Ramblings – I’ve Identified 17 Disappointing Key Fantasy Players I’m Confident Will Bounce Back (May 18)
I will have an announcement officially announcing a release date for the 13th annual Fantasy Prospects Report next Monday (for realsies this time) in the Ramblings, on Twitter and on Facebook. I am (still) awaiting the NHL's decision about when their draft will take place, and I believe that decision will finally come this week. It has to, if they want the draft to be held in June. I have gone from 90% sure that it will happen, to just 40% certainty. And instead of an early June draft date, I think they may hold the original dates on June 26-27. My release date will be in early June if the Draft is in June, and it will be July 1 if the Draft is pushed back to the fall (i.e. after the season). Follow me on Twitter for an announcement immediately after the NHL's announcement.
There is a lot of news right now about the NHL making playoff arrangements. It is looking likely that they will go with a 24-team playoff format, which is a contingency in the event that they don't complete the season. Or maybe it means that the playoffs get expanded in lieu of finishing the season. And I wonder if this is a compromise that is tied into Bettman getting the GMs to agree on holding the draft in June. I'm sure Dean Evason, Bill Guerin and David Poile (for example) would be fine giving up their lottery pick in exchange for participation in the playoffs. Twenty-four teams get playoffs… and seven teams get a crack at the lottery? If this is the case, I suspect we hear a double announcement from the NHL outlining the draft, as well as resumption of hockey (but without a firm date on the latter) this week. I think waiting until May 25, from what I've gathered, is too late if the league expects teams to be ready for a draft at any point in June. So this is the week.
I took a look at some key fantasy players who really let their fantasy squads down this year, trying to figure out if they will bounce back. I referenced Tom Collins' Top 10 Disappointing Young Players and his Top 10 Disappointing Players lists, and Rick Roos' poll in the forum (found here), and I also looked over the weaker-performing goalies. I ruled out the ones that I had little confidence in. What's left is a list of 17 players where my confidence level is at or above 50% that they will rebound. These are in order of least confident (still somewhat confident at 50-50) to very confident (100% being extreme).
17. Erik Gustafsson (50%)
Gustafsson barely squeaks onto this list because so much depends on where he signs and for what kind of contract. He blew his chance for a sweet, long-term deal. But if he gets anything like three years and over $4 million AAV on a team in need of a QB, then a rebound is likely. If he's stuck with a one- or two-year deal on a team with a good QB option already in place, then his fantasy owners are in trouble. His points-per-game average over the last 179 games (three years) pro-rates to 48 points, and I think he gets more than that with the right contract.
16. PK Subban (55%)
I still have my doubts, of course. But I was nudged upward from 45% (slightly more confident that he is done) to 55% (slightly more confident that he can rebound) thanks to the recent TSN article where he truly believes he is still one of the top defensemen in the league. He had a 59-point season, and then an injury-riddled season. And then last year on a new team. Sure, he's 31 years old now. But with hard work he can get back there. Part of me wonders if my "second baby" theory in which a player declines for a season when a second baby is born with a couple years after the first, before bouncing back again, can also be applied to upcoming weddings. I know it sounds silly and over-analytical, but Subban's engagement and relationship has been pretty public, and he's had a lot of upheaval in his life too. With a good training regiment, strong health and settling into the New Jersey system with an improved team around him and I think he can bounce back.
15. Cam Atkinson (60%)
Atkinson was a near-70-point player with Artemi Panarin on his line. But he was a 62-point player before Panarin, and I think that's where he actually is. The only reason he is at 60% here instead of 90% is health. Injured twice last season, and once in 2017-18, I do have concerns there. To rebound, he needs to play at least 75 games.
14. Matt Murray (65%)
The Penguins are going to keep both goaltenders. That tends to be what happens, even if all logic is screaming at you that a trade is inevitable. GMs hate being painted into a corner. They would rather bury talent or let it disappear and get nothing, than give another GM a 'discounted price'. Murray has two Cups, so he has nothing left to prove. And although he gets injured with regularity, it doesn't push him below 45 starts. In fact, he was going to hit 47 this year (and may still do that), which would make four consecutive seasons of between 47 and 50 games. The Penguins know they have a Cup winner and that he will have some good years and some bad. The poor seasons just means that they can sign him for a little less. And Jarry, who only played (so far) 33 games this year, is not proven enough to get a big contract. The Pens can afford both and postpone any decisions. Murray will get in his 50 games next year and his numbers will rebound to at least 0.915 and possibly something over 0.920.
13. Kevin Labanc (65%)
A heartbreaking gamble. Labanc bet on himself last year with that tiny contract, and I'm sure he mainly did it as a favor for his GM at the time, too. I would have done the same thing. Labanc was on the rise, trending upwards very quickly to what I thought was stardom. Sixty-five points this season and he could seriously cash in. Instead, he's on a 39-point pace. A lot of that is poor puck luck, and the team is also weaker around him. I think he overcomes that and gets back on that trajectory. I'm curious to see what contract the GM promised him this offseason in exchange for the gift he got last summer. We'll know soon enough.
12. Viktor Arvidsson (65%)
A reliable 61-point player has been injured two consecutive seasons just as he enters his prime. Arvidsson just needs to stay healthy for a full season and I'm confident he meets and even exceeds the 61 points that he hit twice.
11. Mikael Granlund (70%)
Granlund had 14 points in 35 games under Peter Laviolette and 16 points in 28 games under John Hynes. The latter number was actually 15 in 22 before he fell into a six-game skid heading into the break. Hynes was giving him more ice time and the first-line treatment. Wherever he signs as a UFA in the offseason, Granlund will maintain that first-line treatment and could possibly have a career season. He will be one of the most coveted free agents on the market.
10. Dylan Strome (70%)
This is just a sophomore slump. Other teams are keying in on Strome and he's been struggling with it. However, in the eight games leading into the pause, Strome tallied seven points. Top players work through these things and tend to have it figured out for Year 3. Strome is a serious buy-low candidate right now.
9. John Klingberg (70%)
After five consecutive seasons of a 50-point pace or better, Klingberg's pace has fallen off. But only slightly. His pace is for 45 points over a full season. The lower-than expected numbers are due to the lower-than-expected games. He's missed significant time for the second straight year. All he needs is a healthy season – something he enjoyed with regularity the three seasons prior to last year. Because Klingberg is not as good in his own zone as Miro Heiskanen, he will enjoy more PP time while Heiskanen gobbles up the PK minutes.
8. Sergei Bobrovsky (70%)
Bobrovsky had a terrible season before. It was in 2015-16 and he finished with 0.908 SV% and just 48.6 QS%. This season was worse, but it was getting better and I think he would finished at around 0.902 SV% and 45.0 QS%. After the 2015-16 debacle I remember being offered Bobrovsky for pretty cheap and turning it down because I didn't believe in him. I won't make that mistake again. The guy has won two Vezinas and those goalies tend to stay valuable for a long time. He bounced back in 2016-17 with a 0.931 SV% and a Vezina.
7. Clayton Keller (75%)
Too much talent to hold back for long, Keller is now past the 200-game threshold (237 actually) and about ready to pop. Next season, his fourth, I think will be one to watch. The highest chance of a breakthrough out of any year in his career is the 2020-21 season.
6. Erik Karlsson (75%)
Karlsson has had three consecutive seasons in which he has missed at least 11 games. But to me he is a generational player and those types don't simply stop. His question mark is whether or not he can get back to full health. Because the generational talent will always be there. He was a point-per-game defenseman back when those were extinct. Now that point-per-game defensemen are in the conversation again, Karlsson becomes a step above even that. He could be the player most helped by a lengthy break away from the ice.
5. Alex DeBrincat (80%)
Odd that DeBrincat suffers a sophomore slump when it's not his sophomore season. But okay, it's a third-year slump. DeBrincat is a first-line star talent with upside north of 85 points. Still only 22, this season will be a distant memory soon enough. Don't make it the year you didn't push hard to acquire him in your keeper league. He recently passed the 200-game threshold and next year will be his fourth.
4. Morgan Rielly (80%)
If you read my stuff regularly then you know my feelings about Rielly. It's the Pietrangelo – Shattenkirk example that I always use. Rielly is too good in other areas, so if a high-end one-dimensional offensive defenseman joins the team, then Rielly's points are going to slip. Once said high-end one-dimensional offensive defenseman leaves the team, Rielly's production will bounce back. He's already proven that he can get 72 points, so that's where he will be again once Tyson Barrie is gone.
3. Matt Dumba (80%)
Big contract: Check. Golden Boy Status: Check. Proven production: Check. Not even at his prime yet: Check. Dumba checks all the boxes. The coach and team will work with him through thick and thin to get out of this slump. Missing most of a season is bound to have struggles upon return. I usually assume 20 games for a player to get back into the swing of things and Dumba has taken 69. I'm not sweating it. For what it's worth, Dumba has been much more productive in the second half, though he's still falling short of what he can do. Next year, I say he does it.
2. Taylor Hall (85%)
While it's true that Hall's points-per-game average (0.80) is actually slightly above where it was from 2014 through 2017, once he hit 130 points in 109 games (1.19 the last two combined seasons) that became his new standard. So we consider 2019-20 a "decline". Where he signs will play a big role (obviously), but regardless I think he'll be glad to put this season behind him and get back to doing what we know he can do.
1. Johnny Gaudreau (95%)
Johnny Hockey was coming off a 99-point season…and I still felt he had another gear. And then he comes out and does…this. Now a 68-point pace that just 20 games ago was pacing for 62, Gaudreau's year has been a fantasy bust. If the NHL finishes the season and Gaudreau gets two points per game, then I'd consider it salvaged. But aside from that unlikely event happening, his owners will continue to be frustrated. But I firmly believe that he is a future 100-point player and why can't that happen in 2020-21?
Ales Hemsky retired late last week. He is still only 36 and he hasn't played hockey in an official capacity since he was 34. A classic example of potential being devastated by injuries. Hemsky, to me, was a Top 10 NHL scorer in terms of talent. How many times did he get there? Zero. Well, one time he was 10th in assists (58 in 2005-06). Hemsky was awesome and if he had a normal amount of injuries, he would have played 1300 games or more and been in the Hall of Fame this year. Instead, not even considered. Classic example, but that's what hockey is and that's part of the challenge for greatness – staying healthy. Hemsky played 75 games just twice prior in his first 10 seasons. Concussion, labrum, other labrum, other minor injuries – stunted his development, his growth into his full potential. From age 22 to 26, still not in his prime, Hemsky had 267 points in 291 games. Then he had 22 points in 22 games before his already-established proneness to injury became much, much worse. What could have been!
All the best to Ales Hemsky.
Website news: The new homepage is complete and ready. We are just working on the look of content/articles now and I'm told that this will be complete Monday. The relaunch of DobberHockey, jumping us from 2008 to 2020, could happen for Tuesday morning! Three years in the making, and nine months late, I can't express to you the excitement, relief and pure joy I am feeling in anticipation of this.
See you next Monday. Be safe. Thanks for continuing to support the website, and if you're bored and need a fantasy hockey fix – visit the gang in the forum here.
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