Best Early Christmas Present for Every Hockey Team
The holiday season is right around the corner and teams across the NHL are hoping the season will bring some good fortune their way.
The 2011-2012 season has not been kind to some teams and overly kind to others.
What is each team hoping for as an early Christmas present heading into the joyous season? Let's take a look.
Production from the top line
The Anaheim Ducks have gotten off to a surprisingly slow start to the season. Blame can be spread all around the ice, but the only three guys with the ability to pull this team out of the cellar are Getzlaf, Ryan and Perry, who have not quite gotten things going so far.
Continued winning streak
The Boston Bruins are currently riding a six game winning streak in which they have scored four goals in every single game. It's safe to say the B's have hit their stride again and can only hope that continues through the holiday season.
A healthy Ryan Miller
The Buffalo Sabres spent a lot of money on the roster they have in place, but it all hinges on Ryan Miller's play between the pipes. First, though, they have to hope he comes back strong after his concussion.
Jarome Iginla resurgence
Jarome Iginla has started the last two seasons slowly, and it has hurt the Flames in both instances. They are quickly slipping into mediocrity again, and would love for Iginla to find his scoring touch before the holidays.
Eric Staal's All-Star form
Jeff Skinner has become the star of the Carolina Hurricanes. That is both a testament to Skinner's development and Eric Staal's slow start to the season.
Staal has only mustered eight points in 18 games. He also has a plus-minus rating of minus-17.
The Canes would love to see Staal pick up the pace for the rest of the calendar year.
The Chicago Blackhawks currently hold the league's best record. I'm sure they would love for things to stay that way heading into the New Year. A healthy Brent Seabrook would also be a welcome gift for this squad after the star defenseman was injured in the last week.
Better play from Semyon Varlamov
The Colorado Avalanche has fizzled since their hot start to the season and goaltending is a big reason why. Semyon Varlamov has not lived up to the billing as a No. 1 goaltender so far this season. He has a 5-8-1 record, a save percentage below .900 and a goals against average above 3.0. He needs to get his act together as his Christmas gift to Avs fans.
Columbus Blue Jackets
A penalty kill, a power play and a goaltender
Those who are less fortunate deserve to receive more during the holiday season. So, the Jackets' early Christmas presents would be a couple of special teams units and a goaltender, all of which have been wretched in Columbus so far this season.
Anything but what they got last season
Nobody enjoys getting the same things for Christmas two years in a row, especially when it is a terrible gift. The holidays were not kind to the Stars last year as their record in the second half of the season was much worse than in the early going. Dallas hopes that won't be the case this season.
Detroit Red Wings
Power play production
I know the Red Wings power play is impressive. When you watch them, they move the puck very well and create chances. However, lately, the team has struggled to punch the puck in on the power play for whatever reason. I trust they'll get things turned around as the season moves on.
Better defensive zone play
As impressive as Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle have been this season, they have struggled a bit in their own end. They often get stuck there for long periods of time and really haven't fine-tuned that part of their game.
Offense will always come easy to these guys. They have skills that a lot of players can't match. However, the defensive part of the game is about more than skill, and these guys will eventually learn that. How quickly they learn this will determine how quickly the Oilers can compete for a playoff spot.
Better play at home
Panthers fans would love nothing more than for the team to improve upon the lackluster 2-2-3 record the team has posted in Sunrise this season.
Los Angeles Kings
Given how much money the team spent up front in the offseason, the Kings are having a surprisingly difficult time finding the back of the net to start the year.
They would love to find their stockings stuffed with goals.
The Minnesota Wild are off to a terrific start in the Northwest Division, but the team has been a bit hit-or-miss this season. At times, the forecheck will completely disappear and zero offense will be generated. It's clear that the Wild will be fine in terms of keeping pucks out of their net. However, putting some pucks in the opposition's net would certainly help their cause.
The Montreal Canadiens are having trouble scoring and limiting the opposition's scoring when they have the man advantage. Both are huge issues that the Canadiens would love to have shored up when Jan. 1 rolls around.
The Nashville Predators will never mistake themselves for a high-scoring team, but that is what makes the power play so important. It would be a great early Christmas present for the Preds to start generating some offense with the man advantage.
New Jersey Devils
A healthy and more effective Brodeur
The Devils have actually started to pick up steam in recent weeks, but the play of Martin Brodeur still remains a concern. He appears to be healthy again, but his play has been inconsistent even when he can get on the ice. New Jersey would love for him to find the fountain of youth this holiday season.
New York Islanders
The ability to travel
The New York Islanders have not won a single game away from Long Island this season. It's already mid-November, so that's going to have to change soon.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers have reeled of a nice little winning streak, but the team is still having issues with the man advantage. The Rangers have found some line combinations that work, now they have to find a cohesive power play unit that can finish the chances they are creating.
More from Craig Anderson
Goaltending was supposed to be one of the few areas that wasn't a concern for the Senators heading into the season. It's funny how things change in a month-and-a-half.
Don't look now, but the Philadelphia Flyers are just as strong this season as they have been in the past few campaigns. With Chris Pronger in the lineup, the defense has settled down. And while Ilya Bryzgalov has had his lumps this season, his presence is a huge boost to this team.
The problems they have had stem from not playing a full 60 minutes of hockey. I trust that this team will learn to do that in time, as the Flyers are a pretty young bunch.
It's a bit of a pipe dream, but what better way to celebrate the holidays than to find out you'll still exist for another season? The Coyotes are certainly not the most stable franchise at this point, so everything else is on the back burner.
A healthy Sidney Crosby
The Pittsburgh Penguins haven't had Sidney Crosby in the lineup all season long, but his return appears to be on the horizon. It's just in time for the holiday season, too.
St. Louis Blues
Success for Ken Hitchcock
The St. Louis Blues have already received the best early Christmas present they could with a new coach. Now, the team just has to hope he can get things turned around in time for Christmas in the Show Me state.
San Jose Sharks
Stability in net
The San Jose Sharks haven't had the most stable goaltending situation this fall. Thomas Greiss has burst onto the scene, but Antero Niittymaki has been injured and Antti Niemi has gotten off to a characteristically slow start to the season. San Jose would love for one of these guys to establish himself as a true No. 1 goaltender.
Tampa Bay Lighting
Dwayne Roloson has started the season as a reliable goaltender. However, something tells me at his age, that success will be difficult to sustain over the course of the season. That's why the Lightning need to find a capable backup to keep Rolly fresh and be reliable if Tampa needs a victory. Mathieu Garon is not the answer.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs have seen flashes of brilliance from all of their goaltenders, but one of the net minders needs to firmly establish himself as a reliable go-to-option. Toronto is on the edge of contender and pretender and the goaltending position could determine which direction the season goes.
There is always pressure to perform in Vancouver. That pressure has been ramped up a notch after the Canucks fell short of the Stanley Cup last season, and it's killing Roberto Luongo's performance. Without Big Lou firing on all cylinders, Vancouver doesn't have much of a shot at the Stanley Cup.
No more Alexander Semin
Alexander Semin has all of the talent in the world, and some have even went as far as to say that he is more talented than Alex Ovechkin. However, his on ice production, which has been severely lacking this season, is not worth the cancer he brings to the locker room. I think the Caps would be right to unload Semin on somebody else.
Playing in the Southeast Division, many speculated that the Winnipeg Jets would struggle with the amount of travel they would have to partake in. So far, that has come true. The Jets are a measly 3-6-3 away from Manitoba so far this year.