NHL Trade Talk: 5 Teams That Need to Shake Things Up
The Boston Bruins are currently dead last in the Eastern conference. The Vancouver Canucks also currently reside outside of a playoff spot.
Ditto for the Detroit Red wings, New York Rangers and Montreal Canadians while the Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars are lighting up their respective conferences. Yes, the forces of gravity no longer affect the NHL standings and what was once up is now down.
If the first month of the 2011-2012 NHL season is any indicator, there are several heavily favored squads that are in need of a shakeup.
However no team has played more than 13 games yet, and as you may recall, the NHL season is in fact 82 games long. We're a long way from even the halfway mark, but that doesn't mean that there aren't a handful of teams that are looking to shake off a bad first month.
I've written it before, and I'll write it again now: I for one honestly believed that the Boston Bruins had the veteran savvy and locker room leadership necessary to blow right through the legendary Stanley Cup hangover.
I was wrong.
The reigning champs haven't just stumbled out of the gate—I'm not even sure that they heard the gun that started the race in the first place. The Bruins are a measly 3-7 after their first 10 games, and not even top-notch performances from Tim Thomas and Tyler Seguin have been able to save the team from the depths of the Eastern conference.
They are currently in the bottom five of goals scored per game, and while they are still (almost) a top-third team in goals allowed, they haven't been coming out on the winning end of games through their defense like the did last season.
Thomas and Tuukka Rask have been solid for Boston as well. The team as a whole has just felt out of sync. On the nights Rask stops all but two shots the Bruins only manage one goal. When Thomas gives up five, suddenly the offense is good for six.
Some more consistent efforts will be needed if the champs want to get up off the mat and back into the scrappy East.
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The Vancouver Canucks went just as deep into the playoffs as the Boston Bruins did last season, except they didn't come out with the prize they were looking for.
By all accounts the squad was geared up and ready to come out flying as soon as the puck dropped to start the 2011-2012 season. There was suddenly much to prove, and everyone in the locker room would gain a sense of purpose after having their hearts broken in seven games by the Bruins.
The traditionally slow starters are at it again in Vancouver though, and a goaltending controversy no one possibly saw coming is already brewing.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin are both sitting at an oddly identical 13 points apiece, but the rest of the offense struggled without Ryan Kesler. Since returning from injury (and posing for ESPN's Body Issue) the second line has looked a bit better.
GM Mike Gillis decided not to wait around another month to see if his faltering club could shake the cobwebs. He pulled off a trade with the Florida Panthers to bring in sniper David Booth, hoping to inject more consistency into his scoring depth lines.
The issue in Vancouver hasn't been scoring goals however. It's been stopping them.
The Canucks rank 23rd in the NHL in goals against per game. Roberto Luongo is currently the goat for the squad overall—something he is probably used to at this point. This time the heat seems warranted however, as his save percentage has dipped well below .900 and his GAA is hovering around 3.5.
That just isn't good enough to get the job done for the defending Western Conference champs.
Detroit Red Wings
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Henrik Zetterberg only has three points on the year, and perennial Selke trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk is an accumulative minus five through 10 games.
That should tell you all you need to know about the 2011-2012 campaign so far for the Detroit Red Wings. The squad started off as one of the best teams in the league, remaining unbeaten until meeting up with the (then) also unbeaten Washington Capitals.
The Caps dismantled the Wings, beating them down by a final score of 7-1.
Losing to Washington seemed to derail Detroit as the team has yet to win a game since. The losing streak has brought the Red Wings plummeting down to earth, and all the way down to third in the Central division.
The Western Conference is too tight to go on these types of streaks towards the wrong end of .500, and too many more loses may cause coach Mike Babcock to blow a gasket. GM Ken Holland may also be forced to make a move to shake up his squad as it seems to be growing docile and disinterested.
Those are two words no team wants associated with them at any part of a long season, much less one month in.
Columbus Blue Jackets
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As I began to write this slide I wanted to start out by stating that the Columbus Blue Jackets have been better lately, and that maybe they don't have a whole lot to worry about as a team.
Then I realized that their being "better lately" entailed ending a horrific losing streak and finally managing to put two wins up on the board for the year. Not exactly the start the Jackets were looking for heading into the 2011-2012 season.
After inflating their payroll and going into a sudden "win now" mode, Columbus had high expectations. Maybe they weren't going to win their division, but surely they'd finally put a winning product out on the ice for their understandably impatient fan-base.
Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski haven't equated victory however, as the newly acquired duo has spent more time injured than on the ice for the bottom-feeding Jackets. Carter is still rehabbing a fracture in his foot while Wis only recently made his regular season debut after serving a lengthy suspension.
The team seemed stuck in an alarming consistency—the worst kind of consistency—through their first 12 games. And that is the consistency of mediocrity.
The Jackets were unable to score more than two goals a game, and starting netminder Steve Mason might as well have not been in net at all. Columbus is giving up an awful 3.25 goals a game while barely scoring two.
That trend might not be alarming until you realize that giving up three goals a game has become the standard for Mason, and that the team won't be able to realize any potential until he stops playing blindfolded or the team finds a capable starter.
New York Rangers
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The New York Rangers still seem like they are trying to shake the European funk out of their system. After staring the season overseas, the team finally played their home opener this last week and managed to down the San Jose Sharks.
However the Rangers still don't seem to be clicking. That may be because coach John Tortorella refuses to stick with any line combinations with anything resembling frequency, or perhaps the squad is still suffering from jet lag.
Whatever the reason, there are some smallish numbers next to the bigger names on New York's roster.
Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards have consistently been the team's most dangerous forwards—nothing too shocking there. The mild silence from on-ice leaders like Brandon Dubinsky have to be cause for concern in New York though.
After waiving him the Rangers have gone as far as recalling Sean Avery from a short stint in the AHL. That move didn't seem likely after the super-pest jabbed the team a bit in the press, but the squad still seems to need a bit of a boost.
I am willing to give the Blueshirts a bit of a pass on a so-so October that currently has them seeded ninth overall in the Eastern Conference. They'll need to start stringing some wins together and playing tough Rangers hockey to maintain that position however.