It’s 2019. Not exactly a fresh start for NHL teams in the midst of the 2018-19 season. But it is time to take inventory and decide how to move forward.
Here are things we do not want to see in 2019:
Edmonton Oilers missing the playoffs: While there are plenty of elite players to entertain us, if you love the sport, you, at the very least, want to start the postseason with Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid in the mix.
Toronto Maple Leafs starting the playoffs without a new top-four defenseman: As soon as William Nylander (two points in 11 games) regains his form after settling a long contract dispute, general manager Kyle Dubas needs to get on the phone with Carolina’s Don Waddell and make a deal for a defenseman happen. They might need to give up Kasperi Kapanen, which no one wants to do, but the Maple Leafs can’t put all of their money into forwards and not upgrade their defense.
Declining scoring: Since the start of 2017-18 season, scoring is up 9.5%. As Nashville Predators general manager David Poile said early this season, we’ve gone from 3-2 hockey to 4-3 hockey. That’s perfect. This is where we want to be. Plenty of scoring chances. Enough goals. Strong enough defense to keep coaches happy. Let’s not over-analyze this.
Tom Wilson in trouble again: The Wilson bad boy story has grown wearisome. Wilson is valuable to the Washington Capitals beyond his intimidation aura. Hopefully, he has learned his lesson and we won't see any irresponsible hits that will put him in front of the department of player safety.
NHL trade deadline to be a dud: Remember how torturous last year’s deadline was? The NHL trade deadline, scheduled this year for 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 25, is supposed to be a highlight of the sports calendar, like Christmas with everyone receiving a gift or two. Contenders get players and lower-rung teams receive hope for the future. We will need players like Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, Jake Muzzin, Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Howard and Wayne Simmonds to be dealt to make it a real party. Let’s hope we haven’t entered an era where GMs are going to act responsibly on trade deadline day.
Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel playing sub-par: Kessel has been hot of late (nine points in his last three games), but they really him and Malkin in a high level of consistency. If that happens, the Penguins could be the sleeper of the 2019 playoffs. Yes, it does seem ludicrous to view the Penguins as a sleeper. They are only 19 months removed from winning back-to-back titles. But there is so much focus on the Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning (for good reason) that it's easy to overlook the fact the Penguins have won six in a row and still have the talent necessary for a title run, especially with Kris Letang and Crosby playing at the levels they are. Don't forget that injured defenseman Justin Schultz eventually will return, and Bryan Rust has increased his production.
Coach Barry Trotz missing the playoffs: At the start of the season, didn't you think it would be fun if Trotz's New York Islanders met his former team, the Capitals, in the first round of the playoffs? That's still on the table, folks.
Discussion threads about Jack Hughes' lack of size: The American-born presumptive No. 1 draft pick is 5-10 and change, which makes him roughly the same size as Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau and Cam Atkinson. Those three American-born players have combined for 67 goals and we haven't yet reached the season's halfway point.
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