Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Presents for Each Team: Central Division

Continuing the division-by-division look at each team's Christmas list, I travel to the Central Division.

Chicago Blackhawks: Goaltending help. Stanley Cup star Corey Crawford is injured, and the Hawks are relying on Antti Raanta. He has done pretty well, but he is unproven and probably won't do very well for too long. The longer Crawford is out, the more the Hawks will need a better goalie than Raanta.

St. Louis Blues: Continued Production from Alex Steen. Steen has been fantastic this year, already matching his career best for goals with 24. The Blues have been getting good production from other players, such as David Backes and Chris Stewart, but in the long run this team is going to depend on Steen. He will have to live up to his expensive extension by continuing to score goals and help the team.

Colorado Avalanche: More Offense. The Avs' defense and goaltending has been phenomenal this year, but the truth is Colorado is doing what the Montreal Canadiens did in the playoffs a few years back: relying on sensational goaltending and score just enough to win. It's worked so far, but will not continue for much longer. The Avs only have three players with 10 or more goals so far this year. That number must change for Colorado to truly challenge Chicago and St. Louis in the Central.

Minnesota Wild: Secondary Scoring. Two people (Jason Pominville and Zach Parise) account for nearly 40% of Minnesota's goals so far this year; they are also the only two players on the team with more than 7 goals so far this year. To really put their problem into perspective, 8th on the team in goals, with 5 of them so far this year, is Matt Cooke. High-priced defenseman Ryan Suter has not scored yet, and secondary scoring in general has been a big issue. They have to step that up, and may want Santa to bring them someone who can help fix that problem.

Dallas Stars: Goalie Depth. The offense could use a boost, but honestly it hasn't been bad for the Big D. Their main problem is goaltender depth, or rather the lack of it. Kari Lehtonen has played very well so far this year, posting a 13-8-6-1 record with a save percentage of .920. However, behind him are Dan Ellis, who hasn't been bad, but hasn't been great either, and Jack Campbell, who gave up 6 goals in his first, and so far only, career start, against Anaheim. The Stars will be in the market for something to help them with this issue.

Winnipeg Jets: Power. Overall, the Jets have been playing very well, with lots of scoring, both primary and secondary, surprisingly good goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya, and a penalty kill which, although not spectacular, has been pretty good. However, their power play is 25th in the league, which shouldn't be the case with Evander Kane, Bryan Little, and Andrew Ladd among other players. The Jets will need to find a way to get their power play on track, and that's the best they can ask Santa for.

Nashville Predators: Goaltending. This is an issue for most teams in the league, but it is extremely pronounced in Nashville. Superstar goalie Pekka Rinne is out with E-coli, and the Preds have been relying on Marek Mazanec, Carter Hutton, and Magnus Helleberg. Although Mazanec and Hutton have performed admirably, they have not done all that well, both posting save percentages barely over .900. The Preds badly need somebody who can fill in for Rinne and play at a high enough level to make up for Nashville's scoring woes. No goalie with Seth Jones and Shea Weber playing in front on him should be giving up so many goals.

So here are the wish lists for the Central Division. Read it, Santa, and come back tomorrow as I travel to the Eastern Conference. 

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