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Super 16: Calder Cup winners boost Wings, Lightning

by Corey Masisak

Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan each had a goal and an assist in a 5-4 come-from-ahead loss Saturday the Detroit Red Wings probably would like to forget.

The night before Tyler Johnson netted the first hat trick of his NHL career to help the Tampa Bay Lightning to a comfortable victory the rookie forward will remember for a long time.

Why are these seemingly random events connected? Tatar and Sheahan were part of a Grand Rapids Griffins team that defeated Johnson and the Syracuse Crunch in six games last season to capture the Calder Cup in the American Hockey League.

The Red Wings and the Lightning affiliates have won the Calder Cup the past two seasons, as Tampa Bay's players won with the Norfolk Admirals in 2012 before the organization switched affiliates.

Organizations have relied on the AHL to develop talent for decades, and while NHL teams sometimes can be more focused on how individual players are progressing, it's common for teams that have success at that level to produce several players who can help the big club.

Detroit and Tampa Bay have called upon players who finished 2012-13 playing for the Calder Cup with regularity this season, and several of them have become indispensable contributors.

The Red Wings have been besieged by injuries and the organization's depth, particularly at forward, has been on display. Tampa Bay has been committed to reshaping the roster with homegrown talent since Steve Yzerman became the general manager and that plan has helped the Lightning continue to thrive despite missing superstar Steven Stamkos for much of the season.

The Red Wings have dressed 10 players (nine skaters and goaltender Petr Mrazek) this season who won the Calder Cup last season. Incredibly, 13 who have played for Norfolk or Syracuse in the Calder Cup Playoffs in the past two seasons (including 11 from last season) have seen action for the Lightning.

Those pie charts represent the percentage of games played, goals and points these Calder Cup Finals veterans have provided Tampa Bay and Detroit this season. One name not on the table to the right for the Lightning is Cory Conacher, who Yzerman used to trade for Vezina Trophy candidate Ben Bishop.

Other recent Calder Cup champions have supplied plenty of talent to their parent clubs. Seven skaters plus goaltender Robin Lehner were part of the 2011 champion Binghamton Senators and have played for the Ottawa Senators this season. Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Michal Neuvirth and Jay Beagle were back-to-back AHL champs with the Hershey Bears in 2009 and 2010 and now are regulars with the Washington Capitals.

Tomas Tatar 44 12 22
Gustav Nyquist 28 9 17
Joakim Andersson 47 7 13
Danny DeKeyser 37 2 10
Riley Sheahan 13 3 8
Tomas Jurco 14 2 5
Luke Glendening 28 0 3
Brian Lashoff 49 0 3
Adam Almquist 2 1 1
Tyler Johnson 53 16 34
Alex Killorn 53 12 30
Ondrej Palat 53 11 29
Radko Gudas 48 2 15
Richard Panik 39 2 11
J.T. Brown 34 4 11
Mark Barberio 35 4 9
Andrej Sustr 38 0 7
Jean-Philippe Cote 16 0 4
Brett Connolly 11 1 1
Dmitry Korobov 3 0 1
Pierre-Cedric Labrie 13 0 0
Matt Taormina 7 0 0

The Lightning are one of the NHL's great success stories this season, while those other three teams are fighting for Stanley Cup Playoff spots. Having the depth Tampa Bay and Detroit enjoy could allow Yzerman and Red Wings GM Ken Holland to be creative before the trade deadline if they want to shore up any weaknesses. Both clubs not only have proven they have quality and quantity in their prospect ranks but have also potential impact players still skating in the AHL who haven't made their NHL debuts yet, like Vladislav Namestnikov and Teemu Pulkkinen.

With that in mind, and because there might be some significant movement in the trade market before the League takes a break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the Super 16 this week is going to focus on what some of the best teams in the NHL might be looking for between now and the March 5 deadline.

Projected salary cap space figures are from The figure, which can change daily, is how much the team could add and still be compliant by the end of the season.

DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is's weekly power rankings, the new-look version is going to focus more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings and likely will take more of a long view than a short one. If two teams are close, the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series tonight, who would prevail? Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks but stay for the information. Also, statistics and team records are through games on Wednesday night.

STL1. St. Louis Blues (36-11-5) LW: 2

Projected cap space: $1,545,246

Shopping list: It has been stated in this space earlier this season that the Blues might have the most complete roster in the League, and that remains true. They're deep at every position, though Derek Roy and Chris Stewart should be doing more given the sheltered ice time they're getting and Brenden Morrow isn't helping a great deal. The big question with the Blues obviously is the goaltending, where they might be good enough with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott but it also might cost them a legitimate chance at the Stanley Cup (see the 2012 second-round series against the Los Angeles Kings for reference). GM Doug Armstrong has defended his netminders but there's a little cap room if he wants to pursue a different option (though Halak or Elliot likely would have to be included in the deal) or he could add one more forward for insurance purposes.

MUST READ: Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes about Alexander Steen expecting more from himself despite solid production since a return from injury.

CHI2. Chicago Blackhawks (33-10-13) LW: 1

Projected cap space: $495,822

Shopping list: The Blackhawks have been looking for a consistent No. 2 center since the day after Jonathan Toews showed up at United Center. Clearly it hasn't been that big of an issue and Brandon Saad's development has bolstered what is the top collection of wings in the League. They won last season with Michael Handzus and he remains among the internal options, along with rookie Brandon Pirri and No. 3 center Andrew Shaw. The Blackhawks used most of their cap space to add Kris Versteeg earlier this season and could certainly repeat as champions without making another move.

MUST READ: The Blackhawks are built for overtime but can't score a goal in the 4-on-4 format, writes Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

ANA3. Anaheim Ducks (39-11-5) LW: 3

Projected cap space: $7,174,986

Shopping list: Thanks to Sheldon Souray's injury and bonuses that could be pushed to the 2014-15 ledger, the Ducks have plenty of cap space to work with. The question is will general manager Bob Murray be looking to upgrade his roster and/or increase the budget? Anaheim has lots of depth up front and no glaring weaknesses. Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm have helped replace Souray and Luca Sbisa just returned from injury. The depth in goal is incredible. Could Murray be interested in another center? Nick Bonino, Saku Koivu and Mathieu Perreault have provided nice depth behind superstar Ryan Getzlaf, but can this group match up with the San Jose Sharks, Kings or Blues in a seven-game series at that position? Again, there's nothing pressing but with that amount of space and clearly their best team since winning the Cup in 2007, any additions could help what might be a brutal battle to get out of the Western Conference.

MUST READ: Derek Satterfield of Anaheim Calling writes about the Ducks and fancy stats.

SJS4. San Jose Sharks (34-14-6) LW: 5

Projected cap space: $1,055,000

Shopping list: The Sharks are light on cap space and the biggest issues are health concerns at forward. San Jose isn't sure when Raffi Torres will play this season but he's likely to. Tomas Hertl also could return but that might be less of a certainty. There's still no timetable for Adam Burish either. The other injured players will be back soon, and if the Sharks just get one or two of those three back for the playoffs they could be set. GM Doug Wilson might be looking for some cheap forward depth as insurance, though. The Sharks will not face Ben Scrivens in the playoffs, so that's one weakness that won't be a problem.

MUST READ: Alex Stalock's career was threatened just days after his NHL debut, but he's persevered, writes Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area.

PIT5. Pittsburgh Penguins (37-14-2) LW: 4

Projected cap space: $560,000

Shopping list: The Penguins' top need is depth scoring. The second biggest need is someone not named Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz or Jussi Jokinen to score consistently. The third greatest need is a forward who … well, the point has been made. Pittsburgh probably was one forward short (pending the development of Beau Bennett), but injuries to Bennett, and more importantly a season-ending one for Pascal Dupuis, has left the Penguins light up front. GM Ray Shero has the best track record of deadline dealing in the League, to the point where he's basically the guy in fantasy sports that people dread making trades with. Will the Penguins be able to find enough cap space without impacting the roster? And what wings are available to fit Shero's criteria?

MUST READ: Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes about United States Olympic hockey coaches, present and past.

BOS6. Boston Bruins (34-15-3) LW: 6

Projected cap space: $1,615,833

Shopping list: When healthy the Bruins have enough firepower up front. Boston's glaring hole at this point should be portrayed in the shape of a German tank. Dennis Seidenberg's injury is a big problem, especially because the Bruins already were planning to lean on younger players like Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug more this season with Andrew Ference in Edmonton. Krug really has helped the power play but he's not going anywhere near the matchups/responsibilities Seidenberg consumed. GM Peter Chiarelli needs a defenseman, and not just a run-of-the-mill, eat 17-18 minutes without hurting the team kind of player either.

MUST READ: Does Zdeno Chara deserve a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Sam Hitchcock of Intelligent Hockey investigates.

LAK7. Los Angeles Kings (30-19-6) LW: 7

Projected cap space: $1,359,523

Shopping list: The Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and had a Cup-worthy roster after the trade for Jeff Carter. Los Angeles brought the same group back last season but injuries were a big problem against the Blackhawks in the conference final. It is pretty close to the same group again in 2013-14 but the pre-Carter arrival scoring problems have returned. The Kings are shooting 5.0 percent at even strength in close situations, which easily is the worst mark in the League (and nearly six percentage points behind the Ducks). There's a lot of bad luck in there and it's likely this exact group will score more down the stretch. That doesn't mean GM Dean Lombardi shouldn't consider an addition up front, whether it is more prominent/consistent minutes for one of the top prospects (Tyler Toffoli would be most likely, but also Tanner Pearson or Linden Vey) or someone from outside the organization.

MUST READ: Speaking of Southern California teams and advanced statistics, Robert Paredez of Jewels From The Crown writes about bad luck and pending progression to the mean for the Kings.

TBL8. Tampa Bay Lightning (31-17-5) LW: 9

Projected cap space: $4,515,916

Shopping list: Yzerman is in an interesting spot. His team has played really well without Stamkos, certainly well enough to think adding one of the world's two best goal scorers might be all this group needs to challenge Pittsburgh and Boston in the Eastern Conference. Sometimes relying on players returning from injury to make the team better doesn't work out, though. Also, how many games will Stamkos play before the deadline passes for Yzerman to assess the situation? This is another team that might be good enough as is, but there is an opportunity at this point with the Penguins and Bruins both missing key components. If a team outside the perceived "elite" is going to make a deep run said club almost certainly is coming from the Eastern Conference. Does Yzerman make a bold move (Hint: there's so much young depth in this organization the answer is probably not)? He might make a minor addition.

MUST READ: Victor Hedman has needed time and experience to become a star for the Lightning, writes Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times.

COL9. Colorado Avalanche (33-14-5) LW: 8

Projected cap space: $31,850,985

Shopping list: The Avalanche are now a near certainty to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs with first-year coach Patrick Roy. Colorado could be an interesting team to monitor as the deadline approaches. If the intent is to improve the club immediately and "go for it," the Avalanche need players who will help them possess the puck more. Dealing Steve Downie for Maxime Talbot has made the possession issue worse so help up front would be useful. A second-pairing defenseman also could go a long way. Whether the Avalanche are looking to be "buyers" remains to be seen, and there's uncertainty moving forward with Paul Stastny, Ryan O'Reilly and even PA Parenteau's name reportedly included in trade discussions.

MUST READ: While Joe Sakic and Roy are getting most of the credit for the team's revival, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post highlights a few others in the Avalanche organization who also deserve recognition.

MIN10. Minnesota Wild (29-20-6) LW: 11

Projected cap space: $2,722,636

Shopping list: Zach Parise is back and the Wild desperately need Mikko Koivu healthy as well. The cumulative Fenwick graph on looks like it would be a fun hill to sled down, but that's bad news for the Wild. There has been speculation that Minnesota could be a landing spot for Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, and Josh Harding's health situation could lead to such a move. But the Wild also could use some help up front. Dany Heatley has faced relatively light competition and been given favorable zone starts but is not producing, either in stats found on a hockey card or the ones typically found in this space. Maybe a bold move like Miller is the play, but a couple of more subtle deals to improve depth at forward and on defense might be even better.

MUST READ: Ger Devine of Hockey Wilderness looks into the rental market for options in net.

VAN11. Vancouver Canucks (27-19-9) LW: 10

Projected cap space: $2,155,232

Shopping list: The Canucks are a lot like the Penguins, only a slightly older, not quite as efficient model. Vancouver needs help up front. The first line is great. The second line is pretty good. The third line could be upgraded. The fourth line is Garry Gergich of "Parks and Recreation" fame. Or Jerry. Or Larry. It wouldn't have to be a major deal but even a solid third-line player who could bump someone to the fourth line and someone from that group to the press box could be a nice addition for the Canucks.

MUST READ: Dimitri Filipovic of Canucks Army writes about a concern for the Canucks that goes beyond the team's recent slump.

NYR12. New York Rangers (29-23-3) LW: NR

Projected cap space: $4,582,303

Shopping list: The Rangers checked off what they felt was an important need by trading for a right-handed defenseman in Kevin Klein. New York is playing well and doesn't have any other glaring needs in the lineup. An offensive defenseman wouldn't be a bad idea, or at least one that coach Alain Vigneault could trust more than Michael Del Zotto. This club might be in the same spot as Tampa Bay -- the path to the second round looks open, and while Boston and Pittsburgh are the class of the conference this might be a good season to "go for it" at the deadline and see if one of them (or both) is vulnerable.

MUST READ: This isn't really about the Rangers, but Justin Bourne's Systems Analyst for the Backhand Shelf is on New York's first of nine goals at Yankee Stadium this week.

DET13. Detroit Red Wings (23-19-11) LW: 12

Projected cap space: $1,111,833

Shopping list: The Red Wings haven't been anywhere near full health in months. This group of players at full strength could be enough to go on a late-season charge to continue a postseason streak that began when Sinead O'Connor was top of the pop music charts. Will they all get back in time to save the season? Holland doesn't have a lot of cap space and he won't have a lot of time to see if the Red Wings need outside assistance. Stephen Weiss was a mess before a sports hernia injury knocked him out of the lineup. Will a healthy Weiss be a difference maker? There's no shortage of trade chips if Holland wants to make a move.

MUST READ: Ansar Khan of writes about Holland's take on the trade market and what direction the Red Wings might be heading.

CBJ14. Columbus Blue Jackets (26-23-4) LW: 15

Projected cap space: $561,425

Shopping list: The Blue Jackets, as detailed last week, have a favorable schedule and a real chance to finish in the top three of the Metropolitan Division. That also means a chance to win a playoff series for the first time in franchise history because no one will be significantly favored in the No. 2 vs. No. 3 divisional matchup. Marian Gaborik's pending free agency could play a large role in the team's plans at the deadline. They've improved, and Nathan Horton's availability has helped (10 of 13 games with a 51.9 percent or better Fenwick-for percentage when the score is close at even strength since he returned and 15 of 18 overall). Can the Blue Jackets add while also possibly considering a Gaborik trade? Do they just keep him and try to make a run? Fans typically embrace that play but history often judges it poorly if the star player leaves in July.

MUST READ: Another player besides Horton who deserves credit for the Blue Jackets' improvement is defenseman James Wisniewski, writes Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch.

DAL15. Dallas Stars (24-21-8) LW: NR

Projected cap space: $7,121,177

Shopping list: The Stars can be exciting to watch one night and frustrating the next. GM Jim Nill hit a couple of home runs with trading for Tyler Seguin and drafting Valeri Nichushkin but injuries to the defense corps hurt this season. The Stars could use another defenseman (like most teams), but have no extreme weaknesses. Nill could play buyer and seller, with veterans like Ray Whitney and Vernon Fiddler to offer as rentals while also possibly looking for one of his own on the blue line in a separate move.

MUST READ: Josh Lile of Defending Big D looks at the Stars as potential buyers and potential sellers before the deadline.

WPG16. Winnipeg Jets (25-25-5) LW: NR

Projected cap space: $1,525,188

Shopping list: If the Stars' hopes are fleeting, the Jets' chances of reaching the playoffs are extremely slim. Winnipeg has defeated three of the top four teams in the West in the past 10 days or so but has been defeated soundly in the possession battle in each (after a nice start in that area with new coach Paul Maurice). If the Jets go shopping before the deadline, there aren't likely to be any short-term fixes. It's possible one of the core players gets moved, and if they're looking for areas to improve the Jets still are short on forward depth and could use another top-four defenseman, depending on where Dustin Byfuglien fits. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has had a few nice games since Maurice took over but he remains the team's biggest question mark.

MUST READ: There are clear differences for the Jets with Maurice in charge, writes Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press.


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