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The 2012-13 Hamilton Bulldogs season is now underway but there remain a lot
of questions about the team and its potential.  Included in part two of our
season preview mailbag is a discussion of Hamilton’s greatest strengths and
weaknesses, a look at which Bulldogs are primed to have breakout seasons,
predictions, and more.

4) Who among the returning Bulldogs is the most overrated?

Brian La Rose: Since around game 60 last season, people seem to
be talking up Gabriel Dumont like a high end player for the Bulldogs but I just
don’t see it.  He was given plenty of chances to play in a scoring role and
he struggled pretty much every time.  Granted, he is an effective player
but that’s in a bottom six role.  Barring him rediscovering his junior
scoring abilities, he’s likely going to be at best a third liner or most likely
on the fourth line.  He most certainly will fill an important role but he
is by no means a top flight player like some are trying to hype him up as.

Ian Russell: Robert Mayer has not yet had a winning record in the American Hockey League
with the Hamilton Bulldogs despite being given plenty of opportunity. When he
was in the East Coast Hockey League with the Cincinnati Cyclones he won the
Kelly Cup Championship in 2010 and led all ECHL goaltenders in shutouts and save
percentage. Expectations placed upon him to continue that kind of success in the
AHL have not worked out and although there may still be confidence and hope that
Mayer might possibly regain that success once again, it appears that he can be a
somewhat decent backup goaltender only on given nights. And those nights are few
and far between.

5) Which Bulldog is most primed for a breakout season?

Brian La Rose: When the Habs acquired Blake Geoffrion, he was
in the middle of a down season, not only at the NHL level but also in the AHL. 
When he arrived in Hamilton though, everything clicked as he picked up 12 points
in just 9 games.  I don’t see him playing at that pace over a full year
(which would put him just over 100) but averaging a point per game is certainly
within the realm of possibility.  He should see top six minutes and will be
a go-to guy in the offensive zone.  The lockout gives Geoffrion a chance to
take some strides forward towards realizing his offensive potential and I
believe he will do just that.

Ian Russell: I get the feeling that Aaron
Palushaj is just going to completely dominate the Bulldogs’ scoresheet this
season. He has been recalled to the Montreal Canadiens on various occasions and
that NHL experience he received is only going to improve his game skills. Since
joining the Bulldogs in 2009-2010 he has just been getting better and better
each year. He plays hard every time he is out there on the ice and that effort
and commitment to his game is going to translate into goals and assists.

6) Looking at the roster as it stands today, what is Hamilton’s biggest
strength?  What is their biggest weakness?

Brian La Rose: Depth is an attribute that often is underrated. 
Last year though, we learned how important it can be, not to mention how
devastating it is when the team is lacking it.  This year, barring another
catastrophic rash of injuries, that’s not going to be a problem.  There are
several AHL quality players to call upon from the ECHL if need be while the
depth in Hamilton itself is decent as well, especially up front.  Both
Alexander Avtsin and Alain Berger were regulars last year and now appear to be
on the outside looking in.  This newfound depth may not help them win too
many games early on as most teams are pretty healthy at this stage but as the
season progresses, the Bulldogs should reap the benefits.

One area of weakness that still needs to be shored up is the leadership
department.  Whenever the NHL resumes, there is a chance that one or two of
the current three alternate captains (St-Denis, Boyce, and Blunden) could find
themselves in the NHL.  Who is going to replace them?  For that
matter, does that group of players currently wearing the ‘A’ adequately replace
the leadership group from last year?  I don’t think it does.  Ian
touched on Alex Henry’s departure earlier so I won’t rehash his argument here. 
A similar problem exists up front though.  As much as Brian Willsie
struggled on the ice last season, he was an important part of the Bulldogs’
leadership group.  I think it’s important to have a veteran in the top six,
something that you know you can rely on at all times.  They don’t have that
now and that’s something that I think needs to be addressed sooner than later.

Ian Russell: The biggest strength at this
current time is goaltending. Cedrick Desjardins’ goaltending. Please don’t
confuse this answer with my one above regarding Robert Mayer. With Cedrick in
goal, the Dogs are going to win hockey games. He can win games with the team
playing well in front of him, and there are those times when the rest of the
team takes the night off that Desjardins can win games all by himself. I am not
going to get into listing his career stats and accomplishments at this time (as
they are available to enjoy elsewhere here on the site).

As for their biggest weakness I would have to say it is the
rest of the defence. I know this is sort of a Catch-22….if Cedrick Desjardins
is so good, then how can the defence be so bad? The Hamilton Bulldogs have
traditionally always had a good selection of goalies….just go through the team
history with netminders such as Eric Fichaud, Mathieu Garon, Olivier Michaud,
Marc Denis, and Cedrick Desjardins to name a bunch. It is the rest of the
defensive corps that always seems to be lacking. And as I mentioned in Part 1 of
this mailbag, the defensive end of things is going to miss having Alex Henry
with his leadership and his giant size in the lineup.



Brian La Rose

Ian Russell
Most Goals Blake Geoffrion Aaron Palushaj
Most Assists Louis
Most Points Blake Geoffrion Aaron Palushaj
Top +/- Aaron
Division Rank 3rd 2nd
9th 3rd
League Rank 19th 5th