Ryan Wilson: Santa Has Gifts For The Western Conference

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Christmas is almost here and that means Santa Clause has the busy job of delivering toys to children all over the globe. What goes unnoticed is that he also tries to help out NHL teams. Today Santa uses his magical ways to help improve the teams in the Western Conference. What is he getting each team? Anaheim : Perspective.

Yes Anaheim is near the top of the entire NHL in the standings, but their underlying numbers aren’t terrific. They only have a +6 goal differential and their EVSV% is 15th overall at .923%. They’ll need to realize that their team still needs upgrading if they are going to advance in the ridiculously tough Western Conference. Arizona: An arena in Phoenix. The second they built their actual arena in Glendale was the second the Coyotes franchise solidified the fact that it would be an uphill battle in that market. The arena is too far for convenience from the Phoenix city center and is not conducive for the casual fan to make the effort to catch a game. Calgary: A rabbit’s foot. Some people in Calgary think the team just needs to try harder now that they have found themselves losing more games. The reality is they need more luck, specifically PDO luck. On December 1 the Flames were 15-8-2 with a PDO of 1020. Today they are 18-15-3 and slipping fast, so is their PDO (1007). The reality is the Flames have worked just has hard the past month, they just haven’t been as lucky. Bad possession teams without luck lose more games than they win. Chicago: Gift of health. This team literally doesn’t need anything else. They need one last healthy run with the core of this team before the salary cap starts to bite back next year. Toews and Kane will be making 10.5M each. In fact 57.2M will be locked into Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Bickell, Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, and Crawford. Brandon Saad is a pending RFA and after giving him his raise that still leaves another 10 players to sign. Colorado: Puck skilled defensemen. The Avs have some of the most exciting forwards in the NHL on their roster. The problem is they never get the puck with speed to navigate the neutral zone. The result is a lot less controlled zone exits/entries than they are capable of. Their possession stinks and Varlamov isn’t playing at a Vezina level this year (Pickard is to this point). Ryan O’Reilly is the best trade asset they have. They will need to trade him for a quality defenseman, otherwise the other forwards will continue to drown. Dallas: Andrej Sekera. Get Dallas away from the Central Division where they are 0-7-1 and get them against the Pacific (9-2-1) and they haven’t done so bad. A huge reason they have struggled this year is because of their less than ideal defense corp. Alex Goligoski is currently their #1 defenseman and that isn’t going to cut it. Somebody is going to have to pass the puck to the Dallas forwards. Santa is not going to give Sekera to the Stars in a trade, he is going to give them the desire and motivation to sign him when he is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Edmonton: New Management. 1980’s playing glory doesn’t translate into 21st century executive success, unless of course you read the bio page for Kevin Lowe

Lowe has been instrumental in the renewed success of the team both on and off the ice and will continue to work towards the continued success of the franchise in his new role. In recent years, Lowe has been assisting the strategic rebuild of one of the outstanding franchises in the League and was an integral part of the management and scouting team that selected Taylor Hall with Edmonton’s first ever number one overall draft pick in 2010, as well as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov in 2012.

What that doesn’t mention is that he was an integral part in the Oilers being so horrendously bad that they consistently are making picks that high in the draft. No real change will happen until the old boy’s club is broken up. Los Angeles: A conference call with Jarmo Kekalainen. The Kings aren’t having a terrific regular season but have no fear, Jarmo is here. Anytime the Kings want to get out of a funk they can just pick up the phone, call Columbus and offer them crappy assets for a solid productive NHL player(s) in return. This year with the Blue Jackets injury woes they may be in a position to sell. Nick Foligno anybody? Minnesota: James Reimer/Thomas Greiss/Jhonas Enroth. The Wild are one of the best possession teams in the entire NHL, their record does not reflect that. The #1 reason for this is the putrid goaltending. They are dead last in the NHL with an EVSV% of .900%. They need to find a goalie who just needs an opportunity to be a full time starter and just turn the keys over to them and watch the save percentage climb. This team is too good to miss the playoffs because their goaltending is rubbish. Nashville: Taylor Hall. What the Predators have is a very solid defense corp. What they could use more of are dynamic offensive players. If the Oilers are open to moving Taylor Hall then float out a shiny name like Shea Weber to them. They will ignore the fact that Weber’s rel Fenwick percentage has dropped each year since Ryan Suter left. They will ignore the fact he is 29 years old and signed for 11 more years. They will ignore the fact Taylor Hall is 23 years old and cost controlled for under market value until 2021. Oilers are primed to make a mistake and the Predators could pounce on it. Trading Shea Weber away isn’t as crippling as a lot of people will make it out to be, especially with a return like Taylor Hall. San Jose:Brent Burns on forward. This one isn’t so difficult. Brent Burns is a way better forward than he is a defenseman. The Sharks still have a lot of solid pieces in place, but Burns on defense is the round peg being jammed into a square hole. Sharks missed the boat on trading for a player(s) like Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, they’ll be wise to target a defenseman at the trade deadline to get Burns back with Thornton full time. St. Louis: Clean bill of health for Brian Elliott. The alternative to this is actually trusting Martin Brodeur with the workload. That is insane. The Blues are a great team, they don’t need great goaltending, just average. from 2011-14 Brian Elliott leads all NHL goaltenders in quality starts with a frequency of 69.1%. Martin Brodeur is 35th at 51.2%. Anything above 60% is considered great, anything below 50% is considered terrible. Santa has his doubts about the St. Louis Blues and their ability to analyze the goaltending position because it was extremely foolish to dump off Halak and then waste assets on Miller last year. Vancouver: A hypnotist. Ryan Miller needs to be reminded of how well he played in Vancouver during some tournament during 2010. Right now Ryan Miller ranks 44th out of 56 goalies in the NHL with an EVSV% of .908%. Not exactly what the Canucks had in mind when they acquired him. The Canucks have done a lot of winning with Miller playing like this but it will be incredibly hard to sustain those winning ways in the extremely tough Western Conference. The Sedins aren’t getting any younger and after the goaltending shuffle Vancouver went through with Luongo and Schneider they can’t afford to be let down by that position moving forward. Winnipeg: More trades for actual NHL players. Since June 8, 2011 when Kevin Cheveldayoff took over as general manager of the Jets here is the list of NHL players he has acquired via trade: Eric Tangradi, Michael Frolik, Peter Budaj, Devin Setoguchi, and Jay Harrison. That isn’t exactly impressive. Unfortunately with all the injuries to the Jets defense corp. right now they are not in a position of strength. If they can somehow survive this injury bug in the loaded up Central Division they should consider being buyers at the deadline. The Jets have some potential as long as they stick with Hutchinson over Pavelec.

Ho Ho Ho!

HAPPY FESTIVUS! May ur pole be straight, ur feats be strong & your grievances be few. With love from the Costanzas – Frank, Estelle, George

— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) December 23, 2014

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