new year’s resolutions

ondrejpavsstayfresh

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

2011 NHL New Year’s resolutions: Pacific Division

richardsandlehtonen

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.

2011 NHL New Year’s resolutions: Northwest Division

craigandersonnyr

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.

Now here’s the Northwest Division’s new years resolutions.

Calgary

Well, they already lost dead weight

Firing Darryl Sutter on December 28th really gave the Flames a head start. It’s sort of like losing 10 lbs. over the holiday season – unexpected but a good idea.

Time for a fire sale

Unfortunately, the Flames are in Biggest Loser mode: they have a lot more dead weight to lose. Jay Feaster needs to act like the general manager equivalent of Jillian Michaels by getting rid of way more weight. It might be painful in the short run, but trading Jarome Iginla and other aging, expensive players while they still have plenty of trade value is the best course to take.

Colorado

Tell Chris Stewart to use his hands to score goals

That whole “fighting” thing should be left to people who do little to nothing else.

Re-sign Craig Anderson

The goalie market is incredibly dry right now, so maybe the Avalanche should consider jumping the gun and try to lock down the goalie who carried them during the 2010-11 season. Unless, of course, the Avs aren’t convinced that he is the right goalie for them …

Edmonton

Commit to the badness, but grow

The Oilers clearly have no chance to make the playoffs, so they shouldn’t mess it up by ruining their chances to land another high-end draft pick by going on a late season run. With all the talent coming into that team, another top five pick could set Edmonton up to follow in the footsteps of other clubs that restocked through the draft like Pittsburgh, Washington and Chicago.

That being said, they need to learn lessons about why they are losing. Most importantly, the next suggestion:

Find some defense

Edmonton is well-stocked with offensive blueliners, but they could really use some defensemen who … you know, play defense. They’re currently ranked last in the league in goals allowed.

Minnesota

Tank

When you look at the Wild roster, it’s full of expensive players who aren’t providing the kind of results worthy of their bloated salaries. It’s a lot like the situation in Calgary, although Minnesota’s core is at least a little younger.

What could make them a viable team? Some better draft picks, because Minnesota isn’t exactly a high-end spot for free agents (nor do they have much cap space to sign them if they did).

Vancouver

Figure out the Sami Salo situation

Chances are, the Canucks wish that Sami would act on his urges to retire. Otherwise they have a problem on their hands, as the injury-prone defenseman isn’t a significant enough improvement to be worth all the trouble.

Stay the course

Vancouver is a clear contender for the Cup, considering the fact that they are the top team in the NHL right now. So they don’t need to make a bold trade to bolster their roster, but maybe a slight tweak might be the best thing to do.

2011 NHL New Year’s resolutions: Northeast Division

seguinresolutions

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.

Northeast Division new year’s resolutions

Boston

Improve home cooking

What’s the point to earning home ice advantage for a round or two if you’re better away than at home? The Bruins currently have two more wins on the road so far this season, which is a good sign for their heartiness but a bad one for their play in front of their own crowd.

Get more out of offense

Boston is the best in the league at limiting their opponents’ scoring. If they could get more out of rookie Tyler Seguin (13 points in 35 games) and get Marc Savard up to speed (five points in 14 games with a -8 rating), they could be a true contender.

Buffalo

Tank?

Considering the Sabres’ struggles when it comes to luring big name free agents – although a possible ownership change could alter that – so maybe the best way to get better is by adding blue chip prospects. Their current playoff picture looks cloudy at best, so why not get a better pick?

Get a better backup next summer

Ryan Miller is an all-world goalie and probably likes a lot of starts, but what a goalie enjoys and what is actually good for them could be very different. Getting Miller a better backup than shaky Patrick Lalime would be nice.

Montreal

Generate more offense

The combination of Carey Price’s great goalie and Jacques Martin’s defensive system helped the Habs limit opponents’ scoring and develop a great penalty kill. Unfortunately, that system plus limited offensive talent is forcing them to struggle to score. Maybe the addition of James Wisniewski will help spark more offense.

Ottawa

Tank

The Senators have settled for middle of the pack finishes and mediocre playoff runs for a while now, but what have they really accomplished? Their roster is in serious need for a reboot and the draft is a better way to do that.

Trade veterans for picks/prospects

Following that logic, Ottawa should get rid of pricey veterans. I’d be against moving Jason Spezza because he’s in his prime, but his big contract makes him expendable. The most logical moves would be shipping out Sergei Gonchar, Alexander Kovalev and possibly even Daniel Alfredsson. It’s hard to say if they have much market value, though.

Toronto

Acknowledge reality

The Maple Leafs were once known as an expensive team that couldn’t get over the hump in the playoffs. Now they’re an expensive team that cannot even get a sniff of the postseason. It’s clear that they’re “have their cake and eat it too” approach of adding expensive players in their late-20s while simultaneously trying to rebuild isn’t working.

Trade for prospects instead of outright tanking

The problem for the Leafs is that they won’t see the benefits from another putrid season until the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft because of that Phil Kessel trade. Tanking would only make that transaction more embarrassing.

Instead, the Leafs should parlay their limited assets into draft picks. That will be easier said than done, though, naturally.

2011 NHL New Year’s resolutions: Central Division

kaneandhossa

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.

Central Division new year’s resolutions

Chicago

Get healthy

The Blackhawks dealt with injuries to Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa so far this season. Simply put, they don’t have the depth to deal with these problems in 2010-11.

Continue development of younger players

For all the talk of the loss of valuable depth players, a big reason the Blackhawks progressed last season was because of the development of young players such as Antti Niemi, Dave Bolland and Niklas Hjalmarsson. They won’t go very far unless they yield results from Corey Crawford, Jack Skille and so on.

Columbus

Find Rick Nash some help

Year after year, the Blue Jackets fail to support Nash. It’s their equivalent to the “lose weight/stop smoking” types of resolutions.

Right the old ship Steve Mason

The team gave Mason a contract extension, so they have every reason to be patient. Well, every reason if he produces results.

Detroit

Re-sign Jimmy Howard

The Red Wings’ cheap goalie “model” will be tested this summer, as Jimmy Howard’s contract will expire. On the bright side for Detroit, the market is tough for goalies right now.

Rest the oldies

Nicklas Lidstrom’s season has been astounding, but the Red Wings would be wise to limit the amount of time he spends on the ice. The same goes for aging players such as Brian Rafalski.

Nashville

Re-sign Shea Weber

The Predators carved out an impressive place in the league as a team that gets by without much star power, but losing Weber would be a dramatic and devastating loss to the franchise.

Don’t let their market be an excuse for playoff failure

Yes, the Predators are a small market team, but does that excuse them from never advancing past the second round of the playoffs? Sooner or later something must give.

St. Louis

Get healthy

The Blues have been bombarded with injuries during this season, so getting the likes of David Perron and TJ Oshie close to 100 percent would be a boon for them.

Don’t overwork Jaroslav Halak

St. Louis made a big investment when they signed Halak, but they shouldn’t forget that they have a capable backup in Ty Conklin.

Reduce home dependence

The Blues are on a five game winning streak and could be perfect on their current five game homestand, which shouldn’t be a coincidence. That’s because St. Louis is far better at home (14-4-2) than on the road (6-8-3). Considering the fact that they are likely to be a lower seed in the playoffs – at best – they need to learn to win away from their own arena.