Lately there has been a lot of chatter about who the Canes should trade and what is our most pressing need. The main point of concern seems to be on a defensive defenseman and I definitely agree that one of those is needed. But unlike some others here, I still believe we need some help at the forward position. I have heard about keeping and resigning a lot of the forwards and then letting the young guys come up to fill the few open spots we have. This is probably the course of action that JR will take, but I have done a little analysis that I think shows we still need some upgrades at certain forward positions. This is all subjective, so you can disagree; but I thought I would at least explain my thought process.
When I look at most successful teams, I tried to determine what type of offensive output those lines should be producing. For instance, I believe that a successful NHL 1st line should be producing about 82+ goals a season; or about 1 goal per game on average. A 2nd line should produce 63+ goals, a 3rd line should produce 48+ goals, and a typical 4th line should produce 13+ goals. If you add those numbers up, then divide by 82 games; you will get a forward group that would average 2.51 goals per game. Below is a projection, based somewhat on current key players of how "I" expect certain positions to produce.
1st line LW (25+ goals, 55+ points) - 1st line C (35+ goals, 85+ points) - 1st line RW (22+ goals, 50+ points)
2nd line LW (25+ goals, 55+ points) - 2nd line C (20+ goals, 50+ points) - 2nd line RW (18+ goals, 45+ points)
3rd line LW (15+ goals, 30+ points) - 3rd line C (18+ goals, 40+ points) - 3rd line RW (15+ goals, 30+ points)
4th line LW (5+ goals, 12+ points) - 4th line C (5+ goals, 15+ points) - 4th line RW (3+ goals, 10+ points)
Now, below is what our starting lineup as of the last Boston game would look like at their current pace and if they played a full 82 game season.
Samsonov (16g, 41p) - Staal (40g, 84p) - Cole (21g, 48p)
Skinner (29g, 64p) - Ruutu (19g, 64p) - LaRose (16g, 32p)
Tlusty (9g, 19p) - Sutter (18g, 30p) - Jokinen (22g, 69p)
Dwyer (12g, 25p) - Carter (2g, 11p) - Bodie (0g, 6p)
So Staal and Cole on the 1st line are right about where I project. Samsonov is a fair amount under my expectations of a 1st line LW, but he hasn't played the whole season there. Skinner & Ruutu are doing pretty well on the 2nd line, but LaRose leaves some to be desired in a 2nd line RW. Tlusty & Sutter are underperforming on the 3rd line per my expectations, but they have been fighting injuries this season. Jokinen is pretty significantly outperforming my expectations, but he plays pretty much everywhere and on the PP. Dwyer is also exceeding expectations for a 4th liner, but he has also seen majority 3rd line minutes this season. Both Carter & Bodie are under my expectations and I think we could be getting more out of those positions. But basically every line except for the 1st is around where I expect a successful team to be via goal production.
Now let's look at a potential lineup next season. Let's assume Cole, Tlusty, Jokinen, Dwyer, Carter, and Bodie are all resigned.
Boychuk - Staal - Cole
Skinner - Ruutu - Jokinen
Tlusty - Sutter - Dalpe
Dwyer - Carter - Bodie
So the questions are;
Can Boychuk produce 20 to 25 goals and 55 points next season? Based on this years NHL performance, he would be at 18 goals and 32 points if he played 82 games. So he would need some more improvement, but it is possible.
Can Cole continue playing like he has this season or does he take a tumble? Based on his age and injury history, I would count on Cole being as productive as he has this season. Of course I wouldn't have projected this season either. I still think he can be a good player, but I think the 3rd line is the place for him now.
Does Skinner continue to get better or does he have a sophomore slump? I think he might have a minor slump, but I think he will work through it just fine and put up better numbers next season.
Can Ruutu build off what looks to be a career best season in regards to points? I think Ruutu could fall back a little, but playing with Skinner should keep his assists up to near career levels.
Can Tlusty solidify his placement as a top 9 forward? He has all the tools, but has only put it all together in short spurts throughout his career. If he can stay healthy, we should have a nice player with some size.
Where is Dalpe really going to end up? While I think with more of a "tryout" this season, he could have worked his way into the top 6; I think he will start out on the 3rd line next season. I think he is ready to make a splash and he could potentially be a 1st line winger. Of course he could end up being a 2nd line center for Skinner & Ruutu. It will be interesting.
Can the 4th line produce a little more than they are right now? I like having a 4th line of energy guys and penalty killers, but I think Carter & definitely Bodie need to produce a little more offensively. I'm not expecting them to score 10+ goals, but they really need to be around the 4 or 5 goal mark IMO.
In summary, I think the Canes forward situation for next season is very close to be very good. There are probably only a couple of changes I would make. I would like to go find a big winger to play on Staal's right side. I would like to move Cole to the 3rd line and let him play with Staal in 4-on-4 and PK situations or maybe just to change things up during a game every once in a while. I would like to see Skinner/Ruutu/Dalpe as our 2nd line. I would probably have Bodie as my 13th forward, only playing him occasionally. I would also probably have Dwyer & Tlusty on the 4th line, creating what I consider a 4th line with definite scoring potential. Like I said, we are close and depending on the trade deadline, we could get even closer!