Will the Carolina Hurricanes be able to replace Erik Cole's production with their recent additions? It won't be easy because not only did Cole take last season's total of 26 goals with him to Montreal, perhaps just as important, he took his total of 225 hits with him as well.
While it might be tougher to replace those goals, it appears that the Canes have taken proper steps to replace the hit totals.
Newcomer Alexei Ponikarovsky had 139 hits in just 61 games last season and Anthony Stewart chipped in with 98 hits for Atlanta.
While there will be constant discussion about exactly where certain players will fit within the top nine spots, both of those players will most likely start out somewhere in the top nine.
When comparing to last season's lineup, one player will take's Cole's spot (in the top nine, not necessarily the top three) and the other will take Stillman/Samsonov's spot, neither of whom known for their physicality.
Does it end up as a wash? Let's take a closer look.
Cole averaged 2.74 hits per game last season, (his career high), while Ponikarovsky averaged 2.27 hits and Stewart averaged 1.23.
While with Carolina, Samsonov and Stillman combined for 58 hits which was good for a .73 average per game. Add that to Cole's average and you get a total of 3.47 hits per game. Add together Ponikarovsky's and Stewart's and you get 3.50.
Obviously, that's not much of a difference except that both Ponikarovsky and Stewart have bigger bodies and perhaps their hits are of more consequence, especially when comparing with Cory Stillman or Sergei Samsonov.
Add in a consistent Tim Brent at 104 hits on the fourth line, and the Canes might be more physical this coming season than they were last.
You can't discuss team physicality or hit totals without mentioning Tuomo Ruutu and his amazing 309 hits, (3.77 per game average), which was the 2nd best total in the NHL last year. Of course, Ruutu will be back.
If the Hurricanes are able to be more physical next season, will that equate to more wins? Stay tuned.