New Year's Resolutions for Every NHL Team in 2016

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistDecember 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions for Every NHL Team in 2016

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    It's a new year, and the change in the calendar often triggers in people the desire to change specific things about their lives.

    The same may or may not be true of NHL teams, who play in such a competitive environment that every day is spent trying to get better. However, in the past the holiday break has served as a turning point in the year for some teams, with the extra practice time and in some cases moves via trade triggering turnarounds. 

    If the league's 30 teams were to set resolutions for themselves in this new year, what would they look like? The following slideshow takes a look at every team, and explains why these resolutions are needed. And, importantly, it also looks at the likelihood of success. 

Anaheim Ducks

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The resolution: Get better performances out of their stars.

    Why it's needed: Incredibly, the misfiring Ducks still have a shot at the playoffs in the hapless Pacific Division. They need more from Ryan Getzlaf, who has just two goals on the year, and more from Corey Perry, who is 12 points shy of his usual point-per-game pace. Both players started the year terribly and had tough Decembers.

    Can they keep it? There are years and years of evidence that these players are better than this. Perry and Getzlaf seemed to have rediscovered their offensive games in November before slumping again; there's no reason they can't get back to that level. 

Arizona Coyotes

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The resolution: Get some goaltending. 

    Why it's needed: The wheels have come off Mike Smith for the second year in a row, and at the age of 33 there's a good chance that this is who he is now. Reclamation project Anders Lindback, predictably, hasn't worked out; his pedigree wasn't remotely close to that of 2014-15 find Devan Dubnyk. With both the starter and backup goalie having trouble with the 0.900 save percentage mark, Arizona's playoff hopes are being sustained only by how awful the Pacific Division is.

    Can they keep it? Rookie goaltender Louis Domingue has looked good over five starts for Arizona, despite an unremarkable history in the minors. He may end up being an internal solution, though his track record suggests that the Coyotes would be prudent to keep their eyes open for other options. 

Boston Bruins

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The resolution: Improve the defence.

    Why it's needed: It's been a successful season for the Bruins in a lot of ways, and once Tuukka Rask recovered from his early slump and the goaltending fell in line the team's most obvious weakness disappeared. Boston is still somewhat suspect on the blue line, though, where a soon-to-be 39-year-old Zdeno Chara is carrying far too much of a load. The offseason loss of Dougie Hamilton was never really addressed and for a team with ambitions of a playoff run it's going to be necessary to add a top-four defenceman. 

    Can they keep it? Boston's need for a defenceman has been obvious for a while now, and so far the team has had no luck filling it. Some options will open up as the trade deadline approaches and cap space becomes less of a factor, but most of the rumoured names out there aren't big difference-makers. 

Buffalo Sabres

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The resolution: Find some scoring support for Ryan O'Reilly.

    Why it's needed: O'Reilly has been Buffalo's offensive leader this season, with 32 points through 36 games. Unfortunately for the Sabres, he's the team's only forward with more than 20 points. The club's playoff hopes are pretty close to nonexistent at this point, but more scoring depth would go a long way toward proving that the rebuild is on the right track. 

    Can they keep it? Buffalo certainly has the talent. Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart need to continue to progress, and the club needs more out of veterans like Evander Kane and especially Matt Moulson.

Calgary Flames

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    The resolution: Fix the special teams.

    Why it's needed: Calgary currently sits just one point out of the playoffs because the team plays in a terrible division, and so a strong run in the back half of the season is vital. Improved special teams would go a long way toward achieving that goal. Calgary has the league's worst power play (12.6 percent) and also its worst penalty kill (74.7 percent).

    Can they keep it? Special teams weren't a real strength last year or the year before that, either. This is the third season in a row that Jack Adams winner Bob Hartley has struggled to cobble together a strong power play and penalty kill with the personnel available to him in Calgary. On the other hand, it's doubtful things can get any worse. 

Carolina Hurricanes

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The resolution: Get maximum value for Eric Staal.

    Why it's needed: Eric Staal has been the face of the Carolina franchise since the team's Stanley Cup win in 2006, but he's now 31 years old and approaching unrestricted free agency. It's debatable whether the Hurricanes can afford to lose him at all, but they certainly can't afford to lose him for nothing.

    Can they keep it? If Carolina can't get Staal re-signed, it will almost certainly trade him. His diminished offensive production may make it difficult to get full value back, though. 

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The resolution: Get some scoring depth.

    Why it's needed: Chicago has seven forwards who score and five forwards who don't. Andrew Shaw sits seventh on the team with 15 points, and after him no Blackhawks forward has more than four. If the Patrick Kane line doesn't win the game and the Jonathan Toews line doesn't win the game, the Blackhawks lose. 

    Can they keep it? Sure. This is a team which despite its depth problems looks set to go on another playoff run. There should be plenty of cheap rental forwards available at the trade deadline. 

Colorado Avalanche

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The resolution: Fix their shot-differential problem. 

    Why it's needed: Colorado currently ranks 30th in the NHL in terms of five-on-five shot attempt differential. When Semyon Varlamov is on his game he can cover a lot of sins, and the Avs also boast some impressive young talent, but getting consistently out-shot is not a recipe for success.  

    Can they keep it? This has been a problem for Roy's Avs for sometime now. In all likelihood, either the personnel needs to change or the coach does.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    The resolution: Don't do anything stupid.

    Why it's needed: This is a dangerous time for the Blue Jackets. The team has underachieved this season, John Tortorella is coaching and tossing players under the bus by the busload and Ryan Johansen's name is a fixture in trade rumours. Anything could happen, and now more than ever the club's management needs to take care.

    Can they keep it? We'll see. Tortorella isn't exactly synonymous with calm and cool assessment, and the idea that the team might be willing to move on from Johansen is disturbing. 

Dallas Stars

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    The resolution: Improved performance on the penalty kill. 

    Why it's needed: Well, it may not be. Dallas is a great team, and finding any flaw feels like quibbling. However, the Stars are only average on the penalty kill, and for any team with Stanley Cup ambitions it's naturally desirable to be great everywhere. 

    Can they keep it? The Stars are actually among the league's better teams at keeping shots against on the penalty kill down to a minimum. The problem is Antti Niemi, who has been great at five-on-five but has an ugly 0.844 save percentage when shorthanded. Niemi's numbers have been bad for the last two season while shorthanded, so Dallas may just have to live with this small chink in its armour. 

Detroit Red Wings

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The resolution: Rejuvenate at key positions.

    Why it's needed: Detroit has done a good job over the years of developing prospects to replace its stars, and with each passing year it becomes more important that it find a succession plan for key players. Pavel Datsyuk is still the club's best possession player by a mile and was missed in his absence; he and fellow aged veteran Henrik Zetterberg are the only forwards playing more than 19 minutes per game. Niklas Kronwall continues to hold down the No. 1 job on defence.  

    Can they keep it? To some degree, the answer would seem to be yes. Dylan Larkin has been a revelation; he's not on the same level as Datsyuk as a two-way player, but he offers hope that the team can develop another No. 1 centre internally. There are a number of quality wingers ready to take on some of Zetterberg's minutes, too. The situation is less clear on defence, where most of Detroit's best prospects are still toiling in the minors. 

Edmonton Oilers

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The resolution: Rework the right side of the defence. 

    Why it's needed: Promising performances from two rookie defencemen—Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson—have given the Oilers hope for a competent left side on defence. Those two players join veteran Andrej Sekera and sophomore Oscar Klefbom to give Edmonton a strong base. The right side is decidedly weaker; pending free agents Justin Schultz and Eric Gryba may not return and Mark Fayne passed through waivers earlier this year. 

    Can they keep it? The Oilers have a bunch of money coming free this summer and shouldn't find reworking the right side of the defence too difficult, particularly if Sekera moves to that side full time. 

Florida Panthers

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    The resolution: Be less dependent on Jaromir Jagr. 

    Why it's needed: There is a lot of young talent in Florida, but right now the team's leading scorer is the soon-to-be 44-year-old Jagr. Jagr's a spectacular player, one with few peers in the annals of NHL history, but even he has an expiration date and the sooner responsibility is turned over to the Panthers' collection of young talent, the better. 

    Can they keep it? If not for injuries to two key young centres—Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad—it's doubtful that Jagr would be in the scoring lead. Jonathan Huberdeau is playing well of late and his shooting percentage is roughly half his career average, so he's likely to trend up. There are a lot of good young players here ready to take on more responsibility. 

Los Angeles Kings

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    The resolution: Deal appropriately with their key pending free agents. 

    Why it's needed: Anze Kopitar, the first-line centre who has been so critical to the Kings' championship aspirations in recent years, is bound for free agency unless a deal gets done before July 1. Joining him will be power forward Milan Lucic, acquired at great cost over the summer from the Bruins. 

    Can they keep it? Yes, in all likelihood. Kopitar should certainly be persuaded to stick around; he's far too valuable for the Kings to play hardball with him. Lucic's situation is less clear; it may be that Los Angeles is compelled to cut him loose, but that isn't likely to be catastrophic to the team. 

Minnesota Wild

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    The resolution: Play stronger road games. 

    Why it's needed: At home, the Wild have been among the NHL's best teams, going 14-5-1. Unfortunately, particularly for a team which right now seems likely to start the postseason on the road, it hasn't been anywhere near so good away from home. A 5-5-5 record may look like 0.500, but in terms of wins and losses it's actually 0.333. 

    Can they keep it? In all likelihood, this is an aberration. The Wild were actually better on the road than at home last season, so there's no reason to think they can't reverse this trend. 

Montreal Canadiens

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The resolution: Just hang on until Carey Price gets back. 

    Why it's needed: The Canadiens are now a brutal 4-11-1 since Price played his last game on November 25. Backup goaltender Mike Condon imploded in the starting role, and third-stringer Dustin Tokarski was worse. Things were bad enough that Montreal turned to Oilers' third-stringer Ben Scrivens as a stopgap. 

    Can they keep it? Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette reports that Price is on track to return to the Canadiens in mid-January, so the team just needs to manage to tread water for a couple of weeks. Scrivens' first start with the club was decent and he has plenty of NHL experience, so perhaps he'll be able to keep the club afloat until then. 

Nashville Predators

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The resolution: Get better goaltending.

    Why it's needed: Nashville's backup and third-stringer are both sitting with sub-0.900 save percentages, and starter Pekka Rinne has been struggling for most of the season. After ripping off three spectacular wins to start the year, Rinne is 12-10-6 with a 0.902 save percentage over his last 28 contests. Nashville now sits in the final wild-card spot in the West. 

    Can they keep it? Rinne managed a 0.923 save percentage last year and has a career number of 0.918. He's proved he can be better than this. 

New Jersey Devils

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    The resolution: Better five-on-five play. 

    Why it's needed: The Devils are enjoying a reasonably good season, but the team has a significant flaw. New Jersey's special teams have been good, with the power play ranking 11th in the league and the penalty kill eighth, but at five-on-five the club has been badly outplayed and if not for the goaltending of Cory Schneider would be in real trouble. 

    Can they keep it? Probably not. New Jersey has just five forwards with more than seven points on the season; without significant upgrades there simply isn't enough talent up front for this club to be a strong five-on-five team. 

New York Islanders

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The resolution: Keep the important parts of the band together. 

    Why it's needed: Three of the Isles' key players are heading into an uncertain summer. First-line winger Kyle Okposo is bound for free agency, as is superlative two-way centre Frans Nielsen. Additionally, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported last month that defenceman Travis Hamonic has asked for a trade. 

    Can they keep it? It's going to be tough. Hamonic is almost certainly gone, though he should fetch a quality return. The Isles' centre depth may allow them to part with Nielsen, but the loss of Okposo will be tough if they can't get him re-signed. 

New York Rangers

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The resolution: Fix their shot-differential problem. 

    Why it's needed: New York ranks 28th in the NHL in terms of five-on-five Corsi, and of late the team has slumped badly as the results of getting out-shot most nights start to be felt. Henrik Lundqvist has done a good job of holding them in games, and critically New York has the best shooting percentage in the league, but the team as a whole would be much better off if it spent less time in its own end and more in the attacking zone. 

    Can they keep it? The Rangers are three points shy of what they managed last year, where they were basically a break-even team on the shot clock. It's not ridiculous to say that they can get back to that level. Playing Dan Girardi less might be a good start. 

Ottawa Senators

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The resolution: Fix their shot-differential problem. 

    Why it's needed: Only the Colorado Avalanche have a worst five-on-five Corsi number this season than Ottawa, the team sandwiched between the Avs and the Rangers on the league-wide Corsi chart. As with New York, Ottawa has a high shooting percentage and strong goaltending; also as with New York the Senators have slumped badly of late.

    Can they keep it? It's easy to make comparisons to New York again here; last season Ottawa did a pretty strong job of sawing off shot differential. With the way this team can finish and with its strong goaltending it should be a lock for the postseason; all the club needs now is to do a better job of hanging out in the opposition end of the rink. 

Philadelphia Flyers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The resolution: Clear away badly spent cap dollars. 

    Why it's needed: The Flyers are loaded to the gills with bad contracts. Andrew MacDonald and Sam Gagner cost a combined $8.2 million in the AHL. R.J. Umberger, Vincent Lecavalier, Luke Schenn and others are struggling to live up to their hefty price tags. General manager Ron Hextall has inherited quite a mess.

    Can they keep it? It's going to be tough, though time will eventually heal all wounds. Gagner, Schenn and Russian defenceman Evgeny Medvedev are all bound for free agency this summer and will clear nearly $10 million combined. The final year of Umberger's deal would seem a prime candidate for buyout treatment. But deals like Lecavalier's and MacDonald's are going to be too toxic to move. 

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    The resolution: Improve the power play.

    Why it's needed: When a team can send out all of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang on its first-unit power play, there's no reason for said power play to be anything other than good. The Penguins, though, are stuck in a tie for 26th in the NHL, with just a 16.4 percent conversion rate. 

    Can they keep it? Absolutely. It was only a year ago that the Pens' power play was laying waste to the NHL in the first half of the year. 

San Jose Sharks

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The resolution: Better five-on-five goaltending.

    Why it's needed: San Jose has been reasonably good on the power play and on the penalty kill and has decent shot metrics at even strength. The problem is in net. Martin Jones has been only adequate at five-on-five, and backup goaltender Alex Stalock has been a total disaster. Jones is two games over 0.500 in 29 games; Stalock has needed only needed parts of nine to go three games under 0.500.

    Can they keep it? Absolutely. There are generally goalies available at the trade deadline—one imagines that Anaheim could be talked into dumping Anton Khudobin's salary, as an example—and there's no need to keep investing starts in Stalock. 

St. Louis Blues

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    The resolution: Make a deep postseason run. 

    Why it's needed: For four seasons now, the St. Louis Blues have been one of the NHL's top regular-season teams. In those four seasons, the club has failed to win so much as a single second-round game. In three of the four years the Blues were knocked out in the first round; in 2011-12 they managed to get by the Sharks but were then swept by the eventual Cup champion Kings in the second. 

    Can they keep it? It's probably this group's last chance. Head coach Ken Hitchcock may not survive another disappointing playoff run, and team captain David Backes is a pending free agent. 

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The resolution: Handle the Steven Stamkos situation. 

    Why it's needed: Stamkos is the Lightning's captain, its most dynamic offensive weapon and the NHL's highest-profile pending unrestricted free agent. The 25-year-old is in the final year of a deal with a $7.5 million cap hit and also boasts a no-move clause. Tampa Bay can't afford to let him walk for nothing; it needs to either find a way to re-sign him or trade him at the deadline.

    Can they keep it? This is going to be tough because the Bolts have a strong team and a number of other cap decisions coming up shortly. It's hard to imagine them letting Stamkos go, but then it was hard to imagine negotiations reaching this point, either. 

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The resolution: Win more one-goal games.

    Why it's needed: The Leafs are pretty close to 0.500 in games decided by more than one goal (9-10) but considerably below it in one-goal affairs. All told, the team has won just five of the 17 close games in which it has taken part; a few more goals in those specific contests and its record would be significantly better.

    Can they keep it? Probably. Toronto has no history of coming up short in one-goal games, and it wasn't an issue for Mike Babcock's Red Wings last year, either. Likely it's just one of those funny trends that has to happen to some team. 

Vancouver Canucks

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    The resolution: Find some secondary scoring. 

    Why it's needed: Henrik and Daniel Sedin are both scoring at a brilliant pace. Regular linemate Jannik Hansen isn't doing bad; semi-regular linemate Radim Vrbata is OK, too. Outside of those four, however, no Canucks forward has more than 11 points with nearly half the season in the rearview mirror. 

    Can they keep it? Possibly. A lot of Vancouver's depth forwards are younger players, people like Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi, so internal growth is a possibility. Additionally, the return of Brandon Sutter should help; the Canadian Press reported at the start of December that the centre should be back at some point in January. 

Washington Capitals

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    Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

    The resolution: Improve puck possession at five-on-five.

    Why it's needed: This has been a dream season for Washington, a club which has dominated the scoreboard on the power play, the penalty kill and at five-on-five. Any criticism is basically nitpicking. However, we're going to nitpick a littlethe team dominates at five-on-five thanks to high-end finishing and goaltending and could do a better job of dominating the shot clock.  

    Can they keep it? I wouldn't rule anything out. This is a good team and one that's likely to load up at the trade deadline. 

Winnipeg Jets

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The resolution: Get back to playing the way they did early in the year.

    Why it's needed: Winnipeg started the year on fire, more than holding its own in the tough Central Division. After a 7-3-1 run in October, however, the wheels fell off. The Jets are 10-14-1 over their last 25 games and have fallen behind Colorado and out of the playoff race.

    Can they keep it? We've seen some signs of life lately after a brutal November. The Jets have now won two straight games, three of their last five and are a respectable 6-5-0 in December. It could be that the team has turned a corner. 

    Statistics courtesy of,, and Salaries courtesy of All statistics current through the start of action on Dec. 30. 


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