Whether you consider yourself a “resolution” person or one staunchly committed to flawed ways, a maniacal perfectionist or a sluggard rife with shortcomings, one thing remains: we could all stand to make a few changes.
This is no different in the NHL, of course, where teams considered on track could always tweak, others could use blanket changes, and all can benefit from constantly reassessing what is and what isn’t working at every rung of the operation.
Because it’s the season to ponder such pledges, here are resolutions for Canada’s NHL teams as we ready to turn the page on 2017.
Rid yourself of ‘right now’
Montreal has been at it for years, making each and every roster decision with an eye toward this. next. run. It’s offered largely mixed-bag results, with some seasons producing exciting and encouraging postseason jaunts, while others have resulted in misery and taken casualties along the way.
Teams are showing now that it is possible to continue on successfully with this sort of strategy, striking a balance between input and output while maintaining a certain standard in performance. But lately, for Marc Bergevin, it’s been bending over backwards just to make lateral moves, his major acquisitions coming at the expense of the future.
His slate won’t ever be completely clean, the contracts of Carey Price and Shea Weber are near-indefinite, good and bad. But that doesn’t mean Bergevin can’t spend 2018 making decisions with 2020 and beyond in mind. That must be the priority.
Get on the same page with Erik Karlsson
.. And I don’t necessarily mean with signatures on a brand-new contract. (Though that would be ideal).
Just having consistent open and honest dialogue, and discovering for certain if the partnership with the most important player in franchise history can survive his pending unrestricted free agency, is really the only thing that matters right now.
If you think the Senators are in trouble, imagine a misread that leads to the captain walking away for nothing.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Lighten the load
Perhaps the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Division isn’t the sure thing it seemed to be a month ago, but it would take something cataclysmic for the Maple Leafs to slip from the top three. A serial winner, I understand Mike Babcock’s insistence to attack five-game chunks with a postseason-like head space, to fight tooth and nail for every last point in the race toward the tournament, but there’s something counterproductive to some of his extreme means.
While Babcock’s shift-to-shift deployment is reasonable, his team is too deep and too talented to rely so heavily on some players in certain situations, tenaciously shelter others, and grow annoyed when superstars need an extra few days to return from a brain injury. Just, chill a bit, would be my advice.
Strike while you’re hot
One of the more talented and exciting teams in the NHL, the Jets didn’t need any other reason to load up for what could potentially be there first meaningful playoff run since their revival. But the recent injury to Mark Scheifele presents one anyway.
Out six-to-eight weeks with a shoulder injury, the injured No. 1 centre leaves a considerable void at the heart of Winnipeg’s top six. While you can’t replace Scheifele, perhaps his absence prompts Kevin Chevaldayoff to aim higher than a ‘bit piece’ as he works to complete what should be his second postseason roster — and, in a run-around way, he ends up putting his team over the top.
Jets fan deserve a little aggressiveness from their general manager early in 2018.
No more bubble wrap
When you’re able to roll Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins through centre, the inclination to focus on support over stand-out talent at the wings is somewhat understandable. But assuming that serviceable players will score when sharing the ice with these supremely talented, mismatch-creating pivots hasn’t worked as well as the Oilers had hoped.
Acquisitions of Adam Larssen, Ryan Strome and Griffen Reinhart have been part of a general dilution of individual skill in Edmonton since the club won the rights to the most talented player in the world. Whether it’s to assist on a postseason charge this season or next, this team needs a player that can create his own offence with raw talent — a weapon. Whatever flaws may come with it are up to his linemates and the coaching staff to manage.
It’s probably for the best.
Hang grapes, smash plates, wear red, eat pork. Whatever tradition that promises to bring great fortune in 2018, give it a whirl.
If after a season that saw Brock Boeser turn into a superstar, and enhanced juju saw the Canucks’ logo turn up at the NHL Draft Lottery — meaning that Rasmus Dahlin was on the way — it would really be the best possible upshot in this read-through season.
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