Summer can be a long lonely stretch for those of us who love the NHL. Fantasy Hockey, in particular, really suffers during this period. We long for the nights spent staring at box scores hoping for the names of the players on our fantasy squads to pop up. We wish the time away that separates us from our drafts. We ponder which of our players to keep, and which of them to toss. Well, at least those are the thoughts commonly running through my head.
We all have our fingers crossed that there will be hockey this season. To help get you through these nervous times I've compiled a list of top players who had subpar stats (by their standards) last season and look to bounceback and make an impact this year. Follow me after the jump and chime in on the comments section with your thoughts.
You commonly saw Perry flying off the board somewhere within the top 5 of your draft last season. That will happen when you put up 50 goals, 290 shots, 104 PIM, 31 PPP, and 11 GWG as he did the prior season. While his 37+23=60 last season was certainly nothing to sneeze at, it's not what we had in mind while we were dreaming of Perry holding that Hart trophy for a second straight year. He had basically the same amount of shots, but wasn't converting as often. He also cut his assist total in less than half from 48 to 23. Surely a down season from his buddy Getzlaf was partially to blame for this, but I'm not sure we can expect another repeat of 2010-2011. Still, the Ducks are a much improved squad coming into 2012-2013 and Perry should be a point per game player again.
A lot of us saw a regression coming from Richards. Players rarely thrive when moving to a town where they'll be under the microscope in the latter stages of their careers. We hoped for some chemistry with sniper Marian Gaborik, but while the two enjoyed some success, they could never quite sustain any consistency. Richards saw his totals drop across the board. What's so different for the coming season? In a name, Rick Nash. Richards played on a line with Nash in the 2006 Olympics so there's some familiarity. Nash has never had a playmaker like Richards to play with and call me crazy, but I think Nash can score 50 this season with Richards reaping the benefits. I'd make both a target in standard scoring leagues.
The 67 points in 72 games is nice, but this is a guy who was going first overall in many leagues last season. The concussion that ended Sedin's regular season early makes this a tricky one to call. Did he make a hasty comeback just to try to help the Canucks who were on the brink of elimination? It's a debatable point. Signs are that he's healthy and will be in training camp, but can we expect another 40 goal, 100 point season from him? He'll be 32 once the regular season kicks off. For those of you dice rollers (and yeah, I'm one of them), this is the perfect target to take in the later stages of the first round as he could make you look like a genius. Kind of like last year's drafts with Evgeni Malkin.
St. Louis was the model of consistency coming into last season, putting up at least 80 points in five straight seasons. You could have banked on those 80 points and hoped for 100 when drafting him. And it's not like he gave us a stinker; his 74 points was still good for 18th best in the league. But the little man left us wanting. The stat that hurt the most was his 16 PPP. This after he put up a scorching 41 (!) in the prior season. The next disconcerting stat was his shot total. It was under 200 for the first time in ten years. Do we chalk it up to an unfortunate season or is this the start of St. Louis falling off the cliff? He did turn 37 last month. Frankly, the answer to that question is no, in my opinion. As long as he can still motor (and he can, if you watched him play at all last season) and he's setting up #91, he can play on my team any day.
After five straight seasons of playing dominant hockey, the Great 8 has given us two consecutive subpar seasons. It was easy to dismiss the 2010-2011 season as an anomaly, especially when he was at least still a point per game. Last season was much more concerning. His PIM were down, his hits were down, and he was a minus player for just the second season in his career. The Capitals became a defense first team which didn't seem to mesh with Ovi's style. For those of you who are thinking that coaching had something to do with Ovechkin's stats, he was 8+9=17 in 22 games under Boudreau and 30+18=48 in 56 games under Hunter. Not a real big difference. He even underperformed in the playoffs for the first time. He undoubtedly will still go top 10 in your draft, but are you willing to take the risk? I am not.
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks (11+46=57, 75 PIM, 185 shots, 23 PPP)
The best thing you can say about Getzlaf's season is that he played 82 games for the first time in five years, and at least he was still hitting and taking PIMs. But as for the point per game production, it was the worst since his rookie season. At 27, it's easy to call it just one bad season, and that's all I believe it is. I feel Getzlaf should be high on your lists and if he starts falling in your draft, make sure you're the one to grab him. You simply cannot ignore the upside and pedigree.
It seems to me that Doughty is the most obvious candidate on defense to bounce back. You don't have to look any further than his playoff stats. He went 4+12=16, plus-11, 14 PIM, 44 shots, and 6 PPP in 20 games. It's probably not smart to prorate playoff stats over a full season but I'm feeling frisky so I'm going to do it anyway. That's 16+49=65 over 82 games. I wouldn't go into my draft room banking on those numbers, but at the same time, I wouldn't be completely shocked if he comes somewhere close. I've done one non-keeper draft so far this season and he fell to 98th overall. If you can get him that late, please promise me that you'll jump all over it? Thanks.
Here's a classic case of why I hate drafting defensemen in the first round of drafts. After Lubo set the world on fire in 2010-2011, he really ruined some fantasy teams last season. He managed to knock 41 points and 21 PPP off of his totals. After that magic act, the Ducks shipped him out to the Islanders. He's still in the process of trying to have the trade overturned, citing that he had a no-trade clause at the time of the deal. It really doesn't matter which team he ends up with, I'm not touching him in the current season. On the one hand, he can't really do any worse, but that's not really a good argument in favor of drafting him. All I need to know is that he looked bad last season, he's undersized, and he's old. Let someone else bank on him returning to glory. I'd be shocked if he tops 40 points.
When you start to look closer at Bryzgalov's numbers, they actually aren't as terrible as you would have expected while watching him (or worse: owning him) last season. From January 31st (I know, arbitrary date) he went 15-6-0 with 1.84 gaa, .929 sv% and 5 shutouts. When you start to feel good about his finishing with a flurry, you look at his playoff numbers where he put up a hideous 3.46 gaa and .887 sv%. One thing is for sure, he's going to play, the contract dictates that, as we saw last season. He has the pedigree and he plays for a great offensive team. He has the ability to turn in a stud season and based on that, he won't come at a huge discount. I think it might be too big of a risk, however.
It's difficult to decipher how Crawford managed to go 30-17-3 with peripherals like those. He had a total of 14 ugly games where he gave up 4 or more goals. Some will point to a sophomore slump but even the Blackhawks must think it's something more than that. They took a serious run at the ancient one, Martin Brodeur, when he filed for free agency and there were rumors that they were involved in the Roberto Luongo trade talks. That isn't going to help Crawford's confidence. Still, Quenneville is preaching confidence in the young goalie as the new season nears and at least his crutch (Ray Emery) is no real threat. He's worth the risk of a mid round pick as there are few goalies you can get there with the same type of potential. I wouldn't include him in my draft strategy, but if things start going horribly wrong on that front, he's a good backup plan.