Note: To keep things moving during the off-season, I’m starting a series of posts looking ahead to next season, trying to determine just what we can expect to get out of certain players.
Let’s start at the top, shall we? Thomas Vanek had what is a down year by his standards, scoring 28G + 25A to equal 53 points. That’s still 1st on the team in goals and 4th in points. He missed 11 regular season games, with various injuries (‘lower body injury’, sometimes ‘abdominal strain’). I don’t consider Vanek injury prone yet, as the jaw injury was a freak accident that would knock anybody for a loop.
Vanek might just be the toughest to figure out for next season. He’s just entering his prime, so in a vacuum I’d have no problem pencilling him in for 35 goals, 40 assists (with a stretch goal all the way up at 45+ goals). HOWEVER, the problem I have with doing that has nothing to do with Atlas, and everything to do with his teammates. Vanek suffered from lackluster play from his centers and opposite wingers, and he more than anyone relies on other players getting shots on net that he can tip or scoop up on the rebound. I hate to bang on the ‘Darcy do something!’ drum too much, but a change on the top 6 might be just what the doctor ordered for our one true goal-scoring threat.
So where does that leave Thomas Vanek? Right now I can’t imagine him having more than 30-35 goals with the current ‘core’. It’s possible he’ll rediscover his chemistry with Roy or Connolly if they are still around, but I am not counting on it.