Over the next few days, I will be looking at each team in the NHL and identifying a couple of players in particular that fit into one of two categories based on the once popular kids game, Chutes and Ladders. The players in the “chutes” category will be players who exceeded expectations last season, and will have a difficult time avoiding a slide in the coming season. The “ladder” category will consist of players who are ready to climb a level in their play and step up a notch. Feel free to brows back to see previous teams, and look for more teams in the coming days.
Chutes: Ryan Smyth – After being the face of the team for so long and then having a tearful departure, the return of Smyth has had less than the desired effect. Smyth is in the twiltight of his career and with so many hard miles on his body, this is probably the winger’s swan song. At this point he is no more than a third liner, with a veteran presence. That leadership will help, but his contribution on the ice is minimal.
Ladders: Justin Schultz – I his rookie campaign, the highly touted free agent signing didn’t disappoint, and now he will have more support with the addition of veteran Andrew Ference and the return of Denis Grebeshkov to the NHL. Schultz has the potential to step into the elite level defesnemen in the league and with a hot start could get into the Team Canada conversation, despite being left off the orientation camp invite list.