With Christmas just around the corner, here's some suggested gifts for several NHL teams and players for this holiday season.
Sidney Crosby – Rediscovering his scoring touch. The most prolific point producer of his generation, the Penguins captain began this week with 19 points in 28 games. That was 27 points behind the league leader, putting Crosby on pace for only 55 points.
Montreal Canadiens – A reliable scoring forward. Their 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday was the first time they tallied three goals in a game since Nov. 27. It was also only their second victory since then. After a hot start, most of their best forwards (Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk) are struggling to score.
Jaromir Jagr – Eleven more goals and 28 more points this season. As this week began, the 43-year-old Florida Panthers winger had 731 career goals and 1,823 points. He's only 10 goals behind Brett Hull for third on the all-time goals list and 27 points behind Gordie Howe for third all-time in points.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Resist the temptation to pursue Tampa Bay Lightning centre Steven Stamkos if he becomes a free agent next summer. Rather that tossing big bucks at free agents, the rebuilding Leafs are supposed to be drafting and developing their own stars. Paying Stamkos $11 million per season will only derail that plan.
Nicklas Backstrom – Selection to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game. One of the league's best play-making centres, Backstrom's yet to play in an All-Star game. Being continually snubbed by All-Star voters makes a mockery of the selection process.
Edmonton Oilers – A proven starting goaltender. Yes, they also need a top-two defencemen, but they haven't had a quality goalie since Dwayne Roloson backstopped them to the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. Without help between the pipes, the Oilers will certainly miss the playoffs again.
Calgary Flames – Same as the Oilers. They have the worst goaltending in the league this season. It's the biggest reason why they're struggling to repeat last season's success.
Patrick Roy – An instructional guide to hockey analytics. The Colorado Avalanche head coach is dismissive of puck-possession stats. Under his tenure, however, the Avs are regularly among the league's worst teams in that department. As a result, they could miss the playoffs for the second straight season.
Anaheim Ducks – Finding their offensive mojo. They're last in the league in scoring and struggling to reach a playoff berth. Quite the fall from grace for a team predicted by some pundits to win the Stanley Cup in 2016.
NHL – An increase in the value of the Canadian dollar. With seven Canadian teams accounting for roughly 40 per cent of NHL revenue, the declining value of the loonie affects the salary cap. The league recently projected next season's cap ceiling could reach $74.5 million. If the loonie keeps dropping, however, that projection will seem overly optimistic.
To my readers and NHL fans everywhere: May you have a safe and happy holiday season, and all the best in the New Year.
Lyle Richardson is a freelance writer with The Hockey News and runs the website Spector’s Hockey. His column will appear in The Guardian throughout the NHL hockey season.