2015-16 NHL Wish Lists for Santa: Western Conference

Each team in the Western Conference could use a little Christmas cheer with a gift to end 2015.

As the 2015-16 NHL season heads towards the halfway mark, each team could use some help getting over the hump or getting back on track.

Here is what each team in the Western Conference could use in the immediate future.

Anaheim Ducks – Scoring Depth

What a difference a year makes. Ryan Getzlaf has fallen off the face of the earth. After averaging 0.97 goals per 60 minutes in 2014-15, he is averaging 0.11 in 2015-16 (he has one goal in 28 games). No player on the team has scored double-digit goals. The players depended on to score are aging poorly, and Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler are signed through at least 2021.

Arizona Coyotes – Defensive Defenseman

The three players with their heads above even in Corsi For percentage (CF%) are starting less than 30 percent of their draws in the defensive zone. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a special offensive talent, but no one expects him to carry a defensive corps on both ends of the ice. Arizona needs to bring in players who can stay somewhat close to even in possession while showing some defensive skill. The Coyotes are giving up 3.17 goals per 60 minutes.

Calgary Flames – Restart Button

The Calgary Flames were a playoff team last season, and while they sit one point out of a playoff spot in the pathetic Pacific Division, the team’s negative-22 goal differential shows the drop off from last season and why this team needs an overhaul. The back end needs the most work, as defensemen Kris Russell and Ladislav Smid's play have fallen off a cliff, and Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio have combined for an 88.88 save percentage. Ramo’s 90.87 save percentage is the best of the trio. Circling back to defensemen falling off, Dennis Wideman’s CF% is 49.5 despite starting 41.8 percent of the time in the offensive zone. 

Chicago Blackhawks – Second-Pair Defenseman

Duncan Keith may be a robot, and Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson are excellent defensemen, but after that, the blueline in Chicago is bad. Trevor van Riemsdyk is an offensive-minded, third-pair D-man disguised as a top-four who is getting waxed nightly. His 47.3 CF% would be much worse if he wasn’t spending so much time with Hjalmarsson. Chicago just dumped Trevor Daley on Pittsburgh and got the Penguins to eat some of his deal. Look for Chicago to use the $1.3 million in cap space to acquire another defenseman before their scheduled playoff push.

Colorado Avalanche – Top-Pair Defenseman

Erik Johnson is miscast as a number-one defenseman and is being forced to carry around the corpse of Francois Beauchemin. Add on that the pair starts over 40% of their faceoffs in their zone, and things get ugly quickly. Outside of Tyson Barrie’s upside, the Avs' blueline needs a complete overhaul.

Dallas Stars – Defensive Defenseman

To be honest, Dallas is in the best shape in the Western Conference. Age may be a factor on the blueline, but the addition of another defensive-minded D-man could be the tweak needed to keep the team afloat in the playoffs. Defense tends to stand out in the playoffs, and the Stars will challenge most defenses. Adding another defenseman to slow down top scoring lines would benefit Dallas. Riding the hot hand between Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi will work now, but one of them will needs to take the reigns in the playoffs. Dallas’ 91.16 save percentage is in the middle of the pack in the league. 

Edmonton Oilers – Defensive Defenseman

The Oilers are showing signs of life on offense, but the blue line has little to show suppressing opposing offenses. 10 Oilers defensemen have positive Corsi For percentages playing 5-on-5, and one of them, Nikita Nikitin, has played five games. Oscar Klefbom and Justin Schultz are barely treading water, and Brandon Davidson is a positive player while being sheltered in the offensive zone (33.5% Offensive Faceoff Zone Start). Darnell Nurse has the opportunity to be a solid offensive defenseman but is getting buried in his own zone. He leads Oiler rearguards with a 5.08 shooting percentage and is sporting a 43.5 CF% at even strength, worst among the group. Nurse is starting 33.4 percent of his faceoffs in the defensive zone, tied for third highest among Oiler blueliners.

Los Angeles Kings – Supplemental Scoring

The Kings are locked in for another playoff push and can get fat on a poor Pacific Division. L.A. has three players with sub-50 CF%, that’s it. At this point, adding supplemental scoring should be all they need to stay in contention in the Western Conference. It would also help to see players such as Marian Gaborik (seven goals in 32 games) get on a scoring streak to take pressure off of ‘That 70’s Line.’

Minnesota Wild – A New Division

The Wild are caught in the bloodbath that is the Central Division. It seems like each year they show signs of improvement, meet the Blackhawks in the playoffs, and disappear. They’re top-10 in goals for and against per 60 minutes, and Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper are playing well in net. At this point, the team has to find a way to make a lengthy playoff run, add a truly dynamic player, or hope for realignment.

Nashville Predators – Forward Scoring

Scoring has been the issue in Nashville for their inception in 1997. Shea Weber, Roman Josi and the Nashville defensemen account for 31 percent of the team’s goals. Weber and Josi are second and third on the team in goals scored, respectively. Nashville has three players averaging 0.85 goals per 60 minutes played. To compare, the Dallas Stars -- the best scoring team in the NHL -- have seven.

San Jose Sharks – Goaltending

Martin Jones has been okay in his first opportunity to start full-time. His 91.54 save percentage is okay but could be better. Alex Stalock has been brutal in his usual backup role. San Jose is allowing 2.70 goals per 60 minutes despite a semblance of defensive presence in their zone. Paul Martin (45.6 CF%), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (49.4) and Justin Braun (44.8) have been more than respectable, spending majority of their time in the defensive zone. Martin’s issue is that he is losing a step and should not be asked to help carry the corps in their zone.

St. Louis Blues – Number-One Goalie

This has plagued the Blues for a number of years. Jake Allen and Brian Elliott are good goalies, and it appears as if Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock is leaning more on Allen, but neither has been able to carry the load for extended periods of time. Now should be the time to let Allen try and carry the Blues or get a true workhorse goalie.

Vancouver Canucks – Youth 

Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Radim Vrbata, Alexander Edler and  Dan Hamhuis have seen their best days go by, and the rest of the team in Vancouver has not shown much in the way of talent to get excited about. Jannik Hansen is the best of the youth movement as we speak, but Jake Virtanen and Bo Horvat will need to step up sooner than later to help bridge any gap between the two generations on the Canucks roster.

Winnipeg Jets – Contracts

Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba are marquee names that need new paper. It is safe to say one of Ladd and Byfuglien will be gone, and the sooner a trade or contract is agreed upon, the better for a franchise stuck in neutral. 

(Salary cap info from General Fanager and advanced statistics from Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.)