Reading the Tea Leafs: Alex Ponikarovsky

Following on the success of two other dormant series Chemmy and I have decided that in order to fill the gap in NHL news that we'll take a look at each of the current Leafs, possible Leafs on the Marlies, and prospects. We'll recap their performance last year, what we can expect from them, and how they can win our hearts (hint: signing the contract was a good first step...unless your name is Bryan McCabe Ian White). We have no idea how long of a series this will end up being or how consistent it will be but with two of us expect it to only be half as half-assed and twice as timely.

 

Sportsnet sucks but Antro and Poni save this segment with some Oscar-quality acting.

Contract Status (according to NHL Numbers)
$2.24M salary, $2.105 cap hit, UFA July 1, 2010

Age (as of October 1, 2008)
28 - April 8, 1980

NHL Seasons
Six. Yet he still managed to do something like this.

Run of the Mill Biographical Information

2007-2008 Stats and Team Ranking

(Scoring rates via Behind The Net)

Counting Stats Total/Rank Category 5-on-5 5-on-4 4-on-5
Games Played 66 - 11 TOI/60 12.82 - 11 1.98 - 1 0.68 - 14
Goals 18 - 3 Pts/60 1.91 - 4 3.22 - 12 0.00 - 7
Assists 17 - 8 GFON/60 3.12 - 4 7.35 - 3 0.00 - 9
Points 35 - 7 GAON/60 2.62 - 20 1.38 - 7 8.05 - 6

Marital Status
His wife's name is Inna and they have two kids Jessica and Alex. Although some posters think that that is a lie because the one posting that info is jealous of the angry one's relationship with Alex. So take that with a grain of salt and a hot shower to clean off the stain of visiting that site.

Former Leaf he'd have to play like in order to be christened a deity
Hmmm. Big body, 20 goal hands, good physical play...I want to say a big Steve Thomas. Does that sound right?

Biggest Question Marks
Same one as Antropov: Can he produce without Mats? He looks like he's developed into a  20 goal scorer that is apparently effective on the powerplay but how well will he do if he's not playing with the skipper or his bosom buddy?

2007-2008 Summary
Another steady season from the new Canadian. If not for some injuries he would have potted another 20 goal year. He actually had a pretty varied stable of linemates throughout the season and the numbers show that he was able to generate offence when he was split from Antro and Sundin.

Obviously, that turnover was the low-light of the season but if you look at Matt's standards Poni's perceived value changes:

~2.00EVPts/60 = the mushy middle. No one in this range is embarrassing themselves, but there is a wide range in what we might call perceived player quality. A non-star player in this range who you know had mediocre linemates has done well to hit this mark; conversely, if you get much below 2.00 and you see a player who has the reputation of creating offense, it might be time to reconsider that reputation.

Knowing that he played with some pretty poor linemates (whether because they were having a bad season or because they love to shoot at the goalie's chest) I think that the mushy middle is right where Poni lived last season. It was the minimum requirement to get the totals that he did in 66 games (in 82 it would have easily been 20-20-40 and possibly closer to 25-25-50) and he met it. This year's a different story...

Projected 2008-2009 role/team
Like the current crop of soon to be old guys, Poni has to show that he able to take one step beyond being in the mushy middle and firmly establish himself above that station.

He'll obviously start with the Leafs and I would almost put money on Antropov and him being paired to at least start the season. If he struggles early on then it might not be a straightforward task to get back on the top line. If he gets dropped and doesn't produce at his current level, at a minimum, then he should be looked at as an asset that should be moved.

I think Poni will at least hit that 20 goal mark and with a good start he'll be pushing 30 and will finally show that he's not another in the group of "3rd liners and grinders" that the Leafs are accused of perpetually signing. He'll be firmly entrenched in second line land and that's plenty good enough.

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