Scoring goals. That’s what this game of hockey is all about, really. You have to score and our Avalanche didn’t have any issues scoring goals during the first part of last season. But then, for some unknown reason, the scoring dropped off like a penny from the Empire State building. What’s the deal with Paul Stastny? Can Matt Duchene keep up the pace? Will Milan Hejduk return to a 30+ goal per year pace? Can the club acquire help in this area via free agency?
Well, to be completely honest from the start, there aren’t many goal scorers/snipers available via free agency this year. So, I’ve gone ahead and picked out four guys that can definitely score goals, but generally lack the “superstar” label.
Richards is probably the biggest name available this year. He is the only player available that could become a legitimate “superstar”. At 31 years old, Richards is in the prime of his career. Last year, he had 28 goals and 49 assists for the Dallas Stars and he ran their first-unit power play. He is always strong on the puck, has tremendous skill in open space, and isn’t afraid to shoot the puck (272 shots). He will definitely garner the attention of many teams this off-season and will command a high-dollar contract wherever he goes.
This guy really made a name for himself in the early rounds of the playoffs. The undrafted left wing from Savonlinna, Finland was a great addition to Philadelphia’s line-up 2 years ago. He has got a knack for being in the right place at the right time and even though he’s a European player, his hard-nosed style matches up well with the North American game. Leino had 19 goals and 34 assists in 81 games this year (hardly outstanding), but he is just now starting to come into his own. Whichever team ends up employing his services will be better off because of it.
Here is another player that exudes potential. Mired in the star-laden line-up of the Washington Capitals, Laich has been playing good hockey. Although he is generally overlooked (you would be too if you played on a team with guys like Ovechkin and Semin), I believe he has amazing potential – if given the chance. In 82 games this year, Laich had 48 points, was a +14 while on the ice and dished out 113 hits. Plus, he helped a mother and her daughter change a flat tire on the side of the highway after a game! Who wouldn’t want a guy like this on their club?
Personally, I would love to have this guy back. To be honest, I think it was a mistake to let him go in the first place. I don’t even remember what we got for him – if anything? Anyway, Tanguay is a perennial 70 point getter and he is one of the best players available. He has valuable playoff experience, his shooting percentage is awesome (almost 20%! That’s a goal for every 5 shots on net!) and he is comfortable being the point man on the power play. Bringing him back into the fold would be HUGE, but I don’t think Patrick Roy’s basement is still available for rent…
What do you think? Which potential free agent makes the most sense to you? I’ve covered netminders, defensemen and forwards. Do any of the players I’ve touched on strike a chord with you? I’d love to hear your comments…