Sunday, August 23, 2009

Players On The Way Up, Players On The Way Down, And Players Running In Place

This is a look at the players that I feel should be showing signs of improvement this year whether significant or minimal, players that are likely to decline in their play this year, and players that will probably just stay in the same rut that they were last season.

Players On The Way Up, Way Up!:

Patrick O'Sullivan
O'Sullivan is entering the prime of his career and if not for a contract dispute, it is highly unlikely that we would have gotten him last season. Based on the fact that GM Dean Lombardi seems to have a vendetta against players that dig into the sand in negotiations, and the fact that he in all likelihood would've had a much better season last year if he came to camp and was with the Kings from their first scrimmage.

Sam Gagner
Gagner now has two full seasons under his belt and is past the proverbial sophomore jinx. Gagner's success will be determined by the start to his season. If he can get off to a good start he should be able to build off of it the same way that he has built upon his play in the tail ends of his first two seasons.

Dustin Penner
Getting utilized in the proper situations and having a clean slate could be what Penner needs to become the player that Kevin Lowe (and yes me too) envisioned him to be when he was signed to his offer sheet. This could finally become the season where Lowe looks more like a genius than an idiot for handing Penner his offer sheet.

Ladislav Smid
Whether there is an opening for him in the top four or not, Smid's physical and offensive game should take some significant strides forward this season. He should establish himself rather easily as the teams fifth best defenseman if no one is dealt, and the fourth best one if one of the "big four" is dealt.

Rob Schremp
No I am not saying that he is going to be on the top line, nor am I even saying that he's a shoo in for the second line. What I am saying is that he will blow what he did last season out of the water. IMO he will establish himself as an NHL player, considering what he did last season in the AHL, that means that he's going "way up".

Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers
Chances are that Delauriers will be given more of an opportunity from the new coaching staff than he was given last season. I think that he will establish himself as a serviceable NHL goaltender next season once he gets some games in and keeps his game sharp due to less extremely lengthy gaps between starts.

Players On The Way Up:

Andrew Cogliano
Cogliano should be given a more offensive role this season and get moved to the wing where his speed and shot will be well utilized while his lack of passing and his poor faceoff skills will be far less detrimental to his line.

Marc Pouliot
Hopefully getting a chance to play center this season, Pouliot will also benefit from a new coaching staff. While he may have had more of a chance than a guy like Schremp did under MacT, I think that it's safe to say that he was far from a favorite of the former coach.

Robert Nilsson
He could be in the first category, or he could fall off of the map. However I do believe that he will improve if he remains with the team so he fits in this group.

Denis Grebeshkov
Grebs could very well take the steps necessary to be seen as a top pairing defenseman and cash in big time next offseason. Grebeshkov's passing ability, puck rushing skills, and riverboat gambling mentality at times makes him a good bet to be a major contributor this season.

Tom Gilbert
Gilbert will also likely improve his game this season. With a different PP system he could be used much more offensively whether he's pinching in or just moving the puck around effectively.

Gilbert Brule
Brule should be on the club this season and he should be a sometimes dynamic player who can also dish out a thunderous check every now and then. If he can show more consistency, he could climb the depth charts in a hurry.

Ales Hemsky
Hemsky should be able to take the team by the horns this season and take his game to another level. With a more structured special teams and more defined roles for the forward lines (I hope) Hemsky could finally reach a near elite offensive level in the league.

Jean-Francois Jacques
Jacques should really be in his element this season, one of the few guys with size up front on a team that needs some consistent physical play, Jacques should be poised to be a force on the fourth line this season and gain some offensive confidence along the way.

Ryan Stone
A new organization and coming to his first camp for a team that has been preaching grit, size, and toughness bodes well for Stone's chances. A numbers game has him likely on the outside looking in, but if he has a good enough camp he could work his way onto the team at the expense of a veteran.

Players Running In Place:

Zack Stortini
Not that it's a bad thing, however I expect Stortini to have a little bit of a leveling off period this season before taking another step up in his game the following season. I hardly think that he has peaked, but not every player will get better or worse, and he should cover the bet to still be a solid contributor.

Shawn Horcoff
Horcoff may show signs of improvement this season, however I expect him to be demoted and as a result his offensive production will take a dip. In essence this cancels each other out and is why he is listed here.

Sheldon Souray
I truly hope this is the case as an encore performance from last season would be exceptional to say the least. However I don't think that he will provide much more offensively this season than he did last season and his defense should be comparable as well.

Lubomir Visnovsky
Coming off of a major injury, I expect Lubo to come out of the gates slowly, but on the bright side he has some familiarity with his teammates unlike last season when he came over from the Kings. Just like Souray, we can only hope to get a similar season to last season minus the injury from Lubo.

Theo Peckham
I expect Theo to get more games in this season and there will most certainly be growing pains mixed in with some superb fights and big time hits. I expect him to come into his own in the '10-11 season, next season is a big time learning curve for Theo.

Nikolai Khabibulin
He will have to give us a season resembling his last with the 'Hawks or we could be in some serious trouble this season and the next four for that matter.

Steve MacIntyre
What you see is what you get with MacIntyre, big, tough, mean, and a deterrent with limited skills.

Ryan Potulny
Despite a very solid AHL season last year, Potulny's NHL effectiveness is still rather limited in my opinion. He doesn't have any one particularly great skill and has a number of good skills, none of which keeps him in the NHL over other younger and more talented players.

Players On The Way Down:

Ethan Moreau
Unless the captain gets a much needed attitude adjustment, it is my opinion that he will continue his selfish play on the ice and probably be more of a nuisance than a benefit off ice.

Fernando Pisani
Due to his health concerns he hasn't been the same player that he was prior to his diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. Pisani could be on the way up if he's paired up with Horcoff and if his health holds up. However it just seems that Pisani's days are numbered.

Jason Strudwick
There really seems to be no more of an upside with Strudwick, we probably got the best out of him that he is capable of last season. This season he should be the consensus 7th defenseman and should play in far less games.

Steve Staios
Heavily relied upon in years past, Smid's maturation and the possible emergence of Theo Peckham should have Staios' role decreasing and rightfully so.

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