O’ Christmas Tree! O’ Christmas Tree! We take a look at what the 15 Western Conference teams may need this holiday season. Will Santa bring it to them or will they get lumps and lumps of dark black coal? At any rate, this is what they may just be wishing for.
The Western Conference
Anaheim Ducks — Well they did get quite the X-Mas present when Scott Niedermayer returned. Who do they think they are? Maybe they want Selanne back next? Niedermayer has made a huge difference since he has come back. Question is does Burke have something brewing….rumor is he was on the phones to a couple Eastern Conference GM’s before the freeze. The Ducks should be just fine.
Calgary Flames — Iginla is scoring and getting some help….Kiprusoff has been solid in the nets and they’ve just won 6 in a row all on the road. Their only real wish….to start winning at home where they are just a paltry .500. Iron Mike may just have this team in a rhythm…scary thought NW division isn’t it?
Chicago Blackhawks — They have leveled off a little bit but hey they are still over .500. Hawks fans are finally to get their team on tv at home at least a few times…something Papa Wirtz would have rolled over in his grave to not let happen. Those fans are being treated to quite an unexpected season. The Blackhawks are wishing for a capable #2 behind Khabibulin and some more offensive depth. Maybe Mr. Tallon is listening and can find them something for the second half.
Colorado Avalanche — This team no question loves home cooking…they are 13-3 there and score a ton. On the road, they are just 6-10-2. Why, you may ask? It has to be mental…even some Avs players have said as much. So what the Avs need more than anything is not a #1 goalie which would be nice or some consistent play. NO! They need someone to make sure every arena they play in looks like the Pepsi Center. And don’t sell Coke there please!
Columbus Blue Jackets — The feel good story has faded a good bit. The Jackets stand just a hair above .500 and with little margin of error have to rely on their goaltending. Maybe they are asking just a bit too much. They are wishing for Rick Nash to start scoring again….it has been over 2 weeks since he lit the lamp. Blue Jackets need scoring depth and maybe a little defensive depth since with Norrena and Leclaire, they are covered in the goalie department.
Dallas Stars — Really not too much here….the Stars have 102 goals on the season…not exactly a juggernaut but they are getting consistent scoring…something that did not happen last year. The goaltending (Turco and Smith) has been fairly good. All they need is a little more defensive depth and to keep the balanced scoring rolling and that should serve them well. Maybe Hull can run a team halfway decent perhaps?
Detroit Red Wings — The best team in the NHL needs one thing….playoff magic in a bottle and that is really just about it!
Edmonton Oilers — Quietly this team has gotten back to .500 with some timely scoring, solid defense, and capable goaltending. Garon and Rolosson are doing much better lately. So if any team can get off the mat, the Oilers prove it is possible. Though they need a little more scoring punch. If Penner, Horcoff, and company can keep it up along with the goalies, they may be able to challenge for a playoff spot. All they need is to keep up the level of play.
Los Angeles Kings — At 12-21-2, they are the worst team in the NHL. Well they do have Anze Kopitar at least…it does make them worth watching. Their needs are too many to list here. But we’ll try and list a few. A healthy first line…..anyone that can convert a scoring chance and a #1 goalie for starters. Labarbera is nice but he is an AHL caliber goalie. But I do understand the Kings dilemma…would you throw a prospect under the bus? Certainly not! This team does need room to grow and maybe that is what they need more than anything…to just take their lumps and man up.
Minnesota Wild — This is real simple….they have the defense and they have the goaltending (I hear that Backstrom guy is pretty good). But they need more performances like they got from Marian Gaborik last night. If you didn’t see it, you missed out on one hell of a game. Five goals and 1 assist in a 6-3 win over the New York Rangers. This team needs more than anything someone who can hit the back of the net consistently to lead by example. Maybe the outburst by Gaborik becomes contagious because it is the only thing the Wild need right now.
Nashville Predators — All they want is an owner that cares for them. They are right around .500 despite the fire sale. Actually aside from a couple stinkers, this team is not that bad at all. Eliis and Mason have been pretty good of late and Arnott and company do have some scoring punch. What they need is better play from their defense and maybe 1 or 2 scorers. Not likely to happen until next year I know but this is a wish list.
Phoenix Coyotes — I may be in the minority here…but all this team needs is time to grow. Bryzgalov is the perfect calming influence as far as experience (not temper). The prospects like Hanzal and Mueller are growing into their own…and Sjostrom is an overnight success story. The defense is serviceable with Jovocop patrolling the blue line. This team may be the surprise of the second half and may just keep Gretzky employed longer than just this year.
St. Louis Blues — The Blues are a damn fine team with one nagging problem…their goaltending. With Legace’s knee still an issue even though he is playing…I am wondering if John Davidson goes out and finds a #1 at some point before the deadline and maybe another young forward. That is all this team really needs…they are built like a playoff team now they just have to keep playing like one. Consistency and depth should bode them well if they get it.
San Jose Sharks — Nabokov is playing great in this defensive system. The team has rebounded some after a shaky .500 start to the season. However, if they continue to rely on Jumbo Joe (he has been on around 52% of the time San Jose has scored this season), then they are going to be in trouble come playoff time. This team needs secondary scoring in the worst way and they are not getting it. Maybe they can get it via the trade route and Patrick Marleau seems to be getting dangled to any team Ron Wilson and company can. Question is what they can get in return. It is like San Jose and Dallas kind of switched personalities in the offseason.
Vancouver Canucks — When Luongo is rolling…this team needs little to nothing. Yes, they do need to step up their penalty kill but there are some grit guys out there come the deadline that are always available. They need to play like they did Tuesday night. If they do that, Dave Nonis will have little to do come the trade deadline. All they need is some special teams love.
Well I wanted to wish everyone out there (especially all those hard working hockey bloggers) a Merry Christmas and have a safe one from the folks at The NHL Arena Program.