As the regular season begins to draw nigh, day by day, the time has come to predict and begin to take a look at what the Caps and their fans can expect from each player on the roster. Today's player is winger Mike Knuble, who will begin his third season in the organization this fall.
Recap of Last Season: Knuble started out last season as slow as molasses, but began to catch fire in late February and throughout March and early April, as more than half his production came in those last seven weeks. In total, he played in 79 games, tallying 24 goals and 16 assists. When he was on, the Capitals played well as they had a third scoring threat on their top line to complement Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. But when he was off form, as he was for almost the entire first five months of the season, the offense struggled. It was a far cry from his superb 2009-10. For my full post-season analysis of Knuble's 2010-11, click here.Expectations for this Season: In all likelihood, the elder statesman will once again be asked to third wheel with the Ovie-Nicky show on the top line, as he has for his first two seasons in DC. The Caps don't need Knuble to create plays, they just need him to park in front of the cage and finish them. If Knuble can stay healthy and in the lineup despite his advancing age and pot somewhere in the range of 20-25 goals, Bruce Boudreau will be happy and Caps fans should be to. Anything more than that is just reckless for a 39 year old, and will lead to disappointment.
Playing Time: First line; second line; power play unit A. As I wrote above, Knuble is not good enough to be the best player on his line anymore, so he needs prime linemates and ice time to maximize what's left in the tank. As a result, I don't see him dipping out of the top six and he should see consistent man advantage ice time. I don't think he'll see much, if any, time on the penalty kill in order to keep his legs fresh.
Projections: 76 GP, 24 G, 14 A, +14 rating, 15:05 ATOI.
The next season preview will feature goaltender Tomas Vokoun.