There comes a time when every team must accept that its current core of players will just not cut it, and realize the necessity of a rebuild or retool. Pittsburgh and Chicago did it and won Stanley Cups; Los Angeles has done it and is now looking to take the next step; and Edmonton and Toronto are in the middle of the process right now.
So here are 10 teams that need to think about launching a rebuild of their own.
1. Calgary Flames
Everyone’s favourite candidate for a rebuild; even Flames fans are reluctantly beginning to accept that something must be done, after yet another slow start. Calgary has a good team on paper, but there is clearly a culture change needed within the locker room. Too many players have high salaries but show no effort on a consistent basis. It’s time for the Flames to cut their losses, shed as much salary as possible, and rebuild their team. There’s not a wealth of talent in the prospect pool, so trades and free agency will be necessary.
Jarome Iginla (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)
2. Columbus Blue Jackets
Retooling is what they were supposed to be doing this year – they picked up Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski, and Vaclav Prospal, and were ready to fight for a playoff spot. Instead, they’re sitting alone in the basement of the league. There is, on paper, plenty of talent. But if this group can’t get it done even with a star like Carter finally giving Rick Nash a bona fide centreman, maybe it’s time to shake up the team and give Nash and Carter a new supporting cast.
Rick Nash (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)
3. Montreal Canadiens
There is no doubt this team finds a way to make a push in the playoffs, but lately have had to fight to even make the postseason. After a poor start this year, it might be time to accept that the current group just isn’t going to get the job done. A full rebuild would be overkill, but retooling the core seems necessary if the Habs don’t want to spend the next few seasons struggling to even make the playoffs. The prospect pipeline is not particularly rich, but there are a few who could make an impact if given the chance.
Brian Gionta (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot)
4. Carolina Hurricanes
Even ignoring slow starts by Eric Staal and Cam Ward, the Hurricanes are not a contending team, and haven’t been for a number of years. They are sometimes good enough to make the playoffs, but at a certain point that is not enough. They have a lot of good prospects, but few to none are top-end players. Staal, Jeff Skinner, and Ward are great players, but not good enough to push the current team over the edge. The team around them needs to be rebuilt if the Hurricanes want to become a real contender again anytime soon.
Eric Staal (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
5. Winnipeg Jets
It’s funny to suggest that a brand new team needs a “rebuild,” but the Jets did inherit the Atlanta Thrasher’s old team, which was not good enough to cut it year after year. The Thrashers had poor prospect development, and the new Jets program may not be able to undo the damage done to players like Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler. There is very little prospect talent in the pipeline to help out. If Winnipeg management was smart, they would sell off at the trade deadline, draft as high as possible, and restart from scratch.
Blake Wheeler (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara))
6. Minnesota Wild
The Wild are off to a good start, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’ve turned a corner. Good coaching and goaltending can disguise an underwhelming roster, but the Wild will never be bona fide contenders while Matt Cullen is their leading scorer and Jared Spurgeon, Nate Prosser, and Clayton Stoner make up half of the defence.
Minnesota has some decent pieces in place, but if they want to make the playoffs again any time this decade, they are going to need to do something to their roster.
Matt Cullen (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
7. New York Islanders
The Islanders have a great young core of players, like John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Nino Niederreiter, et al. Why would they need to rebuild? Well, outside of Tavares, who do they really have that can make an impact? There’s hope for Niederreiter, but Grabner and Matt Moulson are complementary stars at best. And there’s a very good chance the Isles will ruin their development, just as they’ve mishandled Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, and Kyle Okposo, all once believed to be future stars of the team as well, and all now struggling to even stay relevant.
The Islanders struggle year after year, no matter how many good prospects they have. There is talent on this team, but it is too often improperly managed by the team, and a change of culture is needed, both in management and on the ice.
John Tavares (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek))
8. Tampa Bay Lightning
A bit of a premature pick; the Lightning have a good core right now, led by Martin St. Louis and young star Steven Stamkos. But St. Louis, while still looking strong, is now 36 years old, and other key players like Dwayne Roloson, Mattias Ohlund, Pavel Kubina, and Eric Brewer are all in the twilight of their careers. Meanwhile Vincent Lecavalier has a few years left but isn’t producing like he used to.
The Lightning do not need a full rebuild, of course; they already have Stamkos and Victor Hedman to build around. But even if St. Louis pulls a “Selanne” and keeps producing into his 40s, Tampa Bay will still need to replenish its defence and goaltending sooner rather than later.
Martin St. Louis (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
9. Detroit Red Wings
Are the mighty Red Wings poised to fall? Maybe not as far as some hope, but Nicklas Lidstrom will soon retire, and Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are now at the age where most stars begin to decline. And behind those three, the Wings’ roster is remarkably thin. Guys like Todd Bertuzzi, Dan Cleary, Johan Franzen, and Brad Stuart are also getting up there in age.
Fortunately, Ken Holland is a smart GM, and has been stockpiling prospects for years. And Holland has already said he will be aggressive this year at the trade deadline and during free agency. Look for Detroit to go after a big fish like Shea Weber, and finish their “retooling” before they even actually decline. (Geez, why won’t this team just fail for once?)
Nicklas Lidstrom (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
10. San Jose Sharks
Another premature pick, but how many playoff series do the Sharks lose before they admit that Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dan Boyle just aren’t going to get the job done? There is so much talent on this team, yet they haven’t made the Stanley Cup Finals after almost a decade of regular season dominance. Two years of making the Conference Finals shows promise, but again, if this squad shows again this year that they can’t get beyond that point, when does management give up and tear it down?
There’s no team more overdue for a Cup this decade than San Jose, but it’s like watching a train wreck stuck on replay. Their top players aren’t getting any younger, and you have to think that one year soon the team will just admit defeat and try again with a new crop of players.
Joe Thornton (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)