Nick Jehamy | January 1st, 2020
Happy New Year to all! With the new year and new decade here and the season just about halfway over, let’s take a look at what each team is wishing for in the new year as the second half of the season commences.
A presence on the offensive end – The Ducks are now eight points out of a wild card spot in a tough situation going forward this season. The Ducks can desperately use some offense in the new year as they have scored the third least number of goals in the league so far. Give John Gibson some help and score some goals in the new year.
Solidifying their future – The Coyotes have made themselves into a playoff contender for this season but the biggest wish for the Coyotes for the year 2020 is to sure up their future and re-sign their newest piece, Taylor Hall, to a long term deal at the end of the season.
Scoring from their other lines – The Boston Bruins first line is one of the best in the National Hockey League, David Pastrnak leads the league in goals scored as well as being tied for third in the league for total points with teammate Brad Marchand. Pastrnak, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron account for half of the team’s goals scored, not including Bergeron’s stand-in on the first line during his absence. They are already one of the best in the league if they can up their offensive production from their second and third lines they can be even scarier than they already are.
A playoff appearance – The Sabres have not made the playoffs in Jack Eichel‘s time with the team. Captain Jack has proved to be one of the best in the game and deserves his chance going past the regular season. This aligns with another wish of the Sabres, respect, something they believe they do not have right now and are trying to show the league they deserve.
Have history not repeat itself – Last year at this time the Flames were atop their division and got comfortable… too comfortable. They made it through the regular season but lost in the first round of the playoffs in five games to the Colorado Avalanche. This year they are not in a place to have the luxury of getting comfortable, and even though they have stepped up their game as of late they cannot think the same as before, there is much left to play.
Wins against division rivals – The Hurricanes have had a marvelous season to date but playing in the Metropolitan Division makes it extremely tough to keep their place. Currently holding the second wild-card position, the Hurricanes need to keep winning against their division rivals which they face many times through the rest of the season if they want to hold on to their playoff hopes. Those outcomes can be the difference between the Hurricanes taking a division spot, holding on to the wild card, or even being knocked out of playoff contention.
New general management – This season isn’t completely lost yet for the Blackhawks, who are five games out of a wild card spot. Even if they go on a run and make the playoffs this Chicago roster is not made to go on a run of any significance. General Manager Stan Bowman had a great start with the organization but has since fallen off the deep end, trying to make too many risky moves that in the end did not work out in the team’s favor. The Blackhawks must look to their future and rid themselves of Bowman to start a new era for the Blackhawks, what time more fitting than a new decade.
Revitalized Special Teams Unit – Colorado has already begun working to try and fix this. The Avalanche have had problems scoring during power play opportunities and have been scored on more often than they would like during penalty kills. They have begun to change up their special team lines in hopes of finding the right combination that will work for them going into the new year.
Colombus Blue Jackets
One more goal – The Blue Jackets have made a run keeping them in contention for the playoffs still, but playing in the Metropolitan Division makes their odds seem less than likely that they will find themselves in the playoffs. It seems like every loss that the Blue Jackets suffer is by one goal. That one goal could have been the difference in their current placement and going forward the Blue Jackets deserve to not be teased any longer with one close loss after the next.
New coaching will not derail performance – The Dallas Stars and head coach Jim Montgomery parted ways due to “unprofessional conduct” earlier this season. The Stars are currently holding on to third place in the Central Division. Can they keep up their pace throughout the season under interim coach Rick Bowness? So far so good but there are plenty of games left.
Detroit Red Wings
For the season to come to an end – The Red Wings season is already over, at this point they are just hoping for the season to come to an end sooner than later and start their rebuild of the franchise and receive their high draft pick next season.
Help for their two stars – Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are dominating this season, number one and two in points across the entire National Hockey League with almost identical numbers on the season so far. For the Oilers to be successful they rely on these two stars, if one of them gets injured or just has an off day then the team just cannot keep up with the stronger competitors. The Oilers need to find some help for their star players. Sooner than later if they want to succeed this season, luckily at the end of the season they have a plethora of free agents that will free up cap space for the franchise.
Their goaltender returns to form – Sergei Bobrovsky had a slow start to the season with a save percentage below .900 and a goals-against-average of 3.26. Through December Bobrovsky has started to lean more towards the goaltender we come to expect him to be, with a GAA of 2.78 and save percentage of .922. The Panthers offense can keep the goals coming, if Bobrovsky can return to form as we see him beginning to do then the Panthers can hold on to their position and make a run to and through the playoffs.
Los Angeles Kings
One year closer to promoting their prospects – The Kings like the Red Wings at this point are just looking forward to the end of the season. The Kings will not only have a decent pick in the draft but they already have one of the most touted prospect pools in the league so the end of this season will just bring them closer to the promotion of their young guns.
Capitalize on the number of home games remaining – The Minnesota Wild currently has the best home record in the Western Conference. With a majority of their remaining games being played at home, they need to take this to their advantage and continue their play in Minnesota to propel themselves into playoff position.
Defensive Help – Coach Claude Julien described his team’s play as “pond hockey” and said that the defense has been sloppy. Captain Shea Weber is one of the best defensemen in the league but can use some help in the Canadians defense. Whether it be the team trades for another top defender or the team as a whole tightens up they need to help out their captain.
Their goaltenders remember how to play hockey – Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros have had a disgusting first half of the season. Out of 52 qualifying goaltenders, they place second and sixth from the bottom of the league in save percentage at .890 and .894. As well as fifth and fifteenth from the bottom in GAA at 3.23 and 3.02. The Predators still are very much in the playoff race but it will come down to the improved play of these two between the posts.
New Jersey Devils
Fast Forward through the rest of the season – Unlike the Kings and Red Wings who have some positive reason to look forward to the end of the season whether it be the draft or young prospects, the Devils just wish to blink and magically end this nightmare just for that reason alone. P.K. Subban has been having one of his worst seasons to date and they traded away Taylor Hall to the Coyotes. The only upside to playing out the season is giving rookie Jack Hughes some more experience to take into next season.
New York Islanders
A return of the magic they had earlier in the season – The Islanders currently hold the third spot in the Metropolitan Division but the Flyers and Hurricanes are creeping up from behind. They can use a little of that magic they had earlier on when they went on a 17 game point streak. They do not desperately need something like that but a small streak to break back into second place and build momentum early in the second half of the season would be the perfect thing for the Islanders.
New York Rangers
Gained experience and improved play from their rookie winger – Kaapo Kakko has had an average season so far. The Rangers rookie has scored six goals and provided eight assists through the first half of the season. Improvements from the rookie forward and general gained experiences would be a win for the Rangers as they near the end of their rebuilding stage.
The continued success of Duclair – Anthony Duclair has been electric this season, scoring 21 goals and 10 assists through the team’s first 40 games played. For the Ottawa Senators’ sake, they can only hope that this success is not a fluke and Duclair can continue his magnificent performance going forward. What the Senators do with Duclair is another story. Whether they decide to hold on to him or use the success to make Duclair a high sell this year, either way, he is a valuable asset to the Senators.
Well wishes and a speedy recovery to their winger – Oskar Lindblom was diagnosed with bone cancer earlier in the season and currently is away from the team and being treated. The Flyers have other injury issues that they hope to resolve soon but the speedy recovery of Lindblom is one that we all wish for going into the new year.
Good Health – If there is anyone that really is wishing for good health this upcoming year it is the Pittsburgh Penguins, you wouldn’t know it though looking at their record and being that they are second in the toughest division in hockey. With injuries to Sidney Crosby, Nick Bjugstad, Justin Almeida, Jake Guentzel and many more on and off the ice throughout the season the Penguins have no reason to be doing as good as they have been yet they continue to push on. Imagine this team at full strength?
St Louis Blues
The quick return of Tarasenko – The St. Louis Blues are currently at the top of the Western Conference and well on their way to fighting for a second Stanley Cup in two years. What can they wish for? The return of Vladimir Tarasenko. The Blues currently hold a solid 3.175 goals per game, expect that to rise once Tarasenko returns to the ice and returns to form.
San Jose Sharks
Improved Goaltending to keep them alive – They aren’t faring well going into the second half of the season but they still have a chance to turn things around and make a playoff run. If they want to do that though they will need their two goaltenders to step up their play in the second half of the season. Martin Jones and Aaron Dell are currently sixth and tenth from the bottom of 52 qualified goaltenders in GAA. The two Sharks goaltenders also place third and twelfth from the bottom in save percentage. Neither one has a shutout on the season and if this team wants to turn its luck around it starts with the men between the posts.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Find the right stride – The Tampa Bay Lightning have the pieces to be a playoff team and upset some of the teams at the top. At this point what the Lightning needs more than anything is just to find their stride and make a run. Only one point out of a playoff spot in their division the Lightning are very much in the race and have time to get things figured out and scare some teams at the top.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Backup goaltending to complement Anderson’s success – The Maple Leafs currently hold the number two spot in their division and Frederick Anderson has been one of the biggest assets and reasons for the club’s success. He can use some more consistency but the blame cannot be put on him. The big issue is not having someone to rely on behind Anderson. Michael Hutchinson has not had a good season to date and having to play Anderson day in and day out does not help his own conditioning and performance. Obtaining a more reliable backup goaltender will solidify the Maple Leafs play going into the second half of the season.
Let things fall into place on their own – The Canucks season has been an inconsistent one through the first half. They currently are in second place in the Pacific Division but it is the closest division top to bottom going into the new year. Yes, this season is still very much alive for the Canucks and if they want to keep their playoff spot they will need to play more consistently, but they should not get too hasty. The Canucks have a young core that will keep them competitive for quite some time, they should make sure not to focus on the now so much and make sure to keep this group of skaters together and let this season play out with who they have.
Vegas Golden Knights
Continue on the pace they’re going at – The Golden Knights are 6-3-1 over their last ten games and since being 11-11-4 earlier in the season the Knights have gone on to go 11-4-2. The best the Knights can hope for going into this second half of the season is to keep up the pace they are currently at which would keep them in control at the top of the Pacific Division.
Personal Records – With the Capitals playing the way they have been what more can they wish for? How about personal milestones for some of their stars. Alex Ovechkin has 24 goals through half of the season, hopefully, one of the all-time greats can hit his ninth 50 goal season. John Carlson is on pace for a record season already so asking for that is too small of a goal at this point, with 50 points halfway through the season can Carlson make it to 100 by seasons end? Jakub Vrana is in his fourth season in the league, with 31 points so far he is on pace to break 50 points this season for the first time in his career.
Come to terms with Byfuglien – Dustin Byfuglien and the Winnipeg Jets have had a rough go at things. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has publicly said they would welcome the defenseman back but just saying it and the two sides actually coming to terms are two different stories. The Jets currently hold a wild card spot and can use the defenseman back in their lineup in the second half of the season. Even if they come to terms with Dustin, the defenseman still is nursing an ankle injury that they hope he will recover from quick enough that if and when they make up he will be healthy enough to actually play and make a difference for the team.
Happy New Year again to all, and enjoy the second half of the NHL season.
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