Darren Eliot
Monday August 31st, 2009

So much is made of offseason moves and how they might improve a team's chances in the upcoming season. Often, though, the best chance for improvement is a bounce-back season from a regular who is already in the mix. With that in mind, here's my All-Bounce-Back Team for 2009-10.

Marty Turco, Dallas Stars

Coming off the worst season of his career, Turco is also entering the final season of his contract. Both are excellent motivators for the ultra-competitive, acrobatic netminder. Turco has spent hours reviewing tape of last season and feels he has zeroed in on key components of his game that he can refine and improve. The Stars need him to return to All-Star form for them to be viable in the Western Conference. Playing behind a young-ish defense corps and with new coach Marc Crawford's penchant for pushing the play, Turco will have to reestablish his game while he sees more quality chances-against than in previous campaigns.

Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames

Phaneuf struggled mightily last season, scoring only four power play goals -- and that was not at the root of the bruising blueliner with the big shot's problems. At minus-11, he was the worst plus-minus defenseman on the team -- not a position you want your top time-on-ice player to be in. And while plus-minus can be misleading, it can be telling when comparing players at the same position on the same team.

Consider, then, teammates Robyn Regehr (+10) and Cory Sarich (+12). Heck, even rookie Adam Pardy was a plus player (+2) over 60 games. Phaneuf was a weak link. He should excel this season, though, with Jay Bouwmeester added to share the TOI load. Plus, with Brent Sutter behind the bench, attention to team defense will be at a premium. Both of those moves should lead to Phaneuf flourishing and putting his dismal 2008-09 season far behind him.

Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators

Suter falls into the same category as Phaneuf from the standpoint that he is the Predator who plays the most. Yet, last season Suter's minus-16 was the worst on the entire squad. Shea Weber established himself as the bomber from the blueline with 23 goals -- 10 on the power play -- and Dan Hamhuis played the shutdown role against the opposition's top line. The Preds have built their identity on tough-minded defensive hockey, and their blueline is a big part of any projected success. Suter has to shake off that inconsistent season and give balance to Nashville's defense corps. All things being equal, a strong showing by Suter might just be the difference between making the playoffs and once again being on the outside.

Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens

No team revamped its roster more than Montreal. GM Bob Gainey brought in seven new faces, including three top-line forwards in Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. All three should boost the Canadiens' offensive output. But, balance on the top two lines hinges on Plekanec reasserting himself as a consistent threat. He is coming off a season in which his production dropped 30 points, from 69 to 39. He has scored 20 goals in each of the past three seasons, but last season was a major dip in both goals and points after roughly 20-point leaps in his first three years with the big club. The Habs need Plekanec to prove that last season was an aberration and that his previous total wasn't a plateau.

Daniel Briere, Philadelphia Flyers

Briere shunned the Canadiens as a free agent a couple of summers ago, instead leaving Buffalo for Philly. To say it hasn't gone well is an understatement. Injuries have been his biggest downfall, as he was only able to play 29 games last season. With Joffrey Lupul's trade to Anaheim and Mike Knuble's defection to the Capitals as a free agent, a healthy and productive Briere becomes paramount to the Flyers' plan. Claude Giroux's development as a rookie centerman last season means Briere can take up the wing position full time -- something coach John Stevens first introduced during the playoffs of 2008. Now, Briere on the flank is a necessity.

Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina Hurricanes

The 'Canes made a surprise springtime trip to the Eastern Conference Final largely on the strength of Eric Staal's offense and Cam Ward's goaltending. Captain Brind'Amour netted but one goal and was minus-5 during the playoffs. That followed up a campaign in which he came back slowly from injury and ended up a minus-23 -- a galling number for the two-time Selke-winner and one of the best two-way players of his generation. If the Hurricanes are to have a repeat playoff appearance, a healthy and reinvigorated effort form the 39-year-old Brind'Amour is essential. I wouldn't bet against him, and the 'Canes are counting on it.

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