Friday, September 9, 2011

2011/12 NHL Preview - Hab Stat Projections

Continuing along with our two weeks of NHL previews, today we look a little closer at the Montreal Canadiens. Those who read our prediction post yesterday saw that we have the Habs taking the division in a tight race ahead of both the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins. For this to happen, the team will have to remain relatively healthy and the key players will have to avoid slumps.

With that in mind, here's what we expect this season. The PTS CHANGE column represents the difference in our projected point total from how many the player produced last season.

Our guesses would have the Canadiens finish 244 goals, a 28-goal improvement from last season, which would have ranked 5th in the East, 15 behind leaders Philadelphia. Of course, our numbers don't account for any trades and assume that all players below spend the entire year in the Montreal organization, with no outside players being brought in either.

Tomas Plekanec80215879+22
Andrei Markov7494453+50
Mike Cammalleri73312051+4
Brian Gionta81302050+4
Scott Gomez80113950+12
Erik Cole72232548-4
P.K. Subban77152843+5
Max Pacioretty80231740+16
Andrei Kostitsyn79192039-6
Lars Eller78122436+19
David Desharnais6892635+13
Alexei Yemelin7462127(Rookie)
Mathieu Darche55101020-6
Yannick Weber5961420+9
Josh Gorges8031518+11
Travis Moen796713-3
Jaroslav Spacek5011213-3
Ryan White69369+5
Aaron Palushaj21459+9
Hal Gill75088-1
Andreas Engqvist25156+6
Rafael Diaz10022(Rookie)
Brock Trotter8112(Rookie)
Michael Blunden15011+1
Brendon Nash7011+1
Mark Mitera2000(Rookie)
Andrew Conboy1000(Rookie)
Alexander Avtsin4000(Rookie)

As per my final standings prediction, I have the Habs' key players staying relatively healthy this season (knock on wood). Some injuries in the bottom 6 will allow for some young players to make impressions as both Andreas Engqvist and Aaron Palushaj should be considered favourites to get lengthy auditions at some point during the season, with the club needing to figure out how and if at all they fit into the longer-term bigger picture.

As per my top 10 Hab predictions piece, I have the club with two 30-goal scorers in Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, while predicting a bounce back 50-point season for Scott Gomez.

There will be a lot of pressure on Erik Cole to not disappoint, but I think fans need to have realistic expectations. If he can come close to reproducing his numbers of last year, as we predict he will, while playing a responsible and physical complete game, everyone should be content and satisfied.

I have high expectations for the debut of Alexei Yemelin, believing he can earn a regular spot from day 1 and eventually get second unit powerplay ice time, contributing in all zones. Similarly, based in part on their exclusion from the Canadiens rookie camp, I expect both Michael Blunden and Rafael Diaz to get stints with the team, particularly since both have experience playing at a professional level.

The biggest drop-offs I see will be from Andrei Kostitsyn and Mathieu Darche, as the former will see his even-strength ice time diminish with the addition of Erik Cole, which in turn is likely to reduce the powerplay time of the latter. I think Kostitsyn, if his head remains in the game and his attitude in line, will be a valuable contributor from the third line, helping in part for the breakout I foresee from Lars Eller.

Now that they will be regulars, it won't be surprising to see huge jumps in production from Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais, even if there are questions as to the former's return from a serious injury and where the latter slots into the line-up. I'm sure there will be plenty of combinations tried throughout the year, potentially including the two of them together given their amazing chemistry while playing in Hamilton.

Amongst other rookies, Brock Trotter is probably one of the more NHL-ready forwards with the Bulldogs, and didn't look out of place in his 2 game call-up to Montreal, although it was a year and a half ago. Andrew Conboy has shown nice progression with the Bulldogs and should be a call-up if two of Ryan White, Michael Blunden, and Travis Moen are unable to play versus a bigger team.

A name you might be surprised to see on my stats list is that of Alexander Avtsin, but I foresee a big year for him in the AHL. Now that he is better acclimatized to North American living and playing, he should be one of Hamilton's top scorers which may be enough to earn him a little taste of NHL action (like Palushaj last season).

Like we've said before, predictions are just predictions. But these are ours. And this is what we'll stick to as we anxiously await the first puck drop.

No comments: