Here’s a look at what every NHL team could be wishing for in 2016.
Anaheim Ducks: Offense. Where, oh where, has the Ducks once-mighty offense gone? Among the 10 highest-scoring teams in 2014-15, the Ducks are now the league’s lowest-scoring club. No wonder they’re wallowing at the bottom of the NHL standings and in danger of missing the playoffs.
Arizona Coyotes: A reliable starting goaltender. The Coyotes were weak in goal prior to starter Mike Smith’s injury. With Smith sidelined, Anders Lindback and Louis Domingue aren’t much of an improvement. Without an upgrade between the pipes, their playoff hopes are on shaky ground.
Boston Bruins: An affordable deal for Loui Eriksson. The once-underappreciated centerpiece of the Bruins’ return for Tyler Seguin from the Dallas Stars, Eriksson is among the Bruins best all-around forwards. He’s also a UFA in July. Can the Bruins afford to re-sign him? Can they afford not to?
Buffalo Sabres: Better penalty killing. The rebuilding Sabres have improved this season, but penalty-killing remains a significant weakness. At 78 percent efficiency, that’s only slightly better than last season’s 75.1 percent.
Calgary Flames: A proven starting netminder. Weak goaltending is the biggest factor behind the Flames’ struggles to build upon last season’s improvement. It could prevent them from returning to the playoffs this spring.
Carolina Hurricanes: A solid return for Eric Staal. The Hurricanes are overdue for a significant rebuild. In recent years, Staal’s production has steadily declined. Time for the Hurricanes to put the pending UFA on the trade block in hopes of landing a return to jump start that rebuild.
Chicago Blackhawks: Scoring depth. Thanks largely to Patrick Kane’s line, the Blackhawks are among this season’s highest-scoring clubs. However, the production drops noticeably beyond that line. To have a fighting chance at defending their Stanley Cup title, the ‘Hawks need an offensive boost.
Colorado Avalanche: Improved defensive play. While the Avalanche’s play in their own zone has improved this season, they’re still among the league’s worst. It’s what kept them out of the 2015 playoffs and could cost them in 2016.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Leadership. Granted, the Blue Jackets lacked skilled blueline depth and suffer whenever goalie Sergei Bobrovsky struggles or is sidelined. However, they seem to lack the type of leadership necessary from their veterans to take them to the next level.
Dallas Stars: Improved penalty killing. The high-flying Stars are dominating offensively and their goaltending and defensive play has improved. Their penalty-kill, however, remains middle of the pack this season.
Detroit Red Wings: Their goalies must step up. Young Petr Mrazek has better numbers than veteran Jimmy Howard, but both have struggled with consistency this season. Sitting 17th in goals-against per game on Dec. 31, the Red Wings need Mrazek or Howard to improve over the rest of this season.
Edmonton Oilers: Better defense and goaltending. So what else is new? It’s the same old song for the Oilers. Despite their riches in talented young forwards, without a proven starting goalie and an established top-two defenseman, they’ll continue to spin their wheels.
Florida Panthers: Another veteran scoring forward. The Panthers made significant improvement in December, leaping atop the Atlantic Division. However, they could use a little more scoring depth. GM Dale Tallon has already stated he’ll be in the market for a sniper near the trade deadline .
Los Angeles Kings: Re-signing Anze Kopitar. Recent reports indicate the Kings could announce a new contract for Kopitar, a pending UFA, in January. Widely regarded as one of the NHL’s elite centers, he’s expected to receive an eight-year deal worth around $9.75 millon annually.
Minnesota Wild: Depth at center. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher recently suggested he could draw upon his blueline depth for help at center. They’ve been linked to Columbus’ Ryan Johansen and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Montreal Canadiens: A search party for their offense. Since losing Brendan Gallagher to a hand injury, the Habs offense has plummeted. After averaging over three goals per game, the Canadiens were around 1.5 goals per game in December.
Nashville Predators: Secondary scoring. Defensemen Shea Weber and Roman Josi are the Preds leading scorers this season. They’re in desperate need of second-line scoring punch. Without it, they can forget about staging a Stanley Cup run this season.
New Jersey Devils: Good health for their scoring leaders. Thanks in part to veteran forwards Mike Cammalleri, Kyle Palmieri and Lee Stempniak, the Devils are jockeying for a playoff berth this season. They’ll need those guys, especially the oft-injured Cammalleri, to remain healthy to stay in the hunt.
New York Islanders: Improve their offense. Last season, the Isles were fourth in league scoring. This season, they’re twelfth. A power play that was thirteenth last season has slid to twenty-first. The Islanders production must improve if they hope to build upon last season’s success.
New York Rangers: Rediscover their defensive game. The Rangers are among the league leaders this season in most shots-against per game. Factor in goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s struggles through December, and there’s genuine concern over the club’s ability to maintain its holds on a playoff berth.
Ottawa Senators: A blueline that can actually play defense. If not for their outstanding goaltending, the Senators would be outside this season’s playoff picture. If they hope to avoid burning out starting Craig Anderson, their defensive game must improve.
Philadelphia Flyers: Voracek rediscovers last season’s scoring touch. Among last season’s top NHL scorers, Voracek’s well off that pace in 2015-16. They’ll need more from him this season if they hope to reach the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Crosby and Kessel regain their offensive form. Both are well below their usual production rates this season. It’s a significant reason why the Penguins currently find themselves outside of this year’s playoff picture.
St. Louis Blues: Scoring depth. Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk are carrying the bulk of the Blues scoring this season. If they hope to stage a lengthy playoff run this spring, they need more offensive punch.
San Jose Sharks: Consistency. The Sharks have been very streaky this season. While they’re holding a playoff berth now, they’ll need more consistency if they want to nail down that spot come April.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Sorting out Steven Stamkos’ future. Stamkos and his teammates claim his contract status isn’t a distraction. But with the Lightning currently struggling to stay in playoff contention, uncertainty over his future can’t be helping matters.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Patience. The Leafs are playing better than expected in the first season of their rebuild. That’s prompted talk they could chase a big-name free agent like Steven Stamkos this summer. Management should avoid that temptation and stick with drafting and developing their own stars.
Vancouver Canucks: Depth at center. The Canucks are attempting to rebuild whilst staying in contention for a playoff berth. One area that needs work is at center, particularly in the faceoff circle. They’re currently last in the league in faceoff percentage.
Washington Capitals: Overcome their second-round mental block. The Capitals are dominating the standings this season, playing well at both ends of the rink. However, they’re still haunted by the ghosts of past playoff failures. They must find a way to get past that mental block this season.
Winnipeg Jets: Reach a decision on Byfuglien and Ladd. Both are eligible for UFA status in July. Management must soon decide if one or both have long-term futures in Winnipeg. It could prove expensive to retain both.