Every year during fantasy drafts and trade negotiations, bounce-back candidates are one of the most popular types of players to focus on.
We all like a good rebound story. These are players coming off a down year and we are expecting things to go back to the good old days. You figure you can draft them a little later or buy them at a low price during trade negotiations.
While many of them do rebound (think Carey Price, Matt Duchene, Brandon Saad and Robin Lehner this year), often times they also fail to do so. While much of the focus is on the success stories, it’s important to pay attention to those who don’t succeed as it means a player has had back-to-back underwhelming seasons. Often times it’s debatable if these guys are even keepers anymore in most fantasy leagues.
Below are 10 players who were supposed to bounce back this season, but didn’t. (Stick tap to MarkRM16 for suggesting this column idea a couple of weeks back.
10. Jason Spezza
I have to admit I was a big believer that Spezza was going to have a small rebound season. His first three years in Dallas was decent enough, with two 60-point seasons and an average of 58 points per campaign. Then in 2017-18, Spezza posted only 26 points as he was often stuck on the third line and the second power-play unit. The hope for a rebound came last summer from new Dallas coach Jim Montgomery, who said he wanted to get Spezza more time on the top power-play unit and to be a big part of a balanced scoring attack. Neither of those things happened as the Stars leaned heavily on the top line, Spezza stayed where he was in the lineup and wound up with 27 points.
There wasn’t much to like about Shattenkirk’s 2017-18 season. After signing a big-money contract, Shattenkirk spent almost half the season on the IR. Even though he posted only 23 points (tied for the lowest of his career), he still had a 41-point pace. That led to many believing he was a top candidate for a bounce-back year. Instead, he was even worse, putting up 28 points in 73 games (a 31-point pace). He was even a healthy scratch early in the year and saw his ice time and power-play time on ice drop.
Lundqvist’s fantasy career is slowly coming to an end. Just look at his numbers the last five years.
2014-15: 30 wins (in 46 games), 2.25 GAA, .922 SV %, five shutouts
2015-16: 35 wins, 2.48 GAA, .920 SV %, four shutouts
2016-17: 31 wins, 2.75 GAA, .910 SV %, three shutouts
2017-18: 26 wins, 2.98 GAA, .915 SV %, two shutouts
2018-19: 18 wins, 3.07 GAA, .907 SV %, zero shutouts
The 37-year-old has seen a decline every season. He’s been a popular pick for a bounce-back season for a few years now, but it’s time to face the facts that you can no longer count on him for fantasy hockey.
7. Ondrej Palat
His injuries make his decline seem more rapid than it is, but those injuries are also what makes him a tough player to keep. One-third of the original triplets line in Tampa, Palat has missed an average of 18 games a season over the last four years. Palat’s numbers dropped to 35 points in 2017-18, but many thought he could at least be a 55-point player again if he could stay healthy. He couldn’t, and he wasn’t, finishing with 34 points in 64 games (a 44-point pace). The biggest reason for concern? His ice time was under 15 minutes this season, more than four minutes less per game than he averaged in 2016-17, as he is being usurped in the lineup by younger, better players.
When it comes to power forwards, there comes a time when their production falls off a cliff, usually around the age of 30. It’s not a slow decline either, but a dramatic drop. Simmonds turned 30 last August, so maybe his sudden drop in production shouldn’t have been that surprising. From 2013-14 to 2016-17, Simmonds averaged 30 goals and 56 points. In the past two years, he’s averaged 21 goals and 38 points. Going to a new team this offseason will renew interest in him, but don’t be fooled.
It’s time to admit that Klefbom will never be a great fantasy option. To start, it feels like he spends more time on the IR than on the ice and he’s had one season with more than 30 points. After posting 21 points in 2017-18, Klefbom was on many lists as a bounce-back candidate. He managed to up that all the way to 28 points this season, despite leading the team in power-play minutes. He’s one Evan Bouchard call-up away from losing that plum spot and being fantasy irrelevant.
Big things were expected from Wennberg as early as two years ago. He had increased his scoring, points-per-game, ice time and power-play time every year for the first three years of his career, culminating in a 59-point season in 2016-17. Then he dropped to 35 points the following season. Many were expecting a big bounce-back this year based on his early-career trajectory, but that rebound never occurred. Instead, he dropped even further to 25 points, his lowest since his rookie season. He’s only 24 years old, so it’s tough to want to give up on him, but his time on ice is the lowest it’s ever been and he doesn’t shoot enough (just 64 shots this season).
3. Jake Allen
Maybe it’s time for the Blues to realize Allen will never be a number one goalie as every year he is outplayed by the backup. Sticking with Allen cost the Blues a playoff spot in 2017-18 and almost cost them one this year (thanks to a 19-7-8 record with a 2.83 GAA and a .905 SV %), until they realized Jordan Binnington was a much better option. A battle between the two netminders may become moot depending on how far the Blues go in the postseason, but for now, stay far away from Allen.
2. Cam Talbot
In both of my one-year fantasy leagues last summer, I decided to wait on drafting goalies. Instead of taking Andrei Vasilevskiy, Connor Hellebuyck, or Frederik Andersen early, I waited until at least the sixth rounds and took mid-tier goalies hoping for a rebound season. That’s how I ended up with Talbot in both of my leagues (I also had Brian Elliott and Jake Allen in one league, and Carey Price and Scott Darling in the other, so let’s just say I lost all my goalie categories in all of my leagues). My theory on Talbot was that he was going to play at least 65 games on an improved Oilers team, meaning wins and saves should have been guaranteed. Obviously, none of that happened. He struggled all season, lost his starter’s job in Edmonton and was traded to Philadelphia.
By the summer of 2017, no player was more consistent than Pacioretty as you could count on 30 goals and 60 points from him every year. Then 2017-18 happened, and there were plenty of off-ice distractions (trade rumours while playing for one of the worst teams in the league will have that effect on some people). He wound up with 17 goals and 37 points. A trade to Vegas seemed promising, and he was mentioned in every story about top bounce-back candidates, but he finished with 22 goals and 40 points this year. Not a great improvement. He’s having an excellent playoff, so interest is starting to rebound. If I was a MaxPac owner, I’d be selling him hard with this playoff run.