We have one more night of games left and then it's time for the NHL's three day freeze for Christmas. As is always the case, we've seen a lot of compelling storylines emerge over the course of the 2014-15 campaign and they've raised numerous questions that will slowly be answered for us after the break.
To put a spotlight on that, today we're highlighting 10 questions worth remembering.
1) Are the Detroit Red Wings serious Cup contenders again?
Just a year ago, the question was if the Red Wings' playoff streak was coming to an end, but Detroit has taken a big step forward in 2014-15. It helps that the Wings are relatively healthy after losing a franchise-record 421 man games to injuries last season, but they've also seen their younger players like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, and Riley Sheahan grow into roles with the team. Detroit is currently in the midst of a six-game losing streak, but they still look like a potential dark horse contender for the championship.
2) Does Martin Brodeur have enough left to make him a factor this season?
The St. Louis Blues signed Brodeur to help fill the void during Brian Elliott's (lower body) absence and so far he's been a mixed bag. He had two strong starts against the Islanders and Panthers, but he allowed six goals in his last outing against Los Angeles. There's no doubt that his best days are behind him, but it remains to be seen if he can be reliable enough to be regarded as a solid choice on any given night.
3) Will Columbus still make the playoffs?
The Blue Jackets went into the summer with a lot of optimism after their strong first-round showing against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they've been brutalized by injuries so far this season. Early on it looked like those injuries would get the best of them, but their 5-1 loss to Nashville on Monday ended an impressive 8-0-1 stretch. The Blue Jackets are seven points out of a playoff spot, which puts them at a significant, but not insurmountable disadvantage. If Sergei Bobrovsky's at the top of his game and Columbus gets a bit luckier, this team could still pull off an incredible comeback.
The Nashville Predators have been searching for a top-tier skilled forward for years and they seem to finally have their man in Forsberg. Through 32 games, the 20-year-old has 13 goals and 32 points. That puts him on pace to be the first rookie since Malkin to reach the 80-point mark (Malkin had 85 points in 78 contests). Nashville naturally has to be thrilled that the Capitals made the head scratching decision to trade Forsberg for Martin Erat and Michael Latta.
Going into this season, the Sabres looked like a potentially historically bad team and early on they largely confirmed people's worst suspicions about them. A run of 10 wins in 13 games from Nov. 15 through Dec. 15 has changed their standing though as they currently sit eight points ahead of the last place Edmonton Oilers. You have to wonder if the Sabres actually did themselves a disservice as they're still long shots to even make the playoffs, but now the chances of them securing a potential franchise cornerstone in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft have been reduced.
6) Can Tyler Seguin reach the 60-goal mark?
He's on pace to with 25 goals in 32 games and it's not so farfetched given his skill level combined with the support of Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza. A 60-goal campaign is rare in the salary cap era, but far from unheard of. Alex Ovechkin had 65 goals in 2007-08 and Stamkos hit the 60-goal mark in 2011-12.
7) Will Boston make a major trade?
You know who could use a goal scorer of Seguin's caliber? The Boston Bruins. That little jab aside, it is true that the Bruins have underperformed offensively this season and there's been plenty of speculation about their desire to acquire a top-six forward. They've been linked to Chris Stewart and T.J. Oshie and that list is only likely to grow after the roster freeze ends and we start marching towards the trade deadline.
8) Are the Calgary Flames the real deal?
The Calgary Flames weren't expected to do much this season, but they got off to a tremendous 17-8-2 start. Then they proceeded to lose eight games - seven of them in regulation - before finally eking out a 4-3 overtime win against Los Angeles on Monday. After their slump, the Flames are no longer in a playoff position, although they're only two points shy. Calgary has some talented forwards in Jiri Hudler and rookie Johnny Gaudreau, key defensemen in Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dennis Wideman, and a solid starter in Jonas Hiller, so they might still bounce back.
9) Is this the worst Edmonton Oilers team ever?
We've seen some pretty bad Oilers teams in recent years, but with a .309 points percentage, the 2014-15 squad is on pace to post the worst record in Edmonton's history. The Oilers have only earned one win in their last 19 contests and have been almost completely devoid of silver linings this season, even from an individual player perspective. Almost everyone on the team has failed to live up to expectations and perhaps that in and of itself is the silver lining. They are capable of being better than this, but at the end of the day, that won't matter if the results aren't there.
10) Are the Maple Leafs setting the stage for another major collapse?
The Maple Leafs have been a team of extremes this season. They've endured some truly embarrassing showings and some great streaks. At the end of the day though, it's not their unpredictability in 2014-15 that makes Toronto fans nervous - in fact it's just the opposite. Toronto has been predictable in recent years in the sense that you can always count on them to fold when the stakes are high and they have a winning hand. In the previous three seasons, two of them ended massive regular season collapses that robbed them of playoff spots. Toronto managed to make the playoffs in 2013, but fell apart late in Game 7 of its first round series against Boston. The Maple Leafs are in a playoff position right now, but can the people of Toronto trust the team to hold it even if they get to the point where it seems all-but secured? Especially if they get to that point?