It’s the time of year when everyone you know is planning what they are going to change for the New Year. You might have heard about diets, the gym, being a better parent, or anything else under the sun. But what should each NHL team make their New Years resolution this holiday season?
Let’s take a look.
Help out the Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf Show: Unless you’ve been living under a rock for most of this season, you are probably fully aware of the struggles that the Anaheim Ducks have been going through. This has been a team that has gone from one of the higher scoring teams in the game to the lowest scoring team in hockey, not even averaging two goals per game. Most of that scoring has come in the form of Corey Perry goals with assists from Ryan Getzlaf. Ryan Kesler hasn’t done anything productive after signing his new deal and Jakob Silfverberg has 6 points in 35 games. The Ducks have a problem finding the back of the net, and when they do, it usually involves help from Perry and Getzlaf.
Take more shots: And no, we’re not talking about the alcoholic variety. Arizona is one of those teams that made some moves this off-season and has reaped the benefits. That being said, this team is 29th in shots per game yet still 8th in the league in goals per game. That works out to an average of one goal every 9.6 shots. You know, most players hate it when fans obnoxiously scream “shooooooooooot!”, but this is a case where it is well warranted. Arizona will definitely start scoring at an even higher clip if they can get more shots toward the net.
To Stop the Injuries: “Week-to-week”, that’s never something you want to hear in regards to a player being injured. That is however the prognosis on Boston’s centerman, David Krejci. On top of that, the Bruins are also without defenseman Torey Krug for a couple of days as he’s also sidelined with an apparent injury. Look, Boston was well off on Tuesday night, scoring seven goals against the division rival Senators, but that success could be short-lived if they don’t get Krejci and Krug back in a timely matter. The Bruins have a tough schedule ahead of them, one that includes Philadelphia, The Rangers, Washington, and two huge division games against Montreal and Ottawa.
Keep Chugging along to the Finnish: Look, everyone understands, it’s been a very rough few years in Buffalo. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2011, they’ve been basement dwellers for the past few seasons, but that looks like it’s all about to change with some time. The reason I threw in the “Finnish” was in part due to Rasmus Ristolainen who is having a breakout year to remember. The 8th overall pick from 2013 has been more than the Sabres could’ve bargained for early on in his career. He already has 24 points, good enough for second on the team and he was the first Sabre defenseman to record a hat-trick since hall-of-famer Phil Housley did it nearly 30 years ago. The Sabres just need to keep pushing along, because good things are on the horizon.
To Turn the Power Back On: The Flames are certainly operating by candle light at this point, because the power has been long gone on their power play. Despite having players like Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monihan, and a handful of offensive defesemen, the Flames powerplay has been abysmal. They are operating at just 12.6% and have only 14 power play goals all season. That’s a huge problem if the Flames are looking to make it back into the playoffs.
To Focus on Rebuilding: The Hurricanes aren’t a good hockey team, simply put. They’ve been stuck in a funk in which they’ve been mediocre for years now. The rebuilding process starts with trading away Eric Staal before the trade deadline hits. He’s at the end of a deal and there is no doubt that a playoff team could use him down the stretch. It will also help a cash strapped team breathe a little. Staal could fetch some very valuable young talent for the Canes to build around, and with stud defenseman Justin Faulk already locked up, that could be very helpful to a team struggling for not only wins, but fans as well.
To Stay a Winning Organization: There isn’t really much the Blackhawks need to do in the new year that they haven’t already been doing. Three Stanley Cups since 2010, the league leader in points, a good defense, and a solid goaltender are about all you need.
To Keep Up Division Dominance: That’s right, Colorado is tearing through their own division. It might be one of those things where you say “Colorado? Really?” Yes, really. They are 7-2-0 in a very good Central division, are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, and aside from Dallas, are the highest scoring team in the West. After an awful start to the season, Colorado has surged in the standings. Keep in mind, those divisional wins may come in handy when they’re fighting for a playoff spot.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Focus On Addressing Team Needs: Our own Greg Thornberry wrote about it here, and it is clearly evident when you look at the standings. The Blue Jackets failed to address what they really needed. In case you forgot, Columbus went on a tear at the end of last season and things were really looking good for the team. Then the team went out and got Brandon Saad, someone who has greatly underperformed in a spot that the Blue Jackets didn’t need help in. They didn’t address the defense and it is showing as they now have the worst goal differential in the NHL.
Keep Firing On All Cylinders: The Stars are a force to be reckoned with right now. They have two of the top 5 scorers in the league in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, by far the most goals per game, and the third best power play in the league. They stand at 27-8-3 right now and they cannot take their foot off the gas. It seems to happen nearly every year, a team runs away in the regular season, pumps the brakes before the playoffs, and is ousted in the first or second round. The Stars can’t do that, especially with everything they have going for them.
Detroit Red Wings
Keep Building Youth: The Red Wings are entering a transition phase and so far they’ve handled it pretty well. Zetterberg and Datsyuk are both now over the age of 35 and Niklas Kronwall is just about to hit that mark. Those were guys that were centerpieces to the 2008 Cup winning team. While those guys are getting older, the Red Wings now have guys like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, and Dylan Larkin picking up the slack and keeping the team in playoff contention. If they can keep building through the draft, the Red Wings will be set.
Keeping the Playoff Hopes Alive: This is the first season where the Oilers aren’t the laughing stock of the league by the midway point. They’ve actually played surprisingly well. Leon Draisaitl is a making a name for himself playing beside Taylor Hall and that duo is quickly becoming one of the best in the league. More importantly the Oilers have done this without the help of Connor McDavid. They might be last in the West but they still are only four points out of a playoff spot.
Keeping Jaromir Jagr Around: If I would have told you in October, that by the end of the year, the Florida Panthers would be leading the Atlantic Division, you probably would’ve laughed in my face. Well that’s where they are now, and Jaromir Jagr is a huge reason for that success. He leads the team in points and has no doubt been a role model for the younger guys such as Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huburdeau, and Aaron Ekblad. That’s something that is invaluable to any team. The Panthers are only going up from here, and keeping the ageless Jagr around would only further their chances at making a playoff run.
Los Angeles Kings
To Not Get Ahead of Themselves: Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, the Kings are a good team with solid depth, but they play in the worst division in hockey. In fact, just two teams other than the Kings are above .500 in the Pacific. They will more than likely win their division, but they can’t get cocky about it or they’ll be ousted very quickly.
Be Better Against Their Division: The Wild are in the toughest division in hockey, and they aren’t playing all that great. So far they’re 7-5-4 and those overtime losses could really come back to haunt them. If the Wild want to find themselves in a divisional spot instead of a wild card, they’re going to have to beat their division foes.
Win Without Carey Price: This is probably the easiest one on the list. They simply can’t do it. After the flying start, Montreal has faltered since Price’s injury and now just have two wins in their last 10 games. That needs to change and they’re going to have to do it without Price.
Get Pekka Rinne Back on Track: Rinne just hasn’t looked himself all season. He’s touting a .910 save percentage and a 2.38 GAA. Thats a far cry from the .923 save percentage he posted last season. Right now, Nashville holds the last wild card spot in the West, it would really benefit them if Rinne played at the level he was at last season.
New Jersey Devils
Score More Goals: I can’t put enough emphasis on this. I think Cory Schneider has been one of the most underrated players since joining the Devils, but he’s backing a team that just doesn’t score any goals. Since Schneider joined the team, the Devils are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, averaging just 2.28 goals per game. The team possesses a great defensive core but just can’t score any goals. If the can back a resolution to find the back of the net, they could easily nab a spot in the playoffs.
New York Islanders
Make A Better Connection With the Fans: You’d think after the season the Islanders had last year, and with the progress they’ve shown this year, that the fans would show up. But that hasn’t been the case. The Isles are averaging just 12.923 per game and many fans were angered about the move to Brooklyn to an arena that wasn’t even built to suit a hockey team. The Isles have put a good team on the ice, but the fans still fail to show up during the regular season, and that’s something they need to change.
New York Rangers
Give Henrik Lundqvist More Support: There’s no goalie in the league that does more work than Henrik Lundqvist. He is a major reason the Rangers have found themselves in the Conference Final 3 of the last 4 seasons and has been standing on his head this season as well. Lundqvist has faced the second most shots of any goalie in the league yet still has a .921 save percentage. The Rangers need to give him some help on defense.
Stop Giving Out So Many Shots: Ok, not the kind you would get on a Saturday night. We’re talking about shots on goal. The Senators allow almost 34 shots per game, leaving Craig Anderson peppered with puck marks after each game. If the Sens bring that number down, they’ll surely allow less goals per game.
Stop With the Bad Contracts: With just a few more pieces, the Flyers could easily be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. However, that can’t happen because of the numerous bad contracts the Flyers have handed out over the years. Vinny Lecavalier is a 4+ million dollar cap hit who is in the press box, RJ Umberger is a 4 million dollar cap hit that has 20 points in his last 87 games, and we don’t even need to start on defense. Once these contracts expire, the Flyers need to be smart about who they give their money to.
Find an Identity: There is no team in the NHL who needs one more than the Pittsburgh Penguins. They recently fired their coach, signing Phil Kessel hasn’t done anything to jump-start the offense, Sidney Crosby has hit a wall, and the defense has been less than stellar. The team has fallen out of a playoff spot after a strong start and is in dire need of an identity considering the amount of talent they have.
San Jose Sharks
Look Toward the Future: It’s appearing the era the Sharks have been living in is coming to an end. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau seem to have a limited amount of time left with the Sharks. They’ve brought them to the Conference Finals, but their legacy will live on as players who excelled during the regular season and failed miserably in the playoffs. The Sharks need to look toward the future and build through the draft.
St. Louis Blues
Find a Rhythm: The Blues started out the season very well, but through a few injuries and facing off against good teams, they into the beginning of December. The Blues posted a 2-4-1 record to start the month and then kicked things back into gear again, going 6-2-0 since then. The Blues are also 22nd in the league in goals per game, something that will probably need to be picked up if they want to make a run.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Deal With Steven Stamkos: He’s said it hasn’t been on his mind, but the fact that Steven Stamkos is a free agent after this year has definitely been nagging at him. Tampa Bay hasn’t resigned him yet, and with the team not in a playoff spot and Stamkos underperforming, you have to think that it’s weighing on both parties. The Lightning need to deal with the situation sooner rather than later. If they are out of reach of a playoff spot come March, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see if they could deal Stamkos to a playoff team for a sizeable return.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Figure Out What to Do With Komarov and Bozak: Our own writer James Tanner chronicled this one a few days ago, and it’s an interesting proposition. Despite playing better recently, the Leafs still have a good bit of work to do in the personnel department. With the Leafs playing well, Komarov and Bozak have also been playing exceptionally well. That means their trade value is probably the highest it will ever be at. If the Leafs could swing something that would net them a good return (especially on defense), it might be the right move.
Be More Careful On the Ice: OK, that’s possible in theory, but what hockey player is going to let up? Really though, the Canucks need something that will nix the injuries. They’ve already seen significant injuries to Ryan Miller, Jake Virtanen, Chris Tanev, Brandon Sutter, Henrik Sedin, Chris Higgins, and Dan Hamhuis. That has plagued them all season as they are now struggling in the weakest division in hockey. Canucks fans can only hope the injury bug lets up in the second half of the season.
Keep Playing at Capital Status: This is once again one of the few teams on the list that really doesn’t need to change anything. They are clicking on all cylinders. The power play is outstanding, the captain is scoring, the goal tending has been outstanding, and the team is atop the East.
Fix the Ladd’s and Byfuglien Contract Situation: This one comes from our own Rob Mahon who wrote about the Jets’ New Years Resolutions. The Jets really can’t afford to lose either of these guys. They are 17-17-6 in the worst division in hockey, yet still only one point out of a playoff spot. Byfuglien is the staple to the Jets defense and leads all Jets defenders with 21 points. Ladd would obviously be a huge since he wears the ‘C’. The Jets need to work out this situation soon, because if it gets to free agency, they could very well lose them.