We have to prevent this from happening again. (Courtesy: allthingsphillysports.blogspot.com)

Spotting Our Weaknesses

It’s easy to look at the line-up, point out who is good at what, an figure out a game plan.  Then, if/when something goes wrong, you look back and pick out the problems. Well, this will be an attempt to address the problems before they happen.

Toughness – Yes, this was a problem last year.  Jody Shelley doesn’t really scare anybody, Pronger was hurt a lot, and Carcillo is more of an agitator that drops the gloves. When push came to shove, we didn’t fight back enough.  I’ve pointed it before, that during the Cup run 2 years ago, anyone that stopped near our goalie when he covered he puck got planted on their ass.  This past season, anyone who wanted to make some snow had a free passage.  That needs to stop, immediately. Every single guy needs to play with more of an edge. You don’t have to fight to be tough. You just have to put your shoulder into people more often.  Finish your checks, it pays off in the long run.

Chemistry – Learning a system is one thing, learning your linemates tendencies is another.  Sometimes players click right away, sometimes they never fit together. It’s easier to incorporate one or two new players every season and find a suitable role for them.  But we’ve got a ton of new faces this year.  None of the line combinations from last season will be intact.  Everyone will be learning to play with somebody new.

Center on defense – Generally, centers cover centers. Giroux hustles, Briere is iffy, and Betts and Talbot won’t see a ton of minutes.  If Schenn does crack the roster, we don’t really know what he can do at this level.  So for now, it’s up to Danny and G to have the toughest task.  The biggest problem with that is their size.  Offensively, they’re both very talented and it’s not a problem.  But in their own end, they have to be very smart and positionally sound in order to be effective. They’ll have some help, but they need to be held accountable as well.

Balanced scoring – Briere and Giroux should crack 30. JVR has the tools to match or beat them, if he can remain consistent. Other than that, it’s going to take a team effort.  This is the same approach we’ve had for the last 5 years, there’s just a lot less offensive talent right now. What can we expect from Jagr? Hartnell is usually good for 25, but again, we don’t have as much depth, so scoring will be a bit harder to come by.  Simmonds can put in a few. Voracek is going to need to step up and contribute more than he did in Columbus. We’re not going to be rolling out 3 scoring lines like we did last season. It’s up to the top 6 to score, and the bottom 6 to play solid D and chip in with a few goals here and there.

That’s all I can think of for now. Last season, we were practically flawless for most of the year.  Our biggest Achilles heel was motivation. Once the team became complacent, everything fell apart. But that was something that we saw as it happened.  They looked ahead to Christmas break, and got pounded by Florida. They looked ahead to celebrating New Years, and got crushed by Vancouver. They looked ahead to the playoffs, and had a crappy February, March, and April.  By then, it was too late to turn the switch one, and we barely got through Buffalo.  Once we go to Boston, we just couldn’t match them in anything, despite being far superior on paper. But we saw it coming, there were signs all season long.  And we knew it as it was happening. Whatever the other weaknesses will be this season, let’s hope it’s not too many that we can’t quickly fix.

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