The Hockey News holiday gift exchange is not unlike the NHL season itself: plenty of surprises, both good and bad.
The main difference is, we set our salary cap at $20 per gift, so even if you donate a considerate, useful present to the pile only to unwrap four cans of beans, an Archie comic and a roll of toilet paper for yourself, the sting is still quite bearable.
NHL teams spending in excess of $50 million on salaries are understandably a little more concerned with what they get in return. Some must feel they’re getting fair (in relative terms) value for their money; others, not so much.
Either way, everybody deserves something from Santa’s sack of goodies this season. Here’s what I think the Sleigh Man has in mind for each NHL club:
Anaheim Ducks – The quiet confidence to turn the page and move on from the loud, successful Brian Burke era.
Atlanta Thrashers – A reality check, so they can finally embrace the fact Ilya Kovalchuk won’t be a Thrasher beyond next season and act accordingly.
Boston Bruins – The address of every pundit who picked the Bruins to be an also-ran this year, just so Milan Lucic can go door to door, asking a few friendly questions.
Buffalo Sabres – A team stylist who begs them to wear those awesome, vintage blue and yellow jerseys every time out.
Calgary Flames – Even more Iggy pop.
Carolina Hurricanes – Some indication as to whether 2006 will ever send them the Eric Staal and Cam Ward they so desperately miss.
Chicago Blackhawks – The perspective to admire how far they’ve come and the determination to see the whole thing through.
Colorado Avalanche – Not Peter Forsberg. For the love of God, not Peter Forsberg.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Just one more year of grace while these kids keep developing.
Dallas Stars – Something to make ‘The Pain’ go away.
Detroit Red Wings – Just a little note reminding them they’re still the defending champs and that, deep down inside, every NHL team still fears them the most.
Edmonton Oilers – An early start on mimicking last year’s incredible late-season push.
Florida Panthers – A homerun when Jay Bouwmeester is dealt.
Los Angeles Kings – A couple more quiet pickups that turn out as well as Kyle Quincey has.
Minnesota Wild – A healthy Marian Gaborik, so they can trade him and move on with life.
Montreal Canadiens – Half the hype and twice the results of the season so far.
Nashville Predators – A fresh pack of re-enforced sticks so Shea Weber can keep firing bombs.
New Jersey Devils – One more playoff run with a rested Martin Brodeur in net.
New York Islanders – An Island unto themselves where they can sit down and sort out this whole mess.
New York Rangers – A break. They’ve played more games than everybody and been to Europe already.
Ottawa Senators – The courage to trade Jason Spezza.
Philadelphia Flyers – Santa is actually going to take a player away from Philly because they’re so freakin’ good shorthanded.
Phoenix Coyotes – That No. 8 seed to legitimize this team’s progression and give fans an actual reason to like hockey.
Pittsburgh Penguins – The Art Ross and Hart for Malkin, the Conn Smythe for Sid.
St. Louis Blues – Assurance that if they stay the course, relevance is right around the corner.
San Jose Sharks – Twenty-three factory-defect calendars, so when April rolls around, all the players think it’s October.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Somebody else’s blueprint for success.
Toronto Maple Leafs – A whole bunch of suitcases cause change is a-comin’.
Vancouver Canucks – The knowledge that with their style of game and Roberto Luongo in net, they’re Canada’s best playoff hope.
Washington Capitals – Santa’s just going to ask Ovie to hop on the sleigh and tour around the world, spreading joy to all.
Top Shelf will return Jan. 7.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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