10 Eastern Conference players bound to regress.
After looking at some Eastern Conference bounce-back candidates last week, this week we will look in the other direction. While buying low and investing in players due to perform better than their perceived value would indicate is very important in fantasy hockey, avoiding bad investments is also key. Sometimes injuries and bad luck play a role in one of your core players underperforming which is something you cannot avoid. However there are factors to consider that might help you anticipate bad situations before they wreak havoc on your squad’s chances of winning your championship.
Of course, calling a player a bad investment is all about context. Many star-level players can decline significantly and still be very fantasy worthy. It is still crucial to make sure you pay a fair price for your players, whether it is on draft day or in a trade.
Other potential decliners featured recently
Andrew Hammond (OTT): One of last year’s top fantasy contributors in the second half, Hammond is now beginning his first full year in the NHL. Obviously, his outstanding numbers are unsustainable and he is clearly the backup in Ottawa. However, based on his average draft position there are many out there investing in Hammond as a starter as he is currently the 25th goalie picked, even ahead of the Senators’ main goalie Craig Anderson. Hammond’s fantasy value lies as an injury replacement given Anderson’s history with injuries including 44 games missed since the end of the lockout.
Eddie Lack (CAR): After an outstanding year in Vancouver Lack now finds himself in a tough situation in Carolina. The team has been out of the playoffs for six straight years and this year will probably end with a similar result. It is worth noting that both Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin finished with negative win/loss records and save percentages of .910 or worse last year. This should illustrate how much Lack’s strong fantasy numbers could take a hit this year. Ward, a longtime Hurricane, will see a lot of time in the crease regardless of how well he plays and things could get very ugly if the team decides to move captain Eric Staal at the trade deadline.
Steve Mason (PHI): Last year Mason’s save percentage ranked third among all goalies that played 27 or more games. As good as he has been since joining the Flyers, averages that good are difficult for any goalie to sustain. Look for his save percentage to fall back closer to the .917 he posted in his first year with the Flyers while the team will not win enough games to help their goalie on that front. As for health, he missed 18 games to back and knee ailments last year and was a moderate injury risk during his time in Columbus. Keep this in mind when drafting him and get your hands on backup Michal Neuvirth if possible and if it makes sense in your league.
Cody Franson (BUF): In Toronto Franson blossomed into a very good fantasy defenseman, especially in multi-category leagues. In addition to putting up a 40-point pace more than once, he was also a contributor on the power play and was able to get you around three hits per game. Then the trade to Nashville happened and Franson’s year took a significant turn for the worst. His average ice time went down from 21 minutes in Toronto to just 15 and his production dried up. Even the physical play went away as he had just 24 hits in 23 games with thePredators.
Now in Buffalo, Franson is in limbo. The team acquired a lot of talent up front this summer but the amount of time he waited to sign this summer raises questions. Many other defensemen received long, expensive contracts while Franson had to settle for two years. While it is possible he plays the whole year on the first power play unit, it is also possible he simply serves as a buffer to help take pressure off of Rasmus Ristolainen. Franson will remain fantasy-relevant for the time being but it remains to be seen if the opportunity will be there to maximize his talents.
Damon Severson (NJ): It is odd for a guy with 51 career NHL games to be included on this list but Severson’s 17 points in his rookie year put him on pace for 27 over 82 games. On one hand it would not be surprising to see him top 30 points in his first full NHL campaign but in his environment he could fall well short of the mark. Adam Larsson’s emergence in all areas has been very noteworthy and Eric Gelinas is also in the mix making it far from a guarantee that Severson will receive top power play minutes. Making matters worse is the lack of talent up front in New Jersey. Their forward group will be younger than in years past but as a group lacks the finishing ability to help the blueliners on the assist front.
Marek Zidlicky (NYI): Zidlicky has quietly been a strong fantasy producer over the years. However, he comes to the Islanders to play a different role behind the team’s established defenders. Unlike in past years, Zidlicky will likely not see 20 minutes per game on the ice and his power play utilization will fluctuate all year. While he will provide great value and veteran presence at a low cost for the Islanders, the change will cut into his fantasy value. Look for him to remain a solid depth scorer who can provide short-term boosts off the wire in shallow leagues.
Tyler Bozak (TOR): Coming off of back-to-back 49-point campaigns, Bozak’s fantasy outlook is very bleak heading into this year. He has been a very productive centerman in large part due to chemistry developed with top scorer Phil Kessel. With Kessel now in Pittsburgh, the Maple Leafs will not have nearly as much firepower at their disposal. This will especially hurt Bozak who will not have to get his points with lesser linemates. With roster turnover and a focus on youth being major themes in Toronto, Bozak could even see his ice time decline throughout the year especially if a guy like Peter Holland were to show he is ready for a greater role. Bozak might not have much fantasy value this year outside of leagues that count faceoff wins.
David Desharnais (MTL): After four years producing at a passable second-line rate, Desharnais appears set to start the year on the Canadiens’ third line following Alex Galchenyuk’s move to center. This hurts the undersized forward’s fantasy value in two ways. Being on the third line keeps him away from Max Pacioretty, the team’s top offensive player who has a long history lining up next to Desharnais. It also hurts because the Canadiens lack the scoring depth to help keep his numbers up on a lower line. Of course, he will find himself back with Pacioretty for stretches when the coach shuffles lines but Desharnais’ value may be limited to waiver wire pick-up this year.
Johan Franzen (DET): After his career was seemingly in jeopardy, Franzen has been cleared to return and has already suited up for two preseason games. He has a good track record putting up points and has been excellent in multi-category leagues. However, given the concussion problems and his age of 35 it is difficult to envision Franzen continuing his rate of last year scoring two points every three games. His odds of playing anything near a full schedule are pretty much zero and the Wins’ younger alternative Justin Abdelkader has done well doing the dirty work in Franzen’s absence.
Michael Raffl (PHI): Based on the line combinations this preseason Raffl will start the year back on the big line next to Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Unfortunately, unless he can log more than the 14 minutes per game he saw last year his upside is very limited. He will probably get more assists and may even exceed last year’s 28 points but the goals are what made him appealing. Unfortunately scoring on 15.7 percent of his shots is a very difficult rate for any forward to sustain which makes his 21 goals over 67 games a very difficult feat to repeat.
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