In part 1 of my playoff team analysis series, I introduced my concept, and covered the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. For a refresher on my criteria, I’ve broken each team into four categories. Top prospects, players the team drafted in the first round. Developed prospects, players the team drafted in later rounds, as well as players acquired through trade, and lastly players acquired for free, either through free agency or waivers. I assign a percentage grade to each category, weighing the impact that those players acquired have on the team. For brevity I did not include players who played less than 20 games or players who averaged less than 10 minutes per game. We’ll pick things up with the 5th ranked team in the Eastern conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Tampa Bay Lightning
Free Agency – 32%
The biggest contributions on the Lightning have come from players they acquired for free, like Martin St. Louis, Mattias Ohlund, Pavel Kubina and Dominic Moore. Other role players like Nate Thompson and Sean Bergenheim were also signed by the Lightning.
Trades – 28%
The Lightning have acquired several key players via trading, including goaltenders Dwayne Roloson and Mike Smith, forwards Steve Downie, Ryan Malone and Simon Gagne, and most recently defenseman Eric Brewer. Trades have influenced every aspect of the team.
Top Prospects – 28%
With names like Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman among the Lightning’s prospects, their recent failures on the ice have translated into added support through high draft picks.
Player Development – 12%
Only three players not drafted in the first round are currently on the Lightning roster. Defensemen Mike Lundin and Matt Smaby, and forward Dana Tyrell could all be considered role players and support players at best. Not much of a contribution.
While the re-vamped Lightning were able to charge up the standings this year after finishing 25th last year, major free agent acquisitions were key in the resurgence, as well as a recovery from second year player Hedman. GM Steve Yzerman didn’t exaclty inherit a 25th place team, but some decent signings and trades have put this team over the top.
The Montreal Canadiens
Free Agency – 32%
Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek and Roman Hamrlik have augmented the Canadiens blue line as free agents, but it’s the offensive contributions from key signings such as Cammalleri, Gionta and Halpern that put this category ahead of others. Role players like Travis Moen and David Desharnais and backup Alex Auld have also signed on as free agents.
Top Prospects – 30%
While the Habs only boast four of their top selections, they have become critical components of this team. PK Subban, Carey Price and Andrei Kostitsyn are top players for the Habs, while Max Pacioretty was having a solid season prior to his injury. The importance of Price and Subban cannot be understated here.
Trades – 22%
While Scott Gomez has been a bust in Montreal, other players like Pouliot, Gorges, Wisniewski and Eller have been brought in via trade and have not looked out of place. Tom Pyatt also came over in the Gomez deal and contributed.
Player Development – 16%
Both Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov have been big surprises for the Habs, and this year Yannick Weber joins them as players the Habs have developed. If it weren’t for Markov’s injury this category would have been ranked higher.
Overall, Montreal has among the more balanced contributions through the categories. They’re able to attract free agents and they make their first round picks count. They’ve also managed to develop enough players to facilitate the trades we’ve seen recently.
The Buffalo Sabres
Player Development – 40%
The Sabres may very well have some of the best coaches in the league, though I’ll be curious as to where the Detroit Red Wings end up in this category. Nathan Gerbe, Paul Gaustad, Andrej Sekera, Patrick Kaleta, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Jhonas Enroth and Ryan Miller make up the bulk of the Sabres contributions while none of them were drafted in the 1st round.
Top Prospects – 28%
To go along with Buffalo’s player development theme, when they do get first round picks they make the most of them, adding Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek via the first round of the entry draft.
Free Agency – 20%
The Sabres were able to supplement their defense through the free agent market, adding Montador, Morrisonn and Leopold as free agents, as well as picking up some role players in Rob Niedermayer, Mike Grier and Cody McCormick.
Trades – 12%
The Sabres don’t wheel and deal that often, but that may change as the new owner opened the pocketbook and allowed GM Darcy Regier to go out and acquire Brad Boyes at the deadline. Other trade acquisitions include Jochen Hecht, Tim Connolly and Craig Rivet.
In summary, the Sabres have had to make do with tight budgets over the years and that has forced them to draft and develop smartly. With such a solid crop of talent coming out of the later rounds for them they have remained competitive while losing top talent to unrestricted free agency.
The New York Rangers
Free Agents – 40%
With key signings like Chris Drury, Marian Gaborik and Vaclav Prospal, as well as secondary players like Fedotenko, Boogaard, Avery and Girardi, the Rangers have always been active on the free agent market, more recently getting younger undrafted players like Matt Gilroy and Mats Zuccarello.
Player Development – 35%
While some of their recent top picks have failed to pan out, the Rangers have found success picking in the later rounds, grabbing Derek Stepan, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov on day two of the draft.
Trades – 15%
The Rangers have been able to add a few players through trades, like Brandon Prust, top prospect Ryan McDonagh from Montreal and more recently Wojtek Wolski, while an earlier pick up has paid dividends for them as Brian Boyle is becoming a solid contributor in New York.
Top Prospects - 10%
Only Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto have come courtesy of a New York Rangers first round draft pick. Both are excellent young talents but the Rangers will need to improve in this area going forward as they and the Bruins are among the worst at keeping their top prospects.
The Rangers have always been that big market team that has been able to attract top free agents, and it seems that trend may continue over the summer as many are saying the Rangers are the destination of choice for Brad Richards. However, without proper player development and the contributions of the Rangers later round picks they wouldn’t be a playoff team at all.
This concludes part two of my 5 part series on playoff team composition, as well as my coverage of the Eastern Conference. Part 3 of this series will examine the top four teams in the Western Conference, where I expect to see some interesting contrasts in comparison with the Eastern conference.