Weaknesses—we’ve all got them. Even NHL hockey teams have weaknesses. Some have issues with their goaltending, some can’t find secondary scoring, and some have too many to list.
Those that solve those issues tend to have success later on. The Chicago Blackhawks at one point were a non-playoff team; now they’re playing for the Stanley Cup.
Every NHL team has its big issue, and I’m going to address them and tell them how to fix it. Starting with the Northeast Division, we are going to break everything down.
Feel free to comment below and tell me if you agree or disagree.
Well, let’s get things started, shall we?
It’s not a lack of goaltending with Boston; quite the contrary. It's too much goaltending—in other words, a goaltending controversy.
That is the problem in Boston at the moment that needs to be addressed.
I know some of you will just jump on the Tuukka Rask bandwagon for obvious reason, but I would not put off Tim Thomas just like that.
Thomas is the same guy that won the Vezina last season. Just because he got into a slump or wasn’t exactly playing his best hockey at some point doesn’t mean he can’t goaltend anymore.
A bad year does not make a goalie bad in general. Take Miikka Kiprusoff for example. Kiprusoff had a bad year under Mike Keenan as head coach; does that mean he’s a bad goalie? Hell no—he even proved it.
This season was one of Kiprusoff’s best seasons of his career, and some of the saves he was making were simply jaw-dropping.
Thomas can do the same, but once again, there’s also Rask. Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas are both deserving of being the starter for the Boston Bruins.
If one is not dealt to another squad, we’ll likely see a goaltending controversy in Boston that will cost them numerous games, which may even result in them missing the playoffs.
My advice is trade one of them for a forward that can score and a decent backup goalie. It’ll boost the confidence level of the goalie that stays, because he knows that they trust his goaltending ability, which might even make his play better.
Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville—all a part of the Buffalo Sabres offense, but none of them are at the level of a star forward. That is what Buffalo is really lacking: a star forward.
Star forwards are guys like Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton, Eric Staal, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, etc.
Buffalo has a great chance to lock one of those up come this year’s free agency period. Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrick Marleau, Teemu Selanne, and others of their level are all going to be unrestricted free agents when the season wraps up. Those are the kind of players that Buffalo needs.
Vanek is good, no doubt, but he’s still not on the level of those kinds of players. Plus, if you pair him up with a guy like Marleau, for example (even though I believe he’ll be heading elsewhere) it could do wonders for Vanek’s play and the team’s overall performance.
A line of Vanek, Marleau, and Pominville, for example, could be very dangerous for opposing teams.
The Sabres need to go out and get a top-notch player that can score plenty of goals and help make the teammates around him better. It would certainly help Buffalo have even more success next year.
Remember the days of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury? Those were the days when the Buffalo offense was lethal. Not anymore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get the same level of play again.
The Montreal Canadiens are quite the team. They’ve upset two of the Stanley Cup favorites this year in Washington and Pittsburgh, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their flaws.
A huge flaw has to be offensive depth.
In case you haven’t noticed, this playoff series the people who have been getting most of the Montreal goals were Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta. That is a huge problem, wouldn’t you agree?
The Canadiens have some big contributors on the offensive end, but if they can’t score, what’s the point of having them?
Cammalleri, Gionta, Scott Gomez, the Kostitsyns, Tomas Plekanec, and company make up a strong Montreal offense. That offense has got to get going on secondary scoring though. Guys like Cammalleri will get you your points, but the second and third line offenses have to step up in hockey games too.
If that problem is fixed, I can easily see Montreal qualifying for the playoffs again, and who knows, maybe they can do what they did this year all over again.
I think it’s really clear that the Ottawa Senators need a good goaltender between the pipes.
They tried Brian Elliott, but it didn’t work; they tried Pascal Leclaire, and that didn’t work either. Both men are not meant to start between the pipes for the Senators.
So what should they do? Trade or release one of them and pursue a new, better goalie.
Free agency may be the answer for the Ottawa Senators. At this point Evgeni Nabokov, Jose Theodore, Marty Turco, Martin Biron, and Ray Emery are all unrestricted free agents. Any of those players can come in for the Senators and be the starting netminder.
If he remains a free agent, I think the Senators should really pursue Evgeni Nabokov. He’s obviously the best goalie available, and Ottawa can’t settle for anything less.
With that being fixed, there is no reason the Senators can’t make a decent playoff run next year.
Brian Burke, I’ll hand it to you—you’re doing a great job of rebuilding the Toronto Maple Leafs.
You’ve brought in two great goalies capable of playing between the pipes for the Leafs.
You’ve brought in some great defenders and have assembled a pretty solid blue line. With guys like Dion Phaneuf, Tomas Kaberle, Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, Luke Schenn, and Jeff Finger ,the Leafs are more than protected on the blue line.
All that’s left—offense.
The offense isn’t too bad at this point but still needs work. You’ve got your star player, Phil Kessel, and some guys that are getting better and better with every game in Tyler Bozak and Nikolai Kulemin, but you still need more.
This free agency period will see many great offensive players become available for buying teams such as Toronto. The big player to look out for: Patrick Marleau. Pair up Marleau and Kessel, and you’ll get plenty of goals and point production from your offense.
For more information on which players would help out the Maple Leafs offense check out this article—written by me, of course.
If the offensive end is repaired for the Maple Leafs they might, dare I say it, get into the playoffs next season. I mean, look at the team—they have a very good defense and two good goalies, and if an offense that can score is achieved, then there’s nothing holding them back really.
Oh how great it will be to see Toronto return to the playoffs again.
Well, I’ve covered the Northeast Division and what its teams need to fix. I’ll be moving on to my next division in due time. Follow me as I discuss how each team can better itself by fixing some big flaws in its system.
Hey, we all have flaws. What separates the weak from the strong is being aware of those flaws and being able to fix them.
Well, that’s it for me, guys—see you next time.
This article was originally posted on The Sports Dossier under the name "30 Teams, 30 Fixes: What Each NHL Team Needs To Fix For Next Season (Northeast Division)." Check out more great pieces from our talented staff of writers.
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