Whether we pause to realize it or not, the fact is there are dozens of skaters who will never again equal (let alone surpass) their point total from 2018-19. The trick, of course, is being able to know which players have already peaked, and thus whose production has nowhere to go but down.
That’s where today’s poll comes in. I’ve listed 19 players below who I think, due to one or more factors, might never again score as many points as they did last season. Your job is to vote for the player(s) you think indeed will never again do as well as in 2018-19. You can vote for as many players or as few as you believe deserve your vote; and I’ve even included a “none of the above” choice in case, somehow, you think each of every one of the 19 will equal or top their 2018-19 regular season production at least once more before all is said and done with respect to their careers. Just remember – although these polls are meant to be enjoyable, you should vote objectively so your fellow Dobberites can look to the results to help shape decisions they’ll be making in terms of keepers or come draft day for 2019-20.
The only restriction I implemented was not to include anyone who was already at least 34 years old as of February 1, 2019, since age is naturally working against them being able to keep up their scoring pace. That’s why you won’t see the likes of Mark Giordano, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise or Joe Pavelski as choices. But otherwise everyone was eligible; so without further ado here are the nominees, which, as usual, are presented in alphabetical order and with their 2018-19 point total in parentheses.
Josh Bailey (56 points) – How did Bailey’s follow-up his 71 point output in 2017-18? By posting the same total he had in 2016-17, representing only the third time he posted more than 41 points in a season. With Bailey set to turn 30 in October, coming off only 126 SOG last season (a total well lower than either of his prior two campaigns), and seeing his ice time drop for the second straight season, it might just be that he never again posts 56+ points.
Brent Burns (83 points) – After seasons of 76 and 75 points, Burns dipped to 67 in 2017-18. Then lo and behold he posts his best output yet last season. As difficult as it might feel to bet against him, there’ve been just three instances of a defenseman as old as Burns will be this season playing in 75+ contests and scoring at a point per game rate (Larry Robinson – 82 points in 78 games at age 34 in 1985-86, Ray Bourque – 82 points in 82 games at age 35 in 1995-96, and Nicklas Lidstrom – 80 points in 80 games at age 35 in 2005-06). Not only is this seemingly a once per decade type of accomplishment, but of the three only Bourque had done so previously. Moreover, for Burns to best 83 points, he not only has to perform at the same super high level, but also needs to stay healthy enough to miss few if any games, plus count on San Jose’s offense to continue firing on all cylinders, which may be tall orders.
John Carlson (70 points) – After 68 points in 82 games in 2017-18, Carlson upped the ante this past campaign, thanks in large part to his second straight output of 32+ PPPts. Yet Carlson turns 30 during this season and saw his SOG rate drop from 237 in 2017-18 to just 185 last season. Although he figures to still get all the PP Time he can handle, it’s unclear whether Washington’s ageing core will give Carlson enough support to help him taste the 70 point mark again.
Mattias Ekholm (44 points) – Last season saw Ekholm turn 28 and set a career best in points, topping his previous high-water mark of 35 points by over 25%. He also had an IPP (i.e., the percentage of points he received on goals scored while he was on the ice) of 48.9%, which was only the second time in his career above 32.4%. What’s more, of the 20 defensemen who scored more than his 44 points, all but one (Ryan McDonagh – more on him below) had at least 60 more minutes of PPTOI for the season, which suggests Ekholm overachieved.
Claude Giroux (85 points) – After going from 86, to 73, to 67, to 58 points in successive seasons, Giroux shocked the fantasy world by posting 101 points in 2017-18. Last season was a step down again, raising concern that his days of point per game hockey could be ending, particularly as he’ll turn 32 this season and will be playing for a coach (Alain Vigneault) whose “spread it around” ice time philosophy led to no Ranger scoring more than 69 points during Vigneault’s five-season tenure in the Big Apple.
Erik Gustafsson (60 points) – I covered Gustafsson in a Forum Buzz column back in April, where I saw that it’s not unheard of for a player to break out at age 27 as he did. What’s more, Gustafsson had previously shown strong 5×5 team shooting percentages, suggesting all he needed was the chance he finally got. Beyond that, Chicago seems content giving him the Torey Krug/Tyson Barrie treatment, namely lots of PP Time and deployment mainly in the offensive zone. With Gustafsson scoring at a 75 point pace following his first 21 games last season, it seems like another 60+ point season should be within reach. Then again, he wouldn’t be the first player to make a big splash then never come close to duplicating that output.
Ryan Johansen (64 points) – Although Johansen is still only 26, I think most have resigned themselves to him not likely hitting 71 points (his career high set in 2014-15) again. The question is though, can he even get back to 64 points? He gets all the prime ice time he can handle, yet he can’t seem to put up the points to show for it, particularly since his SOG rate – which back in the day had been over 200 per game two seasons in a row – was 129 and 136 these past two seasons.
Evander Kane (56 points) – Last season saw Kane not only post just one point less than his career best, but also play in at least 70 games for the third straight season, which is something he’d never previously done. He’s also kept his head screwed on straight since coming to San Jose despite having a huge contract already in his pocket. But with Kane, there are always questions about his health, effort, and commitment, enough so that it could be reasonable to wonder if he can post 56+ again.
Patrick Kane (110 points) – Putting Kane on this list isn’t about him losing skill. In fact, he was arguably the second best forward in the NHL last season. The reality is though, at some point – and soon – Kane will have played his best season, with nowhere to go but down despite how great he is. And the last time a player as old as Kane posted 110+ points was when Jaromir Jagr did so way back in 2005-06. Is Kane cut from the same cloth as Jagr? Maybe…..maybe not.
Phil Kessel (82 points) – Even if Kessel doesn’t find himself on a new team come October, he still might have a tough time hitting the point per game level again. For one, he’s turning 32 years old, plus he finished with 35 points in 40 second half games, even as other Pens players were firing on all cylinders. There’s also the fact that he posted 78 combined PPPts over his past two campaigns, which will be hard to duplicate, and that his 215 SOG was his lowest mark since he was a rookie.
Nikita Kucherov (128 points) – Much of what was said above with respect to Patrick Kane also applies to Kucherov, except that the 2018-19 scoring leader just turned 26 and therefore is smack dab in the middle of his prime. Even still, let’s pause for a moment to wrap our heads around the fact that Kucherov’s was the highest total by any player in nearly 25 seasons; and he achieved it with an 84.9% IPP on a team whose 319 goals were also the most in nearly 25 seasons. In other words, as spectacular a player as Kucherov unquestionably is, we might have just witnessed his very best.
David Krejci (73 points) – This past season Krejci tied his career high in points. No big deal right? Yes actually, when that previous output came ten seasons ago! And although the system that Bruce Cassidy is running has ignited Boston’s offense and he has shown superb chemistry with up and comer Jake Debrusk, the fact remains Krejci is not normally on PP1 for the Bs and he’d have to somehow do better, at age 33, than he did last season.
Ryan McDonagh (46 points) – Much of what was said above about Ekholm applies to McDonagh, except even more so since McDonagh had nearly 30 seconds less PP time per game and an offensive zone starting percentage of 46.8% compared to Ekholm’s 50.5%. These things having been said, there is the fact that McDonagh plays 22 minutes a night for, as noted above, what was the NHL’s best team offense in the past nearly 25 years and twice scored 42+ points for offensively challenged Rangers teams in prior seasons, so McDonagh, who just turned 30, might still have one or two more big seasons in him.
Jeff Petry (46 points) – Although Petry’s output is trending upward, from 28 points in 2016-17 to 42 in 2017-18, to 46 last season, in both his 42+ point seasons he benefitted from Shea Weber being absent for chunks of the campaign. And last season, once Weber was back Petry’s scoring pace, dropped to 17 points in his final 40 games. Still, with Petry having shown he can do well and Weber always an injury risk, Petry might be able to put together another 46+ point season before all is said and done.
Morgan Rielly (72 points) –It also might seem strange to see Rielly on this list, until we pause to realize 72 points is a mark that only three defensemen (Burns, Erik Karlsson, and Mike Green) have hit twice since 2000-01. Then again, Rielly is a minute-eater who also takes the ice for 60% of the Leafs’ potent power play, plus only 21 of those 72 points came with the man advantage, which tied him for just eighth among rearguards in man-advantage scoring last season. It’s a lot of points, but Rielly’s skill, plus the team he’s on, and PP gains, might make it possible for him to hit the mark again.
Jared Spurgeon (43 points) – Like Petry, Spurgeon hit a career-high despite having played many seasons and due to the absence of a key figure, which in Spurgeon’s case was Matt Dumba. The thing is though, Spurgeon didn’t see more overall or PP ice time despite Dumba’s absence, with the only real difference being in his offensive zone starting percentage, which, at 53.3%, was the second highest mark for Spurgeon since his rookie season. No one is thinking that Spurgeon’s production will crater; it’s just that for someone like him, hitting 43 again might be just a bit much of a stretch.
Steven Stamkos (98 points) – After a few seasons of injury woes and production a notch below his 90+ point totals or pace from 2010-2013, Stamkos awoke to set a career high in 2018-19, buoyed by playing for the red hot Tampa offense and sharing the ice just enough – on the PP and at even strength – with superstar Kucherov. But Stamkos turns 30 this season, and his 18:18 of ice time last season marked the lowest of any of the 51 instances of 98+ point scoring since 2000-01; so the concern is less so about whether he still has the talent, and instead more about if he can score that much without getting the 20 to 22 minutes of ice time he was receiving back in his prime.
Jonathan Toews (81 points) – How did Toews celebrate turning 31 in the midst of his twelfth NHL season? Only by shattering his previous career best (set in 2010-11) by five points and marking only the second time he scored above 69 points in his career. What was different? Not much, as his luck metrics were not skewed. Mainly he just upped his SOG total and saw a higher percentage of PP time. Chances are Toews always had this in him, but only now realized the team needed his scoring as much if not more than his leadership. Will he focus on scoring again to equal or beat 81 points? Tough to say.
Keith Yandle (62 points) – With Yandle, you know he’s always good for 82 games; however, with him turning 33 before the puck drops on 2019-20 and youngsters Aaron Ekblad and Mike Matheson chomping at the bit to get more favorable deployment, Yandle’s days of being the undisputed top offensive rearguard for the Panthers might be numbered. Then again, the team might just pigeonhole him, and choose to have him skate fewer minutes but make those minutes easier and not cut back on his precious PP Time. Even still, for a player who topped 60 points for the first time at age 32, it might be a bit difficult to imagine him being able to hit that threshold again.
You can cast your votes by clicking here. As noted above, you can vote for as many or as few players as you think deserve to be chosen. Or you can pick “none of the above” if you think all 19 players will equal or surpass their 2018-19 total at least once more in their career.
I’ll be back with another poll in a month, but next week is another mailbag. And although I’m all set for questions this time, I can always use more for future editions; so please go ahead and send them to me in one of two ways: (1) by private messaging them to me (rizzeedizzee) via the DobberHockey Forums, or (2) by sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.