Midseason, everyone starts flipping out about the glaring hole in the lineup of whatever team they follow. This season, I decided to poll twitter (in addition to my own research) as to what those needs were for each team in the league, and propose a solution—from outside the dudes already in NHL, or NHL systems.
A woman for every NHL team, as it were.
Pacific division, you’re up first.
Need: Top 4 defenseman
Player: Megan Bozek
Reasoning: Bozek is talented, but more than that, I feel like she’s a player you can depend on. She’s steady. I’ve never been nervous about her being on the ice in any game I’ve watched her in. And she’s got a bomb of a shot, something that teams really like. Bozek’s also no stranger to the power play, giving the Ducks some more flexibility there. Keep Fowler and Lovejoy together and play Bozek with Beauchemin to have two pretty solid pairs, or split Fowler/Lovejoy and play Bozek with the Reverend for maximum irritation of the other team. Win-win.
Need: Scoring depth at F
Player: Brianna Decker
Reasoning: I didn’t get a lot of responses on the Canucks’ need, so if you watch them often and don’t agree with me, come to twitter and let me know. Scoring depth is one need I did hear, and I think Decker could fill it. To be frank: girlfriend has hands for days and she’s annoying as hell. What more could you want from your depth scoring? Put her with Horvat—the kid could learn something.
San Jose Sharks
Need: Second-pair defenseman
Player: Kacey Bellamy
Reasoning: Bellamy might be one of my favorite defenders in the game, of either gender. Don’t let her roster weight of 145 pounds throw you, because she’s certainly not afraid to throw that 145 around, and it allows her to be fast, to boot. With the defensive side of the game moving more toward a “defending in transition” style (see @BelfryHockey’s twitter feed) Bellamy’s speed makes her well suited to this. Play her with Mirco Mueller to give him some of that veteran steadiness, though I’ve been told by some Sharks fan/writer pals that she’d also do well with Braun or Burns.
Los Angeles Kings
Need: Speed, specifically on offense
Player: Kelli Stack
Reasoning: Stack is currently teetering between retired and not, but it’s for all the usual reasons—she can’t get paid to do what she loves. I watched her in the CWHL All-Star Game, though, and she hasn’t lost a bit of her speed or her drive to the net, and that’s not even mentioning her hands. Stack gives the Kings that speed, along with offensive power, which they could sorely use right now with forwards (Toffoli and Pearson, most recently) dropping like flies.
Need: Reliable, high-level scoring.
Player: Haley Irwin
Reasoning: The Flames have made improvements, as much as it pains me to say it, but if they want to be legitimate contenders for anything they need steady, high-level scorers. Haley Irwin is already in their backyard. Currently a member of the Calgary Inferno, Irwin’s teammates from the Canadian national women’s team like to talk about how she’s one of the last people they want to see with the puck when she’s up against them. She was definitely one of the last people I wanted to see with the puck during the Sochi Olympics.
Need: Scoring top 6 F, preferably LW for the Hanzel-Gagner line.
Player: Jamie Lee Rattray
Reasoning: I got this very specific need from a Coyotes fan and writer, and as soon as she said “left wing” the answer became obvious to me. Last year’s Patty Kazmaier winner, Rattray is one of the most talented left wings in the women’s game right now, and the idea of her playing with Hanzel and Gagner delights me more than I can say. The former Clarkson forward is the type of player who works to exceed any challenge set before her, and Arizona’s scoring would only benefit from this. Plus, I’d just love to see Rattray and Gagner making plays together. Wouldn’t you?
Need: Everything. But we’ll say top C or D.
Player: Meghan Duggan
Reasoning: Okay, I waffled on whether to say Edmonton’s biggest need is a top center or a top defenseman, but in the end I had to go with top center. They’ve got defensive prospects that—hopefully—will improve under Nelson, if they can cut the chaff. Centers, on the other hand, continue to be a thin area for the Oilers. Duggan can help solve that. Bring her in, and your top two lines are centered by Duggan, a veteran in playing experience if not in NHL games, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. With Draisaitl in the minors & Arcobello in Pittsburgh by way of Nashville, you can leave Nugent-Hopkins with Eberle and Hall and play Duggan with Pouliot/Yakupov, which lets you bump Derek Roy down a line and play with a legitimate 3-center model. Bam. Immediate improvement.
Disclaimer: If you don’t agree with me on what your team needs, sorry, I’m not a magician or a GM. I took the mean of responses I got and my own research.