So, Joe brought in Michael Ryder to help with scoring and Vernon Fiddler, Radek Dvorak and Jake Dowel to help make the bottom 6 more deep. While those last 3 will definitely be upgrades for the players that we let go (Segal, Sutherby, Williams) I think we can all agree that unless Ryder has a break through year offensively, it just isn’t a proper replacement for Brad Richards.
The Ryder Factor
That said, everyone else agrees with us as well. The math just doesn’t work. Assuming he wouldn’t miss games this coming season, Brad likely would have put up 90-95 points again this year (he had 77 in 72 last season). Even if Ryder pulls out the scoring prowess he showed in Montreal – his peak performance was 63 points in 03-04; I think you can use simple subtraction to see the difference. I’d predict something more akin to 40-45 at best, however.
The Ribeiro Scenario
I think we can all assume also that Ribeiro will get increased ice time. This will bump his point totals up to make up some of that, but it is unlikely he gets over 85 points. However, the stars seem to be aligning for that Ribeiro line as Ryder seems destined to get a shot on the wing opposite of Morrow and Brenden scored 33 goals and 56 points last year. Add another winger who can put up 50 points to that line and it is looking pretty formidable, so Ribeiro at least hitting his career-high of 83 that he scored back in 07-08 is a very real possibility. But the 10+ point increase from 70* to 80* is still not enough to make up the difference in the Richards void.
And Finally, The Big Benn Theory…
Which is where Jamie Benn comes in. A lot of people are not only saying that the season depends on how much slack the kid can pick up in Richards absence, but a lot of people are also saying that the loss isn’t as bad because of his presence or perhaps the Stars didn’t feel entirely uncomfortable letting Richards go knowing they had Jamie Benn coming up. If we look at the math, it’s true Jamie Benn is a rising star should the numbers increase at the rate they have. While he jumped a solid 41-to-56 points between the years, you also can take into consideration that he played 82 games the first year and only 69 last year in which he scored 56 points. While he only scored 22 goals both years, last year he showed he could set up his line-mates as well as center a line of his own if need-be. So he was playing a position he had never played, played fewer games and still managed to improve his points total by 15 points. So in theory had he played all 82 games last season his points would likely look something like 25-40-65 give or take. Given how he gains momentum, it could be a lot higher had he not gotten injured in the middle. So, lets say Jamie improves another 15 or so points using the rate of 82 full games; that’s 80 points – not too big of a stretch, right? I mean, assuming he has the future most people project for him…
Now, if Benn can be a catalyst for other players much like Ribeiro could be for Ryder, we could also see Steve Ott hit the goal totals he scored in 09-10 when he was helped along by filling in on the wings of both Ribeiro and Richards during injuries – he scored 22 goals. While his point totals weren’t much better all together only jumping from 34 to 36 thanks to a decent assist rate last year, if you replace the 12 goals he scored last year with those 22, that’s 10 more points and another player with nearly 50 points over all. However, the other dependant factor is whether or not Eriksson can flirt with 30 goals and 70 points again without Richards feeding him (or vice versa). This year is a true test for Loui, because while I think Jamie Benn is a very skilled player, I’m not sure he’ll ever be at the level that Richards is. But, we’ll ignore the idea of a point decrease from Loui Loui, for the sake of optimism. Which brings us too…
So, you have these numerical increases that I’m pulling straight out of my behind:
- -91 Richards
- +15 Benn
- +40 Ryder
- +15 Ribeiro
- +10 Ott
So, I’ve pretty much given everyone a bit of room here on this list, putting asside my oppressive cynicism for long enough to be optimistic on most fronts and we’re still about 10 points short. The ace in the whole is the additions to the defense. Can a full year with Goligoski and a hopeful resurgence of Souray make up those 10 points. And can the small increase in the defense-corp’s skill level save enough goals to give the wobbly logic and bad math seen above some room to breathe?
Back to Benn
Which brings me back to the whole point of this article. Is Jamie Benn the answer? Is he the replacement for Brad Richards?
Well, when Neal left, he was easily traded away because management felt Jamie Benn could take over his scoring role. And he did; he hit 56 points last season in 69 games, surpassing Neal’s 55 point breakout season the year before and far surpassing Neal’s flailing points totals last season. But now the transition of the team has almost put Ryder in that position; can Ryder fill the void of James Neal? Which means Benn has been promoted to, “Can he fill the void of Richards?”
So, can he score 90 points? Not likely. While 77 is more feasible, I don’t think a 20+ point jump in points totals is possible in a single year even for Jamie. Which leaves us with one question that has nothing to do with either of them… can the upgrade in depth on the bottom 6 and defense make up the difference by adding a few more points than they did last year, but more so – reduce the goals against?
See, it always comes back to the defense. Damn it!