Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Hundred-Helpers Club

Seven New Members Are Waiting To Join!

Does 100 assists mean anything? Is that really a milestone? Well, it's not spectacular, but in a way, it's a significant indicater of a player whose having a legitimate NHL career with meaningful contributions. I don't know how many players have reached the 100 assist plateau, a lot I guess, but there must be even more who haven't. It's a line in the sand that seperates those that could from those that couldn't.
So, I was looking to see what milestones any Leaf players might achieve this season, and discovered a few - Antropov, if he stays somewhat healthy, will play in his 500th NHL game this season. He has 54 games to go. Blake is 10 games away from his 600th career game and is destined to take his 2,000th career shot on goal this season, and then later, his 3,000th. 3.5-million dollar defenceman Jeff Finger is just 6 games shy of 300 games in the NHL. Wait. That should be 200. No. Sorry, again. 100 games, and worth every penny.
Hey, remember that exciting opening paragraph? The only other milestone any Leaf players are likely to hit this year is in the category of Assists. Specifically, that first big milestone, 100. Seven players on the Leafs' roster will have a shot at it this season, which seems like quite a lot, and it gives you a pretty good idea of what kind of a team we have this year. Young and inexperienced, yet on the verge now of proving themselves to the league and establishing their right to be recognized.
The seven Leafs who might join the Hundred-Helpers Club this year are: Mark Bell with 95 assists, Mike Van Ryn 91, Jamal Mayers 87, Hagman at 85, Ponikarovski has 83, Steen 74, and Stajan 71. Mark Bell - 5 to go. Bell might be the first to reach 100 assists, and he might do it by December. If he doesn't, it means he's not on the team, or shouldn't be. Last year he had 6 assists in 35 games, but I think this year he'll have less time to show that he can do more. If he's in the line up on a regular basis, it means he doin' allright, and 100 is in the bag.

Mike Van Ryn - 9 to go. Again, Van Ryn is going to need playing time in order to get there, but if he plays a full season, it should be no problem. In three full seasons with the Panthers, in which he played 79, 80, and 78 games, Van Ryn collected 24, 29, and 25 assists, repectively. If he's playing everyday, he could reach 100 before mid-season.

Jamal Mayers - 13 to go. It might take the season, but Jamal has a chance to get to 100 career assists this year. Last year with the Blues, Mayers had 15 assists in 80 games played. If he's healthy all year he'll probably see increased ice-time with the Leafs and will have a good chance to hit the 100 mark if he plays with anyone who can score. Mayers brings leadership and toughness to a team that needs it, so if he can contribute 13 assists as well, I'll call that a success.

Niklas Hagman - needs 15. This one will be close. Hagman is more of a goal scorer. He had an imressive 27 goals last year with the Stars, but only 14 assists. He's only had more then 15 once in his career, way back in 2002 when he had 18 with the Panthers. The following year he had exactly 15. Obviously the pressure will be on Hagman to score goals, but if he doesn't reach the 100 assist milestone this year I'll be a bit dissapointed. It should be within his potential, and given his role as an offensive player, he should also have talented linemates to work with. This will be one to watch.

Alexei Ponikarovsky - needs 17. For 4 straight seasons, Ponikarovsky has not produced fewer then 17 assists, averaging 19.5. Last season he had exaclty 17 assists in only 66 games. This one may take all season as well, but Poni will be expected to produce and deliver this year, and if he can't reach the 100 assist plateau by season's end then he's probably not had a good year, and neither have the Leafs.

Alex Steen - needs 26. In three seasons with the Maple Leafs, Alex Steen has recorded 27, 20, and 27 assists, so 26 is very much in his range, but he'll need to have a good season, stay healthy, and be a leader on the ice in key situations. Steen is a good player, there's no doubt about that, but if he can get up to 100 assists this season, in just his 4th year with the team, it'll show that he's still got a great future.

Matt Stajan - needs 29. This is the long shot. Last year Stajan was well off pace with a disappointing 17 assists. However, the year previous, Stajan recorded a career high, 29 assists, which is exactly the total he needs this year to reach 100. So basically, Stajan needs to have a career year or better. Can he do it? 29 assists, in today's NHL, seems like an awful lot for someone who'll be used in a checking role primarily. But he's done it once before, and I think Stajan has a lot he wants to prove. Reaching the 100 mark for career assists would definately help in that regard.

Seven players. 100 assists. Can they do it? All of them? Will any of them? Why should I care?
I'm going to make a chart with all of their names on it, with a blank space beside each. Whenever (if ever) any of them hit the 100 assist plateau this year, I'll write a 1 in the blank followed by 2 happy faces. At the end of the year, I will count up the total number of happy faces and compare it to my projection below:

No one does it, so - no happy faces: Here comes Tavares!
Only two happy faces: Here comes Tavares!
Four happy faces: Tavares?
Six happy faces: Hmmm. Easy come, easy go, I guess. We suck, but probably not bad enough to get Tavares.
Eight happy faces: Aw, crap. Not even a top 5 pick.
Ten happy faces: Please no, not 9th place!
Twelve happy faces: Hey, is this team playoff bound? Damn, still 9th place, but that was close and a lot of these players had really good seasons. Hopefully Cliff can swing a nice trade at the draft for one of these proven performers.
Fourteen happy faces - all of them do it: Holy smokes, what a season! Team chemistry, career-years, and exceeded expectations! Man, it's weird to be back in the playoffs!

So, there we go, a way to measure success or failure this season, since everyone knows we're probably not gonna win the Stanley Cup: How many milestone-makers will finish the season in the Hundred-Helpers Club?

Dougie's Tip For Frequent Helpers: Pass the puck to Kaberle.

What YOU can do to help: Yell "SHOOOOOOOOOT!!!"


Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

I've come to terms with Kaberle's decision making regarding shots. In Kabs I trust. I'd go to war with him. Even though he wouldn't offer any instructions because, you know, he doesn't speak up. But, well, still. You get my point. If there's anyone around here who appreciates Kabs as much as I do, it's probably you General.

And here's hoping everyone reaches the 100 club. We're really stretching for stuff to celebrate eh? Bleak times, my friend. Here's hoping we shock the world. My motto: Fuck Tavares!

general borschevsky said...

Thanks for the comment, eyebleaf. Whatever happens it will be a fun season.
For Kaberle, I guess this is a very important season that will define what kind of a superstar he really is. He's been my favorite Leaf for a while but he's really on his own for the first time this year. Hopefully he doesn't miss Mats and McCabe too much.
Also, I have this fear that if the Leafs actually landed Tavares he would be so overhyped it could be the second coming of Alexander Daigle. Shudder.