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When I evaluate a team’s chances of being successful in a given year, I look at the best case scenario and the worst case scenario, and typically the results will fall somewhere in between. Today I will start with the forwards and tomorrow the defense and goaltending. First paragraph for each player/line is the best case, second is the worst case.


RNH is ready to go for the season opener and shows no signs of rust. He shakes off his bad (luck) year from 2013 and stays healthy for the majority of the season to have a break out year scoring at right around a point per game. (78 pts)

Recovery time is longer than expected and he does not return to the Oilers until 6 weeks after the season has started. Marc Arcobello has been filling in between Hall and Eberle, and their production has dipped because of it. When Nuge returns it takes about 10 games to shake off the rust and then he returns to a scoring rate of just above where he was last season, shows tons of potential but fans must wait for him to become stronger in the extremely front heavy Pacific division. (30 pts in 50 games)

Taylor Hall continues his path to superstardom, he stays healthy and suspension free for the entire season and finishes in the top 5 in league scoring. Scores a career high in goals (93+ points)

Point total suffers from playing alongside AHL center, chances don’t decrease but he has a run of luck similar to Nug last season, seems like nothing is going his way. His luck takes a turn for the worst when his season is ended in March due to an undisclosed injury that may or may not require off season surgery again. (55 points in 65 games)

Jordon Eberle shakes off his ‘down year’ from 2013 and finds a way to get back to his incredible production rate from the year before and pots a number similar to his 76pts.

As with Hall, gets off to a slow start playing with AHLers, can’t shake the pressure of regaining his 11-12 form and his big salary, as the team continues to flounder, fans hesitate to don Eberle the new ‘Horcoff’.(For now)

Perron – Gagner – Yakupov David Perron has amazing chemistry with these 2 and Gagner and Yakupov figure out the defensive game and end the year with a +6 each. Gagner continues to develop from last season and sees his point figure increase from last season. Yakupov continues to develop and his one timer is all-world, nets 35+ goals on a much improved 2nd line.

Perron is not an improvement defensively from Hemsky last season and this line is continually fishing pucks out of their own net and doing stops and starts in their own end. After a career year in pts/gm, Sam Gagner regresses a bit and still fails to reach to 50 points plateau. There are no ‘trade Gagner!’ posters as his salary is inflated for what he has brought to the table thus far. The Perron attitude rumors for STL are true and his carelessness in the d-zone have rubbed off on sophomore Nail Yakupov, who still scores a ton of goals on the pp, but finishes the season in the top 20 worst +/-.

Jones/Smyth – Gordon - Hemsky - Jones and Smyth push each other all season long and end up rotating between the 3 and 4 lines because each guy is solid defensively and chips in enough offensively to be effective. Gordon replaces Horcoff and then some, providing great pk and faceoff work that allows the first two lines to ease off the defensive zone faceoff starts. Hemsky accepts his role as a 3rd line shut down guy and makes the simple plays, willingly dumps in pucks and is a smart, physical two way force who occasionally fills in on the top 2 lines in the event of injury.

Jones is the same guy as last season, a decent 4th liner who can’t regain his 18 goal performance from years past. Smyth comes out flying for the first 18 games, but quickly plays himself into a regular press box seat by early January. Boyd Gordon is left to flank the 3rd line with Ales Hemsky trying to dangle through other teams 1st line players and the puck more often than not winds up behind Dubnyk.

Joensuu - Lander – Jones/Smyth - Joensuu, 6’4 210, is an upgrade from Hartikainen in physicality and offense, he has a break out year in his first real opportunity for full time NHL duty. Lander brings his confidence from the AHL playoffs last year and is able to increase his offensive production to a point that he is seen as the future 3C, relishes in his role as a PK/faceoff specialist for this year. Jones/Smyth see above.

Joensuu couldn’t crack the Islanders lineup for years, and his play this season is much of the same. Ryan Hamilton is called up halfway through the season and does a good job in a checking role. Anton Lander continues not to be able to produce any offense at the NHL level and is sent down to OKC in December, continuing his roller coaster development. Mike Brown plays more than 20 games, a real problem for any club trying to win games not fights.

The thing that scares me most about this group of forwards is the lack of depth up the middle. I see RNH not being ready as a real concern that still needs to be addressed if Craig Mactavish and Co. are serious about speeding up the rebuild. What if Gagner gets injured before RNH is ready to return? Gordon, Lander, Acton, Arcobello/Miller in any combination does not equal a winning formula in the NHL. Adding one proven bottom six center and a legit 3rd line winger (possibly moving out Hemsky) would go a long way in improving the depth of this group and giving the entire team an improved shot at sustainable success.

Up next defense and goaltending!

Sorry about it being all one paragraph that is not how I typed it out. If anyone knows how to fix this please let me know!
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