While most NHLers likely accept that not every season can be a great one, what they’re really looking to avoid is a miserable six and a half months where absolutely nothing goes right. Injuries are the quickest way to derail a campaign, but sometimes other factors converge—getting stuck behind a fading legend in the crease, not fitting with a new team, just never getting on a roll—to kill somebody’s stat line. With that in mind, we present a baker’s dozen of guys beyond the obvious injured superstars who are banking on this season being much happier than last.
1. Stephen Weiss, C, Detroit
His first year as a Red Wing was a complete nightmare. Injuries have grounded Weiss the past two seasons and he’s scored just three times since 2012. With better luck, he can easily notch 55 points this year.
2. Alex Burrows, RW, Vancouver
The glory days are gone, but Vancouver’s signing of Radim Vrbata doesn’t mean Burrows is out of a job with the Sedins. If he earns that spot back in camp, 50 points could follow.
3. Daniel Sedin, LW, Vancouver
Might as well stay on the West Coast. Both Sedins struggled during Vancouver’s miserable year with John Tortorella, but Daniel’s production dropped even more sharply than Henrik’s. Though he’s not going to contend for the Art Ross, Daniel will do much, much better than the 47 points he put up in 73 contests last season.
4. Cory Schneider, G, New Jersey
Living in the shadow of Martin Brodeur limited Schneider to 45 games last year. He could play 20 more this season and the Devils should score him more goals. Expect a spike in wins.
5. Loui Eriksson, RW, Boston
He missed 21 games in his first season with the Bruins, a rarity for this durable Swede. Consistent as they come—he notched 71, 73 and 71 points during his last three full seasons in Dallas—Eriksson figures to not only play a full slate this season, but could do so replacing Jarome Iginla on the top line.
6. Lubomir Visnovsky, D, long island
He’s old and battled concussion issues last season, but the Isles are thin on the blueline and Visnovsky—assuming he’s healthy—will get lots of power-play time. Something close to 40 points isn’t inconceivable.
7. Marty Havlat, RW, New Jersey
It’s been a miserable few seasons for Havlat, so the fresh start with Jersey is a necessary change. He’s always an injury risk, but a full season of top-six play is still an intriguing scenario.
8. Jimmy Howard, G, Detroit
Howard was on the verge of obtaining elite goalie status during the 2013 playoffs before a sad stew of injuries and inconsistency marred last season. Give him the benefit of the doubt entering this campaign, when Detroit just has to be healthier.
9. Patrik Berglund, LW, St. Louis
He’s always been an up-and-downer, and for what it’s worth, he’s due for an up season after 32 points in 78 games last year. With Paul Stastny coming in and both Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko developing, there’s more talent up front for Berglund to click with.
10. Michael Grabner, LW, long island
He’s always a “Cy Young” guy, so goals are the only appeal. Grabner scored just 12 times in 64 games last year, but could be worth a flyer since—with the arrival of Mikhail Grabovski—the Isles figure to have more than one scoring line this season.
11. Nathan Horton, RW, Columbus
Shoulder surgery delayed his Blue Jackets debut by a few months and he ended the season sidelined by an abdominal injury. Suffice it to say, his second year in Columbus stands to be a lot better and it doesn’t hurt that the Jackets are a team on the rise.
12. David Clarkson, RW, Toronto
With five goals last season, it’s fair to say his Toronto debut couldn’t have gone any worse. You have to be careful here because Clarkson—like Grabner—doesn’t produce many assists, but if you’re desperate for goals, take the chance he’ll nudge back to 20.
13. Dustin Brown, RW, Los Angeles
Though Brown has never been a prodigious point producer, last year’s 27 points in 79 games feels like a big anomaly. The Kings have struggled to score in the regular season recently, but look more equipped than ever to pop some goals in this season. That means Brown could easily be back to pushing 60 points.