by Mike Chen on 11/20/08 at 01:52 PM ET
I saw this headline from the boss this morning regarding the second-to-last-place Ottawa Senators but I’m not pushing the panic button yet on any team, not even the St. Louis Blues. Put it this way: ten years ago, if I told you your team was two games under .500 and three points out of a playoff spot, would you panic? Probably not, but because of the gradual increase of parity in the league over the past decade, that sort of record will put you in the cellar.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the traffic jam in front of a team with that record is closer than you think. So standings aren’t a reason to panic yet, not for Ottawa, St. Louis, Florida, or any other team finding them in the lower half of the leagues standings. What are genuine reasons to panic?
If you’re a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning, you look at goals-for. When you’re barely scrapping past two goals a game, that’s a problem.
If you’re a team like the Dallas Stars, you look at goaltending. When your goalie’s “improvement” is reducing his goals-against from 3.9 to 3.4, that’s a problem.
If you’re a team like the Ottawa Senators, you look at secondary scoring. When your secondary scorers are all bunched in the 4-6 point range, that’s a problem.
If you’re a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets, you look at special teams. When your power play is barely scrapping the bottom of the barrel and a sniper like Rick Nash isn’t producing, that’s a problem.
If you’re a team like the New Jersey Devils, you look at primary scoring. When you can’t rely on Martin Brodeur to steal games, players like Patrik Elias need to step up. When they don’t, that’s a problem.
Even if you’re winning games like the Minnesota Wild, you still have to look at problems with putting the puck in the net. Minnesota’s got a ridiculous 31 goals against in 16 games; that means in 82 games, they’re projected to only let in 155 or so goals. Do you think they’ll be able to keep that up? They better because they’re not scoring at a much higher clip. Any sort of defensive breakdown will mean the Wild’s thin line of success will break.
It’s all about trends right now, not actuals. The bad trends in certain areas are what will kill you in the long run, but there’s enough time to fix them. The issue, of course, is how to fix that without removing any assets from your roster.
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