The attack should finally have a true top scoring line, but I don’t yet see a second one. Rather the team has a plethora of bottom-six forwards, some of who can perhaps fill middle-six roles at times – and who will need to do so if the team will have any chance of contending for a wildcard playoff position.
The blueline should be more consistent as well, but the corps doesn’t feature even a single clear-cut top pairing defender. Instead – much like with the forward cadre, there are three or four second/third pair defenders, two or three third pair, and a few bubble NHL/AHL players.
If Philipp Grubauer benefits from an improved defence and returns to something closer to past form and can steal the occasional expected goal rather than conceding howler, it’ll make a difference between a few wins and losses. If he misses any significant amount of time, particularly before Chris Driedger returns from injury, it’ll border on catastrophic. Martin Jones is past his prime, even as a backup, and Joey Daccord – although stellar at the AHL level – still seems to lack the ability to recover from conceding and not compound by making mental mistakes.
Projection: 75-80 points, +15 from last season, and 6th or 7th in the Pacific Division. Without an injury-shortened campaign, Matty Beniers should remain in the discussion for the Calder Trophy as one of the top rookies, and if the team can find secondary scoring, even if by committee, perhaps the favourite for the award.