With New Year’s Day and the 2019 Winter Classic around the corner, here’s how every team can improve
- by Cody Benjamin
- moments ago • 1 min read
Forget the party hats, the champagne and the ball drops. You know what’s really great about New Year’s?
You know, those things we all forget about until Dec. 31, then swear we’ll live by until … the 15th of January?
Maybe the gym memberships, no-sugar diets and smartphone detoxes won’t last. But resolutions can still be handy, at least for identifying areas to improve. And sports are no exception.
The NHL, in particular, has a special relationship with the new year thanks to its annual Winter Classic, a Jan. 1 showcase that, in 2019, pits the Boston Bruins against the Chicago Blackhawks outside at Notre Dame Stadium (1 p.m. ET, available on fuboTV). And what better way to mark a fresh start than the 2019 Winter Classic? The Bruins and Blackhawks are currently on opposite ends of the spectrum, and New Year’s Day will serve as an opportunity for each to carve a new path forward.
Chicago had long been one of the league’s most formidable contenders, but since last season, they’ve been on a downward trajectory and now boast the NHL’s worst goal differential. If anything, the Winter Classic allows them a chance to enter the new year with pride — and then embrace their rebuild. Boston, meanwhile, is right in the thick of the playoff race despite a rash of early season injuries. They’ve been subpar away from home, however, so taking one at Notre Dame Stadium would be a plus going into 2019.
In the spirit of the fast-approaching new year, we’ve got resolutions for all 31 teams in this week’s edition of NHL power rankings:
|1||Lightning||Save some of this for the spring. No one is even close to doing what these guys are doing right now. All they need to do is stay the course.||—||28-7|
|2||Maple Leafs||Lock up the young guns. This season is off to a tremendous start, so the only thing that’ll derail 2019 is if Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner get gypped.||—||25-10|
|3||Jets||Tap into last season’s Connor Hellebuyck. If that happens, they instantly become Western favorites.||—||24-10|
|4||Capitals||Figure out the penalty kill. It didn’t work for most of their Stanley Cup season, but they started going on a serious run once they improved.||2||22-10|
|5||Flames||Possess the puck. Easier said than done, but their top-five forwards cannot do it all.||1||22-12|
|6||Predators||Get healthy. (Now there’s a New Year’s resolution!) They’ve always had great depth, but it can only be tested so much.||1||22-13|
|7||Sharks||Finish games. They’re now 0-3 in shootouts and have lost two in a row in overtime.||—||19-12|
|8||Sabres||Mine for depth. Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner have been awesome, but beyond them, the results have been lacking.||—||21-11|
|9||Blue Jackets||Feed Sergei Bobrovsky whatever he’s been eating the last few weeks.||4||21-12|
|10||Bruins||Embrace the road trips. They’ve weathered the injury storm just fine, but they’re still losing twice as many games as they’re winning away from home.||1||20-13|
|11||Penguins||Let Sid be Sid. Cliche, maybe, but somehow, their depth always comes alive down the stretch alongside Mr. Crosby.||7||18-12|
|12||Golden Knights||Take a breather. Did you know that Marc-Andre Fleury is completely outworking all other NHL goalies in terms of total minutes, as are most of their forwards? Let’s hope they stay healthy.||—||20-15|
|13||Avalanche||Find someone not on the first line to do some scoring.||4||19-12|
|14||Canadiens||Do something on defense. One week, it’s Carey Price breaking down again. Another, it’s the blue-liners faltering. If they’re actually making a playoff run, changes are necessary.||2||19-13|
|15||Ducks||For crying out loud, give John Gibson some goal insurance.||5||19-14|
|16||Islanders||Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! To keep hanging around even in the middle of the pack, they have to get the puck toward the net.||1||18-13|
|17||Stars||Start faster. Their first-period scoring (or lack thereof) has been well documented, and it’s clearly hurting them.||3||18-16|
|18||Canucks||Lean all in on your young talent. Because what else can you do without mortgaging future draft picks? At least Elias Pettersson is that dude.||2||17-18|
|19||Wild||Move on from Matt Dumba. That sounds cold, but this team was already slumping offensively. They need to reassess (and maybe pursue) options now.||—||17-15|
|20||Oilers||Correct the transition game. It’s way off, and some of that is due to injuries, but it’d at least help mask their poor depth behind the stars.||5||18-15|
|21||Panthers||How about actually building around Aleksander Barkov for 2019-20?||2||15-14|
|22||Coyotes||Just give in and let this franchise finally be sold so we can move on and start talking about what they do and don’t do on the ice.||2||16-18|
|23||Hurricanes||Wear the Whalers uniforms forever.||1||15-15|
|24||Rangers||Invite every other team’s general manager into your office to discuss who they’d like to trade for.||3||15-14|
|25||Flyers||Do everything in your power to protect Carter Hart. This kid’s the real deal, and he just so happens to fill a position they needed the most.||2||15-16|
|26||Red Wings||Forget that little autumn run and turn your attention back to the rebuild. This is still a process.||1||15-17|
|27||Blues||Go big or go home when it comes time to trade. They’re simultaneously close to being playoff material and close to being blown up.||1||14-16|
|28||Devils||Pull the plug on Cory Schneider.||1||12-16|
|29||Kings||Ride Ilya Kovalchuk until you no longer can. Nothing else is going to make this season as fun as it can be.||1||14-20|
|30||Senators||Retain Matt Duchene. Even after the rebuild, he’ll be a key veteran to have around.||4||15-18|
|31||Blackhawks||Kill penalties and help the goalies. It’s amazing how much something as simple as this would help their chances, even during a rebuild.||—||13-20|
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