With the end of the season near, let’s recap some notable increases and decreases in production, along with some interesting stats on some of the league’s top scorers.
Significant points gains
Marian Gaborik, NYR (minimum 60-point gain) Gaborik epitomizes the high-risk, high-reward player. He has gone from playing in just 17 games last season to likely surpassing his career high of 83 points in his first year with the Blueshirts. We know that Gabby can score over a point per game, but there’s always the possibility that something will come up. The hip surgery he underwent last season was supposed to fix his groin pulls once and for all, which could also mean that the injuries could be a thing of the past.
Brad Richards, DAL (minimum 43-point gain) Usually trade deadline day deals aren’t solid long-term investments for the teams chasing the Stanley Cup, but the Richards trade has worked out well for the Stars. Any thoughts that Richards wouldn’t be able to shoot because of two broken wrists have been shot down, now that Richards should surpass his 91-point career high from his days in Tampa Bay. Expect a slight regression next season, but not a drastic one.
Steven Stamkos, TB (minimum 42-point gain) Stamkos’ rookie season was much like Joe Thornton’s first two seasons. However, Stamkos’ point-per-game production over the final month of the 2008-09 season should have been a sign that 2009-10 would be a big year. Stamkos has now vaulted into elite company at the center position – perhaps even the top 5. The wide-open Southeast Division will also have something to do with his totals going forward.
Tomas Plekanec, MON (minimum 31-point gain) Plekanec could be the new version of Vinny Prospal. From 69 points to 39 points back up to at least 70 this season, Plekanec is the unexpected runaway leader in Habs’ scoring. With the exception of Ilya Kovalchuk, Plekanec may become the most sought-after free agent come July 1. His fantasy value next season will depend on where he lands.
Henrik Sedin, VAN (minimum 25-point gain) Even an earnest card-carrying Canucks fan such as myself did not see this coming. What’s more remarkable about Henrik’s season is that he was without Daniel Sedin for 19 games. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault switched to a more up-tempo game this season, and the Canucks have also improved immensely in secondary scoring to take the burden off the Sedins. Both Sedins now appear to be even better than the 80-point scorers that they were projected to be at the start of the season.
Significant points declines
Marc Savard, BOS (projected 55-point drop) Yes, Savard has had half his season wiped out due to several injuries, including that nasty concussion. However, his point total this season had already been on the decline from last season. No Phil Kessel, together with an overall drop in B’s offense, meant that Savard’s productivity dropped from 1.07 points per game to 0.80 points per game. Overall, Savard carries significant risk over to next season, mainly because of post-concussion syndrome.
Evgeni Malkin (projected 38-point drop) In the new NHL, which is closer to the old NHL than the high-flying days of Wayne Gretzky, a 113-point season almost surely means that you’ll drop the next season. Such has been the case with Malkin, who has missed 14 games due to injury this season. Expect Malkin to produce at over a point per game next season, just like he is this season (72 points in 64 games).
Patrik Elias, NJ (projected 31-point drop) Elias’ 78 points last season may not be the norm from this point forward, as he has fought injuries as well as Jacques Lemaire’s defense-first system. Expect him to produce good fantasy totals when healthy, but Elias is no longer an elite option.
Pavel Datsyuk, DET (projected 25-point drop) The loss of some key scorers and significant injuries to key Red Wings forwards has affected the Russian’s output this season. Remember that the Wings can still ice a top line of Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Johan Franzen, so Datsyuk should be in for an improvement next season. Ninety points may be out of the question, given Wings coach Mike Babcock’s switch to a more-defensive system centered around the goaltending of Jimmy Howard.
Ryan Getzlaf, ANA (projected 22-point drop) Getzlaf has not produced as the first-round pick he was chosen as in many fantasy drafts. The high ankle sprain appears to almost surely end his season, but the numbers had declined well before the injury, even though playing through the injury likely also affected his production. Getzlaf has fallen across the board, with a 42 fewer penalty minutes, 78 fewer shots on goal, and 15 fewer power-play points. Also keep in mind in next year’s drafts that Getzlaf has never scored more than 25 goals in a season.
Some other interesting facts:
Here’s something to throw into to the debate over who deserves the Hart Trophy. Even though Alex Ovechkin has missed ten games this season due to injury and suspension, he has played two more minutes per game than Henrik Sedin. Do the math to determine total minutes, and Sedin will have played only 30 more minutes (about 1 ½ more games) than Ovechkin this season. However, Ovechkin far and away has the edge in points per game (1.51 to 1.34), as well as the league lead in shots on goal (360). Interestingly enough, Daniel Sedin is third with 1.31 points per game. Makes you wonder what kind of season Daniel would have had if he hadn’t been injured for 19 games.
Ovechkin’s rival Sidney Crosby, however, is far and away the league champ in faceoffs with 958 faceoffs won. Mikko Koivu, who has the second-highest total, is over 100 faceoffs behind.
Steve Downie has been well-noted for his 206 penalty minutes this season. However, he may not be known for his shot, which happens to be very accurate. Downie led all forwards who played a minimum of 60 games with a shooting percentage of 19.6%.
As expected, Ovechkin leads all forwards with a +44 ranking this season. On the other end of the scale is Patrick O’Sullivan, who sunk whichever fantasy owners hung on all season with a (-36) ranking. Hopefully you didn’t have Rod Brind’Amour on your team for any length of time, as the former Selke Trophy winner was a brutal (-28). One has to wonder why Brindy, who is a (-51) over the past two seasons, doesn’t just retire already.
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