With all the changes that are going on both on and off the ice, I thought I would take a hypothetical view of what our lines would look like right now. Meaning if the season started tonight, this is potentially what we are looking at as a set of forward lines:
So, how does that make you feel when you see that? Scared? Nervous? Confident? Hoping for more? Waiting for the next deal to be made before passing judgement? Well, I wish I could tell you that a free agent signing was in the works, or that a trade was brewing and waiting to be finalized, but I have no such news.
When looking at the forward lines, nothing really sets me on fire, or makes me say yea, that’s a great line. There are certainly some questions that I have. First, how healthy will David Booth be? Will he play with the same style that he had prior to his two concussions? Have we seen the best of Little Stevie? Was last year the best year he’ll have? keep in mind he went a long stretch without scoring any goals while he could have ended up with 35. Is his size going to finally be exposed and will we realize that he’s too small as a number one center? What kind of year does Frolik have? Many times a third year player bounces back from an average second year. Can he?
What about newly acquired Chris Higgins? Will he regain his scoring touch? Will he display the lazyness that has been said about him in New York? Will he be the second coming of Nathan Horton in that respect? Or, will he realize that this is his chance to prove he can consistently score 25 goals a year? Will Michael Grabner and his blazing speed be an asset that turns into scoring chances? What will become of Steve Bernier? A big body forward that is with his fourth team in his young career. Byron Bitz. Other than liking his name, what does he provide besides rocks for hands.
On defence, this will be the thrid year in a row of mass ovehaul. Three full time returning players (McCabe, Allen, and Kulikov) and two brand new players assuming that rookie Eric Gudbranson makes the team,along with Dennis Wideman, and the sixth piece of the puzzle, Jason Garrison expected to be signed to an extension any day now.
While the defence doesn’t look bad, again, it doesn’t scare anyone. Tallon ahs mentioned he is looking for a veteran defenceman to add. That would leave one of these six out, most likely either McCabe or Allen. McCabe could be hard to trade because of his contract, and Allen could be hard to deal because of his knee. What’s missing as far as I’m concerned is the big bruising defenceman that will clear the crease. These guys are hard to find and we may ahve to suffer a season without that. Unless Gudbranson at 18 years old can fill that capacity. It’s alot to ask of an 18 year old in his first year.
So, basically what we have as we look at the forward lines are one second line, and two third lines, with a fourth line. Let’s be honest, the first line could not be a first line on any team. This analysis is not a knock against Dale Tallon. he has to work with what he has, but if things don’t improve during the season, you will see changes.
The one position that he needs to focus on is center. Getting a true number one will most likely on come via trade. There’s not much left in that regard in the free agent pool. You know we are weak if we start the year with Jeff Taffe as our fourth line center. I am sure that Tallon will continue to spend the next few weeks trying to fill that void. We must however manage our expectations of this team.
This isn’t going to be an overnight process. Patience is the key as this will be done through the draft, free agency and some smart trades. In Chicago Dale purged the roster. The Hawks stunk at that time! Within a very short period they turned around. I’m not saying the Panthers are in a better situation at the start, but Dale knows what he’s doing. I’m sure that when we look at this lineup and feel what we feel, he probably realizes the same thing.
Either the players get better, or we’ll get better players.
Thanks for reading.
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