What Should Devils Fans Expect: Brian Rolston

Now, I'm overlapping here as I've raised the question as to whether Brian Rolston can replace Brian Gionta's production in 2009-10 a few weeks ago.   In short, yes.  I think he can surpass Gionta's 20 goals from last season, preferbly up to 25-30 goals.  And given that Rolston had this to say in June prior to the hiring of Jacques Lemaire, as reported by Rich Chere:

"Whoever comes in, it'll be a different situation for me altogether," Rolston told me via telephone from his home in Michigan. "The fact of the matter with me is I didn't get a fair shake last year at all as far as I'm concerned. Anybody who comes in will be a welcome change for me."

He's got to do that in order to back up this statement. Now, Rolston went on to praise Lemaire in that article and as fortune would have it, Rolston should be very pleased to play under Lemaire.   Why wouldn't he? He enjoyed his best offensive seasons under Lemaire in Minnesota, scoring at least 30 goals in each of those three seasons.  Those three seasons that helped get him a very sweet $5 million/year deal, I might add.

Last season was rough for Brian Rolston.  He started up top on a line with Gionta and Patrik Elias, lasting all of 4 games before suffering a high ankle sprain after a nasty hit at Atlanta.   18 games later, Rolston returned only to be placed and kept on the third line.  It made sense, as the ZZ Pops line certainly wasn't going to be messed with and a combination of Elias-Dainius Zubrus-Gionta were an effective second line.  

This meant a mere 15:06 of ice time on average in 2008-09; mainly playing along side with John Madden (who isn't a scorer), and a rotation of Jay Pandolfo (who definitely isn't a scorer), David Clarkson (who shows flashes of scoring, but not quite enough yet), and Brendan Shanahan (who was a serious scorer, but was 40 and definitely wasn't the scorer he once was).   So Rolston never did get his season started well enough and found himself in positions where the line's job wasn't mainly for scoring after his injury.   This definitely translated into his performances on-ice.  As a result, he had this disappointing statline:


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Brian Rolston 64 15 17 32 2 30 8 0 3 0 174 8.6

So in order to justify his earlier statement and the money he's getting, Rolston needs to perform significantly better - both on and off the scoresheet.   I think he can do it in 2009-10.  He knows his teammates much better after a season in New Jersey. The new head coach knows him well and will certainly use him more to Rolston's liking.  Brian Gionta is now signed with Montreal, so his former spot is really Rolston's for the taking: a right wing position on an actual scoring line, with the wondefully talented Patrik Elias.  Add his own personal desire to improve, and this is an excellent situation for Rolston. If he avoids injury and meshes well with Elias and Zubrus, then a big improvement shouldn't surprise anyone. 

Therefore, I think it's fair to expect a big improvement. I would like Rolston to score at least 25 goals and put up at least 60 points.  That would effectively replace Gionta's points, something I said I think he can accomplish a few weeks ago.  I'm not alone in thinking that; according to a poll from that post, 62% of you who voted agree.  I still stand by that estimation and I wish him the best of luck in hitting that mark.

Now it's time to have your say.  Do you still agree with these expectations, or perhaps you have second thoughts?  Do you just think I'm  expecting too much/too little out of Rolston next season? Maybe you never agreed in the first place and feel that Rolston won't do so well in 2009-10?   Either way and any other way, let me know what you expect from Rolston next season and why.

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