It's early but I would like to share my player evaluations so far.
Shawn Horcoff: He's had an admittedly slow start to the year. I have noticed that both he and Hemsky have not been able to get in sync. It is popular opinion that having Jacques on the line is part of the problem; however, I tend to think where Hemsky goes this line goes, and he has not been going anywhere.
Ales Hemsky: He has not been sharp in the first three games of the season. It looks to me like he's trying to do too much individually and not utilizing his teammates. Numerous neutral zone turnovers and offside inducing dipsy doodles come to mind when I think of his play.
Jean Francois Jacques: I think he's played well. The bar is far lower for him that his other two line mates, and while his toolbox is limited, he has made good use of it. He looked both sheepish and hesitant in the game versus Dallas; perhaps this had something to do with the petulant looks Hemsky threw his way a few times during the season opener.
Mike Comrie: I am pleasantly surprised with his play. I love his ability to find the soft spots on the ice and put himself in scoring position. This is a very underrated ability that not many players possess. A bit concerning to me is that he looks like he has lost a step or two, and his conditioning may not be up to par. Regardless, he has done his job.
Patrick O'Sullivan: I hear concerns about shooting percentage but frankly I like a guy that throws the puck at the net. The ugly goals count for the same amount as the end to end ones, and the best way to score ugly goes is to throw the puck at the net. Another thing I've noticed is that he has excellent acceleration but just above average top speed. A number of times I have thought that he was going to break in alone only to be caught from behind.
Ryan Stone: I'm going to go against the grain of most of what I've read so far and come out praising this young player. I read that he scored the highest on the VO2 max during training camp and I think it shows. While never to be mistaken for a speedy hockey player, Stone keeps up with the play just fine. Further, he has landed some thunderous hits in limited minutes. I've also noticed that he is excellent at protecting the puck through the neutral zone and getting it deep. On a couple different occasions he bailed out his pinned line by bulldogging the puck out of the zone.
Andrew Cogliano: I'm fairly indifferent to his performance so far this year. To my eye he has been mostly ineffective. Perhaps when Quinn decides to reunite him with 89 he will be able to elevate his play.
Gilbert Brule: I think he has shown that he belongs on an NHL roster. Both his speed and shot are all world. Sometimes I think he tries to do too much physically, going in for hits against players of far greater size. I like how he carries the puck through the neutral zone and he seems competent in his own end. My hope is that Quinn takes him aside and has him focus on the defensive side of the puck. Brule strikes me as the type that will never be a big difference maker offensively, but could be successful as a physical checking center with some scoring upside.
Dustin Penner: He looks faster and to be in far better shape. Although I did notice him dogging it a bit in the second Calgary game, his fitness has certainly improved. Before the season I was supportive of him on the top line, now I am not so sure. I don't think 13 and 67 can get it done without 27. Despite the praise, I'm not quite ready to celebrate the turn around, and would like to see a few more games.
Sam Gagner: He has had a great start to the year. The Coach's comments about how the young 40 point guys don't do enough was obviously directed at Sam, and has he ever responded positively. From challenging Conroy to elevating his linemates (perhaps Ales could learn a lesson here), 89 is playing with a lot of fire in his belly. In Dallas I was particularly fond of how he went after Robidas and caused a scrum in front of Turco. This is one smurf that's not taking shit from anyone (including his coach).
Zachery Stortini Esquire the III: The Animal is playing the best hockey of his career. He's winning battles in the corners, pushing guys around in scrums, throwing big hits and having an impact offensively. He's also reliable in his own end, winning battles along the boards and clearing the puck.
Ethan Moreau: A lot of people are unfairly critical of Moreau. Certainly he deserves to be chastised for the undisciplined penalties, but I've seen numerous people call him soft and accuse him of not standing up for his teammates. I do think Moreau plays a selfish game (by my memory he always has) and I also believe he belongs on the fourth line. Yes he is overpaid, yes he takes bad penalties; no he is not soft, nor is he a detriment to winning games when playing on the 4th line.
Robert Nilsson: Not a lot of jam, he's toast.