With the Florida Panthers' season starting tonight, a number of questions surround the current roster, but there is one seems to stick out more than the others.
Where will the goals come from?
After an offseason that saw the club unload Nathan Horton, a 20-goal scorer with a load of potential, the buzz is that Florida won't be able to keep up with other teams offensively. This buzz is likely true, but there is one player can easily affect the team's goal total and possibly vault the club out of mediocrity.
Of course, he can't do it all himself. The likes of Stephen Weiss and Michael Frolik will be relied on primarily to score goals, as will Cory Stillman, Steven Reinprecht, Rostislav Olesz, and the newly-acquired Steve Bernier on a secondary basis.
Although he will have help in the goal department, Booth needs to gave a strong year rebounding from his injury-plagued season in 2009-10. He suffered two concussions—one of which interrupted his season and the other cut it short. Mike Richards delivered the original hit and Jaroslav Spacek shot out the second, both of which stirred the topic of head shots in the NHL.
No player is likely more eager to get back on the ice than Booth. Sporting a new multi-year contract, Booth says he feels great.
“The effects of the concussions are behind me. I feel 100 percent and I’m really looking forward to getting back," he said in an interview with the Florida Panthers. “The biggest thing I need to do is keep my head up.”
When asked about his summer and the upcoming season, the anxious left wing had this to say.
“The main thing this season is definitely to stay healthy, that’s my main goal. I’ve been working this summer to get my body ready to stay healthy. You know, if I’m healthy, and playing well, my goals will get accomplished.”
In his first season following the series of incidents, Booth will be looked upon to contribute around 30-35 goals. A solid performance like this could lead to the Panthers locking themselves a spot in the top 15 in goals for.
For instance, take last year. The Panthers finished 28th in the league with 202 goals for. Due to the fact Booth missed most of the year, he only scored eight goals.
If we assume that he could have scored 30 (he scored 31 in the year before), that's another 22 goals to add to your total.
Had he been around all year in 2009-10, the Panthers would have scored around 224 goals, enough to rocket them into 14th place in the NHL. And, as common since would imply, more goals equals wins.
Not half bad.
Of course, this year will be a little different. Booth plays on a team that looks much different from last year. The trades of Horton and Keith Ballard, as well as the acquisitions of players such as Steve Bernier and Dennis Wideman, lead to a new-look Panther squad.
Look for Bernier to help make up for the loss of Horton, as well as improved play from Frolik as he matures.
Many people project the Florida Panthers to struggle offensively this year and likely end up in the cellar of the NHL standings, but the Panthers seem to think otherwise.
Just ask David Booth.