2011 NHL New Year’s resolutions: Southeast 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.

Click here for the Pacific Division post.

Now, our final resolutions post: the Southeast Division.

Atlanta

Don’t ask Dustin Byfuglien to lose weight

Really, just tell him to keep doing what he’s doing. Even if you disagree with my opinion that he’s had a Norris-worthy first half of the season, he’s been an enormous (literally and figuratively) presence for the Thrashers.

Keep Ondrej Pavelec fresh

So far, Atlanta has a decent ratio going with Chris Mason making 18 appearances and Pavelec playing in 30 games. That is a little misleading, though, since Pavelec missed a big chunk of the season with his scary fainting spell. The Thrashers should be careful not to over-work their potential Vezina candidate, as the 23-year-old goalie’s NHL career high for games played is only 42.

Carolina

Take advantage of easier second half

Much has been made of a tough beginning schedule for the Hurricanes, but the flip side of that is the second half will be much easier. Carolina has a shot to make a late playoff run – seemingly an every other year tradition – if they take advantage of six more home games than road contests going forward.

Improve special teams

The Canes rank in the NHL’s lower third in penalty kill (79.4 percent for 23rd overall) and power play efficiency (16.6 percent for 21st overall). Those numbers need to improve if Carolina hopes to get the occasional easy win, something most playoff teams squeeze in here and there.

Florida

Now or later? Make it later.

Year after year, the Panthers fall short of the playoffs. For a while they fell way, way short but lately they’ve been within an arm’s reach in many cases. Quitting isn’t something pro teams do openly, but at one point will the franchise acknowledge that they aren’t there yet and the best course might be to get blue chip prospects?

Trade Tomas Vokoun

There might not be much of a market for Vokoun anymore (his $5.7 million cap hit won’t be easy to stomach, even if it’s reduced since it won’t be for a full season), but if someone’s willing to give up some value for him, the Panthers should seize that opportunity.

Tampa Bay

Like Carolina, they need to exploit easy second half

The Lightning hold seven more home games than road contests during the rest of the season, so they should use that disparity to hold off the Capitals and hang onto the division lead.

Don’t settle

You really never know when your best chance to win big might be, so the Lightning shouldn’t just assume that these opportunities will come along every season. If they get the chance to improve their short-term future without significantly hurting their mid and long-term outlooks, they should pull the trigger.

They also shouldn’t just say “Well, we traded for Dwayne Roloson” and give up on looking out for goalie improvements. If the 41-year-old netminder cannot get it done, they should keep their eyes open for other options.

Washington

Get tougher on the road

The Capitals have altered their game plan a bit to be more playoff-friendly, but a barely above .500 (9-8-1) doesn’t instill much confidence that they can get over their Game 7 struggles if they don’t take a top three seed.

Don’t forget who you are

It would be a shame if Washington totally abandoned their high-octane offensive approach because let’s face it, they’re never going to smother people defensively like Boston does with their roster.

There’s a fine line between evolving to become a better playoff team versus just trying to keep up with the Joneses. We’ll see if the Capitals can walk that line effectively.

2011 NHL New Year’s resolutions: Pacific Division

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: