Saturday, September 12, 2009

2009-2010 Player Profiles: Kris Draper...

OK, it’s that time of year. Hockey’s so close that you can almost taste it. By my count, there are 20 days remaining before the Wings kick off their season in Sweden (which is still entirely too many, but at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel). In order to pass the time, I’ll be posting a player profile every day until then (in alphabetical order, because I’m one of those people). I want to make it very clear that these are not predictions, because I do not, under any circumstance, make predictions. They’re simply my thoughts on each player’s performances last season, and my hopes and expectations for them this time around. Today’s subject:

Kris Draper

2008-2009 Regular Season: 79 GP, 7-10-17, +/- -13, 40 PIM
2009 Playoffs: 8 GP, 1-0-1, +/- 0, 0 PIM

Season Highlight: Scoring the Wings’ only goal in Game 6 of the Finals
Season Lowlight: I’m going to have to go with starting the media firestorm that was the Handshake Incident.

We all know that Kris Draper had a dismal season last year. His team-worst -13 is indicative of his struggles, and that’s an unacceptable number for a guy who is supposed to be a defensive forward. On top of that, he missed most of the playoffs thanks to injuries. I like to think that some of his issues were due to the general defensive laxity shown by most of the team last season because I really do like the guy. Unfortunately, his 2008-2009 season will be remembered more for turning the Handshake Incident into an issue than anything he did on the ice.

I really don’t know what to expect from him this year. He’s probably looking at his last two seasons in the NHL, as his contract ends in 2011, and I’d like to see him make the most of the time he has left. I’ve always liked the guy, and not just because we're name twins. If I’m right, and his below average season was due to the team-wide Cup hangover, then we should see a resurgence in his defensive play. The Wings are going to need him to step up and play better defensively as they collectively recommit themselves to solid play in their own zone. While it’d be nice if he could make it to double digits in the goals department, that’s not going to be a big factor. His contribution to the team is going to be playing solid checking minutes that limit the other team’s scoring opportunities. Oh, and he’s still one of the best faceoff men in the league. Judging from his comments at Hockeyfest back in August, he seems fired up and ready to go. And I think a feisty, bitter Kris Draper is a good thing for the Wings.

What he needs to do to make me happy: Return to his defensively sound Grind Line roots.

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