Eastern Edge: Disappointing seasons from Eastern Conference teams
After spending the past couple of weeks looking at each team's fantasy MVP (which you can check out here and here), I decided to analyze the other end of the spectrum. In this week's Eastern Edge, we'll take a look at the most disappointing fantasy player from each team in the Eastern Conference. If you disagree with any of these picks and want to tell me how stupid I am for some of my selections, please leave a comment below!
Boston Bruins – Jake DeBrusk
After putting up a 50-point pace in each of his first two NHL seasons, DeBrusk didn't really take a step forward this year, registering a 44-point pace. Obviously, that's not a huge drop-off and he could have erased the deficit with a strong performance to close out the season. However, my decision to select DeBrusk as Boston's most disappointing fantasy player had more to do with the success of his teammates than his own struggles. As I look through the fantasy-relevant players on the Bruins' roster, I'd say all of them – excluding DeBrusk – either met or exceeded expectations. At the end of the day, he's still just 23 years old and I wouldn't be surprised to see him break out with 60-plus points next season.
Buffalo Sabres – Jeff Skinner
After he scored 40 goals last year, most people expected to see some regression from Skinner this season. However, I don't think anyone was expecting his production to fall off so drastically. He has just 14 goals through 59 appearances and is on pace for a career-worst 32 points. His struggles are largely explained by the fact that he's no longer playing beside Jack Eichel and it doesn't look like coach Ralph Krueger is eager to reunite the two of them.
Carolina Hurricanes – Nino Niederreiter
After Minnesota traded Niederreiter to Carolina last year, he managed an impressive 30 points in 36 games alongside Sebastian Aho and Justin Williams. He was placed in a position to succeed again this year, starting the campaign beside Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. Unfortunately, he was unable to make the most of the situation, tallying just 20 points in his first 42 games. He was ultimately relegated to a depth role as Andrei Svechnikov replaced him on the top line.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Cam Atkinson
The Blue Jackets' top line was a force to be reckoned with last year, as Artemi Panarin put up 87 points, Cam Atkinson put up 69 points and Pierre-Luc Dubois put up 61 points. When Panarin left Columbus for New York, most of us expected the team to have a lot more trouble scoring. However, seeing as Atkinson had scored 62 points before Panarin even joined the roster, I thought a 60-point pace was a realistic expectation this year. Unfortunately, he's fallen short of that projection, with 26 points in 44 games that translate to a mediocre 48-point pace. He has been sidelined with ankle injuries for considerable stretches this season, so hopefully this extra time off will give him a chance to fully recover and rediscover his game once NHL action resumes.
Detroit Red Wings – Dylan Larkin
Seeing as Larkin leads the Red Wings in scoring, it seems unfair to call him the team's most disappointing fantasy player. But to 'disappoint' means to fall short of expectations. Did we really have high expectations for the rest of Detroit's roster? Aside from Larkin, the only real fantasy-relevant players on team are Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Hronek. I'd say they all had pretty strong showings this year, considering their draft position and past performances. Larkin put up 73 points in 76 games last year, which translates to 79 points over 82 games. His production this year puts him on pace for just 61 points.
Florida Panthers – Sergei Bobrovsky
Disappointment [ dis-uh-point-muhnt ]
Definition: A 3.23 GAA and .900 save percentage through 50 appearances, from a two-time Vezina-winning goaltender that was selected in the first few rounds of most fantasy drafts.
Montreal Canadiens – Max Domi
Prior to his 72-point showing last year, Domi had established himself as a 50-point player through three seasons in Arizona. As a result, most people saw his 72-point campaign as an exception, not the new rule. Those people were proved right as Domi has returned to a familiar 50-point pace this year. If I'm being honest, I expected 60 to 65 points from Domi – some regression but not a whole lot of it. He seemed to thrive off the crowd's energy in Montreal and I thought his passionate play would allow him to be more productive in Montreal than he was in Arizona. Although I was proven wrong this year, I'm still holding out hope that Domi will return to form for the 2020-2021 campaign.
New Jersey Devils – P.K. Subban
When Subban was traded from Nashville to New Jersey, I really thought he'd thrive as a member of the Devils. I mean, his most productive years came while he was 'the guy' in Montreal, seeing the lion's share of his team's total power-play time. In Nashville, he had a smaller role, as one of many talented defensemen on the Predators. So, I thought the move to New Jersey would allow him to be 'the guy' again, with no one else as qualified to be the team's top defenseman. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case as Subban has just 18 points through 68 games, with a much smaller role on the power-play than I expected him to have.
New York Islanders – Josh Bailey
Compared to most players on this list, Bailey's season hasn't been all that disappointing. However, looking through the Islanders' roster, I couldn't really justify putting any other player on this list. Sure, Mathew Barzal's 72-point pace is short of the 86-point pace he managed in his rookie season, but it's still an improvement from the 62-point pace he put up last year. At the end of the day, Bailey's current 52-point pace is slightly disappointing when you consider that he's just two seasons removed from a 71-point campaign. While that may end up being an outlier, he's proven capable of scoring 55-60 points before, so I'd say he's underperformed – albeit not by much.
New York Rangers – Kaapo Kakko
We've been so spoiled by incredible rookie performances over the past few years, so we often forget that most of these kids need a few years to find their game in the NHL. Kakko's 29-point pace may not have been what you expected from the second overall pick of the 2019 draft. However, he's still just 19 years old and has plenty of time to develop his undeniable talent.
Ottawa Senators – Anthony Duclair
I had a hard time choosing a disappointing player from Ottawa because I didn't really expect much from anyone on the team, aside from Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot. In my opinion, Tkachuk and Chabot had decent showings this year considering the overall quality of Ottawa's roster. At the end of the day, I decided to go with Anthony Duclair because he raised our expectations in December, when he put up 11 goals and five assists in 13 games. He proceeded to fall short of those heightened expectations over the next few months, tallying just nine points through 26 games.
Philadelphia Flyers – Shayne Gostisbehere
At first, I was tempted to crown Claude Giroux as the most disappointing fantasy hockey player from Philly's roster. I mean if we're just looking at point production over the past few years, Giroux went from a 101-point pace (2017-2018) to an 85-point pace (2018-2019) to his current pace of 63 points. However, his center/left-wing/right-wing eligibility allows you to slot him in at any forward position on your fantasy team, giving you a lot of roster flexibility. Giroux has been incredibly valuable in leagues that count face-off wins as a category, so I decided to spare him of this undesirable title – which was instead bestowed upon Shayne Gostisbehere. I think a lot of us were expecting Gostisbehere to improve on the 39-point pace he put up last year, considering he managed a 68, 42 and 59-point pace in previous seasons. Unfortunately, he's fallen short of our expectations, tallying just 12 points through 42 games – a 23-point pace. He hasn't really been contributing to other categories either as he's on track for fewer hits, blocks, shots and power-play points than last year. It's worth mentioning that Gostisbehere had knee surgery In January, so hopefully this extra time off will help him return to full health as he looks to rediscover his game.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Matt Murray
Expectations are going to be high when you're the first goalie in NHL history to win two Stanley Cups as a rookie. Unfortunately, Murray has not performed up to the high standards we have for him, registering a 2.87 GAA and .899 save percentage through 38 appearances. That's simply not good enough for someone who had the potential to be a top-10 fantasy goalie this year. I for one didn't expect him to lose the starting role to Tristan Jarry, but that's the world we live in. Jarry has been excellent with a 2.43 GAA and .921 save percentage through 33 appearances.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Yanni Gourde
He put up 64 points in 82 games during the 2017-2018 campaign. Although he wasn't as productive in 2018-2019, he still managed a respectable pace that was just shy of 50 points. Unfortunately, the decline has continued this year, where he's put up a mediocre 35-point pace.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Morgan Rielly
Okay Leaf fans, please put your pitchforks away and keep in mind that we're approaching this endeavour from a fantasy hockey perspective. While Morgan Rielly is a talented defenseman, I'd say that his 47-point pace falls short of our expectations, considering he put up a 72-point pace last year and a 57-point pace the year before that. Most of Toronto's big names performed well this year, with Frederik Andersen and John Tavares being the only other players that may have a case for the title of most disappointing fantasy player from Toronto. Ultimately, Rielly's drop-off in production was the most significant, so I gave him the crown.
Washington Capitals – Braden Holtby
Through his first seven NHL seasons, Holtby's worst save percentage was a .915 – he managed a .920 or better every other year. Unfortunately, that consistent excellence hasn't been as prevalent in recent years, where he's posted a .907 save percentage (2017-2018), a .911 (2018-2019) and a shocking .897 save percentage through 48 games this year. Ilya Samsonov has been the more reliable starter in Washington so far, posting a 2.55 GAA and .913 save percentage in 26 appearances.
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