For years we’ve been told that the NHL is a copycat league. When the Kings won, it was all about a heavy-hitting forecheck. When the Blackhawks repeated, it was small, skilled forwards getting the job done. Now that the Pittsburgh Penguins have won their fourth Stanley Cup, a few teams will rush to copy their style of play.
The Penguins are the fastest team in the league, and have cheap scoring depth that can help when star players go cold for a few games.
Here are three teams we expect to emulate that format next season.
The Capitals had the best regular season record of any team and won the President’s trophy but they ended up losing in the second round of the playoffs to the Penguins in six games. They’ll be a team that will want to copy Pittsburgh and that needs to start with them dumping slow-but-heavy depth players like Tom Wilson, Mike Richards, and Daniel Winnik.
Those kind of players just aren’t neccessary in the NHL anymore and don’t bring any kind of scoring threat to a team’s bottom six.
Washington will need to go out into free agency or via trade and acquire cheap depth players that can tilt the ice. That was the Capitals’ biggest problem last season — they just weren’t a deep team like Pittsburgh or San Jose.
Washington also could try and get some more puck-moving defenseman as Mike Weber, Brooks Orpik, and Nate Schmidt just weren’t good enough for a bottom pairing role. With some minor tweaks, the Capitals have the potential to be as fast as Pittsburgh was this season.
New York Islanders
When the Penguins played the Islanders in the 2013 playoffs, they were a spectacularly fast and deep team. The same can’t be said this year, as they seem to have lost a step.
New York could easily get back to how they played in 2013, especially with an even better John Tavares. To do that, however, they need to stop paying players like Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin, and Cal Clutterbuck to be on their fourth line.,
Unfortunately, New York already gave Cizikas a five-year contract extension but they do have the opportunity to let Matt Martin walk which would open up some cap space to find some cheap forward depth.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Islanders can replace Kyle Okposo and potentially Frans Nielsen if he decides to walk as well. The Islanders can be a very dangerous team next year if they get more scoring in their bottom six.
This may come as a shock to some people considering that the Panthers are already a fast and entertaining team, but they may look to be even deeper and faster then last year’s team.
Florida has been dumping some cap space already this offseason and it looks like they’re going to potentially do something big either at the draft or on July 1 when free agency starts. This also could be to just have space for the Vincent Trochek extension that should be coming.
Either way, Florida has a lot of options this summer. They could improve their forward group or they could get a puck-moving defenseman with Brian Campbell likely leaving via free agency.
With Florida’s new management group, anything is possible, but they already have their young core and if they get even faster, they could be a contender as early as next season.