2009-10 Projected Goal Leaders
It's not too surprising to see Alex the Great topping this list, but VUKOTA also sees a new career high for goals in a season by Sidney Crosby. (Previous high: 39)
Player Team Goals
1. Alex Ovechkin WAS 56.6
2. Evgeni Malkin PIT 45.3
3. Ilya Kovalchuk ATL 40.7
4. Sidney Crosby PIT 40.3
5. Eric Staal CAR 37.8
According to the pundits, 2009-10 is the season that will finally bring the Detroit Red Wings back to earth. Indeed, no team has bled personnel over the offseason like the Red Wings, who lost Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson, a trio that scored 82 goals in '08-'09. Nevertheless, VUKOTA sees the Red Wings as one of the top three offensive teams in the league, along with the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals.
All three teams share many of the same characteristics that make for an elite offense: a top line with superstars in their prime, a second line that would be the first line on most teams in the league, and puck-moving defensemen with high-end offensive skills who can quarterback the attack both at even strength and on the power play. Even with the offseason losses, Detroit still fits that mold.
Washington, however, leads our scoring projections. The Caps lost none of their big guns over the offseason and their top players, especially Mike Green, have something to prove after their second-round implosion against Pittsburgh.
The other two teams that VUKOTA sees ahead of the pack offensively are the Boston Bruins and the Penguins. Boston's offense would be even more dangerous in the unlikely scenario that it could sign Phil Kessel while keeping the rest of its major weapons. Pittsburgh will always be a threat as long as the Penguins have two of the most dangerous centers in the game, and a full season from Sergei Gonchar will only help.
VUKOTA sees the San Jose Sharks falling to the league average offensively, despite the addition of sniper Dany Heatley, since the offense has also lost Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. In fact, the trade didn't move our projections for the Sharks at all, meaning San Jose will likely have to find another way to put an end to its underachievement in the playoffs.
As for the Ottawa Senators, with the addition of Alexei Kovalev, as well as the players exchanged for Heatley, they'll improve from last season, according to our projections, but they'll still be in the bottom half in scoring.
Near the bottom, it looks to be another long season for two of last season's cellar dwellars. The New York Islanders will have first overall draft pick John Tavares on their team, but his presence cannot save an offense that was ranked 29th in the league last season. The Islanders have some good young players, and three or four years down the line Tavares and Kyle Okposo will spearhead a fearsome offense. In the present, however, they remain among the weakest teams in the league. Another team in rebuilding mode is the Colorado Avalanche. After the retirement of longtime star Joe Sakic, the Avs shifted toward a younger mold, trading their top scorer, Ryan Smyth, for defensemen Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing. Quincey was a revelation in Los Angeles and gives the Avalanche another good puck-moving defenseman to go with John-Michael Liles, but the cupboard is barren at forward, where only Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk are projected to score 20 goals and 50 points.
One last team that made a lot of moves over the summer but didn't shore up its offense is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mike Komisarek, Colton Orr, Garnet Exelby and Francois Beauchemin are predicted to score nine goals among them. Leafs fans had better hope that European imports Rickard Wallin and Jonas Gustavsson can carry the team this season, or it will be yet another long season of frustration for Leafs Nation.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Tom Awad is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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