Two things hurt us most last year: injuries and special teams.
Assuming we finally have a year where we dont find our skate blades sliding into ruts, someone escorting MONO into the dressing room, or our best young stars twisting their legs in fights, I think it's imperative that we improve our PP and PK immediately.
When ST fleeced Lombardi (and rubbed Fraser into the wound) we instantly made our power play better. Smytty will not only help us score more on the man-advantage, he will help teach our younger guys how to get it done in front of the net like very few can in hte NHL. I think Teemu-H will benefit the most from this when he gets his shot later on in the season.
In addition, I think Smytty could help our PK in a way we won't get to see for ourselves but rather in practices. With Smytty in front of DD and NK during practice sessions it will force some of our softer D penalty killers to learn how to box out the front of the net and let the goalie see the shots.
In the last two seasons we've lost Souray and Foster on the point. Who, if anyone, is our new go to guy in this regard? I saw Gilbert give an interview where he explicitly said he spent the summer working on his shot. That is good news but he's clearly not our guy.
Perhaps not having someone to focus on setting up is just what the doctor ordered since our PP has often been very 1-dimensional and predictable in this regard.
Of our new additions, who is the best penalty killer? How does Belanger stack up? If he can win his share of the draws it will improve our pk% but can he also be useful on the powerplay or are we stuck with horcoff taking the offensive zone PP draws?
We were 27th in PP% last year at an abysmal 14.5%
We were 29th in PK% last year with a terrible 76.9%
Considering how many tight games we lost last year it is actually quite conceivable that, if something finally clicks and coaching adjusts accordingly, we could have a pretty good year.
Optimistically, if we can improve our league ranking in both of these categories we will begin to win these 1 goal games that have cost us so dearly in years past.
If the PK and PP do not improve to at least in the low 20's this year it's time to dump a couple of our coaches. The excuse of young players doesn't wash because our young offensive guys are skilled and we had more vet type players on the pk.