Miller, Seguin among players needing to rebound in 2013-14
The summer is a great time for some NHL stars to heal from wounds of the past season. Dany Heatley can fix his shoulder. Quebec-based goalies can see their dentists. Patrice Bergeron can rebuild himself piece by piece, kind of like how Steve Austin did in the old Six Million Dollar Man series, which, given the terms of Bergeron's eight-year contract extension, is just about right. Still, there are other players who would do well to put in some extra work in the hot months that are down time for some. Maybe a few extra reps at the gym, a couple of extra film sessions or who knows what might make a difference? Owing to injuries or slumps, these are some of the players who could use a good rebound in 2013-14 after a disappointing shortened season.
RYAN MILLER, Sabres
Miller entered last season with 105 more wins than losses for his career, despite spending all of his previous nine campaigns in Buffalo. He was the best player on the ice at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and seemed primed for a Vezina Trophy or two. Then things started to unravel for Miller and the Sabres. His numbers (17-17-5; 2.81) were way down last season, and his criticism of the team didn't help. Still, the fact that this is an Olympic year could spur Miller to regain his old form. He'll need to if he is to earn a spot on a team that also has Jonathan Quick, Craig Anderson and Jimmy Howard to choose from.
DANNY BRIERE, Canadiens
At a generous 5 feet 10 inches and 180 pounds, Briere has always been among the more effective and entertaining smaller players in the game. He has 286 goals in his career, and, unlike many smaller players, he has a history of playing bigger in the playoffs, with 109 points in 108 contests. But last season, Briere struggled with injuries and netted only six goals before the Flyers used one of their compliance buyouts to release him. The Gatineau, Quebec native will get a fresh start playing for the Canadiens, who could use some more scoring pop. Briere will turn 36 in October, but if he can find his jump again, the veteran could be a good fit.
ROBERTO LUONGO, Canucks
With Cory Schneider surprisingly shipped off to New Jersey, this is really a new and unexpected lease on life for the 34-year-old with the contract he can't stand. Luongo is still a goalie with 348 wins and 62 shutouts on his impressive NHL resume. But after 11 seasons of being a starting goaltender, he was relegated to a back-up role last season. Canucks GM Mike Gillis made numerous attempts to move him but may have finally settled on his star-crossed veteran as his goalie of the past/future. Who knows if Luongo will stay and if the demanding coaching of John Tortorella might actually steel him and his club for the run at the title they have yet to win.
MARC-ANDRE FLEURY, Penguins
If the only thing keeping the Penguins from multiple championships is their goaltending, Fleury must make the most of this new season. The problem for Fleury isn't so much his ability to regenerate and play well during the regular season, but his capacity to translate that into a strong postseason. After his rookie campaign in 2005-06, Fleury's save percentage has been above .905 for seven straight regular seasons. It has been below .900 five times out of seven in the playoffs, with the two exceptions coming in the Pens' two trips to the finals. His last two years (.834 and .883) have been especially tough, as he gave way to Tomas Vokoun last season.
TYLER SEGUIN, Stars
Whether the second overall pick of 2010 actually texted his way out of Boston or not, he has a new chance to prove that he can be the lethal scorer everyone sees. Should he regain his finishing touch and add some discipline to his off-ice activities, the 21-year old still has a fabulous future ahead of him. Though he didn't want to leave Boston, this may be just the wake-up call he needs.
ERIK GUDBRANSON, Panthers
As a rookie in 2011-12, the former first-round pick emerged as a future star, playing superbly during Florida's run to a division title and in the Panthers' crushing seven-game loss to the Devils in the first round of the playoffs. Then the sophomore jinx bit him last season, accentuated by the absence of veteran backliner and defense partner Ed Jovanovski, who played just six games and whose career is in jeopardy after major hip surgery. Gudbranson, himself, was shelved until February with a bum shoulder he suffered in a wakeboarding accident and began the season in the minors. He recorded four points, all assists, and was -22 in 32 games, as the Panthers missed the playoffs. He'll need to be healthy and effective for them to get back.
JEFF SKINNER, Hurricanes
After a 31-goal campaign in his rookie season, the All-Star and Calder Trophy winner slumped to seasons of 20 goals in 2011-12 and just 13 in a lockout-shortened campaign that saw his team miss the playoffs while he continued to battle concussion issues. Skinner was also -21 for the year. Skinner is only 21 and still has moments of brilliance. He scored a spectacular end-to-end goal against the Czechs while representing Canada at the world championships in Stockholm in May. Now, the Hurricanes need to figure out whether to use him at left wing or center and Skinner must stay healthy and respond to the challenge in front of him.
BOBBY RYAN, Senators
Despite Anaheim's improvement last season from non-playoff team to No. 2 in the West, Ryan had his least productive season since his rookie campaign of 2007-08. Ryan managed 11 goals in 46 games after four straight 30-goal seasons, all with the Ducks. Now he finds himself a Senator, on perhaps the league's most intriguing team, with a chance to fill a void left by departing star Daniel Alfredsson. Ryan will likely play on a line with Jason Spezza, who is looking to bounce back from injury. This will be a change from looking for attention in Southern California to looking for cover in Ontario. A strong start could also secure a place on the U.S. Olympic team for Ryan, who was named to the club's orientation camp.
DANY HEATLEY, Wild
With 360 goals at just 32 years of age, the veteran forward still has a chance to hit the 500-goal mark for his career. But Heatley notched just 11 goals and 21 points, while being -12 last year before getting sidelined with a shoulder injury and missing Minnesota's return to the playoffs. The Wild could use his scoring touch as it is not a team that scores a lot of goals. Granted Heatley may never return to the 50-goal form he showed in consecutive seasons earlier in his career, but he can still be a focal point of the team's growth in hockey-mad Minnesota.
RYANE CLOWE, Devils
Consider Clowe's goal numbers over the previous five seasons: 22, 19, 24, 17 and 3. Yes, there is an asterisk for any of last season's numbers, but Clowe still played in 40 games between the Sharks and Rangers, so even if you double that number, his production still fell. Clowe is a rugged forward who gets involved in other ways and doesn't have to score every night to help his team, especially his new one in New Jersey. Although the Devils have traditionally won with defense, goaltending and toughness, the club lost power forward David Clarkson, a former 30-goal scorer, to Toronto during the off-season. The standard for a new Clarkson-type forward is higher because it requires at least the level of production Clowe had earlier in his career.