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NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

30 in 30: Sharks' X-factor Burns a force at forward

Tuesday, 08.06.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

The San Jose Sharks roared out of the gate in 2012-13, going 7-0-0 through January while never scoring fewer than three goals. The team then proceeded to go winless in seven straight, and during February scored three or more goals once in 12 games. The Sharks needed offensive answers, and they needed them fast.

Would they tap a prospect to help jump-start the offensive engine? Pick up a depth veteran off waivers? Make a big trade to acquire one?

How about moving a defenseman to forward?

30 in 30: Prospects Hertl, Stalock ready to join Sharks

Tuesday, 08.06.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

In the NHL, some teams draft and others deal.

For the past few seasons, the San Jose Sharks have fallen primarily into the latter category, trading picks for established professionals. Logan Couture, drafted in 2007, represents the most recent NHL star taken by the Sharks. Since then, San Jose's development program has ranked near the bottom of the League even as the Sharks clinched their ninth consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff appearance in 2012-13.

That's still the case heading into the 2013-14 season. The pool of future NHL stars looks shallow, but San Jose is making strides. The organization continues to be one of the best at drafting and developing NCAA prospects, and this year's batch features a healthy mix of two-way centers, physical defensemen and a couple of explosive forwards, many of whom have the tools to make an impact in 2013-14.

Here's a look at San Jose's' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

30 in 30: Sharks seeking backup goalie, more offense

Tuesday, 08.06.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

Last season, the San Jose Sharks clinched their ninth consecutive berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the sailing was not always smooth. After a scorching January, the Sharks hit an offensive rough patch that threatened their postseason chances. The slump was so severe management was forced to shuffle the lineup and address long-term questions during the busiest point of the season.

This offseason, general manager Doug Wilson has continued implementing his "reset/refresh" philosophy in an attempt to avoid the emergency surgery of last season. Has Wilson done enough to steer the Sharks toward running their playoff streak to 10 in 2013-14?

According to the website OnTheForecheck.com, the Sharks will cover more miles than any team in the NHL competing in a realigned Pacific Division. Their goaltender, Antti Niemi, is world-class, but he's looking for a backup. The Sharks shone on special teams last season but struggled at full strength, and the defense again may be asked to carry a big load.

Here is a look at the six biggest questions facing San Jose as it enters 2013-14:

30 in 30: Refreshed Sharks chase 10th straight berth

Tuesday, 08.06.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

When the San Jose Sharks open their 2013-14 season Oct. 3 versus the Vancouver Canucks, they will look largely unchanged from the team that clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth for the ninth consecutive season in 2012-13.

However, that continuity doesn't mean it's been a quiet offseason in the Bay Area. Since the April 3 NHL Trade Deadline, which, if you're talking to general manager Doug Wilson, is when his preseason planning actually began, San Jose has added or converted four forwards, shored up its prospect pool, and locked up franchise faces Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski on extended contracts.

All of the moves were calculated steps in what San Jose calls its "Reset-Refresh" philosophy. No personnel or philosophy decisions are made without first analyzing what came previous. By late March of 2012-13, the analysis was grim. After a 7-0-0 start, the Sharks were struggling, scoring at a glacial pace and dropping out of postseason position. With the trade deadline looming, Wilson and coach Todd McLellan started the strategizing usually reserved for the offseason.

30 in 30: Sharks have lineup hole without Havlat

Tuesday, 08.06.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

For many NHL teams, sweeping a division winner in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and taking the defending champion to a seventh game in the second round would be an unquestioned accomplishment. For the San Jose Sharks, who have been searching for an elusive trip the Stanley Cup Final, it was another season with a successful regular season but a too-early postseason exit.

The Sharks have reached the conference final three times in the past nine seasons; only the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers can make that claim. But each of those teams has reached the Cup Final, and all except the Flyers have won a championship.

San Jose was not far off in 2012-13, pushing the Los Angeles Kings to the limit. Given the collective health of the two clubs, the Sharks may have given the Blackhawks a tougher challenge in the next round. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson did not have a particularly busy summer beyond locking up core forwards Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski to long-term contracts.

30 in 30: Stone could emerge as Coyotes' X-factor

Monday, 08.05.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Phoenix Coyotes already have a history of finding unheralded defensemen in the middle rounds of the NHL Draft and grooming them into elite blueliners. They've already turned Keith Yandle from a fourth-round pick into one of the best all-round defensemen in the game.

They may have done it again with Michael Stone.

A third-round pick (No. 69) in 2008, Stone was a Western Hockey League first-team All-Star with the Calgary Hitmen and barely played a single full season with Phoenix's American Hockey League affiliate in Portland before getting the call from the Coyotes. Despite playing half of the AHL season in 2012-13, Stone finished among the league's top 40 in scoring among defensemen.

30 in 30: Goal production is Coyotes' prime question

Monday, 08.05.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

Long a picture of consistency, the Phoenix Coyotes took an unexpected step backward last season. A year after advancing to the Western Conference Final, the Coyotes missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009 after posting a 21-18-9 record.

They started 2-4-2, and a seven-game losing streak in March effectively undid their season. Throw in nagging injuries to goaltender Mike Smith and a serious second-half scoring drought from young forward Mikkel Boedker, and the Coyotes were unable to find their stride.

The summer was highlighted by the addition offensive-minded forwards, Mike Ribeiro through free agency and Max Domi at the 2013 NHL Draft. But the 2013-14 Coyotes likely will display the solid two-way play that has been a team signature since coach Dave Tippett took over in 2009.

If the Coyotes hope to return to the postseason, they'll need to answer these six questions:

30 in 30: Coyotes will give prospects chance to shine

Monday, 08.05.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

Since Dave Tippett became Phoenix Coyotes coach in 2009, they have relied on a strong veteran core of Martin Hanzal, Keith Yandle, Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan, who has established himself as one of the best leaders in hockey. While the vets perfected Tippett's system and established the Coyotes as one of the NHL's most consistent clubs, an impressive group of prospects developed in the minors.

Now that Tippett is looking to reshape the team's scoring lines following a disappointing 2012-13 season, this should be the time those prospects get a chance to star.

"I think there are some guys who are going to come in and really push for jobs," Tippett told NHL.com. "This will be the most competitive training camp in my four years in Phoenix. We're really looking forward to see the levels these young players can get to."

Here's a look at Phoenix's top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

30 in 30: Coyotes want return to playoffs after miss

Monday, 08.05.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

For a team that had become a picture of consistency in the NHL since Dave Tippett took over as coach in 2009, there were a number of things conspiring against the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2012-13 season.

The offense sputtered through an abbreviated schedule, and goaltender Mike Smith struggled with injuries and couldn't recapture his form from the previous year. Unable to find their footing, the Coyotes failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time under Tippett.

Despite what some might consider an anomaly, the Coyotes refuse to make any excuses.

"You've got to learn from the past. I've already had a good discussion with some of our players that missing the playoffs for this organization is unacceptable," Tippett told NHL.com. "Even though it was a shortened season and there were some outside factors involved, we're not a team that wants to make excuses. We want to get back into the playoffs. That will be our goal going into the start of the year."

30 in 30: Coyotes seek more goals from lineup

Monday, 08.05.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

After a three-year run when the Phoenix Coyotes consistently outperformed preseason expectations, including the franchise's first trip to the Western Conference Final in 2012, they missed the postseason in 2012-13.

Even during all of the success, scoring goals was the biggest weakness for the defensive-minded Coyotes. Adding Mike Ribeiro, the highest-scoring NHL player from 2012-13 who was an unrestricted free agent, could help in that department.

He's one of the best passers in the League, but figuring out who will be on the end of his setups is on the to-do list during training camp. If the Coyotes can fill out the top two lines without needing either Martin Hanzal or Antoine Vermette to shift to the wing, Phoenix will be strong up the middle.

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