San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have been contenders for years now. Is it finally their time? I hope so. They work hard, they have a great roster and an impeccable system. Joe Thornton is the perfect set-up man for kids like Setoguchi. So far, half the team is on pace for a career year. It’s your turn boys, don’t let Detroit steal another from you!
Thankful for: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau’s resurgence and Devin Setoguchi playing like a top 10 NHL scorer. Dan Boyle traded for a future blue-line stud in Matt Carle…and it looks like the best move they could’ve made.
Wishes: Keep the same winning pace they have now strait to the playoff finals.
Gift: A Stanley Cup
This year’s surprise team so far, they deserve their success. The Bruins have been on a constant rise since falling to the NHL basement after trading Joe Thornton. A good headline for them would be « The Bruins, or how to quickly rebuild a successful franchise »
Thankful for: Claude Julien’s outstanding coaching. Tim Thomas standing on his head, Phil Kessel’s break out, Marc Savard’s continued greatness. The signing of Blake Wheeler bring new depth and Michael Ryder might bounce back and score 30 goals again.
Wishes: Keep winning at home, win the Eastern conference title. The Big Bad Bruins are back!
Gift: A stunt double to replace Patrice Bergeron during hits.
Detroit Red Wings
Well, in this era, the Red Wings are the closest team to a dynasty! They’ve been consistent, draft well and players love the team. They are the perfect example on how to build a keep a successful franchise. As long as they are able to keep a deep prospect pool, Detroit will remain a top team.
Thankful for: Hakan Andersson (Detroit’s Director of European Scouts). Niklas Lidstrom who doesn’t seem to slow down even at 38. That most of their third and fourth-line players would play on top two lines on other teams?
Wishes: A real dynasty.
Gift: Zetterberg and Franzen agreeing to smaller deals so both get the chance to win another cup with Detroit (see Marian Hossa).
New York Rangers
The Rangers seemed on their way for a Eastern championship early in the season but have been inconsistent since even with a roster full of potential stars. After they overpaid guys like Drury and Gomez, the Rangers expected a championship team…is it?
Thankful for: Nikolai Zherdev actually showing his potential for the first time in his career, the All-Star goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist.
Wishes: Much more consistency from their very highly paid forwards Chris Drury and Scott Gomez. A renewed scoring touch from Naslund to replace the loss of Jagr.
Gift: Something they’ve never seen, an underpaid player who over-achieves!
The most exciting young team to watch right now. There’s a real hype in Chicago about the Hawks like there hasn’t been for year! And for good reason, they have a good playoff team for the first time in years! Even Bulin is pitching in!
Thankful for: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, these kids are already stars and will only be better with experience. Well see them both in the league’s top 10 scorers within the next five years. The Philadelphia Flyers for giving them Patrick Sharp for a bag of pucks.
Wishes: Keep the kids development going and rise in the standings.
Gift: Get to the second round of the playoffs at least.
The Flyers probably have the most « playoff ready » team in the entire NHL. They have all the tools necessary to win...now if only goaltending could step up. Is the return of Gagné enough to kick start the Flyers?
Thankful for: Jeff Carter taking a shot at the Maurice Richard Trophy, Mike Richards overall play and leadership, the return of Simon Gagné who’s tearing up the league after a bad concussion.
Wishes: Matt Carle becoming the next great steal from GM Paul Holmgren (see Braydon Coburn for the first one!).
Gift: Another No. 1 goaltender. Sorry Martin Biron...it seems Philly don’t want you as their No. 1. They were shopping Biron before the playoffs last season but decided to give him another chance after he eliminated Montreal nearly by himself. Now they seem right back where they were.
They are now finally out the NHL basement! Thanks to a plethora of young guys and a apparently amazing coach! Washington is finally back up and much brighter days are to be expected with Ovechkin at the helm.
Thankful for: Do I really need to say Alex Ovechkin? Alexander Semin who broke out big time early this season, Brent Johnson whose solid play has saved this playoffs contender the embarrassment of going back to the bottom after Theodore choked again.
Wishes: 100 points for both Alexs on the team and 70 goals for Ovechkin!
Gift: A shiny new No. 1 goaltender.
After finishing first last year, Montreal has big expectations. It’s the centennial this year so anything short of Eastern conference finals would be disappointing.
Thankful for: Carey Price who already stole a few games this year, the rookie sensation Matt D’Agostini who’s on pace for a Brad-Boyes-like breakout season, the arrival of Alex Tanguay to help Saku Koivu.
Wishes: More consistent scoring from the big guns like Kovalev and Kostitsyn and hoping Plekanec and Latendresse finally find their game.
Gift: A top four offensive defensemen with a good point shot to save their badly struggling power-play!
New Jersey Devils
Lou Lamoriello did good not to panic when Brodeur went down. They are still winning thanks to the scoring touch of Zach Parise and the inspired play of Scott Clemenson. Patrik Elias seems out of his torpor that saw his production slip the last three years.
Thankful for: Zach Parise’s intensity and conditioning cause at this rate, they’ll be lucky if they somehow don’t burn this kid out before he’s 25! Patrik Elias’ sudden resurgence (see Parise for the reason).
Wishes: A healthy Parise. Brodeur coming back before the playoffs and more consistency from Travis Zajac.
Gift: Another top line center who’s not 35 or 37 years old. Again…see Zach Parise as reference.
They made some changes in the offseason by acquiring Camalerri and took a big risk signing Bertuzzi. Both acquisitions seem to be paying off so far. If only Kipper could stop those pucks...
Thankful for: Jarome Iginla, the league’s best power forward. Dion Phaneuf’s crushing open-ice blows. Todd Bertuzzi and Curtis Glencross production surge.
Wishes: Kiprusoff starts playing like he did to earn his big contract.
Gift: Another 10 years of health for Jarome!
They have been surprising so far. The Canucks are winning without Luongo even though most of us had them lingering at the bottom of the standings…The Sedins look good and with Sundin…who knows!
Thankful for: Captain Roberto Luongo. Their great chemistry. Sundin going for money instead of signing with a top team. Vancouver is doing good, but some teams interested in Sundin were much better.
Wishes: Luongo to stay healthy.
Gift: A younger No. 1 or 2 center to replace Sundin after this season. The Sedins just can’t do it all on their own.
The Ducks are falling since their cup win a few years ago. With only one legitimate scoring line, it’s not easy to stay on top. They don’t look or feel as strong anymore and now that Burke is gone, who know what the future holds for the Ducks.
Thankful for: Ryan Getzlaf, one of the most complete player in the NHL. Bobby Ryan for showing how wrong the Ducks were to send him back to the AHL. Selanne deciding that $2 million is enough.
Wishes: Scott Niedermeyer to stop screwing up the franchise’s finances and if he plays next year…agrees to sign a Selanne-type deal. A legitimate center for the second line, Brandon Morrisson is just nowhere near second line center material.
Gift: A second scoring line?
With both Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins should remain a force for years to come. They only need to take a page out of Tampa’s book and not forget that defense is just as important as offense. Right now, they are one of the youngest and most dangerous teams.
Thankful for: Malkin and Crosby topping the league. Kristopher Letang and Alex Goligoski doing good replacing top two injured defense Withney and Gonchar considering their age and experience.
Wishes: A healthy defense back in the lineup!
Gift: One or two young scoring wingers to pair up with the 2 wunderkind Crosby and Malkin.
I have a hard time trying to figure out where this team is going. Are they a top or bottom team? They can’t keep dwelling midway in the standings. Was their Stanley Cup was a fluke? Cam Ward has been far from exceptionnal…
Thankful for: Eric Staal, who has been great considering the average roster around him. Ray Withney, same as Staal...and Tuomo Ruutu, who seems to have found his calling in Carolina!
Wishes: Depth and prospects. Which is lacking dramatically in Carolina. There is no « hype » for the future...because there is no future pushing for an NHL spot!
Gift: A new director of scouts...besides Brandon Suter, Carolina’s drafting is just horrible.
The Sabres came out of the gates flying but slowed down considerably since. Are they going to be back where they were last year? Just barely out of a playoff spot? Are the Drury and Briere scars finally healed?
Thankful for: Derek Roy and Jason Pominville replacing Brière and Drury at some level. Thomas Vanek suddenly worth every penny of his very lucrative contract.
Wishes: To be a contender again. Stop loosing their top players to free agency. A new top two defensemen to replace Campbell.
Gift: A new pair of eyes for Afinogenov who can’t seem to find the net anymore.
I’m still wondering when the Coyotes will be moved to a new city. The team with the most prospect debt is still there though. With the addition of Jokinen, will they become a regular playoff team?
Thankful for: The plethora of young guns available for Gretzky to develop. In a few years, once these kids have experience, they will be SCARY.
Wishes: For fans to buy tickets. The ice to become sand so they can play in a more adapted environment!
Gift: Sold-out arena and season tickets.
The Preds are an enigma. Like the Sabres, they keep loosing top players every year but somehow stay competitive. Is it their system? Or team chemistry? Whatever it is...keep it up! The constant lingering idea of relocation must be weighting on players...
Thankful for: Shea Weber for his outstanding play so far…and for helping my hockey pool dramatically! J.P Dumont, since his arrival he has done exactly what he was suppose to…be a top player in Nashville.
Pekka Rinne who is probably saving Nashville the same way Ellis saved them last year. Their defensive line, one of the deepest in the NHL.
Wishes: Stop the goaltender shuffling between seasons and get a long-term reliable No. 1 goalie!
Gift: Get Vokoun back? Shea Weber scoring 30 goals?!
The perpetually defensive team is honestly boring to watch even with all those potential high-scoring players…but they’re winning more than they’re loosing. Is Jacques Lemaire’s defensive system the reason the seats are empty? Or maybe they want the Stars back?
Thankful for: Brent Burns, their best defensemen. Mikko Koivu’s breakout season. Backstrom’s consistent play (one of the most underrated goalies in the NHL). The fact that no matter if Gaborik plays or is injured, the Wild keep winning! Do they really need him?
Wishes: A breakout season by James Sheppard. Pierre-Marc Bouchard becoming a legitimate No. 1 center.
Gift: The same winning pattern...minus Jacques Lemaire’s defensive system.
They seem to be going nowhere fast. Like every year, they’ll loose…until the last 20 games, then go on a winning streak that will result in Florida getting a useless mid-level draft pick instead of a high one. And again, that will be useless to the perpetual rebuilding process. Clean out and start over…that’s all I have to say.
Thankful for:...can they actually be thankful for anything? Maybe Craig Anderson. But Horton is not breaking out as a franchise player, neither is Weiss…and neither is Olesz. Bouwmeester wants out, Stillman is nowhere to be seen, Vokoun is struggling…so what’s left? Booth? Okay he’s one thing that’s going well.
Wishes: A real franchise player…or two, make that two. Horton, Weiss and Olesz are just not it. They’re not rookies anymore! They should be producing already! What are they waiting for?!
Gift: An epiphany. Realizing they are putting all their hope in hopeless players, they’re not bad, just not what they need. Or maybe some general manager taking Horton, Olesz, and Weiss off their hands for something decent or high draft pics.
Where are the Avs that won the cup? They probably retired with Patrick Roy...The Avs are struggling. Aging veterans won't last forever and as it is, only one player can replace them: Paul Stastny.
Thankful for: Well…Stastny! Joe Sakic re-signing for a year. Wolski is developing good also. Hejduk still scoring…because right now nobody else is.
Wishes: A better goaltending duo. Both Budaj and Raycroft together don’t even equal one number one goalie to me. Going through a season with a tandem of number twos is scary. More consistency from their young snipers Svatos and Wolski. Ryan Smyth needs to validate his high salary.
Gift: Another Stastny. A No. 1 goaltender and a decent defense. That's a lot!
Toronto Maple Leafs
They are not nearly as bad as I expected them to be. The new face of the Leafs is very interesting to watch. With Brian Burke on board, we can expect major changes in the near future. Nobody is safe anymore and I can’t wait to see how the Leafs roster will shape up.
Thankful for: Luke Schenn, Brian Burke agreeing the Leafs are a worthy rebuilding challenge, Tomas Kaberle who has been great since the very first day he wore a Leafs jersey.
Wishes: The Flyers syndrome...or how to rebuild quickly and successfully without giving up all your talent.
Gift: Braydon Schenn? Luke’s younger brother is most likely a top 10 draft pick this year. Having two « franchise Schenn’s », one forward and one defense, can only help them both develop and also has a high marketing value! Make it happen, Brian!
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets had big hopes early this season. They made a lot of changes, tried to attract a few big names but in the end, they have what I call the « Basement disease »…nobody wants to play for a perpetual bottom team unable to make the playoffs.
Thankful for: Rick Nash. The Jackets must be thanking the stars he hasn’t asked for a trade yet. He could be so much more dominant on a different team. Could Derrick Brassard be that No. 1 center they were looking for all this time?
Wishes: A true, productive, playmaking center for Rick Nash.
Gift: Playoff berth and nothing else.
Los Angeles Kings
Most likely one of the youngest and most promising team in the NHL. They have so many youngsters they don’t know where to put the anymore! After years of bottom dwelling, are those kids finally ready to help the team rise again? Another very scary team within a few years.
Thankful for: Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Kopitar will probably linger in the 70 points range for a couple more years before he explodes over 90 points. Brown will likely stay in the same point range, 60 to 70, but will bring more and more of a physical presence as he gets experience.
Wishes: Patrick O’Sullivan to break out as their true second-line center. Doughty and Johnson to stay healthy.
Gift: A starting goaltender, a real one, not one of those backups from the AHL wrapped into « starter » status. None of their goaltenders from the last three or four years have any worth.
Poor Oilers…their franchise could be represented by Six Flags. Ups and downs and ups and downs…they have one good year, then one bad. With a plethora of talented kids, you expect them to do better. Sophomore jinx maybe?
Thankful for: Ales Hemsky, who is looking more and more dominant every year. And Sheldon Souray, who bounced back after an injury plagues season.
Wishes: For Sam Gagner to shake the sophomore jinx. And hoping none of their other kids join him.
Gift: Another Stanley Cup chance.
Yikes. What’s happening with the Stars?! They are starting to look like Philly a few years ago! From top to bottom within the summer. Avery’s signing didn’t help, actually it did just the opposite. Brendan « heart of the team » Morrow is out till next season and Turco couldn't stop a beach ball right now. So who’s to blame? Brett Hull?
Thankful for: Not much lately. Stephane Robidas still plays strong after great playoffs. Mike Modano is still there…Loui Eriksson is having a break out year…
Wishes: Morrow back in the lineup. Turco to come out of this horrible slump. Some depth in the prospects department. Brunnstrom living up to all the hype about him.
Gift: Scoring wingers to play with either Brad Richards or Mike Ribeiro...'cause they just can’t do everything on their own.
Another dramatic drop. But this one was expected after the horrible finish last season. Ottawa went from Stanley Cup contender to bottom dweller in two years. The problem seems to be chemistry and depth. They have no secondary scoring. What is Bryan Murray doing to his team?!
Thankful for: The Pizza line. Without Spezza, Alfredsson and Heatley there would be close to no scoring in Ottawa. Auld has done good considering he was signed as a backup.
Wishes: Secondary scoring starts rolling. Mike Fisher to be worth his excessive salary. Antoine Vermette to break out as a legitimate top-six forward. A legitimate No. 1 goaltender and a potent defense...now that a LOT of wishes!
Gift: A trade in favor of Ottawa for Jason Spezza. They HAVE to win a trade involving Spezza or they’ll drop even lower.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues started well, but after Andy McDonald and Paul Kariya got injured, they went back to their usual spot in the standings. The Blues will likely get another high draft pick again and keep building. They’re close but not quite there yet.
Thankful for: The Bruins giving them Brad Boyes. David Perron showing he was worth a first round pick. Patrick Berglund having a great rookie season.
Wishes: Be a playoff team again. Erik Johnson in the lineup…
Gift: Less dangerous golf karts! Or keep Erik away from them!
They seems to be going nowhere with Don Wadell at the helm. He has the uncanny ability to trade good players for bad ones. I recommend firing him before Kovalchuk decides he’s had enough. Their depth is weak, their roster is average and it doesn't look like it’s getting better soon.
Unless they get either the first or second overall choice this year, there is just nothing worth watching in Atlanta except Kovalchuk.
Thankful for: Kovalchuk is still there. Brian Little is surprising as he was not expected to produce so quickly at NHL level. Ron Hainsey is apparently not such a bad signing!
Wishes: The same thing as Columbus, a real center player to feed Kovalchuk. They had Marc Savard but let him go, now they desperately need to replace him before Kovalchuk gets pissed and leaves (which should come sooner than later)
Gift: Don Wadell’s resignation. Some team who’ll take Kari Lethonen off their hands. He has been nothing but a disappointment so far, has not helped the team much and is not showing signs he is the « elite » he was thought to be. Injured too often, he’ll be more valuable as trade bait for a first round pick.
Tampa Bay Lightning
New owners, new problems. Now that the summer auction has ended and the dust settled, we can obviously see they had no clue what and who they were signing. They are quickly proving that money without experience is worthless. Do they have money? The rebuilding process will be VERY long in Tampa.
Thankful for: Lecavalier agreeing to spend his career with Tampa even though he knows he’d be better somewhere else…most probably he’d be perfect for the West. Mike Smith has been nothing short of formidable considering the horrible defense in front of him.
Wishes: Defense, defense, defense. They have enough scoring forwards...too many, actually.
Gift: A clue on how to rebuild a franchise.
New York Islanders
The most forgettable team in the NHL. Do you know one person who actually likes the Islanders? It’s tough to like a team so empty of talent and excitement. Poor rookies, they just don’t seem to develop in Long Island lately.
Until Kyle Okposo becomes the power forward he’s thought to be and Josh Bailey develops into a playmaker to feed him those passes, the Ilses will remain a bottom team.
Thankful for: Doug Weight’s renewed passion. He’s been like he's 10 years younger. The possibility of drafting John Tavares.
Wishes: Legaly cloning Di Pietro so they can have at least one of the two healthy to play a full season.
Gift: Direction. If the Isles figure out what team they want to be and what they expect from the future they should start improving. But right now they’re going nowhere.