Reacting to B/R App Community's NHL Gift Wish List

Franklin Steele@SteeleOnIceFeatured Columnist IIIDecember 24, 2021

Reacting to B/R App Community's NHL Gift Wish List

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    If teams around the NHL could ask Santa for just one thing, what would it be?

    It's a question that we were asking ourselves before we had an idea. Instead of us coming up with wish lists internally, why not involve B/R's perpetually active and growing hockey community? That's exactly what we did.

    We asked, and fans from half of the teams around the league delivered.

    All squads are looking at things a little differently as the calendar flips from 2021 to 2022. Some organizations are firmly in playoff positions and looking to add for a postseason run. Others are in the early stages of rebuilds and are looking to move out veteran talent for draft picks.

    The middle of the league is still pretty muddy, though, and it's tough to think of a time when there were still this many teams in the hunt for a playoff berth this deep into the season. This is what made this exercise so fun: seeing how fans were feeling about their team's chances of doing some damage in 2021-22.

    So how was everyone who responded to our inquiry feeling about their crew? And what would teams hope for if the big man in red visited them this weekend? Let's find out.

Gifts for the Islanders, Blues, Predators and Golden Knights

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    Scoring is the toughest thing to find in the NHL, and that's reflected in the answers of both @ZSchwartz19 and @EPetey40, who'd like more goals for their teams—the New York Islanders and Nashville Predators, respectively.

    The concerns surrounding New York's offense aren't misplaced. Only the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes score less frequently than the Islanders, who find the back of the net an average of 2.19 times per game. That's a shockingly low number for a team that rosters so much talent.

    Perhaps a new year will provide this team with enough of a clean slate to get going again. The playoffs are out of reach, but they can still rediscover their identity.

    The Predators aren't hurting for offense quite as badly as the Islanders, but they would likely prefer to be closer to the top 10 in terms of offensive production. Right now they have more in common with the Detroit Red Wings than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Meanwhile, user @Not_DannyDevito would like to see the St. Louis Blues improve in their own end. That's interesting since they have the 11th-stingiest defense when it comes to goal prevention. The Blues only give up 2.68 goals per game but could probably stand to be a bit tougher to play against.

    @Just_in_Time wants to see Jack Eichel back out on the ice as soon as possible, but the Vegas Golden Knights could use an extra $10 million more in cap space more than anything.

Gifts for the Bruins, Capitals, Penguins and Oilers

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    All @dana_grey wants for the Boston Bruins is some toughness, which checks out with the kind of identity fans of the B's are used to. They'll never find another Zdeno Chara, but there's something to be said about being tough to play against. Right now, the perception is that Boston isn't a difficult matchup in terms of physicality.

    Lucky for them, it's easier to find gritty forwards than skilled ones, of which the Bruins have plenty.

    The Washington Capitals are having a wonderful campaign and Alex Ovechkin appears to be ageless. @DarrenBruening doesn't want much, just a center who can win faceoffs and then get off the ice. That makes sense since none of Washington's usual centers are winning more than 50 percent of their draws.

    Michael Sgarbossa has won 56 percent of his faceoffs, but he's only appeared in seven games this season.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins' penalty kill has been historically good in 2021-22 and it sits at an impressive 92.1 percent. That success hasn't carried over to the other side of the special teams, however. Their power play is one of the five worst in the NHL, converting on just 15.3 percent of their chances. Maybe getting Evgeni Malkin back can rectify that.

    User @EmilyMcCahthy looks at the Edmonton Oilers and wants what we all want: a better supporting cast for Connor McDavid. They could certainly use some more talent on the wings, and a left-shot defenseman has to be high up on their wish list as well.

Gifts for the Flyers, Maple Leafs, Kraken and Stars

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    We have a few big asks here, so we'll start small and work our way up. Or down, depending on how you want to look at it.

    For the Dallas Stars, @feedzeketheball wants to see their top forwards playing better. Simple enough.

    Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov have all struggled in different ways this year. For Seguin, he's had a difficult time bouncing back from hip and knee surgeries that allowed him to skate in just three games last year.

    He's been moved to wing alongside Jamie Benn on Dallas' new-look second unit, so perhaps that'll unlock the offense for both Benn and Seguin.

    We hope that the Seattle Kraken have a large tree because user @Waldman wants an entire expansion draft redo. This team would look a lot better with Vladimir Tarasenko skating on the top line—there's no doubt about that. And it's unclear what Carey Price would have meant for the organization given that he hasn't played yet this year.

    The Kraken don't need a hard reset, but as @Waldman also keenly pointed out, they do need better goaltending. That's the one thing Seattle ponied up for, and neither Philipp Grubauer nor Chris Driedger has been good.

    We aren't sure which one of these next two are larger requests: @KyledishRambino wants the Philadelphia Flyers to clean house, while @AntonioSalazarBR wants just one playoff-round victory for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The Flyers entered Christmas break on a 4-0-1 run, but they aren't particularly good while skating at even strength. That's a problem in the NHL. Mike Yeo has them playing better, but they are still a ways off from being a high-end team. It might be a matter of time before they start trading away veterans in the name of a rebuild.

    As for that playoff-round victory for the Maple Leafs, what can be written that hasn't been already? Success and failure in Toronto are no longer defined by regular-season play. We'll see what happens when the playoffs roll around.

Gifts for the Canucks, Wild, Panthers and Kings

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    We can only imagine what @NoahQuesnelle would have wanted for the Vancouver Canucks had we asked this question a month ago. New head coach Bruce Boudreau has the team humming along, and the word improvement has been stapled to just about every story that's come out about the team over the last few weeks.

    As such, they would like to see an improved defense in front of goaltender Thatcher Demko. Even before the coaching change, he'd been playing well. If the blue line in front of him improved, Vancouver's playoff dreams would be that much closer to reality. 

    For the Minnesota Wild, @lyleonjake would like to see improved goaltending and for them to land another top-line center. Focusing on help in goal is the most pressing matter for the Central Division-leading club. Sixty-six goalies have appeared in at least five games this season, per Hockey Reference. Cam Talbot's 1.7 GSAA ranks 25th, while Kaapo Kahkonen's minus-1.4 leaves a lot to be desired.

    Centers are hard to come by, let alone top-line caliber ones. The Wild probably don't want to give up what they'd be asked to give up for one. See the Eichel deal for the evidence of that.

    The Florida Panthers are a Stanley Cup favorite, but @Jerm_10 sees a weakness in their special teams. Their power play is ranked just 25th, while their penalty kill is effective just 80 percent of the time, which is good for 17th.

    Squads don't have to be perfect on special teams to win the division, but taking a lap with the Stanley Cup usually means either an elite power play or PK was in place. You can't win many playoff rounds with a lackluster penalty kill, while being proficient at five-on-four feels slightly less important since referees tend to put their whistles away during the playoffs.

    User @Dbreslow56's request might be the easiest one to grant out of everything we've discussed here, and that's more ice time for Alex Turcotte. For the L.A. Kings to make the postseason, they'll need more from their young players.

    Turcotte was drafted fifth overall in 2019, and he's the only player taken inside of the top 10 that year that has yet to make his NHL debut. Let the kid play.


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