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A Few Thoughts on the Season

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It's been a bit since I've written anything here. There's two reasons for that: my life has gotten pretty busy and I don't quite know what to say anymore. To paraphrase one of my favorite bands, I've already said so much, and I can never really say enough. I figured I'd hit some high-level points here and attempt to dig into more detail in subsequent posts. I'll probably be worrying about post-season wrap-up for a few weeks and then, come late May, we'll start trying to figure out the draft and free agency.

Okay, so what happened?

  1. This team was not going to be a 90+-point team. At the beginning of the season, I predicted something like 87 points. We fell FAR short of that, but let's be clear: we just were not strong enough to hit those point totals.
  2. The target moved: it seemed like 87 or 88 points might be enough to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. It was not. In the end, the Rangers were the final team with 93 points.
  3. Our goaltending was unsteady. Pavelec was arguably the better goalie with a 2.73 GAA and 0.914 SV%, though he finished two games under 0.500. Chris Mason had a 3.39 GAA and 0.892 SV% and finished at 0.500. I can't explain the huge difference between those stats and the very similar numbers without doing a bit more digging, but I would assume it has a lot to do with who was playing during which part of the year. Pavelec's numbers look better because of the absolutely insane run he had during November.
  4. I've only heard this mentioned in passing, but apparently the coaching staff decided to switch gears at some point during the season and try to play a more safe, defensive game. It appears not only to have failed entirely, but also to have extinguished our offensive firepower from that point onward. 
  5. We had some very, very poor seasons from some very important players: Zach Bogosian: -27. Nik Antropov: -17. Rich Peverley: -16. Johnny Oduya: -15. Curiously enough, Andrew Ladd was a -10 while his linemate (for much of the season) Bryan Little was a team-leading +11. (I assume, if you dig into the numbers, Ladd would have been a huge minus while playing with Rich Peverley and slightly on the plus side while playing with Little.)
Still, I think there were some good signs out there:
  1. While unsteady, Ondrej Pavelec showed some truly elite skills this season. When he was on his game, this team won. Period. If he can step it up next season, I think this team can be a contender.
  2. Dustin Byfuglien is a monster. 20 goals, 33 assists, 347 shots, over 23 minutes/game, and a -2 (behind just Sopel and Hainsey this season.) His six game-winning goals tripled the next-closest runners-up, an 8-way tie at 2.
  3. Bryan Little is beginning to look like the player he was two seasons ago. His +11 led the team and he managed 18 goals (14 at even strength) and 30 assists. 
  4. Andrew Ladd had 29 goals? Seriously? Before the season, I said I thought he'd get 20-25, depending on his power play time. I had him slotted in on our 2nd or 3rd lines, but he quickly jumped to the top line. It was a breakout year for him, and re-signing him should be an offseason priority.
  5. Mark Stuart seems to be the scrappy, hard-hitting defenseman this team has missed since Garnet Exelby's concussion.
I'll have a lot more to say over the next weeks and months. Thanks again to all the folks who show up here day after day to talk about the team. We don't always agree - heck, we don't often agree - but it's the few vocal, passionate fans who really make this site something special. I hope to see you all here over the summer and next season (when we'll hopefully have a lot more to be happy about.)