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Top Shelf: A gift for every NHL team

Shea Weber has 11 goals and 25 points in 30 games with the Preds this season. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Shea Weber has 11 goals and 25 points in 30 games with the Preds this season. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Hockey News holiday gift exchange is not unlike the NHL season itself: plenty of surprises, both good and bad.

The main difference is, we set our salary cap at $20 per gift, so even if you donate a considerate, useful present to the pile only to unwrap four cans of beans, an Archie comic and a roll of toilet paper for yourself, the sting is still quite bearable.

NHL teams spending in excess of $50 million on salaries are understandably a little more concerned with what they get in return. Some must feel they’re getting fair (in relative terms) value for their money; others, not so much.

Either way, everybody deserves something from Santa’s sack of goodies this season. Here’s what I think the Sleigh Man has in mind for each NHL club:

Anaheim Ducks –
The quiet confidence to turn the page and move on from the loud, successful Brian Burke era.

Atlanta Thrashers –
A reality check, so they can finally embrace the fact Ilya Kovalchuk won’t be a Thrasher beyond next season and act accordingly.

Boston Bruins –
The address of every pundit who picked the Bruins to be an also-ran this year, just so Milan Lucic can go door to door, asking a few friendly questions.

Buffalo Sabres –
A team stylist who begs them to wear those awesome, vintage blue and yellow jerseys every time out.

Calgary Flames –
Even more Iggy pop.

Carolina Hurricanes –
Some indication as to whether 2006 will ever send them the Eric Staal and Cam Ward they so desperately miss.

Chicago Blackhawks –
The perspective to admire how far they’ve come and the determination to see the whole thing through.

Colorado Avalanche –
Not Peter Forsberg. For the love of God, not Peter Forsberg.

Columbus Blue Jackets
– Just one more year of grace while these kids keep developing.

Dallas Stars –
Something to make ‘The Pain’ go away.

Detroit Red Wings –
Just a little note reminding them they’re still the defending champs and that, deep down inside, every NHL team still fears them the most.

Edmonton Oilers –
An early start on mimicking last year’s incredible late-season push.

Florida Panthers –
A homerun when Jay Bouwmeester is dealt.

Los Angeles Kings –
A couple more quiet pickups that turn out as well as Kyle Quincey has.

Minnesota Wild –
A healthy Marian Gaborik, so they can trade him and move on with life.

Montreal Canadiens –
Half the hype and twice the results of the season so far.

Nashville Predators –
A fresh pack of re-enforced sticks so Shea Weber can keep firing bombs.

New Jersey Devils –
One more playoff run with a rested Martin Brodeur in net.

New York Islanders –
An Island unto themselves where they can sit down and sort out this whole mess.

New York Rangers –
A break. They’ve played more games than everybody and been to Europe already.

Ottawa Senators –
The courage to trade Jason Spezza.

Philadelphia Flyers –
Santa is actually going to take a player away from Philly because they’re so freakin’ good shorthanded.

Phoenix Coyotes –
That No. 8 seed to legitimize this team’s progression and give fans an actual reason to like hockey.

Pittsburgh Penguins –
The Art Ross and Hart for Malkin, the Conn Smythe for Sid.

St. Louis Blues –
Assurance that if they stay the course, relevance is right around the corner.

San Jose Sharks –
Twenty-three factory-defect calendars, so when April rolls around, all the players think it’s October.

Tampa Bay Lightning –
Somebody else’s blueprint for success.

Toronto Maple Leafs –
A whole bunch of suitcases cause change is a-comin’.

Vancouver Canucks –
The knowledge that with their style of game and Roberto Luongo in net, they’re Canada’s best playoff hope.

Washington Capitals –
Santa’s just going to ask Ovie to hop on the sleigh and tour around the world, spreading joy to all.

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Top Shelf will return Jan. 7.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.

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