10 NHL Players Under Pressure To Step Up In 2013-14

What have you done for me lately? For some players, scoring points isn’t enough, and in other cases, more points scored would be a welcomed surprise. This list of 10 NHL players on the hot seat to deliver their best in 2013-14 varies in explanations. Each player on this list must take their game to a new level for situation specific reasons, which you will read throughout this posting. All of the players on this list are very important, heavily relied on, members of their clubs.

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Bridget Samuels.

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Bridget Samuels.

Corey Perry Has Never Regained Hart Trophy Form

In 2010-11, Ducks winger Corey Perry was unstoppable. He scored 50 goals to win the Rocket Richard Trophy and was voted league MVP. However, since the epic breakout season, Perry has struggled to hit the back of the net with the same regularity.

Last season Perry signed a massive deal with the Ducks that earns him an average of $8.625 million over the next seven seasons. Making the big dollars comes with greater expectations. The Ducks’ go-to-guy offensively scored 15 goals last season in 44 games, not exactly the numbers you would expect from one of the highest paid players in the National Hockey League. In the playoffs, Perry’s performance was even less impressive. In a 7 game 1st round loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Perry was held to 0 goals. If the Ducks are to take the next step, they will need Corey Perry to recapture the goal scoring glory of his Hart Trophy season.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Is An Important Part Of The Oilers Success This Season

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins immediately made an impact in the NHL as an 18 year old rookie straight out of Junior. His 52 points in 62 games in 2011-12 made many think the young BC native was ready to be an instant threat in the NHL. RNH, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle formed a very exciting line for the Oilers, giving a glimpse of the bright future that awaits them and their club.

Last season, Nugent-Hopkins struggled to maintain the pace he set for himself as a rookie. He’s still young, and no one expects him to win scoring titles right away, or maybe ever, but the Oilers are about to take a stab at making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time with this new crop of talented youngsters. RNH needs to greatly improve on last season’s lowly total of 24 points in 40 games if the Oilers expect to see first round action this coming April .

This Season Will Define Paul Stastny’s Career

Son of the 2nd highest scoring NHL player in the 1980’s, behind Wayne Gretzky, Paul Stastny is not delivering enough offence. He will make $6.6 million this season, a contractual amount that puts him in the upper tier of NHL player salaries. Stastny has never cracked 80 points in the league, so it’s unrealistic to expect a scoring championship or 50 goal season from the 2nd line suited American centre. That being said, the 57, 53 and 24 point totals of his last three seasons are well below the production he should be providing his club.

Stastny’s contract expires at the end of the 2013-14 NHL season, meaning this year is likely his last at the big dollar value he has earned for himself, unless he does something drastic. With Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, plus, the comparable Ryan O’Reilly at centre, it is almost certain Stastny is about to play his last season as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. Some players have career years when their contract is about to expire, and Stastny could very easily fall into this category. He will play with the best collection of talent he’s ever enjoyed since joining the Avalanche in 2006. A great season for Stastny is necessary for his team, and for himself if he wants to sign another big NHL contract.

Colin Wilson Needs To Do More Offensively For The Nashville Predators

The young Preds’ forward may not have the offensive track record of some guys on this list, but one thing is the same – his team’s success will heavily rely on his performance this season. The Nashville Predators struggle to score goals, and Colin Wilson is part of the problem. The former 7th overall pick from 2008 is an offensive player but his numbers have been below average thus far in the NHL. Career highs of 16 goals and 35 points are nowhere near enough if the Preds are going to find their way back into the playoffs after missing in 2012-13.

Colin Wilson will enjoy a larger role this season which should allow him to take a big step forward. Wilson’s Predators finished 30th in goals scored last season, something they absolutely must address if they hope for success this season. Colin Wilson is under the gun to help his team find their way back into the playoffs.

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Bridget Samuels.

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Bridget Samuels.

All Eyes Will Be On David Backes In The 2013-14 NHL Regular Season

Unlike the others on this list, David Backes’ point production is fine, aside from a disappointing performance in last season’s lockout. Backes needs to step up in another way. The St. Louis Blues have been slowly building a Stanley Cup contender over the last decade and they find themselves at a boiling point. The Blues captain must lead his team now more than ever. As the Blues look forward to what could be a season to remember, Backes’ duties as captain increase drastically. He’ll need to be fearless, productive, and inspiring if his club is to become the force some people already think they are.

It’s easy to compare David Backes to the captain of the Los Angeles Kings’ Dustin Brown. They play the game in a similar fashion. However, when the Kings reached the point of no return, Brown stepped up and came through for his team, leading them to the first Stanley Cup in Kings’ franchise history. The Captain must be a major player in a Cup run. This season David Backes has to prove he has it in him.

The Carolina Hurricanes Heavily Rely On The Performance Of Eric Staal

Eric Staal is one of the most respected players in the NHL. He is coming off an incredible season of 53 points in 48 games, placing him 5th in league scoring. Staal will deliver offensively, that is not an issue. However, for all the points Eric Staal will accumulate this season, none of it matters if his Canes don’t find their way back into the post season. As Cup winners in the last decade, there is still a taste of superiority within the Hurricanes organization. Unfortunately, in recent years, Staal and his supporting cast have been unable to duplicate the success they enjoyed in the mid 2000’s.

As Captain, and best player on a Canes squad that can be a playoff team if everyone stays healthy, the pressure is on Staal to once again lead his team back to the post season. With little brother Jordan in a supporting role and star goalie Cam Ward between the pipes, Eric will have every opportunity to enjoy the best season of his NHL career thus far, further cementing him as one of the best players of this generation.

The Sedins

Okay, so they’re actually two players, but it’s hard to think about Henrik Sedin without considering Daniel, and vis versa. The Canucks house one of the older rosters in the NHL, finding themselves on the win-now section of the roster life cycle. In fact, this season could be their last chance to attempt winning the Stanley Cup as a group. The Sedins are at the centre of the Canucks hopes to return to the Stanley Cup Finals and it begins with a strong regular season.

In 2009-10, Henrik Sedin stepped up and led the league in scoring, earning himself a Hart Trophy to go along with his Art Ross. The following season, brother Daniel took his turn as regular season scoring champion. Since then, their numbers have declined to some degree.

It is not important that the Sedin Brothers win another scoring title, however, it is very crucial that they become the leaders and big game players the Canucks need them to be if winning the Stanley Cup with this group is a realistic goal. In 2013-14, the Sedins must deliver and be the best players on the Canucks. If they can take charge and lead their team to another playoff birth there is no telling where they can go from there. New Head Coach John Tortorella has a very good track record of getting the most out of his players in the post season.

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Clyde.

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Clyde.

Nicklas Backstrom Will Single Handedly Determine The Success Of The Washington Capitals In 2013-14

Former 100 point scorer and setup man to Alex Ovechkin, Nik Backstrom has seen a recent decline in numbers, however, there is no denying the skill level of the Swedish star. He is one of the most underrated talents in the NHL, earning a point per game or more in 5 of his last 6 seasons puts him in some pretty elite company. Nicklas Backstrom will produce. But at some point, just producing points is not enough, and while the Caps prepare to erase the memory of another terrible playoff exit, it’s on Backstrom to step up and do more.

Say what you will about Alex Ovechkin being the captain and best player on the Capitals. The game of hockey is often played up the middle, and Ovechkin is a winger. It is Nik Backstrom at centre who can truly control the flow of a game, something he’s done before at a very high level. In 2010, the Capitals won the President’s Trophy, largely because of Backstrom’s dominant performance in the middle of the ice. He tallied 101 points that season in 82 games. It’s worth noting that Ovechkin’s 72 games played in 2009-10 was the lowest total of his career (not including the lockout), and the Caps did not miss a beat without him, thanks largely to the incredible play of the defensively conscious, playmaking Swede. Another season like 2010 is a must for the Caps’ franchise centreman if they want any chance at making the playoffs in a much tougher division.

The Habs Go As Carey Price Goes

The Canadiens will only go as far as Carey Price can take them. The Habs field a young team, mixed in with some older players on the downside of their careers. Basically, if you’re on the Habs, you’re either a little past your glory days or still building up toward them. Carey Price, is the major exception to that diagnosis. The Habs goaltender has proven at times, that when he is playing great, he’ll stop anything.

The Montreal Canadiens are different than most NHL clubs. They play under a magnifying glass and missing the playoffs is unacceptable, no matter what the excuse. Last season, the Habs performed well above expectations to win the Northeast Division. This year, the only way they win another division title is if Carey Price carries them there.

The On Again Off Again Marian Gaborik Should Be On Again In 2013-14

One of the most unpredictable players in NHL history finds himself on his 3rd NHL club, the Columbus Blue Jackets. When Gaborik is scoring, there are few who match his lethality. He is explosive and dangerous with the puck, or while sneaking into open areas for high quality scoring chances. But Gaborik can disappear for very long stretches, leaving many to wonder if he’s hurt or just doesn’t care. Gaborik’s Blue Jackets made massive strides forward last season. They’ll try to make the playoffs in 2013-14, largely relying on Gaborik’s ability to score goals. The only way they get in, is if Marian Gaborik has one of his good years.

Marian Gaborik has scored 40 or more goals in 3 of his last 6 seasons. The crazy thing is, he’s never done it twice in a row. That’s right, when Gaborik is having a good season he scores with the best of them. Unfortunately, he always follows a good one with a bad one. This is lined up to be one of Gaborik’s good years, having produced only 12 goals last season. Expect him to come through for the Blue Jackets, propelling them toward a potential birth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for only the 2nd time in franchise history.

 

2 comments for “10 NHL Players Under Pressure To Step Up In 2013-14

  1. Slambrou
    September 9, 2013 at 7:46 PM

    Bang on list..

    I would also add Phaneuf (expiring contract and huge expectations) to this list and to a lesser degree LeCavalier (making big money on a team coming off disappointing season)

    • Sal J. Ientile
      September 9, 2013 at 11:29 PM

      I agree, there are definitely more than ten players who are under pressure to have a really strong season for various reasons.

      Phaneuf, Lecavalier meet all the criteria.

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