Thanks to a highly-placed source at the North Pole, we were able to uncover some of the gifts Santa Claus left under the trees of some needy NHLers this year.
Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks: New hands. The veteran centre had just one goal – an empty-netter! – through his first 29 games this season. That leaves the 30-year-old on pace to score three goals this season. When you consider he didn’t score a goal in his final 11 playoff games last season, this is some drought.
Jonathan Bernier of the Toronto Maple Leafs: Intestinal fortitude. Nobody doubts Bernier has the talent to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, but his inability to pick himself up from a bad goal is holding him back.
Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings: Recognition as the NHL’s best defenceman. As is the case with Chicago Blackhawks centre Jonathan Toews, Doughty’s value is not wrapped up in how many points he produces. Rather, it is about how he dominates both ends of the ice, controls the pace of the game, dishes out physical punishment and produces at the right time.
Ryan Johansen of the Columbus Blue Jackets: A video of his best plays from the previous two seasons. Thought to be a rising star in the NHL when he recorded back-to-back seasons of 63 and 71 points seasons, Johansen has been stumbling and bumbling this season to the point where he was a much-deserved healthy scratch at one point. At 23 years old, better days surely lie ahead.
Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning: A contract solution. The impending unrestricted free agent needs to know where his future lies. Either re-sign with the Lightning or move on to another team. Stamkos may say his uncertain future is not affecting his play, but his numbers suggest otherwise. He has just 11 goals and 25 points in 35 games and is minus-6.
Raffi Torres of the San Jose Sharks: A guide on how to play hockey in 2016. Currently serving a 41-game suspension for an illegal check to the head during the preseason, Torres needs to find a way to play physically, but within the rules of the game. His last discrepancy caused him to lose $440,860.29 in salary.
Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins: His second wind. Quite frankly Sid the Kid looks exhausted on too many nights. It is hard to imagine he has hit the wall at 28 years old, but his play this season has been frightening. Crosby has just six goals and 22 points in 32 games and he’s minus-6. Perhaps most horrifying is the fact he has been held pointless in 17 games.
Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens: Good health. Without the backbone to their team, the Montreal Canadiens have been plummeting with five straight losses. If nothing else, it proves the Canadiens still rely far too heavily on their goalie and if they are to be legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, GM Marc Bergevin needs to get busy and supply Price with more high-level depth.
Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings: A higher profile. Playing in an organization that likes to coddle its prospects, the Red Wings have leaned hard on the 19-year-old Larkin who is proving to be not only the best rookie in the NHL, but a solid frontline performer as well.
Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals: A long playoff run. While it is true Ovechkin has been a player for the ages, he has yet to escape the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Still producing at a decent level, Ovechkin is playing more of a team game now that suggests he’ll do whatever it takes to find playoff success.
Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs: An identity. Kadri was put on report by the Maple Leafs last summer when they offered him only a one-year contract. That was largely due to a lack of off-ice commitment to his career. This season Kadri is putting in the work and has been complimented frequently by his coach, Mike Babcock. However, the numbers are not there to warrant a massive raise of long-term deal.
Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers: His two front teeth. I couldn’t resist.