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Hockey Prospectus 2012-13 is here! Download Sample Chapter - Penguins!

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June 21, 2012
Plugging Holes
Pacific Division

by Philip Myrland and ESPN Insider


With the Stanley Cup finals in the books, it's time for every NHL team to tinker with its roster and see how it can retool for next season. The analysts of Hockey Prospectus provide some help, identifying the biggest shortcoming on every NHL roster using their GVT valuation metric and offering a unique suggestion on how to fix it for 2012-13. The series continues with fixes for the five teams in the Pacific Division, where the Ducks need depth at forward.

Anaheim Ducks

The hole: Depth scoring/possession forward

The last time the Ducks took more shots in a season than they allowed was 2006-07, the season they won the Stanley Cup. Since that success, the team has been relying heavily on its top line and goaltending to make up for a persistent negative shot differential -- a recipe that has had some success but was exposed as a risky strategy when the team's usually excellent goaltender, Jonas Hiller, struggled last season. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry can handle their own against opposing teams' top players, but the bottom two lines in Anaheim were completely outplayed on a routine basis.

The fix: Sign C Kyle Wellwood (9.7 GVT)

Once a laughingstock around the league for his lack of physical preparedness, the 29-year-old Wellwood has quietly remade his NHL career over the past two seasons and turned himself into a useful second- or third-line player. He led the San Jose Sharks in Corsi rating (difference in team shot attempts for and against) in 2010-11 and was second among Winnipeg regulars last season, showing that he knows how to move play in the right direction. Wellwood can also chip in some offense, scoring 47 points for the Jets. Wellwood's 18 goals would have ranked him fourth on the offensively challenged Ducks.

Dallas Stars

The hole: Top-six forward

Tom Gaglardi purchased the Stars in November 2011, making this the first free-agency period under his leadership. General manager Joe Nieuwendyk will likely spend some big money this summer as Dallas looks to make a splash in the UFA market and continue the team's rebuild, with the goal of returning to the postseason after a four-year drought. The Stars covet a No. 1 defenseman and will probably be in pursuit of Ryan Suter, but the market is pretty shallow after him. Plus, the team has a lot of other holes that also need to be filled, both to bolster the team's depth and to improve the talent at the top of the roster up front.

The fix: Sign LW Alexander Semin (12.0 GVT)

Semin will cost a lot of money and comes with a reputation of lacking heart and disappearing in tough situations, but there are few players available with his talent or his track record of scoring goals in the NHL. The sometimes mercurial sniper ranks 10th in goals per game since the lockout, averaging an impressive 37 goals per 82 games played. Although Semin's production was down last season (21 goals and 33 assists), he did get used to playing in a more defensive system under Dale Hunter, which would make it less of an adjustment to move to the tight Pacific Division.

Los Angeles Kings

The hole: Checking-line center

Many Stanley Cup champions in the cap era have seen their squad dismantled shortly after sipping from Lord Stanley's chalice, but the Kings are in the rare position of having nearly all of their key contributors under contract for this coming season. The team's entire blue-line group is signed through 2012-13, along with both goalies and all of the top-six forwards, putting the team in a great position for a potential repeat championship. The key unrestricted free agent is Jarret Stoll, the team's third-line center who was relied on heavily in the faceoff circle (55.0 percent faceoff rate in 2011-12). Fourth-line center Colin Fraser is also a UFA, which makes it additionally important for the Kings to find somebody to help take the draws and anchor their bottom six.

The fix: C Paul Gaustad (3.3 GVT)

The 6-foot-3 Gaustad wouldn't find himself out of place among the Kings' group of big forwards who like to crash and bang. He was a disappointment in Nashville after being a high-priced trade deadline acquisition, which would surely be of some concern to any team looking to sign him, but it could also be an opportunity to buy low on a player who will be playing in his eighth full NHL season. One thing that Gaustad can be relied upon is to win key faceoffs, with a 57 percent success rate in the regular season and an even better 60 percent mark over two playoff rounds.

Phoenix Coyotes

The hole: Scoring forwards

The Coyotes were already only 18th in the league in scoring (including 29th in power-play scoring), but with Ray Whitney, Shane Doan and Daymond Langkow facing unrestricted free agency, the team is looking at an offensive "whiteout" in 2012-13 unless it can add more players who can put the puck in the net. Phoenix rode Mike Smith's terrific season in goal all the way to the Western Conference finals, but Smith doesn't have a long track record of success -- and even a slight regression in his play would put a lot of pressure on the team's offense. Phoenix needs to find more goals from somewhere if the Coyotes plan to defend their Pacific Division title.

The fix: Sign LW Jiri Hudler (GVT 8.0)

Hudler completed his second 50-point campaign in the NHL last season, including establishing a new career high with 25 goals. At 28, he is also younger than many of the other possible free-agent targets available. The small but versatile Czech player could provide the offensive production Phoenix is looking for, although the downside for the cash-strapped Coyotes is that the lack of scorers available on the market means that Hudler will likely command a sizable salary.

San Jose Sharks

The hole: Penalty-killing forward

It is rare that a potential Cup contender is completely awful in a key area of the game for two years in a row, but the Sharks' inept penalty kill ended the season ranked 29th in the league with a 76.9 percent success rate, the second straight season that San Jose has found itself in the bottom 10 in that department. Things got even worse in the playoffs as the Sharks conceded six power-play goals to the St. Louis Blues in just 18 opportunities. With the team's stars aging and the window of success rapidly closing with each season that passes, this is a glaring hole that needs to be addressed to avoid continued defensive failure in the postseason.

The fix: Sign C Jay McClement (GVT 1.8)

McClement led the Colorado Avalanche in ice time in short-handed situations, averaging a whopping 3:06 per game. Despite that workload, McClement was on the ice for just 20 power-play goals against. For the sake of comparison, that was the same number of power-play goals against that Joe Pavelski was on for in San Jose, even though Pavelski had half the short-handed ice time (1:34 per game). A team's unit can't be reduced to a single player, and San Jose's coaching should take part of the blame for being unable to implement a successful system, but adding one of the league's best defensive forwards would be a great first step toward improving the Sharks' ability to kill penalties and prevent goals against the best offensive teams in the Western Conference.

A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider Insider.

Philip Myrland is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Philip by clicking here or click here to see Philip's other articles.

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Howe and Why (06/26)

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2012-06-21 - Plugging Holes: Pacific Division
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2011-11-25 - In The Crease: Josh Harding

2012-06-21 - Plugging Holes: Pacific Division
2012-06-20 - Plugging Holes: Northwest Division
2012-06-19 - Plugging Holes: Central Division
2012-06-18 - Plugging Holes: Southeast Division