PHT is spending Christmas listing the best teams, the most disappointing teams, and making our mid-season awards picks. Because what better day than Christmas to infuriate readers with our opinions!
1. Columbus Blue Jackets
I hate to say I told you so. Actually, who am I kidding? I love to say I told you so. Especially when I can say it to Halford, who was all about the Blue Jackets heading into the season. Granted, he wasn’t alone in hyping the Jackets up, and nobody expected things to get so bad that they’d bring in John Tortorella to wreak his patented brand of havoc. But let this be a lesson to all hockey fans — don’t ignore the blue line. Good forwards are great to have, but without a complementary back end, it doesn’t work.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
Speaking of ignoring the blue line! Mike Johnston paid the price with his job, but GM Jim Rutherford rightly admitted he was to blame for not having enough puck-moving defensemen on the roster. Hence, the Trevor Daley acquisition, which was a nice start to rectifying the problem. I’m not ready to write the Pens off quite yet, but they’ll be five points back of a playoff spot coming out of the break. They can’t afford to stay out of sync much longer.
3. Anaheim Ducks
If the Ducks were in the Central Division, they’d be 10 points out of a playoff spot. Fortunately for them, they’re in the Pacific, so the deficit is only five points. It’s hard to explain what’s happened to this team. Obviously, the “Junior B” mistakes don’t help. And they were probably a bit overconfident heading into the season. But given their PDO — the second-lowest in the NHL, per war-on-ice.com — surely some of it’s bad luck. Regardless, if the Ducks don’t make the playoffs in the Pacific Division, it’s going to be one heck of a thing.
4. Winnipeg Jets
Last in the Central, eight points back of a playoff spot. The Jets went into the break with a 4-1 loss to Calgary, and with an angry head coach. “This team needs some rest,” Paul Maurice told the Associated Press. “The coach has been in a bad mood for a long time. We need some rest and some separation.” Meanwhile, Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd remain pending unrestricted free agents.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bolts went into the break with a 2-1 loss to a road-weary Vancouver team that was forced to kill 10 penalties. “Maybe after a game like this, it’s good to get away from the arena,” coach Jon Cooper told the Associated Press. Sound familiar? Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos remains a pending unrestricted free agent. To be fair, the Bolts have been decimated by injuries and should be a lot better when they get healthy. They’ve actually been excellent defensively, tied for 3rd with a 2.29 goals-against average. But the first half has been frustrating all the same for the defending Cup finalists.