again be near the top of the league.
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
It’s likely playoffs or bust this season for a Minnesota Wild team that spent a lot of money on free agents like Ryan Suter in the offseason. Suter will need to prove early on that he is truly one of the league’s premier blueliners and wasn’t able to rack up points in Nashville just because he played alongside Shea Weber.
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Few teams face as much pressure as the Los Angeles Kings do, trying to avoid the dreaded “Stanley Cup hangover.” Jonathan Quick’s memorable 2011-12 season will be hard to duplicate, but he needs to be strong in net for them if they want to return to the playoffs. He usually sees the bulk of work between the pipes, and that likely won’t change much in a shortened season.
Cory Schneider, Vancouver Canucks
Cory Schneider earned the Vancouver Canucks starting job last season by outplaying Roberto Luongo in the home stretch of the season and the first round of the playoffs. With Luongo likely on his way out of town, the Canucks need Schneider to look every bit like the 20-game winner he was last season as they try and move forward.
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
The last time there was a shortened season due to a lockout, Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup. In what could be the final season for one of the game’s best goaltenders, the Devils will lean on Brodeur to make the majority of starts and try and get the team back to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
On the heels of a Calder Trophy win and being named captain, all eyes in Denver will be on Colorado Avalanche winger Gabriel Landeskog in his sophomore season. The team will look to him for more of the offensive flair he showcased last season (22 goals, 52 points) as well as more maturity and leadership than most 20-year-olds can deliver.
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
Now that the Tim Thomas saga appears to be over for the Boston Bruins, the team will turn to Tuukka Rask between the pipes. The lockout gave him time to heal from injury, and the Bruins need him to look every bit like the 22-game winner he was during the 2009-10 season. He captured six wins in eight starts in the Czech league during the lockout, and appears to be ready for the task at hand.
Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
After the Minnesota Wild pulled a free-agency stunner and landed both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, expectations in the “state of hockey” skyrocketed. This team will need to make the playoffs, and will need Parise to lead the way offensively for that to happen.
Rick Nash, New York Rangers
On paper, the New York Rangers have already won the Stanley Cup. They have one of the best goaltenders in the league in Henrik Lundqvist, solid young defensemen and a potent offense that got even better with the offseason addition of Rick Nash. The blueshirts will need Nash to help lead the team, and it should be a relief for him to no longer have to shoulder the offensive burden alone.