It's time for Ponikarovsky to step up.
No more excuses. The now-Canadian citizen is going to have display his talent and prove to the Leafs why he should rejoin them in the long-term. The six-foot-four, 220 pound sniper has shown glimpses of being top-six forward quality, but that's as far as he goes before falling back into inconsistency.
In Ponikarovsky, the Leafs have a solid two-way player who has above average skating abilities and can snipe the puck with deadly precision. While he has a big frame, 'Poni' tends to be a little soft at times, taking his size for granted. If he'd be able to finish his scoring chances more often (he misses a lot), he could potentially
become a 30-goal scorer.
While he was no stranger to the first line, Ponikarovsky only averaged 15:57 of ice-time last season. If he could find chemistry with Antropov again, he could spend a lot of time on the first-line and PP. In order to become a legitimate threat though, he'll have to find the consistency he's been lacking in his NHL career so far.
Much like teammate Alexander Steen, Ponikarovsky is often discussed in terms of potential. Now 28, it's time for him to realize his upside and become a staple on the Leafs' offensive attack. On a rebuilding club like the Leafs, it'll be up to players like him to lead the charge and set an example. He's had time on the top-line before so it's not as if he's new to the pressure that resides with Toronto. However, he hasn't posted dominant numbers in his past few years with the Leafs.
Ponikarovsky's last three seasons in the NHL:
2005-06: 81 21
2006-07: 71 21
2007-08: 66 18
17 35 36
For a player who has often been called upon for playing with former-Leaf Mats Sundin (notice the "former'', I refuse to bring bad vibes and make him re-sign here), these point totals are simply not good enough. If he improves on finishing plays, however, Ponikarovsky could find his niche as a 25-goal, 50-point player who can contribute to the PK, but Wilson has some work ahead of him in order for this to happen. In any case, that's the kind of player you want on a rebuilding team (or any team for that matter).
Of course, Ponikarovsky is not alone in this boat. In fact, nearly half of the Leafs' current roster are underachievers who are being depended on to step it up in a big way.
Some work is in order, but if they can find their drive, the Leafs could surprise. There's no time like the present, make your stamp or suffer (enjoy) the fate that players like Tucker and Wellwood shared.
As always, it'll be an interesting season in Leaf Nation.
Fearless prediction: Ponikarovsky posts career numbers and finishes with 23 goals and 53 points.
Another interesting blog Ron . Your predicitons are feasible , but Poni needs like you said to be more consistent and stop being such a fairy in the corners.
You're certainly an optimist Ron. Poni was invisible a lot last year unless he was on Sundin's line. I think he just has to be on a line with a highly skilled playmaker to be at his most effective. That being said, I do like the guy and hopefully he developes some chemistry with someone on the team this year and puts up the kind of numbers you predict.
Nice blog, but I have to disagree with your final prediction. Poni has always come up short when he has been heavily relied upon, so 53 points seems a little far fetched. Yes, he has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career but whenever the pressure mounts or he becomes the focal point....he crumbles. I think you'll see guys like Steen and Grabovski (who is projected to be 1st line centre) stepping it up on the offense this year! Tavares does look promosing, I must say.
Keep in mind that, if healthy, Poni could scored 50 points in 06-07. so 53 points isn't exactly far fetched, especially considering I'm doing it under the assumption of 82 games. Also, it was a ''fearless'' prediction :D
If your prediction is under the assumption he plays 82 games then yes, it is likely, but poni is injury prone and if he plays big minutes, he's definetly gonna get hurt. When he did play a full season in 05-06, he was a 3rd liner and in the last 2 seasons he's averaged more ice time, which resulted into more injuries. Let's face it, Poni is way too much of a whimp to be posting top line minutes while staying healthy, but sadly, he will get those big minutes in Toronto because they have no one else to turn to. In a perfect world Poni would be able to post over 50, but this year he's a leader which means more minutes, more injuries....and less points.
The only way Poni gets past the 2nd line is if Blake is a dud. I agree with the comment that he needs a high skilled playmaker on his line but im not sure the leafs have one. Grabovsky projected as top center is a pipe dream. how can you expect him to much more then a #2 when he is more likely a 3rd line center on a competing club. He may develope into a number 1 guy but thats a bit much to ask of a guy still trying to make his mark. As many as they have, I think the Buds Centers may be their downfall. At least not having a clear #1 may. No I in team though i guess. GAME ON!