I've probably said some of this before and I may have changed my opinion here and there but hey I think I'm allowed to (I hope it makes sense).
Having to redo/rework my season thoughts has been a lot harder to do than I thought. But here goes nothing:
It’s funny that when I posted that poll about how many wins the Pats would have this season I noticed that a few people either changed their votes or the maybe the Blogger poll is screwed up as few votes seemed to fluctuate.
I guess I should have voted on the poll but I chose to keep it for The Blueliner readers and it looks to be somewhat apparent.... no one knows what to think of the team this year. All but 10 people that voted picked the Pats to have less than 35 wins (I kinda screwed up the numbers when I posted the poll) which would see the Pats missing the playoffs yet again. 8 people chose the 35-40 option which might or might not see the Pats in the playoffs. Two people picked 40+ wins which would all but guarantee a playoff spot. I think everyone is picking the team to finish last in the conference even The Hockey News (I think it was Rob Vanstone that did the predictions)..... more on this later.
It looks like people have little to no faith in the team without the “big guns” from last year. Thinking about it.... where was this team the last 2 years? That’s right.... outside looking in. This is a new season and there is a new person in charge. No matter what people say or think this is Chad Lang’s team and I’m looking forward to him “righting the ship” this year and in years to come.
It’s gonna be different having Dan Plaster call the Pats games on a full time basis this year and I must say I think he did a pretty good job in game #1 in Brandon. I watched the webcast and couldn’t get the volume to work (I guess it has something to do with the browser... oops) so I go to see the play about 15-20 seconds after Dan did the call and I would have to say he was pretty much on for most of if not all of the game. I watched the archive of the game (it had sound) and Wheat King veteran announcer Bruce Luebke(sp?) had some name issues... it’s Dyson not Dillon Stevenson. 1 down 71 regular season games to go (and hopefully playoffs).
On to the team.....
Goaltending seems to be the big issue this year. Actually, when wasn’t the Pats goaltending an issue? This is no real knock to Ketlo, Guhle and Hewitt (only seen him in camp[s]) none of them have shown that they are elite goalies. With that said a few other teams have real question marks in net so the Pats aren’t the only team with issues. Ketlo seems to have earned the #1 job (so far). He’s prone to the weak goal but he’s also known to make some unbelievable saves. If he could somehow stop letting the weak ones in he could easily become a top goalie. I think Guhle has shown signs that he could be the #1 and just needs a chance to shine. If Ketlo falters Guhle is more than capable of stepping in. Hewitt is the unknown and I have really been impressed with him from camp through the exhibition season. Chad’s got some decisions to make. But with the season we had last year this position is probably the most discussed part of the team.
I really think that the teams defence is not as bad as everyone says. People say that they are missing size and toughness and I would have to agree with half of that assessment there is not much toughness on the blueline other than Sparrow and Bell. I honestly think that the Pats have a decent mix on the defensive side of things but they just aren’t a proven commodity. I think we have a decent top 3 with Bell, Carlson and Davidson. I think the way Blidstrand played in training camp I think he pretty much earned a spot in the top 4 so that leaves Borstmayer, Pavkovich, Peel, Sparrow and Spooner for the last 2 spots in the top 6. Borstmayer is only getting better but is still not super swift but can use his body and stick well and once he learns how excel with that he will be a top dman. Pavkovich has been injured but could be a true shut down dman. Peel is so slight and needs to learn how to use his skating and puck movement in the WHL and will become an everyday dman in the not too distant future. I don’t think Sparrow has improved from last year.... but looked pretty good (minus one bad mistake) on Friday in Brandon. I hope he brings the toughness aspect to the game and then maybe people won’t call for him to be gone. Spooner is all offence and would be perfect on the powerplay, his defence is not the greatest but looked as though he improved as training camp progressed. People are saying that Lang needs to go out and waste a 20-year old spot on a rugged tough blueliner..... I don’t know if they need to do that.... Maybe Sparrow can take the role? With the right coaching I think the defence isn’t as bad as people say it is.
The forwards are a totally different monster. Who is going to score goals? Is Weal really the “real deal”? I had to re-do this because of the Ashton factor/Frazee trade. So I had to cut out a few questions. I say that people are going to underestimate the Pats this year especially on the offensive side of things. I honestly think that Weal is going to prove a bunch of naysayers wrong and put up some big numbers. I don’t know if he can top the 100 point plateau but I think that 85+ is plausible. If he gets some help on his line those point totals are definitely a possibility. Gustafsson is an unknown scoring 14 goals last year. The way he’s been playing throughout camp I think he could easily improve on those totals and I’m thinking that he could pot 25 this year. Ashton will have something to prove to Hockey Canada and the Lightning so I’m expecting a big year from him, 30 goals should be easily attainable. I’m looking for Mitchell to have a career year and improve on his 15 goals from last year. Another couple of unknowns are Muench and Hutt.... the mini-mites are both extremely talented and I’m looking for some decent production from the two. Newly acquired overagers Reddin and Frazee have something to prove as 20 year olds and should put up some good numbers. Rookies Jung, Stephenson, Sagen and Ouellette (newly acquired) should all get chances to play and develop so I’m not even going to try to predict point totals for them (all depends on ice time). Stevenson is going to become a fan favourite even though he probably won’t get too much ice, the kid competes and isn’t afraid to get gritty. Rieder is a crash and banger that will yet again be a role player because there is just not enough ice, I think he would excel with more ice. Everyone’s favourite Favreau appears to have made the team.... I know that there are a lot of people that think he shouldn’t be here, blah, blah, blah. The scouts and coaches must see something in him to stick around as an 18 year old on the fourth line.
I hope players make any future choices extremely tough on Chad Lang. To be honest (I probably have used that too much already) I think the Pats are going to surprise a lot of people this season.
No matter what..... as long as the kids skate hard, play hard and give us something to cheer about I’ll be happy. No matter what happens I’m a Pats fan.
Good luck boys!
GO PATS GO!!!