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Rosen's mailbag - Sept. 23, 2015

by Dan Rosen

Here is the Sept. 23 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday in the Over the Boards blog during the 2015-16 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

Over/under for John Tavares: 40 goals, 30 assists? -- @Medicbluesfan09

I'd go under 40 goals, well over 30 assists. Tavares, if healthy all season, should again score upwards of 80 or 90 points. The New York Islanders captain had 38 goals and 48 assists for 86 points in 82 games last season. There's no reason why he can't replicate those numbers. It's just too hard to predict he'll score 40 goals, even though he came close last season. If I'm pushed to make bold predictions, I'd say Tavares scores 37 goals and dishes out 51 assists, provided he plays 82 games. Come back to me in April to see if I'm right.

How do you see the Boston Bruins' season going? How deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs? -- @thedogpoundd

You're assuming I think the Bruins are going to make the playoffs. They're a bubble team. I'm not sold on their defense, which just lost veteran Dennis Seidenberg for eight weeks with a lumbar spine disc herniation that will require surgery. Zdeno Chara is getting older and it's going to be difficult to ask him to play upwards of 25 hard minutes a game again. That's why trading Dougie Hamilton didn't make sense. Hamilton was the guy who could take some of Chara's minutes, some of his workload, and eventually assume it all. Now he's in Calgary and the Bruins don't have anybody that can withstand the heavy load that Chara gets. Chara has to do it again. It's asking a lot, despite the fact that he's in tremendous shape.

The Bruins will be in the mix for either third in the Atlantic Division or one of the two wild cards out of the Eastern Conference. They're not better than the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Montreal Canadiens. It's questionable if they're any better than the Detroit Red Wings or Ottawa Senators. Don't sleep on the Florida Panthers either. At some point all that young talent that general manager Dale Tallon has assembled will come together with the backing of a veteran goalie in Roberto Luongo. Five teams from the Metropolitan Division are legit playoff contenders (Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets).

Do you see the Islanders' goaltending situation getting bad again in the next three years or do they have enough good prospects? -- @elitegialie35

It's impossible to tell right now because goaltending in the NHL is so fluid and prospects take a lot of time to develop. My advice is stop worrying about three years from now if you're an Islanders fan. Embrace the team you have now. It's a playoff contender heading into a new building, a new era. Embrace Tavares and the superstar that he is. Trust Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss. Enjoy watching Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan. Watch for the development of Michael Dal Colle and Ryan Pulock. Believe that the defense got better with the addition of Marek Zidlicky. Hope for the best from Kyle Okposo and that he will stay an Islander. Look for more out of Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson. Appreciate Frans Nielsen for being one of the most underrated centers in the NHL. Enjoy the energy the Islanders get from Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas.

Relax and enjoy being an Islander fan. The team is good and relevant again. Soak it in.

What kind of contract do you see Hampus Lindholm getting from the Anaheim Ducks? -- @GingerBread019

I'm a big fan of Lindholm's game, so I'd be in favor of getting him locked up on a long-term contract of seven or eight years, probably with a salary cap charge between $5-6 million. That's comparable to contracts for Tyler Myers of the Winnipeg Jets, Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Arizona Coyotes and Hamilton. Lindholm is in that group.

Lindholm's next contract is a big reason why getting goalie John Gibson signed to a three-year contract at a reported $2.3 million per season was so important. It gives Ducks GM Bob Murray a slightly better salary structure going forward. Frederik Andersen, Sami Vatanen, Simon Despres and Rickard Rakell are also in line to be restricted free agents following the season. Murray has a lot of work to do, but getting Lindholm signed to a long-term contract should be at or near the top of his list.

Which of the following three young forwards has the best opportunity to success this season: Emerson Etem, Anthony Duclair, Brett Connolly? -- @tdjupsjo

Connolly, only because he has the best chance to play with elite, veteran players this season on the Bruins. Connolly could play his way onto a line with Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci. Anybody who plays with those guys is better for it, just ask Brad Marchand, Reilly Smith and Milan Lucic.

Etem is likely slotted for a bottom-six role in the Rangers' forward group. He'll have a lot to do to crack a top-six that already features Derek Stepan, Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and probably Kevin Hayes.

Duclair is young and the Arizona Coyotes aren't expected to be very good, so it's a question of how much will he be able to produce. The Coyotes want to see all-around game development from Duclair. They know he can score, but can he play a strong two-way game. It'll be a good season in Arizona if Duclair develops that game because he'll need it going forward.

Enforcers -- outdated relic or necessary evil? -- @ChaysonJayson

Neither. Enforcers have a role in the NHL these days as long as they also can enforce some offense, some speed, some skill and some depth in their games. If part of the reason they're on a roster is to intimidate, that's fine. It's not enough of a reason. They have to be able to skate and play. To me, Los Angeles Kings forward Milan Lucic is a perfect example of the modern-day enforcer. Nobody wants to tangle with him, but he can score 20 goals and 50 points, too. Capitals forward Tom Wilson could turn into that. Just being able to drop the gloves and scrap is not good enough anymore. A player needs depth to his game to make an impact on his team and to stay in the NHL.

Will there be a place for Daniel Sprong on the Penguins' roster? -- @JnsDm

Not this season. Probably not next season either. He's an 18-year-old forward in an organization that is loaded with forwards on the NHL roster. It's great to have a skilled, young forward in the organization, but from everything I have read on him, there's no chance he's ready.

How will the Senators do this year? -- @mitchblixrud

They're a very interesting team because they can go either way. The Senators might be able to build on what they did last season and challenge for one of the top three spots in the Atlantic Division. They haven't, on paper at least, lost anything of significance. If Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Mika Zibanejad build on last season I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Senators are in the top three in the Atlantic.

However, it's also possible Ottawa caught lightning in a bottle last season, and won't be able to do it again. The Senators changed a lot of things under coach Dave Cameron on the fly and as the team gained confidence it seemed like the rest of the League couldn't catch up and figure out all they were doing, which wasn't all that complicated. They pressed more. They attacked the middle of the ice. But they were doing it at a ferocious pace and with soaring confidence.

With all that said, I see the Senators in the mix with the Bruins, Red Wings and Panthers, on the bubble in the Atlantic Division, fighting for a spot all the way through.

Who is more likely to score 30 goals, Phil Kessel or Kyle Palmieri? -- @fakinginsanity

I felt the need to answer this question because I loved it so much, even though I'm struggling to take it seriously.

Kessel, by a landslide, but you already knew that. Next.

What is your assessment of Pittsburgh's defense this year? Are they an addition on 'D' away from being a Cup contender? -- @KevinG_Reuter

The top of the 'D' is excellent with Kris Letang and Olli Maatta, but the depth is what I question. I'm still not sure what to expect from Derrick Pouliot and Brian Dumoulin. Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy are predictable players, but not in a bad way. They'll play solid, have some good nights and some difficult ones, but overall they'll be steady. Letang and Maatta should be elite. But if Pouliot and Dumoulin are inconsistent, the Penguins could be in trouble. They're young, so I'd expect some inconsistency from them. So with that said, yes, I think the Penguins are a solid addition on defense away from being a real Cup contender. The problem is that solid addition isn't out there right now, and likely would have to come in a trade. It's too early to predict what could happen in that department, so it's smart for the Penguins to start the season with the defense they have -- let's not forget about Rob Scuderi -- and see what develops. Health, of course, is a concern, as it always is with the Penguins' defense, specifically Letang. Bottom line is the Penguins' defense is questionable at this point.

Is San Jose a sleeper pick in the Pacific Division with its newfound depth? -- @bentleynathan1

If by sleeper you mean a team nobody will pick to win the division, yes, you can say the San Jose Sharks are a sleeper team. The Ducks are by far and away the favorites to win the division. The Kings should be better than they were last season. Look for more consistency from them. Anze Kopitar told me that as much as it wasn't fun to miss the playoffs, the summer for him was great because the rest was welcome. The Kings should be better off because of it. The analytics suggests the Calgary Flames will take a step back, but I'm not buying it. They're still a solid team and will compete for third place in the division because of the addition of Hamilton, the return of a healthy Mark Giordano, and a group of young forwards that is only improving. Michael Frolik might be the best underrated addition any team made in the offseason. The Sharks are behind them. I'm not sleeping on them. They're better than they were last season, but I'm still not sure by how much, and I'm not sold yet on Martin Jones.

Oh, and don't sleep on the Edmonton Oilers either.


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