I think we can all agree that this team has surpassed expectations to this point. Typically, teams in a playoff spot at American Thanksgiving have a very good shot at the playoffs. Schneider has been awesome, the young D has held up fairly well and the top two lines have been awesome. The problem is that most of those guys are in line for career years and I don't think we can reasonably expect that they'll continue this pace. Cammalleri is on pace for 85 points (previous high is 82), Stempniak/Palmieri/Henrique on pace for ~60 points. Stempniak has never hit 40, Henrique has been a consistent mid-40s guy and while I admit Palmieri is a bit of an unknown, 60 points does seem a bit high for him.
As outlined above, it is unrealistic to think that they'll continue at this pace. Which means they need to find ANY secondary scoring from either their defense, or the bottom 6. I don't think it'll come from the D, especially if Gelinas isn't consistently in the lineup. I thought Severson would be able to flirt with double digits this year but his play has been up and down.
Which brings us to the bottom 6. I like Josefson as a defensive player and do think he is a decent passer but it's clear there is no offense to his game. Tootoo has some skills but you cant count on him to provide much offense. Kalinin has played well but I don't know how much he has to offer offensively. Matteau is pretty much the definition of meh. Tlusty has been a major disappointment but I suspect he isn't even close to being fully healthy. The bottom line has been an unmitigated disaster. The Brian O'Neill experiment has run it's course. It's been 20 games and I think it's clear he isn't a NHL player. Gionta, I can live with because he's a very good penalty killer but obviously there is no offense. I'll admit I enjoy watching Farnham play due to his general recklessness but you don't suddenly become good at 26 years old. He's going to come back to earth and take dumb penalties.
Luckily, reinforcements seem to be coming. Elias should be back within the week. Though I don't think you can count on him to stay healthy he should be a .4 PPG player which will really help the bottom 6. I'd like to see him play with Josefson and Tlusty. I do think they sign Kennedy which would gives them flexibility as TK can play pretty much anywhere in the lineup. I'm not counting on much from Ruutu when he gets back as his speed has diminished but I do think he's better than Matteau. Boucher has played well in Albany and could be an option.
My question is: Being that Hynes' system emphasizes speed, is having slower players like Elias and Ruutu going to hurt the pace? They shouldn't touch the top 6, except maybe Tlusty or TK for Kalinin on the second line. As evidenced by the fact that the top 6 rarely dumps the puck in while the bottom 6 does very often, we know that Hynes doesn't mind having his lines play differently. Will be interesting to see what happens.
ex. Matteau and Gionta