Revisiting Preseason Breakouts and Busts
Looking back at how this season's breakout and bust candidates fared …
Before we begin I want to announce that this will be my final article, as I will be putting my writing duties on hold for the foreseeable future. I’ve been doing this for more than four years and have grown so much covering fantasy hockey. Over the past few months it has become increasingly difficult to dedicate an entire night each week to produce an article due to some changes that have taken place in my life. By stepping aside as a writer my schedule will be more flexible and I will be able to dedicate more time to my other projects including Frozen Pool and the rest of this website.
I want to thank Dobber for giving me the opportunity to contribute back in 2012. Also, a big thank you to Steve Laidlaw, Neil Parker, Michael Clifford, Ian Gooding, Gates Imbeau and others who have edited and published my work. And most importantly thank you to the readers who have provided all kinds of feedback over the years and have held me accountable. My goal has been to provide value to your fantasy hockey experience through these articles and in the forum. I am grateful to have had that experience.
Just to be clear, I am not going anywhere. I am simply shifting my focus. As for what the future holds, never say never.
Following the conclusion of the regular season and most hockey pools it is a good idea to look back and review some of our expectations heading into the campaign. Most importantly, we should try to figure out why we were correct or not because it helps us learn lessons that can be applied in the future.
Today we will go through projections of 12 bounce-back candidates and 10 nominees to decline to see how their seasons played out. As we will see, the hit rate was much more successful with the predictions for decline. The reason is pretty simple: there are more talented options who are capable of producing than there are available spots for them to thrive. Opportunities are limited, and thus, there is usually more potential for things to go wrong than for things to go right, especially in a league where goals are so difficult to produce.
Bounce-back players (Original article here)
Tyler Ennis (Buffalo) – Ultimately Ennis was given the right line assignments most of the year but was largely ineffective. This in turn led to reduced ice time and a demotion to the second power-play unit. Of course he could bounce back in a new environment such as Las Vegas, but at his point you have to wonder if the big injuries are starting to add up. In 74 games over the past two years, he has just 24 points and is minus-19 rating.
Nick Foligno (Columbus) – Foligno’s bounce-back year was pretty predictable. After shocking the world two years ago with 73 points in a contract year, he followed up with a measly 37. With so much term and money invested in him, there was too much opportunity for him not to have a solid campaign. His 51 points fell roughly in the middle of the two previous totals and represent a reasonable expectation moving forward.
Evander Kane (Buffalo) – The injury-prone Kane had a minor bounce-back, posting 0.62 points per game after falling to just 0.54 the year before. However, he was much more effective as a goal-scorer which helped a lot in some formats. He remains wildly inconsistent and is not durable but remains must-own in most multi-category leagues, as his production when healthy is excellent. Plus, he is often not overly popular among fans, so you can usually acquire him for less than his true worth.
Andrew Ladd (New York Islanders) – The big contract along with the opportunity to play next to John Tavares was a recipe for Ladd to rebound from last year’s 46 points. Shockingly, he managed to play himself out of the top-line mix and had his worst year since 2008. In fact, his performance was so poor that he will be on a lot of lists for a bounce-back in 2017-18 simply because it is difficult for a scoring-line player to go an entire year with just eight assists.
Rick Nash (New York Rangers) – Nash is another inconsistent winger who has to be kept on the radar despite often times leaving us wanting more. At times, he can be a real difference-maker on the score sheet. This year offered an output similar to last year. Unfortunately, as the Rangers continue to develop some capable younger forwards there will be fewer opportunities for Nash to shine. That said, he is still a strong secondary scorer to own. Just keep expectations in check.
Ryan Strome (New York Islanders) – It was seen by most as a very likely scenario that we would see Strome have a much better year than the 28 points he had in 2015-16. In the end, he was once again highly-inconsistent. He had fallen off the map again, then caught fire following the midseason coaching change and finished the campaign with a lot of goose-eggs and just two points in his last nine games. He still has a ton of upside, but being this unreliability for two straight years is a major red flag.
Kyle Turris (Ottawa) – In predictable fashion, Turris rebounded nicely after seeing his production dip last year due to an ankle injury. He led all Senators forwards in ice time which is an indicator of his importance to the squad. Amazingly, he kept his production up despite centering Bobby Ryan and Ryan Dzingel who combined for just 57 points. If he gets better wingers next year, he has a chance to push his career-best 64 points.
Jakub Voracek (Philadelphia) – While Voracek’s shooting percentage has been rather low most seasons, last year’s 5.2 percent was simply not a rate likely to be repeated. He improved to 20 goals this year which helped him get back over 60 points. There is always the possibility of him returning to the heights we have seen from him in past year, but the environment has to improve significantly including the play of Claude Giroux.
Cody Franson (Buffalo) – Franson has continued his ineffective play since leaving Toronto. Making matters worse is his inability to climb the depth chart in Buffalo despite injuries and poor play potentially opening the door. In fact, he even saw a reduction in his role on the power play where he produced just two points. At this point, it is difficult to envision Franson as anything more than a depth puck-mover with spurts of usefulness in deep leagues.
Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers) – Following the departure of Keith Yandle last summer, McDonagh’s return to the 40-point mark was predictable. His ice time and power-play minutes were similar to 2013-14, the last time he reached this level offensively. Moving forward, McDonagh’s production will depend on whether or not the Rangers bring in a big-name to specialize on the top power-play unit.
Mark Streit (Philadelphia) – Streit has been an extremely reliable and productive defenseman over the years, including a 52-point effort as recently as 2014-15. Last year, he had just 23 points in 62 games (30-point pace) but there was potential for a rebound especially if the Flyers’ big offensive guns caught fire and Streit was manning the top power-play unit. However, things did not play out that way, as Streit achieved just 27 points. At this point, he should no longer be considered a high-end producer.
Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus) – Coming off a poor, injury-plagued campaign, a bounce-back was very predictable. However, few could have predicted he would reach elite levels. After all, Bobrovsky had started 50 or more games just twice in his career with his injury-proneness causing setbacks on a yearly basis. In the end, he had a campaign worthy of winning his second VezinaTrophy and propelled his team to its highest point of relevance in franchise history.
Candidates to decline (Original article here)
Tyler Bozak (Toronto) – Behind Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri on the depth chart it was reasonable to assume Bozak would be taking a step back this year. However, he turned out to be one of the most underrated fantasy contributors this year producing 55 points while also being a major factor on the power play and in the faceoff circle. Having said that, it will be difficult for Bozak to continue producing at that rate moving forward, considering he will be the team’s third option down the middle.
Mike Cammalleri (New Jersey) – Bloated numbers in 2015-16 along with the arrival of Taylor Hall made Cammalleri’s setback year inevitable. Hall, who is part of the future of the franchise, was surely going to get the best opportunities to shine while Cammalleri played more of a secondary role. In the end, his point total slipped to just 31 points in 61 games. His age and proneness to injury make him unappealing in fantasy circles, but he still has value as a depth forward when healthy.
Scott Hartnell (Columbus) – For the second year in a row, Hartnell has seen a decline both in offensive production and in overall ice time. As a result he posted just 37 points, his lowest since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Now in his mid-30s, Hartnell is going to have fewer opportunities and his days as a top-six forward are likely over. His value will be limited to multi-category leagues where he still has the potential to shine in the hits and PIM categories.
Jaromir Jagr (Florida) – Considering Jagr was coming off a 66-point campaign at the age of 44, which included 27 goals and a shooting percentage of 18.9, a decline of some sort was likely in order. In the end, he dropped to 16 goals and 46 points in a year where the Panthers suffered a lot of injuries and could never fully get going. His future is interesting because he is still a viable scoring option but every year the risk increases that he will reach the end of his effectiveness. Only draft him this fall if it is late enough and expectations are kept in check.
Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington) – As with many others, Kuznetsov’s step back was fairly predictable after achieving 77 points despite less-than-ideal conditions. He is the team’s second option at center while Nicklas Backstrom gets the benefit of sharing the ice with Alexander Ovechkin. Be careful if you are counting on a bounce-back next year – Kuznetsov’s most frequent wingers were Marcus Johansson who might have overachieved and Justin Williams who may not be back next year.
Lee Stempniak (Carolina) – After a 51-point campaign primarily fueled by a red-hot top line in New Jersey last year, Stempniak was in for a predictable lesser year. He did well to hit 40 points despite seeing his average ice time drop below the 16-minute mark. The Hurricanes lack depth up front so Stempniak’s current role should be fairly safe for one more year. He should be fairly productive but do not expect big numbers barring a major breakout by the young forward core.
Zdeno Chara (Boston) – Last year Chara’s 37-point performance was helped along by the Bruins’ power play being dangerous for most of the season. This year, Chara had just three points with the man-advantage and as a result his point total dropped to 29 points. He is still capable of posting solid numbers but should not be considered a reliable point-producer this late in his career.
Dmitry Orlov (Washington) – After putting up 29 points last year despite third-pairing minutes and no power-play role, Orlov was utilized more this year and reached a new career-high of 32 points. In fact, he saw more ice time in all situations and is closer to logging second-pairing minutes. Moving forward, he is an intriguing option because he has enough talent to reach 40 points. However, with John Carlson and Matt Niskanen in the mix with big contracts, it is difficult to envision Orlov getting the opportunity to reach greater heights.
Frederik Andersen (Toronto) – Andersen’s biggest asset as a fantasy goalie during his time in Anaheim was his high winning percentage. When he was in goal, he was fairly certain to come out victorious. During his first year in Toronto, he posted an impressive 33 wins but needed 66 appearances to get there. He also saw a major increase in goals-against average while his save percentage remained steady.
Braden Holtby (Washington) – Whether or not Holtby actually declined in value this year depends on your fantasy league. He did drop to 42 wins, which still tied for the league lead, but is not anywhere near his record-tying 48 from a year ago. However, his peripheral categories improved while he posted nine shutouts, up from last year’s three. Even with some changes coming this summer for the Capitals, their team and system are strong enough to keep Holtby at the top of the fantasy food chain.
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