2011 NHL New Year’s resolutions: Pacific Division

For many people around the world, the beginning of 2011 elicits the creation of a list of new year’s resolutions. Many scoff that odes to stop smoking or lose 20 lbs. are pipe dreams, but what’s wrong with a little optimism as the world cleans the slate of its calendar?

With that in mind, we decided to recommend a few changes (or sometimes with successful teams, what not to change) for each NHL team. We’ll go division by division in alphabetical order, because one of our resolutions is to be fair.

Click here for the Atlantic Division post.

Click here for the Central Division post.

Click here for the Northeast Division post.

Click here for the Northwest Division post.

Now here is the Pacific Division’s version.

Anaheim

Survive without Getzlaf

The Ducks are a team that is as top-heavy as (inappropriate reference to a woman’s chest), so playing without a player as important as Ryan Getzlaf for 4-6 weeks is going to hurt. If they can keep their heads above water, that will be quite the testament to their team.

Never allow Parros to lose the ‘stache

I mean, look at it.

Dallas

Don’t trade Brad Richards

If the Stars can afford to take on Jamie Langenbrunner’s salary – even if it’s not over a full season – then how can they justify trading away their essential center? In my eyes, Dallas isn’t a playoff team without Brad Richards and one other player.

Hope that no one in Atlanta owns a Lehtonen voodoo doll

That player would be goalie Kari Lehtonen. For years, he was the talented guy who couldn’t stay healthy at all. He’s been relatively healthy so far, and despite Andrew Raycroft’s surprisingly stellar backup play, the Stars lean heavily on the Finnish goalie. If he (or Brad Richards) misses a bunch of time, Dallas might be in trouble.

Los Angeles

Find that missing piece (and accelerate their growth)

The Kings are struggling right now (five losses in a row), but they seem like they’re on the verge of being a true contender. It just seems like they need to add that cliched last piece (or two) of the puzzle; it’s not unlike the time when the Pittsburgh Penguins decided to splurge during the trade deadline and acquire Marian Hossa.

It didn’t win the Pens a Cup, but it seemed like Pittsburgh hit a whole other level after that acquisition. Overall, the Kings need to step on the accelerator after cruising at a nice pace for the last few years.

Phoenix

Build their fan base

OK, now that the Coyotes have their ownership situation straight, it’s time to stop making excuses and to start adding new fans.

Re-sign Ilya Bryzgalov

The Yotes made it to the playoffs last season by playing with almost a “hive mind” approach, but their Russian goalie was undoubtedly their most valuable player. Things haven’t been going as well this season, but he’s still a crucial piece so the team should wrap him up sooner rather than later.

San Jose

Figure out who their goalie is

Which Finn will it be: Antero Niittymaki or Antti Niemi? Or could they get someone else like, say, Michael Leighton or (dare we ask) Evgeni Nabokov? Their two current goalies started 21 games each so far this season and after a quick start by Niittymaki, the two have fairly similar save percentages (though Niitty’s allowing a half goal less per game), so the team will need to find a direction in net sooner or later.

Foster Logan Couture’s growth

After averaging 10 minutes per game in 2009-10, December’s rookie of the month is averaging 18 minutes per game this season. The Sharks should continue giving the potential Calder Trophy winner opportunities to succeed, even if he only has two assists in his last seven games.

Find an above average mid-level defenseman

Dan Boyle averages six more minutes than the team’s second biggest minutes defenseman (Marc-Edouard Vlasic) and there’s a pretty big drop-off after you get past those two blueliners. (Although Douglas Murray is a solid hitter and Jason Demers has a future as a scoring defenseman.)

The team could really use a second pairing-type to take some of the burden off of Boyle.

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?