The Florida Panthers haven't made the playoffs since they were swept in Round 1 in 2000. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
As we get ever closer to the New Year, every NHL team has something it must resolve to do in 2010.
Some obvious resolutions: San Jose needs an extended playoff run; Atlanta must stop allowing so many goals (26th in NHL) and sign Ilya Kovalchuk long term; Chicago must keep its core under the salary cap, along with its depth; Phoenix must get some butts in the seats; and Philadelphia’s brass must figure out what ails the Flyers.
Some less-obvious resolutions: Carolina needs to play for a high draft pick and ready the youngsters in American League Albany for primetime; Calgary must win more at home (9-7-2) and divest itself of a Big-3 blueliner for some offensive punch; Dallas needs to stop losing in overtime and the shootout (11 such losses have them outside the playoffs); and Vancouver needs to continue not losing in overtime and the shootout (zero such losses).
But based on office chatter of late, there are some New Year’s resolutions that are more important than others. With that in mind, we present THN.com’s Top 10 NHL-team resolutions for 2010.
10. Minnesota, Acquire some new players
All the buzz in the off-season out of Minny was about an up-tempo style of play under new GM Chuck Fletcher and new coach Todd Richards. But the Wild are 22nd in goals-for and, sitting 11th in the Western Conference standings, just don’t seem to have the horses to play an exciting brand of hockey and still win more than they lose.
9. Toronto, Find a center for Phil Kessel
Kessel has been doing fine in Toronto this season, but is the only forward of note on the entire team. GM Brian Burke must do whatever it takes to find a playmaking pivot to play with the young sniper. If not, Kessel will be routinely snuffed out in the Big Smoke.
8. Detroit, Don’t panic
One bad season is not disastrous. Currently 10th in the West, the chances are still good the Red Wings will make it to the playoffs and even win a round. Stanley Cup favorites they are not, but the core is set for years to come and GM Ken Holland and his group must see the forest for the trees, which we suspect they will.
7. Columbus, Stop allowing so many goals
The Blue Jackets were expected to earn a playoff spot for the second year in a row, but are languishing in 27th overall. The main culprit: defense. The Blue Jackets are also 27th in goals-against after finishing 15th last season. A sophomore slump between the pipes has contributed, but the skaters must start playing more like Ken Hitchcock-coached teams are wont to do.
6. Colorado, Avoid delusions of grandeur
The Avs got off to a great start, but a contending team they are not. GM Greg Sherman must not think otherwise and take on unwieldy contracts or sacrifice the future for a chance at the playoffs.
5. Boston, Get the young guns going
The Bruins were second in the NHL in goals per game last season, this year they’re 28th. In 2008-09, the under-25 forwards accounted for 111 goals. This year they’re on pace for just 80. Yes, there’s no Kessel, but where have Blake Wheeler and David Krejci gone?
4. St. Louis, Win more at home
The Blues made it all the way to sixth in the West last season and a big reason was their 23-13-5 home record. This season the Blues have just six wins after 21 home games. They must find a way to reverse that trend if they hope for a repeat post-season position.
3. Edmonton, Sign your RFAs to smart contracts
The Oilers have been the poster child for why teams shouldn’t trade for or sign players with long, expensive contracts. Hey, Oilers fans! Are you happy with Shawn Horcoff, Lubomir Visnovsky and Sheldon Souray? We hope so, because they’re all inked through at least 2012 at $5-million plus. Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Gilbert Brule and Denis Grebeshkov? Promising young talents, but don’t break the bank on them.
2. Los Angeles, Stay the course
GM Dean Lombardi has been talking about his building plan since arriving in L.A. in 2006. The Kings are almost there, but now is not the time to throw the baby out with the bath water. The Kings have one of the most talented young teams in the league. The pressure is big to get off the back of the L.A. sports pages, but don’t forget about next year, and the ones thereafter.
1. Florida, Make the playoffs
The Panthers’ current post-season drought sits at eight seasons (dangerously close to setting an NHL record). The team has been to the spring dance just once this century and hasn’t recorded a win. In a struggling market like Miami, the playoffs are a must if the franchise is to remain as tenuously viable as it is.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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