Last year's production:
Projected Top 6 (Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Recchi, Sykora, Christensen):
463 games played, 163 goals
Projected Bottom 6 (Malone, Roberts, Talbot, Armstrong, Ruutu, Laraque):
442 gp, 73 goals
Defensive contribution (Gonchar, Whitney, Letang, Sydor):
34 goals in 244 total games played
***While the top 6 obviously gets more icetime and the precious powerplay time, the bottom 6 forwards chipped in quite a few goals last season. Many 'Big' goals were scored by players like Talbot and Armstrong, either to win a game, or to force overtime. One of the lower 6 guys, on average, would score every game (well, .99 goals per combined average games). That is great secondary scoring support to take the pressure of guys like Crosby and Malkin. This will need to be replicated in 07-08.
***Offensively Brooks Orpik and Mark Eaton bring nothing to the table, so we omit them completely. If they pop in the odd goal, all the better. Whitney and Gonchar feasted on the powerplay, and figure to do so again. Kris Letang surely will improve on his 2 goals 0 assist cup of coffee from 06-07. These guys are dangerous to jump into the play but also to convert passes from Crosby and Malkin on the powerplay. Last year it was a average of .55 goals a game, combining all four players efforts.
***That the defensemen and lower line forwards scored, on average, 1.48 goals per game is huge for the skill forwards. That's a lot of support and balance that opens up even more room for the skill players.
I'd expect the top 6 will combine for more than 163 this year; Crosby improves every year, Malkin isn't a rookie and I expect him to beat 33 goals, Christensen netted 18 in just 61 games and Sykora scored but 23 goals on a woeful Edmonton team. Recchi is slowing down with age, but even he 'only' scored 24 goals last year. Whether or not Jordan Staal can replicate his 29 goal rookie showing might be the biggest question mark, but even if he doesn't, I believe the first four names (especially Malkin and EC) will pick up that slack.
THIS YEAR: PROJECTIONS
492 games played, 175 goals
492 gp, 74 goals
492 gp, 41 goals
Total: 290 goals
Projecting 290 goals sounds crazy, but last year the team scored 267, so it's only about a 8% increase. Offensively the additions of Sykora and Letang plus factoring the potential for players like Christensen, Armstrong and Talbot to score more than last season and the idea seems more reasonable. Crosby and Malkin combined for 69 goals, and I'd think they'll improve on that.
Obviously not every player listed is going to play every game, but the team will field a roster for 82 games, so that's where the 492 figures come from.
It's not so much the individual player that I'm counting on, so much as whoever's in the lineup that night. Surely guys like Tim Brent, Jon Filewich and Ryan Stone will get their chance to make an impact and there's bound to be trades or deadline pickups on the way.
But as it stands now, I'm sticking by 290 goals (3.54 a game) this season. On paper. In September.