A look at who's on the hot seat in the West
NHL.com takes a look at the players from each of the 15 Western Conference teams who are under pressure to produce in 2010-11.
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim -- The Ducks already were struggling when Getzlaf injured his ankle just before the Winter Olympics. He wound up missing 16 games, a big reason he dropped from 91 to 69 points -- and Anaheim went from the second round of the 2009 playoffs to an unwanted early vacation last season. Getzlaf is an NHL rarity -- a power center -- and the Ducks aren't the same team without him in top form.
Jarome Iginla, Calgary -- The face of the franchise for the past decade just turned 33 -- one year older than the number of goals he scored in 2009-10, when he had his lowest scoring season since 2000-01. Iginla has gone from 50 goals in 2007-08 to 35 in 2008-09 to 32 last season, and with no one else on the roster who had more than 27 goals, the Flames need their captain to find the scoring touch he had a few seasons ago or face another early start to summer.
Jonathan Toews, Chicago -- He owns a Stanley Cup ring, a Conn Smythe Trophy and an Olympic gold medal -- not bad for a 22-year-old. But with much of the Hawks' depth shredded by the salary cap, Chicago needs its captain to become more than a 25-goal, 70-point performer. Toews' 29 points in 22 playoff games show he has more offensive upside than he's demonstrated so far, and the Hawks need him to produce those kinds of numbers over a full regular season.
Craig Anderson, Colorado -- Anderson might have been the best free-agent signing last summer; he was the biggest reason the Avs went from last in the West to a playoff berth last season. The 2009-10 season was the first time Anderson got the chance to be a starter and he delivered despite seeing a League-high 2,233 shots. But the Avalanche haven't done much to improve themselves this summer, meaning the pressure will be on Anderson to do it again.
Steve Mason, Columbus -- From Calder Trophy winner to struggling sophomore -- such was the story of Mason's 2009-10 season. The NHL's best rookie in 2008-09 never found his rhythm and saw his goals-against average soar from 2.29 to 3.06. Not coincidentally, the Blue Jackets went from playoff qualifiers to also-rans. With every goal a precious commodity in Columbus, Mason has to give new coach Scott Arniel the kind of performances he produced as a rookie to avoid a repeat of last season.
Brenden Morrow, Dallas -- Morrow has yet to show the same kind of skill and drive he had before a knee injury early in 2008-09 ruined his season. His 46 points were the lowest total he's put up in a full season since 2002-03. As captain, the Stars count on Morrow for leadership; but on a team that often struggles to score, they also count on him to generate offense -- and at age 31, he has to show his 32 goals and 74 points in 2007-08 (the last time the team made the playoffs) were no fluke.
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit -- Lost in the cavalcade of injuries that nearly wrecked the Red Wings' season was a surprising offensive decline by Datsyuk, who was healthy enough to play 80 games but produced only 70 points after back-to-back 97-point seasons. Though he was the runaway leader in takeaways and a 55-percent winner in the faceoff circle, Datsyuk has to return to being an offensive force for the Wings to be more than just another above-average team.
Taylor Hall, Edmonton -- There's always pressure on the No. 1 pick in the Entry Draft, partly because he's invariably going to a team that's coming off a bad season (that's why the team is picking first). The Oilers, who finished well behind the other 29 teams last season, undoubtedly expect Hall to be able to step right into the lineup and produce offensively. If he doesn't, it could be another long season.
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles -- Slovenia's only NHL player already is a star -- at 22, he scored 34 goals and led the Kings with 81 points while becoming one of the most visible faces on an emerging young team. For the Kings to take the next step -- going from just making the playoffs to contending for the Cup -- Kopitar has to do likewise, and move from a top-20 scorer to the next level.
Martin Havlat, Minnesota -- The Wild spent a lot of money last summer to bring in Havlat as a replacement for Marian Gaborik after the biggest scorer in franchise history left for the Rangers. But 18 goals, 54 points and a minus-19 rating in 73 games is not what GM Chuck Fletcher had in mind. Havlat's failure to match his 2008-09 production in Chicago (77 points) was a big reason the Wild missed the playoffs. They can't afford another season like the last one from him.
Matthew Lombardi, Nashville -- The Predators sent captain Jason Arnott to New Jersey and used that money to sign Lombardi, a speedy center who had the best season of his career with Phoenix in 2009-10 by scoring 19 goals and 53 points. As the likely No. 1 center in Nashville, the 28-year-old has to show those numbers were a stepping stone to better things, not just a career year.
Wojtek Wolski, Phoenix -- Wolski was a point-a-game player for the Coyotes after coming from Colorado at the trade deadline, and his combined totals of 23 goals and 65 points were both career highs. With Lombardi gone, GM Don Maloney says Wolski will be shifted back to center, a position he hasn't played in the last few years. Wolski likely will center the Coyotes' top line, meaning he's got to produce right from the start to keep Phoenix from backsliding after the franchise's best season since moving to the desert.
Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis -- At last, Halak is a No. 1 goalie -- but with St. Louis, which acquired him from Montreal during the summer and signed him to a four-year contract. For the first time in his NHL career, Halak won't have someone looking over his shoulder -- but he'll also have to prove his brilliant playoff performance for the Canadiens was not just a six-week surge. The Blues, a team on the rise, have bet a lot that Halak is the goaltender who can make them a contender.
Antero Niittymaki, San Jose -- Speaking of betting on goaltenders -- the Sharks let the best one in franchise history (Evgeni Nabokov) walk away as a free agent after last season. They opted to sign Niittymaki, who's never been able to translate his MVP performance at the 2006 Winter Olympics into consistent success in the NHL. Niittymaki should have every chance to succeed -- the Sharks remain one of the NHL's top teams, and if ever there were a situation made for an incoming goaltender to succeed, this would appear to be it.
Ryan Kesler, Vancouver -- Kesler doesn't have to put up Henrik Sedin-like offensive numbers to be successful as the Canucks' No. 2 center, but they do need him to keep building on last season's 25-goal, 75-point performance to keep opponents from ganging up on the top line. His emergence as a point producer has given the Canucks a viable second line and turned them into a team that has Cup aspirations.