It started out so promising. So how did things go south for Peter Mueller so quickly?
After averaging a point-and-a-half per game in the Western League and putting on WJC show overshadowed only by Jonathan Toews. He made the NHL as a 19 year old and potted 54 points, with the bulk of those coming in the second half. Then the bottom dropped out.
Let's attribute his slip in Year 2 (2008-09) to a sophomore slump and a concussion problem. So how do you explain four in 21 to start his third year? Let's take a stab at it.
My first instinct is to check back to last season and see how he did after the concussion versus before. He returned February 14 and finished the season with just six points in 24 games (0.25 points per game). He had 30 in 48 before that (0.625). So in all, 10 points in 45 games since being out with a concussion. He's playing scared. He's changed his game. Can he come out of it? With the right coach teaching the right lessons – definitely. And therein lies another possible answer – a new coach. Dave Tippett isn't quite as lenient or reliant on Mueller as Wayne Gretzky was.
I think he'll bounce back next season. There are legions of poolies who feel otherwise, but those are the same chumps who figured Jeff Carter would never break out playing behind Daniel Briere and Mike Richards. Young players need at least four seasons before you should consider writing them off for good, and sometimes five or even six. Granted, the signs are weak in the case of Mueller, but give it time.
So what to do with him in the meantime? Definitely write him off for this season. It doesn't look as though it will change any time soon. But watch carefully for healthy scratches (he's already had two of them), a trade, or a couple of injuries to key players like Shane Doan and Robert Lang. Any turnaround in 2009-10 will require a catalyst and the ones listed above are the best ones.
To make this season a promising one, he will need 40 points in the next 60 games. That will give him something to build on for next year and in that case you can hope for