NHL January 2023 Review
A trade, an ousting, and an uprising took center stage in the final full month before the All-Star Break
January means the beginning of a new year on the calendar, but in the NHL, it's the last chance for teams to make some positive noise before the All-Star Break hits. While this review does feature one team from each of the four divisions, for this month, they all have something in common: they are all behind the playoff line. While being out of the loop is a negative, I assure you, not all four of these stories are downers. With that said, here are the four teams who stood out in January.
Shuffle Off to Buffalo
The last time the Buffalo Sabres reached the playoffs was in 2011. Think about how long ago that was. The Vegas Golden Knights and the Seattle Kraken hadn't existed yet. The Atlanta Thrashers were still around, though they would move to Winnipeg on the following season. Players such as Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, and Connor McDavid weren't in the league yet. The Sabres have the longest current playoff drought in the NHL, though some semblance of hope for that drought to end came, ironically, when they traded Jack Eichel to the Golden Knights last season. This season, that hope has increased, as while the Sabres are behind the playoff line, it's not by much.
The team leader, of course, has been Tage Thompson, who has 68 points (34 of each) this season. That total not only leads the team, it's actually fifth in the entire league! Only Nikita Kucherov, David Pastrnak, and Edmonton's dynamic duo (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) have more. Rasmus Dahlin's 55 points (14 G/41 A) are second on the team, while Alex Tuch (one of the players received in the Eichel trade) is close behind Dahlin with 54. The Sabres have suffered for over a decade as Buffalo's black sheep; the NFL's Bills thrived, but the Sabres continue to suffer. We may see some joy come to this team this season.
An Island Upon Themselves
The New York Islanders have baffled me this season. Last year, they missed the playoffs after back-to-back years in the Final Four. Now they had justifiable excuses; for one, starting the season on the road for a month because the new building wasn't ready yet. Then the injury bug plagued them, as well as COVID. Despite all of this, the Isles still had a winning record, but despite the fact that this was the first time they missed the playoffs under coach Barry Trotz, they ousted the very coach who turned them into a powerhouse. Here it is, a season later, and the Islanders have problems. Maybe it wasn't the coach.
The Islanders should be happy that the Flyers and Blue Jackets exist, because they're the only two teams making the Isles look good in the Metro. The Isles are sixth in the division and they are behind the playoff line, and it's mainly because they can't score. 46 points leads the team, and no surprise, it's Brock Nelson with that number. However, the Isles made some noise in the past month, as they received Bo Horvat in a trade with the Canucks. That could definitely solve their offense problems, but the second half will determine whether or not Horvat helps the Isles.
A Juuse Cleanse in Nashville
The Nashville Predators are quite an interesting team, but the team has been struggling this season. Though they were (barely) part of the Sweet 16 last year, it does look like they're in danger of missing the playoffs. At the moment, they are three points behind the playoff line, and while they do have a chance to climb out of the hole they're in, it's been tough. A lot of the Preds' mistakes are self-inflicted. For one, they are still undisciplined. Granted, they are not leading the league in penalty minutes like last year, but they are in the top 10 in PIMs, and that causes wear and tear on a team's penalty kill. Another main problem is a simple one: without Juuse Saros, they're screwed.
A lot of Preds games I've seen are basically Saros having to stand on his head and become superhuman to keep the team alive. Nashville's offense has been suspect this season. 41 points lead this team, and it's a tie between Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi for that top spot on the team. Nobody on the Preds has 20 goals entering the break; Forsberg leads with 19 goals. They absolutely need Saros to basically be what their last Finnish superstar netminder, Pekka Rinne, was 6-7 years ago. January 5 proved that, as Saros had 64, count 'em, 64 saves in a 5-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes. That was a franchise record. He can't do this all the time, though. The Preds need to fix their problems within the next three months, or their playoff streak will come to an end.
Bruce, There It Was
You know, my feelings about the Vancouver Canucks have always been complicated. I respectfully hated them back when the Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche were rivals in the Northwest Division. Then the Steve Moore incident happened, and I spent over a decade despising that team, mainly because of how the league mishandled Todd Bertuzzi's suspension. My hatred slowly dissolved in recent years, mainly because of the Canucks' surprise run in the 2020 bubble. I was actually looking for good things for them, and I was happy when they hired Bruce Boudreau as their head coach last November.
Then the Canucks pull this shit.
So Bruce Boudreau was fired as the team's coach on January 22. The thing is, we all knew for weeks that he'd be gone. Even worse, Boudreau knew, because general manager Jim Rutherford basically went public with his plans to hire Rick Tocchet, who had been working as a studio analyst for TNT. Despite this, they traipsed Boudreau out there like nothing was happening, and we see him get emotional as he knows his end is near as far as his position goes. What they did to Boudreau was absolutely shady and trashy. Even the Vegas Golden Knights aren't that damn low. And just over a week later, they trade Bo Horvat to the Isles for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty, and a conditional 1st-round draft pick in the 2023 NHL Draft--but they would only get that pick if it's not in the top 12. The Canucks are way behind in the Western Conference, that team's not going anywhere this season, and they have only themselves to blame.
The 2022-23 NHL season has two and a half months left. February will feature the annual All-Star Game, but the rest of the month will serve as the final few weeks before NHL March Madness, that home stretch to the playoffs. It's also a short month as well, but it should be immensely sweet!
Thanks for reading my review; feel free to leave a comment below! If you like it, click the heart and click subscribe if you want more, and feel free to leave a tip or pledge (if you want)!
Great review. Thanks for sharing. Yeah, the Canucks are screwed.
I am hoping for the Buffalo Sabres, not keeping my finger cross . Thanks for your insights 💗