Factoring only offensive numbers, outside of The Line - a forced but effective amalgamation starring C Steven Reinprecht, RW Nathan Horton, and LW Cory Stillman - few Cats have produced on a consistent basis, if at all.
There have of course been a number of encouraging individual efforts; Rostislav Olesz and his club-leading 53 SOG, Radek Dvorak's two shorties, Tomas Vokoun's 3 shutouts in four wins, the rapid emergence of Dmitry Kulikov into a known positive commodity on the blueline, Kamil Kreps and his +2 (seriously...it's tied for the team lead).
The relative long-term loss of last year's hero LW David Booth has unquestionably hit the offense hard, though his numbers prior to Dr. Mike Richards' outpatient spinal rearrangement were not entirely sparkling (9gp, 3p, -5) for a player many (fairly or otherwise) hinged the outcome of this season upon.
In any case, here are three Cats who must dial it up; players whom the club - a forward, defenseman, and goaltender - will ultimately rely upon to make or break the year.
|2009 - Michael Frolik||16||3||3||6||0||12||0||0||0||0||33||9.1|
It'll be another twelve months before the "book" is published, but second-year forward Frolik is on the cusp of gaining a reputation as a slow-starter; it was well into November of 2008 before he truly grew wings, and that may again be the case. A sophomore slump from a player who banged home 21 goals the previous year simply cannot be tolerated if a postseason spot is the collective goal. Frolik at the very least must finish with 45 points or greater, and he ain't on that pace.
|2009 - Keith Ballard||16||0||3||3||-5||19||0||0||0||0||9||0.0|
Though his club is shooting blanks from just about every position, the surprise stat of the year may in fact be defenseman Ballard's 3 points in 16 games. After the departure of Jay Bouwmeester, it could have been safely assumed that Keith would be assured of top "D"-line offensive numbers; who was going to eclipse him, outside of Bryan McCabe? The additions of Dennis Seidenberg (Randy Sexton's move of the year?), Jordan Leopold, a healthy Bryan Allen, and that Kulikov kid have made life tough for #2. Even Allen has a goal. Ballard's far too important to the club to wallow in the basement. He may not yet be in Peter DeBoer's doghouse, but he's got a paw on the doorbell.
|2009 - Scott Clemmensen||4||187||2||1||16||5.13||99||83||.838||0|
We're in Year Three of the Vokoun Era (which translates simply to"Love him - hate him, love him - hate him"), but only the second month of 1-B netminder Clemmensen, whose 2-1 record looks decent on the surface, but look a bit further to the right and horror rains down from the heavens. Right or wrong for "commenting" on his team's deficiencies in the defensive zone, it's only fair to give the guy a rider during his initial break-in period. Arriving from a Devils club who allowed an average of 29.5 shots on goal while playing a deeply-ingrained defensive-reponsibility-at-all-costs style, "Clemmer" is adapting to a Florida club which opens the floodgates for 35.4(!). No matter, he's got to be there when called upon. Success can't be had without relief for the number one.
Programming note: Panthers - Islanders Open Thread goes LIVE, 6pm tonight. No local TV for this one, kids.