In a league filled with parity, a standout season by one player can make a world of difference. Last year, Jonas Brodin emerged to become one of the game's most impressive, dependable young defensemen and propelled the Minnesota Wild back into the playoffs in the process. Mike Ribeiro put together one of his finest seasons, giving the Washington Capitals a legit No. 2 center behind Nicklas Backstrom. Washington doesn't make the playoffs without him. Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell went from question mark to playoff star. Those kinds of players can change the course of an entire season.
Each year, we compile a Hinge Team: guys whose success could mean the difference between making the playoffs and missing the playoffs. The rules? If it's a young player, he must project to be a difference-maker at a position of need. If it's a veteran, there must be reason for revival. The only other rule? No goalies. The success of every team hinges on the goalie.
Here's the 2013-14 season's list.