At the quarter mark of the season, the wheels have begun turning for many general managers. Enough time has passed in the 2019-20 campaign to tell whether a team can contend as currently constructed or not. The standings at the end of November are usually a strong indicator of where teams will end up at the conclusion of the regular season and a number of clubs will not be happy with where they currently sit. The New York Islanders, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, and Edmonton Oilers hold the five best records in the NHL and may be content to wait for the NHL Trade Deadline to make a move, but others are already feeling the pressure to do so as soon as possible.
The two biggest disappointments of the season so far are easily the Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames. The Flames were the regular season champs of the Western Conference with 107 points, while the Leafs were a 100-point team themselves. Yet, the struggle for both squads seemingly started in last year’s playoffs with frustrating first-round exits. Toronto again fell victim to the rival Boston Bruins, while Calgary was stunned in five games by the eight-seeded Colorado Avalanche. Both teams entered the new season with something to prove but have only found more disappointment. The Flames and Maple Leafs are shockingly just .500 teams through 20+ games apiece, with each riding a significant losing streak. Neither team has any cap space available, but are in desperate need of a shake-up nonetheless. The Leafs seem to be lacking an edge defensively (and could also use a goalie), while Calgary’s offense is third-worst in the league.
However, is maintaining relevance more important than finally achieving it? Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but after strong starts to the season, the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks appear to be tailing off yet again. Buffalo was electric to begin the year, just as they were in 2018-19, but are just 2-6-2 in their past ten games and would miss the playoffs if they started today. That would make it a league-worst nine years in a row without postseason hockey for the Sabres, who somehow need to find a way to stay consistent over the course of a season, especially in the Atlantic Division. A new addition up front would go a long way for Buffalo. The Canucks are doing a slightly better job, still holding down the third spot in the Pacific Division, but they are far from safe at their current pace. Vancouver’s .571 points percentage is just 16th in the league and the team is trending in the wrong direction, winning just three of their past ten contests. With the aforementioned Flames, the Vegas Golden Knights, and the red-hot San Jose Sharks on their heels, Vancouver cannot afford to let this lapse in play continue. Another missed postseason would make it five in a row. A veteran leader in the locker room who can also make an impact on the ice would be a major addition for the young Canucks.
Which one of these four teams most needs to make a trade to shake things up and get back to their winning ways? Or is there another team under pressure whose needs are even more immediate? Vote below and support your selection in the comments.
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