Since the lockout has put training camp and all other NHL related activities on hold, some might say that doing projections is pointless right now because the status of the 2012-13 season is up in the air. I will continue to remain optimistic about this situation and say that we will see the NHL resume before the end of the calendar year and since there will be a season, there is no harm in predicting the upcoming year and seeing what kind of production we will get from some of Carolina's players. Over the last week, I went over some of the team's historically similar players based on their yearly scoring patterns but that was only phase 1 of this process. Now is the time where I'll begin to go over every player on the roster and predict their goal/point total using factors such as ice time, teammates, shot rates, shooting percentages and many other factors.
You may remember that I did this same thing last season but it wasn't quite as thorough as I wanted and most of my projections were based on their historically similar players. This year, I will be putting less stock into those numbers and basing it more on the other factors that I listed above. I will also be making use of this chart derived from Eric T. at Broad Street Hockey, which breaks down the different factors that make up a player's point total and applying it to the Carolina players in question. This should help us come up with some more educated guesses about the Canes this season.
To start off this project, we will look at the Carolina captain and top player Eric Staal, who is coming off his seventh consecutive season of recording at least 70 points or more. Despite Staal having his lowest goal total since his rookie season (24), he led the Canes in both goals and points and was the key driving force behind the offense for most of the season. He got off to a very rough start at the beginning of the year, having only 12 points in the first 26 games of the year, but he exploded in the second half and had 45 points in 42 games from January onward. The way Staal finished the year has a lot of people wondering what he COULD have done if he had stayed hot the entire year, while others are wondering if his falling scoring rate is the sign of Staal being on the decline.
Staal is only 27 years old and while his scoring rate is declining from the level it once was, his offensive numbers have still been very good on a year-to-year basis and he still plenty of good years left ahead of him. Is he going to hit the 70 point mark again this year, though? We know that he'll get plenty of opportunities to do so because he will play on the top line all year and play on both special teams units. Having some stronger linemates will also help matters as Staal looks to have a more consistent showing this year.
There are many who say that Staal has another 80+ point season left in him and that the goals will come easier to him this season now that he has some better forward support. I suppose that is a fair assumption but a player putting up 80 points is so rare in the NHL these days (only 9 did it last season) that I have trouble thinking that Staal will get to that plateau just because the Canes improved their forward corps. That and the season is likely going to be shortened so an 80+ point season would be nearly impossible.
After the jump, we will take a look at what some realistic expectations for Staal next season and get a better idea of what kind of numbers he will put up.