Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Season preview - second defense pairing

First of all, my buddy Doug, also known as @drdougfresh on Twitter designed an awesome new logo for Fight Night. Check it out above. Thanks Doug!

Brad Stuart
Last three seasons
07/08 - Kings/Red Wings - 72 GP, 6 G, 17 A, 23 P, -10, 69 PIM
08/09 - Red Wings - 67 GP, 2 G, 13 A, 15 P, -3, 26 PIM
09/10 - Red Wings - 82, 4 G, 16 A, 20 P, -12, 22 PIM

Last season
What a year it was for Stuart last year. He had to play with a lot of different, weak defense partners like Janik, Meech and Lebda. He had to be a defensive rock and log loads of ice time for much of the season. He got power play time and he was essential when shorthanded. And when we called upon him, he delivered. For the first half of the season he was our best defenseman and maybe even MVP. In the second half he could allow himself to fade a bit, but was still our second best defenseman.

The upcoming season
Stuart's gotta feel good going into this season. He's coming off his best year of his career quality of play-wise and he'll be part of a better defense corps. Niklas Kronwall is gonna be a bit rusty at fist due to losing the pre-season, but hopefully he can get into the groove and have a healthy year. This would give Stuart a healthy and steady defense partner that he doesn't have to babysit on the ice. Last year it felt like Stuy had to babysit everyone, even Kronner. With more freedom this year, he's gonna be able to continue to be a great defensive defenseman and we can even look for his offensive numbers to rise a bit. Due to the arrival of Modano, and also Kindl, he will hopefully avoid power play time, so he can focus on 5-on-5 and the PK.

What we need
It's hard to say how good Kronner's gonna be. If he's good, it will take a load of Stuart, but as the status is now we have no idea where Kronner will be. Rafa looked a little more off than usual last year and the third pairing has a lot of potential, but could also be terrible. So Stuart might be our safest bet to be our second best defenseman this year. In a perfect season both Kronner and Rafa would be better, but since that is no safe bet, we're gonna need Stuart to keep his play up and play with the quality he gave us last year. We will need him to log fairly decent minutes, but without power play time. And it would be perfect if he could give us another 82 game season. We need him to be safe defensively. Offensively we don't ask much of him, but it would be a bonus if he could increase his numbers a bit.

What we will get
It's hard to say if we will get the monsterous Stuart of the first half of the last season or the slightly weaker one of the second half, but with Stuart you usually know what you get. You get a high quality of defensive play, a hard hitter, a safe and good defenseman. You also get a guy who now and then will make a mistake so huge that you'll wanna rip your hair out. But he makes up for it with his general standard of play. So I feel safe in predicting that Stuar will deliver another safe and good season where he gives us exactly what we need from him.

Prediction
82 GP, 3 G, 20 A, 23 Pts, .28 PPG


Niklas Kronwall
Last three seasons
07/08 - Red Wings - 65 GP, 7 G, 28 A, 35 Pts, +25, 44 PIM
08/09 - Red Wings - 80 GP, 6 G, 45 A, 51 Pts, +2, 50 PIM
09/10 - Red Wings - 8 GP, 7 G, 15 A, 22 Pts, +5, 32 PIM

Last season
The last season was a nightmare for Kronner. He started out fantasticly, with him and Stuart being the team's strongest pairing, looking like they were getting ready to replace Nick and Rafa in a year or to. Then the no-good, cheating, dirty scumbag George Laraque decided to deliver one of the most blatantly dirty kneeings in NHL history on Kronner in early November. Nick jr. lost several months and when he came back he looked shaky at first, but then got into a nice groove. Then he reinjured the knee and lost a few more games and after that he looked a little off out there on the ice. He made more mistakes than usual, contributed less offensively and wasn't the usual physical force.

The upcoming season
Right now Kronner is going in to get his knee scooped out. He will reportedly be back in time for the season opener, but lose training camp and the pre-season. So expect him to be a bit rusty at first. Hopefully he can get into the groove soon enough and get back to the Kronwall we are all used to. After a weak season last year he should have a lot to prove and be motivated to deliver strong numbers and make the defensive pairing with Stuart a pairing that is hard to score on and incredibly painful to play against. A healthy season would also be a big step forward for the injury prone defenseman.

What we need
With the uncertainty around the players in the third pairing we need the two first pairings to be solid and healthy. So we need Kronner to be his old self and stay injury free. We need him to hit hard, be safe defensively and contribute some offense, especially on the power play, where he will likely be paired up with Mike Modano on the blue line.

What we will get
I would love to predict an injury free season for Kronner, but looking at his career, that would be naive. His knee might get fucked up again or he might take another injury. In all probability he will get hurt at some point in the season, but I hope it's not one that keeps him out for too long and affects his play too much. I think that when he is playing he will move into the zone and be the Kronner of old, giving us safe defensive play, huge hits and some good offensive numbers.

Prediction
61 GP, 10 G, 34 A, 44 Pts, 0.72 Pts/G

Look out for the rest of the defense tomorrow!

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