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New Year's resolutions for players, management

Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 10:52 AM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

By EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst

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New Year's resolutions for players, management
NHL.com analyst E.J. Hradek has his list of New Year's resolutions for players and front offices across the League.
The new calendar year is almost upon us. Before you can say, "Winter Classic," we'll be flipping the page to 2012.
 
With that in mind, in this edition of the Tuesday 10, I've decided to help some of the League's coaches, players and executives with their New Year's resolutions.

1
Leafs coach Ron Wilson: Fix the penalty kill

Wilson got that contract extension that he was seeking; now he's got to find a way to repair the club's badly broken penalty-killing unit. Entering Tuesday's game against the Florida Panthers, the Leafs are killing just 73.5 percent of the power-play chances against them. That ranks them dead last.
 
Bad penalty killing is nothing new in Toronto. Since the 2005-06 season, when the League resumed play, the Leafs have ranked no better than No. 24 on the PK. In the past three seasons under Wilson, Toronto ranked last twice and No. 28 last year.
 
I believe GM Brian Burke was wise to agree to an extension for Wilson. The coach can return the good will by figuring out some plan -- any plan! -- to improve this important facet of the game.
 
2
New Kings coach Darryl Sutter: Light the Lamp

Sutter wisely isn't waiting until the ball drops to put some Hollywood sizzle back into LA's offense. On Monday night, the Kings dropped a four-spot in a victory against the visiting Coyotes. It marked the first time the Silver and Black scored more than two goals in a game since Nov. 22 -- a span of 14 games.
 
Despite Monday's outburst, the Kings' 2.14 goals-per-game average still ranks last in the League.
 
If Sutter is going to get his new team into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he'll need to coax more goals from the guys on his bench.
 
3
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren: Seek out some sort of replacement for Chris Pronger

Elite defensemen like Chris Pronger are hard to find and near impossible to replace. So, unless Harry Potter's got a gig in Flyers' management, the club won't be able to magically fill the void left by Pronger.
 
Realistically, Holmgren can search the marketplace between now and the trade deadline to find a solid defenseman to help complement an already good unit.
 
The Flyers have gotten by just fine without their captain to this point. Come playoff time, though, they'll miss him plenty. Holmgren knows that. I suspect he'll do whatever he can to help upgrade his blue line before the deadline passes.
 
4
Predators D Shea Weber: Make a career decision

Weber missed Monday night's 4-1 loss to the visiting Wings with an upper-body injury. His status is uncertain at this time. The injury most likely is related to a hit administered by Stars D Mark Fistric this past Friday night.
 
Shea Weber
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 29
SOG: 106 | +/-: 14
Current health issues aside, Weber soon must make a decision about his long-term future in Music City. After several months of contract discussions, Weber likely knows what kind of money he can earn on a multi-year deal in Nashville. If those numbers aren't enough, he'll have to tell the club to start shopping him.
 
While the Predators would love to keep their captain, they should be able to get a significant return in any deal for him. Before anything, though, the Predators have to know what Weber wants to do.
 
6
New Capitals coach Dale Hunter: Find a way to get Alex Ovechkin back on track

So far, Hunter hasn't been able to find the cables to jump start his star winger. In 12 games since the coaching change, Ovechkin has totaled just 4 goals and 8 points. That's not exactly the more-than-a-point-per-game superstar we used to know and love to watch.
 
In three of the past four games, Hunter has pushed Ovechkin back over the 20-minute mark. Hunter's willingness to keep sending No. 8 over the boards might be last best way to get him back to his previous lofty heights.
 
6
The NHL and the NHLPA: Get a new CBA done

The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in September. The two sides -- the League and the Players' Association -- figure to begin discussions on a new CBA sometime in late January or early February.
 
These types of discussions -- for whatever reason -- usually push to the deadline. In this case, hockey fans can only hope the sides realize the urgency in getting something done sooner, rather than later.
 
7
Players who don't wear visors: Put one on!

C'mon guys, it's time! The speed of the game has ramped up to new levels in the past few years. A puck, a stick, a skate all can cause serious damage. If the most complete players in the game -- guys like Jarome Iginla and Sidney Crosby -- can get used to playing with a visor, everyone can do it. 
 
8
Devils coach Peter DeBoer: Stop the madness, fix the power play's risky business

Jersey's new coach has gotten off to a pretty good start in his second NHL gig. The Devils, who until very recently were without top center Travis Zajac, have found a way to gain wins and points, staying among the playoff eight in the East.
 
Still, DeBoer has to do something to repair a leaky power-play unit that's allowed a League-high 11 shorthanded goals. On Monday, Hurricanes center Brandon Sutter was the latest penalty killer to take advantage of the Devils' sloppy power play.
 
How many is 11 SHG against? Well, it's more than twice as the total of any other team in the League. And the Bruins, Kings, Hawks, Avalanche, Coyotes, Predators and Jets have combined to allow fewer. DeBoer and his coaching staff must find a solution to this irritating problem.
 
9
Wings D Nicklas Lidstrom: Start planning on continuing your wonderful career into the 2012-13 season

Nicklas Lidstrom
Defense - DET
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 22
SOG: 83 | +/-: 17
The 41-year-old Wings icon just keeps on keeping on. After winning his seventh Norris Trophy last year, Lidstrom's numbers are better this season. In 35 games, the soft-spoken Swede has 7 goals and 22 points, placing him again in the top 10 scorers among defensemen. Averaging nearly 24 minutes per game, he has a sensational plus-17 rating.
 
I don't know if he can grab his eighth Norris (only Bobby Orr has that many), but he clearly stands among the best blue liners in the game today. When you're playing that good, why skate away?
 
10
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman: Find a good young goalie

After a terrific first year in Tampa, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is experiencing the other side of the job.
 
Around this time last year, Yzerman swung a sweet deal that landed him veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson. The 42-year-old led the Bolts to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals.
 
This season, Roloson has struggled to find his form, playing to a sub-par .883 save percentage in 18 appearances. The club's No. 2 man, Mathieu Garon, has been a bit better with a .902 mark. Neither goalie, however, has been able to hold the crease for longer than a few games at a time.
 
Going forward, Yzerman needs to focus his attention (and I'm sure he quietly has been) on finding a strong younger goaltender to work behind his team. That goalie might be someone currently in their system or he might have to swing a deal, but the Bolts need someone that can grow with the team.
 
In retrospect, they probably would have been better off making a stronger push to re-sign Mike Smith, who left for Phoenix as a free agent this past summer. Moving forward, Yzerman needs to make his goaltending a top priority.
Quote of the Day

It was pretty unbelievable...I think (my family in France) is pretty much in front of the TV right now. I don't think I have to wake them up.

— 29-year-old Flyers forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare after scoring his first NHL goal
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