- Neil Greenberg, NHL
With the parity that exists in the NHL, it is not unusual to see teams go from a losing record one season to the playoffs the next. Two non-playoff teams that will get quite a bit of attention are the Minnesota Wild -- who hit the free agent jackpot with Ryan Suter and Zach Parise each agreeing to $98 million, 13-year deals -- and the Edmonton Oilers -- who hit the draft jackpot with Nail Yakupov, their third consecutive first overall pick.
Both of these teams should see improvement, but it remains to be seen what Suter can do away from both Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne, while Edmonton could struggle finding chemistry within their stable of young talent. So while Minnesota and Edmonton are the safe bets for teams that could break out, here are five other teams more likely to see significant improvement in 2013.
Why Carolina: After finishing last in the "Southleast" Division with just 82 points and a minus-30 goal differential, the Hurricanes made a big splash in the offseason by acquiring former Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal via trade and signing Alexander Semin, the Washington Capitals' former 40-goal winger, to a one-year, $7 million contract. Staal will give Carolina's skill players more chances in the offensive zone by taking on the tougher opponent assignments, and Semin gives them not only the dynamic scorer (in theory) they need but also a skater who drives puck possession during even-strength play. By uniting Staal with his brother Eric and adding Semin to Jeff Skinner's line, the Canes have a foundation for their top-six that can make Carolina the favorite to win the Southeast.
14dScott Burnside and Craig Custance