Think of a hockey team like a great building. The goalie is the foundation. The centers are the support for everything else. Wings and defense fill out the rest. Of course for it to be a a truly great building, all of the elements must come together. But we rely heavily on the centers to make sure everything else stays in place. And I’m not loving our depth at center at all right now.
When it comes time to make playoff predictions, I always look at goalies and centers, and if there is no clear advantage, then I break down everything else. Of course, when making predictions about sports, it’s based on everyone playing at a high level, without taking any injuries or surprises into account. During the 2010 playoffs, with the Flyers playing at the top of their game, I predicted 3 series perfectly, and came within one game of the other series (we beat Montreal 1 game faster than I expected). Last year, I was off because I thought we’d turn it on for the playoffs and show a lot more heart.
Making a prediction for the regular season relies on the same principles. After seeing what the team could do during the 2010 playoff run, it wasn’t that huge of a shock to see them rolling through everyone last season. Now of course, the team has been reshaped and I seriously doubt we’ll be anywhere near as dominant as we were most of last season. Let’s compare:
2010-11: Richards, Carter, Briere, Giroux, Betts.
2011-12: Grioux, Briere, Betts, Talbot, Schenn/Couturier.
For this upcoming season, that looks like a huge dropoff to me. The organization keeps telling what we can expect in the future. But these are all unproven expectations. And, nobody has made any assurances for this season. It’s all about vague references to players developing into something special. With Richards and Carter playing healthy, we knew exactly what we could expect out of this team. I love the skill level of Giroux and Briere, but how can they play against other top notch opponents when they are now the main focus of the team. Before, it was about strength in numbers. We had wave after wave of good lines that few teams could compete with. Now, we’re going to rely heavily on a few guys to put up bigger numbers.
The thing that bothers me most about all of this change is our window of opportunity. Maybe Schenn and Couturier do become superstars, but in 2-3 seasons. By that time, Pronger and Timonen are way too old to do what they can do now. You can already see signs of them aging as each season winds down. Who steps up to replace them at that point? All of this is a moot point if our team defense is much better than last year, making up for the lack of offense. If that’s the case, then we still have a chance to win. But last year, we were already one of the best defenses, there’s not a ton of room to improve. In the salary cap era, we had almost as perfect of a team as you can hope for. Now, I don’t know what we really have anymore.
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Topics: 2010 Playoffs, 2011 Playoffs, Blair Betts, Brayden Schenn, Centers, Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Goalies, Jeff Carter, Kimmo Timonen, Maxime Talbot, Mike Richards, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Sean Couturier