I thought about this after the LitterBoxCats at the Panther forum here predicted us finishing in the top 5 in goals scored next year, which is a interesting and puzzling at 1st glance. Now, I don't believe we will be that good offensively, but let's look to see how far off they are. Last year, we were 15th in the NHL in goals scored with 229, behind the Blues in 10th with 240, and the Bruins with 246 in 5th. Now let's go for the key addittions and subtractions next year for our team:
-1/2 year more of Okposo, who should be at 100% for the whole year
-Rolston (at minimum random 4th liner/Schremp's upgrade)
-Reasoner (Konopka's upgrade)
-Konopka (hurt us on the ice a lot more then helped)
-Weight (barely played)
-Hunter (barely played)
-Wisniewski (only played 32gms last year)
Looking at the fine print, I don't think that we are that far off with to think that with our youngsters getting a year more mature/better and the addittions of Reasoner, Rolston, and Streit to the lineup(100% Okposo full-time) that we will score 11goals+ more then last year and make ourselves a top 10 offensive team. It's just weird to think that we can become noticably better offensively by just bolstering our bottom 6, having a 100% full game Okposo, and getting Streit back. Even if a couple players take a step back, we still have Tavares/Okposo/Bailey/Grabner(not sure with getting notice more, but who knows) whom should all theoretically get better. That should be one hell of an offense(injuries aside, knock on wood). But will that offense be enough to overcome our defense/goalie situation?
Maybe I am understating our playoff chances with the need for a top 4 d-man to put us over the top into a "real" playoff team/should be projected top 8 East team. But maybe we don't need that d-man with Wishart maturing and DeHaan/Donovan coming into their own, or maybe we do because this is their ahl break-in/up-to-speed season and expecting them to be reliable nhlers is asking way too much(especially reliable top 4 d-men). But I'd still argue our defense is sub-par and average at best with Streit coming off an injury, a-mac coming back from an injury, Hamonic still young, and eaton/mottau coming back from surgery. There is a lot, and too much imo, of relying on players coming back from injury. If healthy though, Streit is a great #1 d-man, A-mac is a solid #2 d-man, Hamonic is a solid #3 d-man, and the combo of Eaton/Jurcina/Mottau/Wishart should make a good bottom pair. But that still leaves us with a big hole for that 21-22min+ top 4 d-man that will either be a shutdown pairing guy with a-mac/hamonic or be an offense 1st d-man with solid defensive(but not necessarily high-end). A problem it is, especially given our injury issues of last year/going into next season(rehabbing d-men).
Then their is the goalie situation, which I don't want to kill everyone's hopes over, but Montoya having a .921 save percentage in 18games started is nothing really special. Good for a backup? Yes, but not something you'd expect him to carry over 40 starts if asked or even argued to do over 50gms+ as the #1 goalie, especially given how much this guy has been a headcase in the past. Ask any goalie how much a toll 50-60starts will take on your body? lol. I'd pray for a .915 out of Montoya over 50gms in a great season, which would put him around the average SV% for a starting/#1 goalie. Not saying I'd expect it though, especially coming back from surgery. Then their is the DP situation, and a lot of you are pessimistic on him, rightfully so given his performance. But I think he "could" have a nice .910+ season this year "if" he can stay healthy, especially after throwing up an .886 SV% in 26 starts last year. .910+ in a backup role for him would be a tremendous step forward him, even more so if he could do .910+ in a full season(if need be or if he is given the job/earned it). Not saying it's expected but who knows, "if" DP ever gets "near" 100% again of his old self, he could very well be able to throw up a .910 save percentage over the course of a full season, but that's a big "if". Nabakov: overrated, out of shape, old, and annoyed. Expect him as a lockerroom/on-ice problem or traded before the season starts. Mikko still needs ahl time as seen last year, and Poulin is coming off surgery. Overall, I'd say expect average goaltending at best and subpar overall goaltending expected(with montoya being released as a real possibility if he becomes a headcase again). Above average would be a huge "unexpected" breath of fresh air.
All I do know is that looking at things, our offense should be top 10/great(which is gonna be really fun to watch), our PK should be top 10/excellent(especially with Grabs getting more PK time and Reasoner added as a faceoff/PK specialist), our powerplay should at least go up to average or average+(with Streit back and Rolston added), and our goalie/defense will be our big question marks with projected average at best play and expected overall slightly sub-par play(or worse, for now with garth not making anymore moves). But the main question is, will our offense and special teams be enough to overcome our projected goalie/defensive "issues" and get us into the playoffs? That's the million dollar question for now. But if we can add that defensive/offensive top 4 d-man garth said he was looking for, I think we should be a near lock for that 8th/7th spot in the East barring injuries. Me personally, I think we are a borderline playoff team going into next year, and barring any month-multiple month injuries to a difference making player-top 9/top 4(for most teams, expected), I think we become a bubble team that just misses the playoffs. As we sit now, my brain says we are likely gonna miss the playoffs barely(but still surprise teams), but my heart says we are gonna make the playoffs barely. Not something I want, I hope garth still has that 1 move to make.
Discuss and Thoughts?