1 Christmas Wish Each NHL Team Has on Its List
Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry lockout! The NHL has been a naughty league, and for that, Gary Bettman will be getting coal in his stocking.
Aside from that, there have been many good and bad teams this holiday season, and they have all asked me, Santa Claus, for something special.
Here's a look at what's on the top of each team’s Christmas list.
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New York Rangers: Thicker pads
Poor Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh took more shots to the body than Henrik Lundqvist did. Not really, but the two hardy defensemen were both Top 10 shot-blockers last season—Girardi at No. 5 (185) and McDonagh at No. 8 (182).
Head coach John Tortorella, who has been called out for not running a pretty-enough defense (via Costas Tonight), runs an economically defensive strategy; the smaller the number of shots that reach King Lundqvist, the smaller the number of goals the opposition scores.
While this style of defense saw them to the Eastern Conference finals, it takes a toll on the players who are throwing themselves in front of 80-mph shots.
Pittsburgh Penguins: A “don’t-hit-Crosby” rule
After signing Sidney Crosby to a 12-year deal worth $104.4 million, the Pittsburgh Penguins are just hoping he stays healthy. Crosby and the Pens will be hoping a "don’t-hit-Crosby" rule is added to the new CBA.
Sid the Kid has only played 63 games over the past two seasons due to a vertebrae injury and a concussion. Crosby is undoubtedly one of a handful of elite players; he is useless if he does not stay healthy.
It would not be the first time a rule was established because of one player—see the “Brodeur rule” (via Sports Illustrated).
Philadelphia Flyers: For Ilya Bryzgalov to stop thinking about the galaxy
During HBO’s 24/7 coverage of the Philadelphia Flyers leading up to the Winter Classic, Ilya Bryzgalov developed an eccentric reputation. The first-year Flyer goaltender showed his philosophical side, discussing his fascination with the universe.
“I’m very into the universe, you know? Like how it was created,” said a rambling Bryzgalov in HBO's 24/7 (h/t YouTube). “The solar system is so humongous big, right? But if you see, like, our solar system and our galaxy on the side is so small. You can’t even see it.”
Meanwhile, in the real world, Bryzgalov’s postseason stats were horrid (3.46 GAA, .887 SV%). The Flyers really need Mr. Universe to get his head out of outer space and into the game.
New Jersey Devils: A new Zach Parise
In the words of New Jersey’s own Jersey Shore, the Minnesota Wild “committed the robbery” on Zach Parise. The New Jersey Devils now have a huge void in their top line without their 30-goal-scoring captain.
With contracts expiring on Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias, the Devils had to keep some cap space free. This limited their free-agent acquisitions to Krys Barch and Bobby Butler—a far cry from Zach Parise.
Head coach Pete DeBoer will be hoping that Calder Trophy finalist Adam Henrique comes into his own—and fast.
New York Islanders: A one-way trip to Brooklyn
After their stadium was cited for several safety violations, the New York Islanders got their present early—a move to Brooklyn. The Islanders will be joining the Brooklyn Nets at the newly erected Barclays Center.
According to IndustrySafe.com, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the Nassau Coliseum with 16 “serious safety violations.” Such violations included hazardous exposure to asbestos and inadequate health-related training for employees.
This explains the low attendance rate at Islanders home games.
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Boston Bruins: The current lockout
The Boston Bruins got their gift early when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners halted the impending 2012-13 season. Tim Thomas and the Bruins could not have picked a better, nonexistent season for the starting goaltender to take a leave of absence.
With Thomas taking the season off to spend time with loved ones, the Bruins planned to pass the baton to Tuukka Rask. Fortunately for the 2011 Stanley Cup champions, they might not have to rely on their backup.
If Thomas decides to return, and if there is a season, the Bruins will have really lucked out.
Ottawa Senators: Chill pills for Erik Karlsson
According to the Ottawa Sun, Erik Karlsson “threw” his stick at a referee while playing for Jokerit in the SM-liiga. The 22-year-old Swede received a one-game suspension for his actions.
The Ottawa Senators were able to reach the playoffs due in large part to Erik Karlsson’s 78-point regular season. After signing Karlsson to a seven-year contract worth $45.5 million, the Sens need to make sure the defenseman's temper does not put him off his stride.
Buffalo Sabres: The Ryan Miller from the 2010 USA Olympic team
After an impressive performance in the 2010 Winter Olympics, Ryan Miller has begun to lose his elite status. The Buffalo Sabres' hopes of their goaltender maintaining his 2010 numbers are slowly slipping away.
The year of his Olympic silver medal, Miller put up very strong numbers (2.22 GA, 9.29 SV%). A similar performance from the American goaltender is vital for Buffalo to reach the playoffs.
Miller showed fleeting moments of brilliance with six shutouts last season, but needs to have a more consistent performance.
Toronto Maple Leafs: To make the playoffs
Currently on the longest playoff drought in the league, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a lot to ask for this Christmas. Leafs general manager Brian Burke just wants to get his team to the Stanley Cup before Toronto fans crucify him.
Unfortunately, the only noteworthy acquisition Toronto has made is a trade for James van Riemsdyk. The Leafs are hoping the winger can transition to center the top line with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.
Luckily for the Leafs, there might not be playoffs for them to miss this season
Montreal Canadiens: To sign P.K. Subban on the cheap
Currently without a contract, P.K. Subban is sitting in limbo as the Montreal Canadiens wait for the parameters of a new CBA. The Habs are banking on picking up the 23-year-old at a bargain price.
The Canadiens undoubtedly rely on Subban, who averaged more than 24 minutes per game last season. It seems to only be a matter of time before the Toronto native is a consistent 40-point defenseman.
However, Subban is a bit of a loose cannon; it would not be surprising to see him jump ship.
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Florida Panthers: more plastic rats
The Florida Panthers made the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, taking the New Jersey Devils to Game 7. If the Panthers are going to be a playoff-making team now, they are going to need more plastic rats.
Legend has it that in the 1995-96 season, Florida Panther Scott Mellanby killed a rat in the locker room, and then proceeded to score two goals with the same stick. Ever since, Panthers fans have thrown plastic rats on the ice after a big Panther goal.
If they plan on beating out their fellow Florida team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, they are going to need some more plastic rats.
Washington Capitals: an Ovechkin revival
Alex Ovechkin’s last season (38, 27, 65 PTS) would be good for just about any other player, but not Ovi. The Washington Capitals know the Russian sniper is capable of seasons well over 80 points.
The Washington Capitals are hoping for some stability in their head coach position after hiring former Capital Adam Oates. The Caps are hoping Oates is the guy to get Ovi back to his 100-point self.
Oates had a heck of an impact for the Caps on the ice; let's see what he can do behind the bench.
Tampa Bay Lightning: for the Lindback trade to pay off
Despite having Steven Stamkos, the leading goal scorer in the league, the Tampa Bay Lightning failed to reach the playoffs. It seems they tapped out 43-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson.
In an effort to correct their goaltending situation, the Lightning traded for former Nashville Predators backup Anders Lindback. The Bolts coughed up a few draft picks for the 23-year-old, hoping this will solve their netminding problem.
If not, the Panthers will be happy to represent Florida in the playoffs again.
Winnipeg Jets: to sneak into the playoffs under the radar
Although the Winnipeg Jets have shied away from big-name signings, the revived Canadian team has reinforced all aspects of its game.
The Jets' passing on Filip Forsberg for defenseman Jakub Trouba is commendable; it shows Winnipeg is building a multidimensional team. This, along with solid offensive investments in Olli Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky are great first steps for the Jets.
Who knows? They might even sneak into the playoffs.
Carolina Hurricanes: a short leash for Alexander Semin
Along with the family reunion of Eric and Jordan Staal, the Carolina Hurricanes added Alexander Semin on a costly one-year $7 million contract. Providing the Canes can keep the hothead under control, Carolina is an offensive force to be reckoned with.
Former Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau has scratched Semin a number of times because of a lack of effort from the sniper. The Canes will need to keep him on a short leash.
Other than the Minnesota Wild, the Hurricanes have made stronger moves to better their team than any other playoff-missing club. However, Semin playing to his full potential is a must for Carolina.
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St. Louis Blues: A sniper
How do the St. Louis Blues nearly top the Western Conference despite being No. 21 in goal scoring (2.51)? By being No. 1 in least goals against (1.89).
Though if the Blues learned anything in their playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings, it was that a little more offense wouldn't hurt.
According to the NHL, the Blues are rumored to be in the market for the Dallas Stars’ Brenden Morrow. Aside from last year, Morrow has put up strong offensive seasons.
Needless to say, the market for snipers is thin for now. Until they find someone, the Blues are going to have to stick to being an impenetrable wall of defense.
Nashville Predators: A new friend for Shea Weber
After the Minnesota Wild poached Ryan Suter from the Nashville Predators, Shea Weber’s allegiance to the team came into question. The Preds may have matched the Philadelphia Flyers’ pricey offer sheet, but they did not include a no-trade clause.
Nashville capitalized on the opportunity to lock in Weber for the long term. However, if Weber cannot perform without Suter, or wants a trade, the Preds will surely weigh their options.
The Preds do not want to see their captain go, but his future is precarious unless he finds a linemate.
Detroit Red Wings: A new franchise defenseman
Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement left a void in the Detroit Red Wings’ defense, to say the least. After losing a living legend, who served the team for 20 years, the Red Wings will never be the same.
The loss should not keep the Red Wings out of the playoffs, but it is definitely a burden on the team. Detroit also has to deal with re-signing Jimmy Howard as his contract approaches its expiration.
The Red Wings are not asking for much, just another legendary defenseman.
Chicago Blackhawks: A goalie
Having just signed Johnny Oduya to a three-year contract, many expect the Chicago Blackhawks to ship off Niklas Hjalmarsson—hopefully for a goalie. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery just aren't up for the starting job.
The goalie market is thin right now, but the Blackhawks may be able to make a play for Brian Elliott or Roberto Luongo. Hjalmarsson is a promising young defender who can attract a decent return.
The offensive powerhouse would be a much stronger club with a reliable netminder between the pipes.
Columbus Blue Jackets: A new general manager
Columbus Blue Jackets' general manager Scott Howson should be impeached after trading Rick Nash for the New York Rangers’ scraps. Nash has managed to consistently score 30 goals despite being on the worst team in the NHL.
Sorry, but Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and draft picks do not justify sending off Nash. The former Blue Jacket is precisely the player Howson should be hoping his players will develop into.
Howson better hope the class of 2013 is talented with the first-round draft picks he has stockpiled. If not, he might not be around for 2014.
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Vancouver Canucks: to ditch Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo, the once-franchise goalie for the Vancouver Canucks, has become a decade-long $64 million burden. Determined to promote Cory Schneider to the top spot, the Nucks and Luongo alike have been looking for a move.
Talks have swirled around the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers as possible destinations, but nothing is official. It is hard to find a team willing to take such a large cap hit for the goaltender.
The Canucks will not have a chance to sufficiently better their club until they can ditch Luongo. Vancouver is in the spirit of giving this holiday season, providing they can find a team less fortunate enough to give to.
Calgary Flames: to hang on to Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla is one of the many top forwards thickening the 2013 free-agent pool. The Calgary Flames have already seen Olli Jokinen jump ship, which frees up cap space for the 15-year franchise player.
Narrowly losing the Stanley Cup in 2004, the Flames have yet to give Iginla a taste of silver. Iginla knows his clock is ticking; it would not be surprising to see him test the waters elsewhere.
The Flames better break out their checkbook. They did not get a championship with him—they certainly cannot without him.
Colorado Avalanche: the next Jonathan Toews
The Colorado Avalanche have followed the path of the Chicago Blackhawks in giving the “C” to their star 20-year-old. The Avs are really hoping that Gabriel Landeskog grows in a Jonathan Toews-like fashion.
Landeskog has had an impressive and eventful rookie year; he won the Calder Trophy and just became the youngest captain in NHL history.
It seems Landeskog was as shocked as everyone else was.
"I was a little bit shocked at first. I didn’t expect this at all, especially this early in my career. But I feel like I’m ready for it and this organization feels like I’m ready for it,” said Landeskog (via NHL.com).
Minnesota Wild: for their signings to pay off
The 2012 free-agent lottery-winning Minnesota Wild signed Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to 13-year contracts worth $98 million a piece. These transactions have given the Wild the least amount of remaining cap space in the league—so this better work.
With both players instantly becoming alternative captains, Parise and Suter are anticipated to have an immediate impact. Parise could be the hometown hero to spark the Wild.
The team is based out of Minnesota, a place that holds hockey above football and baseball. Their fans might finally have a postseason to look forward to.
Edmonton Oilers: Another first-overall draft pick
Having had three consecutive first-overall draft picks, the Edmonton Oilers seem to have found more excitement in the drafts than the actual season. As a result, the Oilers have stockpiled a lot of young, promising forwards.
Recent draft pick and Sarnia sensation Nail Yakupov is yet another gun in the Oilers' offensive armory. The Oilers had a chance to reinforce their defense by picking up Ryan Murray, but stayed true to form in their quest to hoard the best forwards.
Because of their neglect of their defense, the Oilers should stay eligible for many more first-overall draft picks—just what they always wanted.
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Phoenix Coyotes: for Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s numbers to transfer from the AHL
Last year the Phoenix Coyotes asked for an elite goaltender—they got Mike Smith. Now, after seeing moments of brilliance from him, they want Oliver Ekman-Larsson to become the next Erik Karlsson.
Currently playing for the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates, Ekman-Larsson is doing what any NHLer should do in the minor leagues—killing it. The 21-year-old has 19 points in 18 games.
The Coyotes want those same numbers in the NHL. Well, maybe they're not that greedy, but they have high hopes for Ekman-Larsson.
San Jose Sharks: a cup for Joe Thornton
Joe Thornton is a hard-hitting, playmaking center approaching free agency. To keep him, the San Jose Sharks will have to instill confidence in the versatile forward via a substantial playoff run.
Just shy of the 60-assist mark last season, Thornton has notched more career points (1078) than games played (1077). The Canadian has not had lower than a 70-point season in over a decade.
The 33-year-old still has many solid seasons in him. If his seven-year timespan with the Boston Bruins is indicative of his patience, then his time with the Sharks is nearly up.
Los Angeles Kings: a repeat performance
The Los Angeles Kings have done everything to keep their Stanley Cup team intact. Having picked up the Kings and brought them to the championship, Darryl Sutter is hoping to bring everyone back for a repeat performance.
Jonathan Quick has committed long-term to the Kings, agreeing to a 10-year $58 million contract. This is not surprising after his playoff performance, but teams have seen the long-term goalie contract backfire before—just ask the Canucks or the Islanders.
The Kings have all the same pieces for another Cup, but this time, the rest of the league has their number.
Dallas Stars: a machine that can deduct 10 years from one’s life
Over the summer the Dallas Stars acquired Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney. Either they've found the fountain of youth, or they're just really desperate.
Admittedly, both 40-year-olds have shown they still have a spring in their step. Whitney and Jagr should be strong offensive support for teammates Jamie Benn and Brenden Morrow.
However, if the Stars do get that minus-10-years-from-your-life machine, they could become a strong Western Conference contender.
Anaheim Ducks: to not lose their entire team
With contracts expiring on Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, a misstep from the Anaheim Ducks could cost them their entire star power. Even with their top forwards, Anaheim fell short of the playoffs—imagine the Ducks without them.
Selanne is likely heading toward retirement and Koivu is not essential, but the Ducks will have to break out their wallets to keep Getzlaf and Perry. Many other teams will be looking to poach them.
This possibility, under the experimental leadership of Bruce Boudreau, could sink the Ducks completely.