It’s the holiday season and we here at the 4th Line are in a giving mood. We figured we’d share this generosity with the NHL teams and bring a little joy in these turbulent times. As we’re still negotiating a 4th Line merch deal, let’s see what else Santa Gritty has under the tree in the Metro Division:
Cap Relief: Like a lot of teams with COVID issues the Canes have been hit, losing many of their top players, and could use some help from the league. They’re a strong contender, provided Freddy Andersen doesn’t get haunted by the ghosts of playoffs past, and they pulled off a minor miracle in beating the Red Wings down most of their top players Thursday (Sorry Nick). But, every point matters, and this extremely competitive division could come down to home ice advantage, and if they fall behind because of this situation, it could be detrimental to a log playoff run.
A PR Firm: After going for broke a few years ago, and sacrifice futures to do so, the Blue Jackets are supposed to be a last place team, clinging to the dregs of the league. An outpost where no one wants to go. Player after player has left for seemingly greener pastures (as a Sens fan I sympathize and am ardently familiar….) and yet they manage to hang around every year in that playoff fringe. Players who’ve played there speak highly of the city and the organization, so why don’t we get them somebody who call sell the city as a viable option and help them acquire some talent who’ll finally stick around and help them develop into a legitimate contender rather than an Expos like farm team for the rest of the league.
Draft Picks: They’re playing well below expectations and fired their coach. On the plus side, Santa may have a little more room in his bag as for once he doesn’t have to deliver all new goalie equipment. Carter Hart has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season, and with a core that is a mix of young and old guys, it’s time for Philly to embrace a sort of rebuild, though not a complete tear down (as I’m not sure most Philly sports fans can’t spell patience). They moved on from Jakub Voracek, Shayne Gostisbehere, and with their captain Claude Giroux a pending UFA, perhaps that time has come as well. The smartest move here would likely be to acquire some prospects and younger players for their veteran stars as they transition from the Giroux era to that of the next generation.
Name Tags: Once again the Penguins roster has been a revolving door. Evgeni Malkin hasn’t yet played, and the likes of Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust, Jeff Carter & Jake Guentzel have missed time with injuries or COVID. Evan Rodrigues was leading the charge at centre for a bit, and yet Steve Sullivan and co. have managed to stay right in the thick of it. Sidney Crosby is over a point a game and Tristan Jarry is having a solid bounce back from whatever shooter tutor impression that was against the Islanders last post season. If they can manage to get everyone back and healthy (and no doubt Brian Burke will add some truculence at the deadline) they could be a force in the East.
New Jersey Devils
Depth Scoring: They already have their new, Jersey, jerseys, so what to get this rebuilding team? Well, some offence would be nice. They’ve managed to score by committee thus far, without a single player at a point per game pace, and eventually in the ultra-competitive Metro Division, that’ll catch up with you. Jack Hughes returning should help shoulder the load, and Dougie Hamilton has generally done his part to live up to the big contract, but if they want to make the playoffs, everyone needs to improve. Mackenzie Blackwood’s GAA is just north of 3 and his save % just .904, so, yeah…little help…
New York Islanders
The Time Stone: Consecutive conference final appearances, a game away from going to the Stanley Cup Final, a brand new arena, solid goalie tandem, and one of the best coaches in the league. What do you get for the team that seemingly has it all? Well…The Isles season has been anything but what they expected, and, seeing as we can’t count on Lou’s heart growing three sizes ala the Grinch, with Dr. Strange making his return to the MCU in the latest Spider-Man outing, perhaps he could help cast some sort of spell to rerun them to stalwart defensive, structured unit they once were.
New York Rangers
Structure: The Rangers are a fun, freewheeling team who have been much improved this year under new coach Gerrard Gallant. They have a bevy of talented young players, including a few who’ve yet to realize that potential, and a fantastic offence. That said, they give up a shots like a bartender at spring break, including many high danger chances. Thus, understandably the backbone of this impressive start has generally been the Vezina caliber play of Igor Shesterkin. He’s provided them with a chance to win every night, and if they want to have a deep playoff run, and keep their star net-minder from breaking down they may want to help out more in their own end. After all, there’s no I in team. Though there is in Igor, so…
Centrum 50+: For years now we’ve heard the Caps window is closing, father time is undefeated, and this ageing core will eventually fade off into mediocrity in their ship made of empty 2018 Championship Bud Light cans. Well, I’m not sure what they’re putting in Alex Ovechkin‘s water bottle other than Pepsi, but this veteran group is putting up great number early in the season (and getting Nick Backstrom back). While time will tell if the rigors of the season will eventually wear them down, and if either of their young net-minders is prepared to make a legitimate playoff run, let’s make sure they’re properly supplemented.