Welcome to my second post in my "Prediction Series". At first I was going to go through my predicted scoring for each guy dressed in the Blue and White. But that has been done to death and I decided to instead make a bunch of specific predictions about the Leafs. Ten seemed like a nice round number so here they are:
Nikolai Kulemin will score more goals than Mikhail Grabovski.
Simply put this is not a statistical argument and is as much a bet as it is a prediction (I want that pint nhlcheapshot). Many around here (myself included), think Kulemin's goal scoring will regress a bit from last season. This is due in large part to his extremely high SH% from last year and relatively low shots/game. However, Kulemin's shots/game have been increasing year to year and while I agree his SH% was inflated last year, I don't necessarily think it will regress quite as much as others. A large part of this is based off of JP Nikota's excellent work on shot and goal location. As you can see, last year he scored almost all his goals in the "slot" or from high scoring areas. As well from watching him play (and his 30 goals on youtube) I saw how many "garbage" goals he gets (they tend to inflate SH%).
Compared directly to Grabovski their GPG's with the Leafs have been very similar. Over the last 3 years Grabovski has had a 0.26, 0.17, 0.36, compared to Kulemin's 0.21, 0.21, 0.37. So Grabs was better, than Kule was better, than roughly the same. However Kule did that from 22-24, while Grabs did it from 25-27.
Joffrey Lupul will score more goals than (at least one of) Grabovski and Kulemin.
I feel like Joffrey Lupul has become the goat around here for many Leafs fans (for example he was labelled as predicted goat of the year two out of 6 times by the writers at Leafs Nation). While his game has a fair bit of defensive deficiencies, he is actually a very good goal scorer. Over the last 4 years Lupul has scored at a 0.33 GPG which ranks 30th for wingers and 48th for skaters. This is virtually the same GPG as he had with the Leafs last year (0.32). While his full season GPG last year was much lower 0.26, I believe it was depressed by his (a) coming off a major injury, which lasted ~ a year and included losing THIRTY POUNDS, and (b) depressed ice time (13:13 vs 17:53). Over a full season with the leafs I think he'll score at roughly a 0.33 GPG. If he can play 75 GP (obviously a bold prediction based on recent injuries) than he'll score 25 G.
Captain Dion Phaneuf will bounce back to form and have a good (not Norris level) season.
After coming back from injury, Phaneuf seemed to find his offense. His goal scoring, point scoring, PP production, and intimidation (at least from my perspective) of opposing forwards all seemed to improve. I think he'll have a bit of a bounce back season with 12-15 goals, 40-50 points, and greater than 24 minutes TOI/GP.
Our ES goals from defenseman will drastically improve.
While many are concerned about the defensive play of Cody Franson, many hope that his offensive contribution will balance that out. However, I think many are assuming that it will come from PP production and this is where I disagree. Last year Franson was 11th for a D-man in ES G/60 and the year before he was 4th (they have Biz Nasty listed as a D for some reason). Combine that with Schenn, Gunnar, and Phaneuf being 54th, 64th, and 59th last season and 27th, 35th, and 58th the year before. That is a fair bit of even strength goal scoring ability from our D. I think we can have 18 ES goals from our D.
Scrivens will get a taste of NHL action.
Ben Scrivens was IMHO the best goal tender in the preseason. I predict at some point this season either Reimer/Gus will get injured for a short period or Gus will tank and Scrivens will get called up. While this has happenned before (he backed up Reimer a few times), I think this time he'll get some game action. I predict he'll play at least 180 minutes of NHL hockey.
Kessel will have the most goals of his career thus far.
While I don't think Kessel has a chance of beating his GPG record (0.51 set in 08-09 wiht Savard), I believe he has a shot at cracking the 36 goals he scored that year. Over last 3 years he has seen his GPG decrease from 0.51, 0.43, to 0.39. However he has done it with progressively worse passers as his C. He's gone from Savard (5th in assists/game for a C since the lockout with 0.78), to Stajan (89th with 0.34), to Bozak (105th with 0.30). On that list Connoly ranks 17th with a 0.59. Between having a better passing C and (ideally) his SH% bouncing back some (his last two years were slightly below his career average) he can bump his GPG back up to ~0.45. If he can play 82 GP that is 37 G.
Liles will become a fan favourite.
Who around here isn't missing ol' rosey cheeks? Well I believe that Liles can come in and help to fill that void. By providing a similar skill set, with slightly poorer passing skills (who can thread a pass from the goalie line to the opposing blue line like Kaberle?) but slightly better shooting skills he'll provide a good compliment to Schenn. The two of them will be relied on to play a fairly large amount of minutes and will be playing exciting hockey. Combine that with what I expect to be solid PP production and I think he'll be loved.
Schenn will play tougher minutes.
This one is pretty simple. Many have pointed out that Schenn isn't a true shut-down D-man yet because he doesn't play very hard competition and this is true. However, he is still very young and slowly seeing his responsibilities increased. Last year he saw his minutes take a fairly large bump and this year I think we'll see the quality of his opponents rise.
At least one of Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Bozak, or Clark MacArthur will not finish the year in the blue and white.
While I don't like this, I think it is pretty likely that at least one of them will be moved. With Komi nearly untradeable, Liles an offensive stop gap, Phaneuf and Franson brought in by Burke, Schenn being Schenn (Burke seems unwilling to even consider moving him), and a lot of D-prospects pushing up from the AHL many believe that Gunnarson will be traded. They believe he is the most tradeable asset, with a cheap cap hit, good offense and solid D. Similarly, up front we have a lot of prospects pushing to get into the game and if any of them prove themselves NHL calibur (perhaps in an injury call up), I think Burke is prepared to make a move for that big forward he wants. To me the most likely to move forwards are Bozak and MacArthur. I will again reiterate, that these are not the forwards I WANT to move, just the ones I think likely. While Bozak is coming off a poor year, he is still young, seems to have at least 3rd line C offense, is good in the dot, and reasonably responsible defensively. MacA on the other hand had an explosive year last year and I have a feeling that Burke doesn't necessarily believe he can repeat (I think he'll crack 50 again).
This prediction includes the season and next summer. I think both Kule and Grabs will be resigned.
If they both score ~ 25 G and 50-55 points (my prediction) than I think they'll be in for raises of roughly a combined 9.5 mil. Right now they are making 5.25 mil combined so we need 4.25 mil more in cap space. Replacing Liles with Gardiner will save us ~3 million. Frankly I think the other 1.25 can be found relatively easily (we have that much space now anyway). While some argue that Grabs should be let go as he will be approaching 30 and only have 2-3 years left in his prime, Burke has shown no inclination that he thinks a player in his early 30s is not worth pursuing. An example of this is that he pursued Brad Richards this summer and signed 30 year old Tim Connolly. I also think we will ideally be approaching the stage where it is time to start locking in our prime/veteran aged players and not just continually recycle them for younger players who we hope are as good.