With the start of a brand new year, many people (including a number of NHL fans) will make resolutions to improve themselves in 2014. Some will stick to these resolutions while most will likely give up or forget about them within a few weeks.
Every NHL team could use improvement in some form in 2014. It could be hiring a new general manager or a coaching change. Perhaps it's re-signing a key player or addressing a roster need with a trade or a free-agent signing. For some, it could be as simple as better health or a lucky break to get them into playoff contention.
The following is a list of New Year's resolutions for each NHL club, why they're necessary and if they can stick with it.
Resolution: Make a decision on Jonas Hiller.
Why It's Necessary: Hiller will be an unrestricted free agent in July. While the Ducks have several promising goalies (Frederik Andersson, Viktor Fasth, John Gibson), Hiller is the only one with playoff experience. The Ducks could re-sign him, but that will depend upon his salary demands, his performance over the second half of the season and their other roster needs.
Will They Stick to It? Definitely. Hiller's free-agent status gives them until July 1 to re-sign him, trade him or let him walk. One way or the other, his fate will be decided before the summer.
Resolution: Find a replacement for the injured Dennis Seidenberg.
Why It's Necessary: Other than Zdeno Chara, no other Bruins defenseman is as skilled or experienced as Seidenberg, who's out for the season with torn ligaments in his right knee. The Bruins have depth in promising young defenders, including Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman.
Will They Stick to It? Depends upon how their youngsters perform in the coming weeks. If none of them suitably replace Seidenberg, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli could shop for help by the March trade deadline.
Resolution: Hire a skilled general manager.
Why It's Necessary: Having recently fired long-time GM Darcy Regier, the Sabres desperately need a replacement capable of building them into a future Cup contender. With a wealthy owner in Terry Pegula willing to invest in the roster, they can no longer cry poor. Whoever president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine hires must have significant front-office experience, especially in scouting, drafting and payroll management.
Will They Stick to It? With several capable assistant general managers (Boston's Jim Benning, Nashville's Paul Fenton, Ottawa's Tim Murray, Phoenix's Brad Treliving, Pittsburgh's Jason Botterill, Toronto's Claude Loiselle) as candidates, the odds are in their favor.
Resolution: Hire a new general manager.
Why It's Necessary: Like the Sabres, the Flames are a rebuilding team that recently fired its general manager and is currently run by its president of hockey operations. Unlike the Sabres, the Flames' president is Brian Burke, who has considerable management experience to run the club on an interim basis.
Will They Stick to It? As tempting as it may be for Burke to take over full time as Flames GM, he doesn't want the job. While his search could stretch past the trade deadline, odds are he'll have a replacement signed well before the NHL draft in June.
Resolution: Land a top-two defenseman.
Why It's Necessary: Oft-injured Joni Pitkanen is sidelined for the season and becomes an unrestricted free agent in July. The Hurricanes have depth in puck-moving blueliners (Justin Faulk, Andrej Sekera, Ryan Murphy) and need a big, physical shutdown defenseman.
Will They Stick to It? Easy to say, hard to do. The pickings will be slim via free agency (Dan Girardi, Brooks Orpik) this summer. They could go the trade route, but that could mean moving out a key player (like Jeff Skinner) in return. They could make Montreal's P.K. Subban and Florida's Erik Gudbranson offer-sheet targets.
Resolution: Repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
Why It's Necessary: It could cement the Blackhawks' legacy as this decade's dominant franchise, giving them three championships in five years. It would also make them the first repeat champions since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings.
Will They Stick to It? They're certainly well-positioned to do so, entering 2014 jockeying for first place in the Western Conference. This season's march to the Cup could prove more daunting than their last two title runs. Anaheim, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Boston and San Jose are Cup contenders in their own right.
Resolution: Find experienced blue-line depth.
Why It's Necessary: The Avalanche surprised many experts with their strong start but struggled through most of December. Their defensive play is largely to blame. By New Year's Eve, they had slid to 11th in goals against per game and sit 22nd in penalty-killing (80.2 percent) and 24th in shots against per game (32.0 percent).
While They Stick to It? If trade rumors are anything to go by, they're certainly trying. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch claimed they had interest in New York Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto. CBC's Elliotte Friedman reported they spoke with the Florida Panthers about Dmitry Kulikov.
Resolution: Make the playoffs in 2014.
Why It's Necessary: Their long-suffering fans deserve to be rewarded for their patience. Their hopes were raised by last season's late surge, Sergei Bobrovsky's Vezina Trophy win and the acquisitions of Marian Gaborik and Nathan Horton. This season, however, they're once again outside the playoff picture while Bobrovsky, Gaborik and Horton are sidelined.
Will They Stick to It? Due to the weakness of the Metropolitan Division, the Blue Jackets still have a good shot at a playoff berth. Bobrovsky and Horton will be rejoining the lineup soon. Their improved play in December bodes well for a strong second half.
Resolution: A playoff berth in 2014.
Why It's Necessary: Once an NHL powerhouse, since 2008, the Stars have missed the playoffs for five straight years. That's hurt them at the gate, as they've been well below capacity in three of the past five seasons. To win back Dallas fans, a playoff berth this season is a must.
Will They Stick To It? The Stars face a tough battle in the very competitive Western Conference, but they are making steady improvement. Led by young stars Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, the Stars are in good position to contend for a wild-card berth.
Resolution: A healthier 2014.
Why It's Necessary: Injuries have taken a toll on the Wings this season. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Jimmy Howard, Stephen Weiss and Niklas Kronwall are among those who were, or remain, sidelined.
Will They Stick to It? They will certainly do their best. If they're to secure a firmer grip on a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, they must stay healthier over the remainder of the season. Further injuries could jeopardize their streak of 22 consecutive playoff appearances.
Resolution: Improve their defensive game.
Why It's Necessary: It's been a glaring weakness for several years and hampers their rebuilding efforts. They need a proven starting goaltender, a top-two defenseman, a big physical center and experienced size on their checking lines.
Will They Stick To It? They have no choice. CBC's Elliotte Friedman reported GM Craig MacTavish is willing to shop his first-round pick in 2014 (which could be first overall pick) for a big center or game-changing defenseman. Sophomore winger Nail Yakupov has also popped up in trade chatter. A package of Yakupov and that pick could address one of their needs.
Resolution: Engage in a proper rebuild.
Why It's Necessary: They've only made the playoffs once since 2001. It's believed GM Dale Tallon wants to shed some veterans to rebuild around promising youngsters Jonathan Huberdeau, Erik Gudbranson and Nick Bjugstad. With the salary-cap floor expected to reach $52 million next season, Tallon must spend over $12 million to be cap compliant, more if he dumps salary at the trade deadline.
While They Stick to It? It remains to be seen. Tallon won't be able to trade everyone he reportedly wants to move. Their hope rests with their promising youngsters, but to reach their full potential, they need a good supporting cast.
Resolution: Figure out what to do with goaltenders Martin Jones and Ben Scrivens.
Why It's Necessary: Starting goalie Jonathan Quick returns from a groin injury in January. Scrivens played well in November following Quick's injury, but Jones was dominant in December. The Kings could carry three goalies, but that's not worthwhile over the remainder of the season
Will They Stick to It? Scrivens or Jones will be gone by the trade deadline. The Kings could try to move Scrivens, who's an unrestricted free agent in July. Their easiest option is to return Jones to their AHL affiliate, as he's exempt from waivers and cannot be claimed by a rival club.
Resolution: Sign Tomas Vanek as a free agent in July.
Why It's Necessary: They lack scoring depth on left wing. Vanek played his college hockey in Minnesota, met his wife there and lives in the state during the offseason. His old Sabres teammate and friend Jason Pominville now plays for the Wild. Once Dany Heatley's $7 million cap hit comes off the books, they can afford him.
Will They Stick to It? Unless Vanek's salary demands are extravagant, they should pursue him this summer. They could try to acquire him at the trade deadline, but his remaining salary could prove too expensive to absorb.
Resolution: Re-sign or replace their key free-agent defensemen.
Why It's Necessary: P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Francis Bouillon, Douglas Murray and Raphael Diaz will be free agents at season's end. The priority will be re-signing Subban and Markov while Diaz should be an affordable re-signing. The futures of Bouillon and Murray will depend upon their performance this season.
Will They Stick to It? Definitely. While they need more size and skill at forward, GM Marc Bergevin must address the blue line before bolstering the depth up front. Bergevin could also tap into the trade and free-agent markets.
Resolution: Search for more scorers.
Why It's Necessary: While they wait for goalie Pekka Rinne to return from a hip ailment, the Predators are struggling to score, sitting 27th overall in goals per game. Approaching midseason, only three Predators forwards have 20-plus points. CBC's Elliotte Friedman reports GM David Poile acknowledged his forwards aren't performing as expected but a stale trade market currently hampers effort to shake things up.
Will They Stick to It? Yes, if not before the trade deadline, then certainly in the offseason. The Predators cannot hope to be consistent playoff contenders with an anemic offense.
Resolution: Pursue more scoring forwards.
Why It's Necessary: Aging stars Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias are carrying the offense this season. If either guy tires or gets hurt in the second half, the Devils can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.
While They Stick to It? GM Lou Lamoriello will undoubtedly canvass the trade market in search of depth but might not find what he needs until the March trade deadline. That could be too late to help the Devils this season. With new ownership in place, expect Lamoriello to aggressively pursue scoring punch in the offseason.
Resolution: Improve their goaltending depth.
Why It's Necessary: GM Garth Snow gambled on a fading Evgeni Nabokov and lost when the veteran was sidelined by a groin injury. Backups Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson aren't ready for prime time and may never be. They must spend at least $12 million to be cap compliant for 2014-15. Investing in goaltending is the best place to start.
Will They Stick to It? Your guess is as good as Snow's and tight-fisted owner Charles Wang, who controls the purse strings. Building from the net out is supposed to be hockey gospel, but the Isles front office must have skipped that lesson.
Resolution: Re-sign or replace Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi.
Why It's Necessary: Callahan and Girardi are eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. The New York Post's Larry Brooks believes they should be dealt if the Rangers cannot re-sign them by the March trade deadline. That will depend on where the Blueshirts are in the standings by that point and the duo's respective salary demands.
Will They Stick to It? One way or the other, their fates will be decided before July 1. Losing their experience and leadership could prove costly, but it would give the Rangers the cap space to pursue replacements.
Resolution: Shore up their defense.
Why It's Necessary: By the end of December, the Senators had given up the fourth-most shots against per game this season (34.1). In previous seasons, their usually strong goaltending could offset that problem, but starter Craig Anderson is struggling this season. The development of promising defensemen Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch seems to have stalled.
While They Stick to It? The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports GM Bryan Murray has shopped around without success for several weeks. Murray will undoubtedly continue his search in the New Year, but it remains to be seen if he'll find a season-saving deal.
Resolution: Land a top-two defenseman.
Why It's Necessary: The Flyers still miss Chris Pronger, whose career was cut short two years ago by injuries. Aging Kimmo Timonen could retire at season's end, and there's no one in their system ready to fill his shoes.
Will They Stick to It? GM Paul Holmgren is always keen to wheel and deal. If he can't find a star defenseman through a trade, he'll search for one via free agency. Having unsuccessfully attempted to sign away Shea Weber from Nashville in 2012, don't be surprised if he pursues Montreal's P.K. Subban if the Canadiens defenseman is still unsigned by July.
Resolution: Re-sign Radim Vrbata.
Why It's Necessary: The 32-year-old winger is consistently among their top scorers. He's on pace for a 60-point season, which would be the second time in the past three seasons he has reached that level. As ESPN's Craig Custance observed, Vrbata doesn't want to play anywhere else, and the Coyotes need his offense.
Will They Stick to It? If they know what's good for them, yes. He could seek a significant raise over his current $3.5 million cap hit, but it'll be worthwhile keeping such a proven performer. With the Coyotes' ownership woes now behind them, this re-signing should become a reality.
Resolution: A healthier 2014.
Why It's Necessary: The Penguins lead the league in man games lost to injury. Thanks to their depth, Dan Bylsma's coaching, Marc-Andre Fleury's goaltending and captain Sidney Crosby's leadership, the Penguins remain among the Eastern Conference's top teams. Still, they risk sliding down the standings if more players get injured.
Will They Stick to It? The best they can do is await the recovery of the injured and hope no others get seriously hurt. Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi recently returned, and Evgeni Malkin could rejoin the lineup soon. Pascal Dupuis, however, is out for the season with a knee injury.
Resolution: Re-sign Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle.
Why It's Necessary: Though ageing, Thornton (34) leads the league in assists, Marleau (also 34) is on pace for yet another 30-goal season and Boyle (37) remains a key part of their defense corps. The trio are unrestricted free agents next summer but have indicated their willingness to stay. The Sharks opened contract talks with them last summer.
Will They Stick to It? Yes. Thornton, Marleau and Boyle remain invaluable to the Sharks' hopes for Stanley Cup contention. Given their ages, they'll likely accept slight pay cuts on short-term contracts.
Resolution: Win the Stanley Cup in 2014.
Why It's Necessary: Though the Blues are among the NHL's top clubs, they rank 23rd in home attendance (87.2 percent), down from 90.1 percent last season. Blues president Bruce Affleck warns it could have an adverse effect upon team revenue.
Will They Stick to It? How far they go this season is up to the players. The Blues have teased with their promise the past two seasons only to come up short in the playoffs. A Cup run will surely attract more fans and in turn bolster their revenue.
Resolution: Continue playing well without Steven Stamkos.
Why It's Necessary: The Lightning superstar was expected to be sidelined by a broken right leg until mid-March, but there's talk he could return by February 6. Though the Lightning have done well in Stamkos' absence, his return could assure them a playoff berth this season.
Will They Stick to It? So far so good, thanks in part to Ben Bishop's goaltending and the leadership of the ageless Martin St. Louis. Early February is over a month away, and they cannot afford to slacken.
Resolution: Improve their defense.
Why It's Necessary: They're the league leaders in shots against per game (36.0) and risk burning out goaltenders Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer. They're also struggling offensively, but defense remains the primary concern. The longer it takes to address this issue, the greater the risk of falling out of playoff contention.
Will They Stick to It? GM Dave Nonis recently told The Toronto Sun head coach Randy Carlyle won't be fired. He's been testing the trade market, but TSN's Darren Dreger claims Nonis hasn't received any helpful offers. With no immediate help in the offing, the Leafs must look to within for improvement.
Resolution: Bolster their scoring depth.
Why It's Necessary: The Sedin Twins and Ryan Kesler are carrying the offensive burden. The Canucks' solid goaltending and strong overall defense is largely responsible for their steady performance this season. If anything happens to the Sedins or Kesler, it could jeopardize their playoff hopes.
Will They Stick to It? The Canucks can't risk parting with their few promising assets for a quick fix. GM Mike Gillis will try to land a bargain near the trade deadline. Mike Santorelli must continue his surprising pace while Jannik Hansen and David Booth need to improve in the second half.
Resolution: Trade Martin Erat.
Why It's Necessary: Erat has requested a trade. In the short term, it would be helpful to move him for depth elsewhere in the lineup. Ditching his $4.5 million cap hit frees up space in the offseason to re-sign other key players (like Mikhail Grabovski) or find suitable replacements via free agency.
Will They Stick To It? GM George McPhee is trying to find takers for Erat. Considering his salary, declining production and his two trade requests within a calendar year, don't expect many takers.
Resolution: Make the playoffs.
Why It's Necessary: Jets fans have been patient, but it's starting to wear thin. With stars like Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom, the Jets have the talent to be a playoff contender. Instead, as Wheeler recently observed following another disappointing loss, they've been “blowing smoke” the past three seasons.
Will They Stick to It? Like their fans, Jets management have also been very patient with their lineup. If they miss the playoffs again, that patience will be tested. Changes could be coming for the roster and behind the bench.