Eastern Edge: Least in the East

by Eric Daoust on January 26, 2016

Building a squad full of the biggest underachievers in the Eastern Conference.

During the offseason we tend to go to great lengths to figure out each player’s worth in the league to help give us an edge when the fall drafts roll around. We go to the draft table with our lists based on reasonable expectations and select our team. And then reality strikes and things usually play out much differently than we anticipated.

Unfortunately, a player’s career is often full of ups and downs that are not in sync with what we would consider reasonable projections. When a fantasy-relevant player you drafted underperforms it can have some devastating consequences – both literally in your league standings and also psychologically as the player is not delivering enough to justify the price you paid to acquire him, whether that be at the draft table or in a trade.

Today we will unveil the Eastern Conference all-underachiever team along with some dishonorable mentions. The players earning these positions are the farthest from their preseason expectations in points.

Note: The expected total is based on the projected points-per-game for each player in the Dobberhockey Fantasy Guide.

Forwards

Name

GP

PTS

SH/G

TOI

Expected Points (Diff.)

Matt Moulson (BUF)

47

12

1.6

13:11

31(-19)

Tyler Johnson (TB)

35

16

2.2

17:32

32 (-16)

Phil Kessel (PIT)

47

30

3.1

19:00

46 (-16)

 

 

Matt Moulson – Last month Moulson was given the “sell” recommendation in Real or Imagined. Since then he has not recorded a single point and his ice time has continued to plummet – under 10 minutes in six of his last eight which brings his season average down to just above 13 minutes. As a result his shooting frequency has taken a major hit. To compare, during his three consecutive 30-goal campaigns with the Islanders his shots-per-game average was pushing three.

At this point the only redeeming quality is he continues to get shifts on the scoring lines – both at even strength and on the power play. But with such limited time on the ice does it really matter? Even if he gets going for a stretch he is going to have a lot of trouble sustaining the good play. Unlike last year when the Sabres were a wasteland and stuck by Moulson, they have a better club this year with alternatives to try when he falters.

Tyler Johnson – Johnson’s first half was a total disaster as he followed a slow start with three stints out with injury. Lately he has been much better with five points in his last eight games and although this stretch would put him on pace for just 50 points it is about as well as he has played at any point this year.

In addition to the injuries slowing down Johnson’s momentum, puck luck has also been an issue as both his personal shooting percentage and on-ice five-on-five shooting percentage are currently low. There is plenty of room for improvement and having an offensive star like Nikita Kucherov at his side always helps. Not to mention, the Lightning as a unit have been scoring much more of late with 25 goals in their last seven games. Do not count on him to maintain a pace down the stretch at the level of last year’s 72-point performance but nonetheless Johnson should be a solid option in all fantasy leagues down the stretch.

Phil Kessel – Given Kessel’s hot play since December 31 the fact he is still on the list of top underachievers speaks to how poorly he was producing prior to heating up. His 10 points over his last 11 games coincides with the improvement of other key Penguins. It appears the team’s coaching change has facilitated a market correction for their fantasy-relevant players.

While it remains to be seen if Kessel will be able to continue his recent scoring pace for the remainder of the schedule, the situation is perfect for him to put up a lot of points. In particular, he is a fixture on the team’s top power-play unit which includes the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin and Kris Letang – all excellent playmakers.

 

Defensemen

Name

GP

PTS

SH/G

TOI

Expected Points (Diff.)

Adam Larsson (NJ)

49

13

0.8

22:12

25 (-12)

Cody Franson (BUF)

48

14

1.7

17:18

26 (-12)

 

 

Adam Larsson – Not only has Larsson’s lack of output been a massive disappointment in one-year leagues, the concern should also extend to those patiently waiting for a breakout campaign in keeper leagues. Despite seeing over 22 minutes of ice time per night, he is not used at all on the power play and somehow he has just 39 shots on goal through 49 contests. Meanwhile, he has been on the ice for more than 60 percent of the team’s shorthanded ice time. This is not a formula for any kind of offensive success from the blueline.

At this point outside of multi-category leagues that count PIM, hits and blocks Larsson is nearly useless. He has had a few multi-point games of late but until his utilization changes it is very difficult to envision him sustaining any offensive production over the long haul.

Cody Franson – Franson has fallen rapidly from fantasy relevance after being a stud while with the Maple Leafs. In Buffalo he has been used in a depth role and as a result his production, both offensively and in peripheral categories, has severely dried up. His season average of 17 minutes per game is actually misleading because he was being used more early in the season. In fact, his last outing of 20 or more minutes was on November 21 and he has logged less than 16 minutes per game since then.  During that stretch he has just five points in 29 games.

At this point his only relevance is in his role on the power play, where he has scored seven of his 14 points to date. There is always potential Franson could catch fire for a while if there are injuries on the Sabres’ back end leading to more minutes but at this point the outlook is very bleak.

 

Goalie

Name

Games Played

Wins

GAA

SV%

Expected Wins (Diff.)

Sergei Bobrovsky (CLB)

27

11

2.65

0.911

21 (-10)

 

 

It should be noted Bobrovsky’s expected wins is based on the preseason expectation he would appear in about three quarters of his team’s games to date. Obviously, the injuries and rapid returns to the injury reserve have been very frustrating for fantasy owners. To make matters worse, when he has played he has not been very productive with just 11 wins and a .911 save percentage to date. When Bobrovsky eventually gets back in the crease (hopefully for good this time) his fantasy upside remains rather limited. The Blue Jackets are at the bottom of the NHL standings so wins will be hard to come by unless the team goes on another nutty late-season run.

Dishonorable mentions

Nick Bonino (-16) – After a pair of highly-successful campaigns in Anaheim and Vancouver, Bonino has failed to follow up in Pittsburgh with just 10 points through 40 games. Along with the reduced production, Bonino has also seen his ice time decrease, both overall and on the power play, no doubt due to Crosby and Malkin being elite-level centers ahead of Bonino on the depth chart. He has suffered from bad puck-luck but in his current depth role even if he corrects course he is unlikely to become fantasy-relevant. Plus, he will be out for the foreseeable future with a hand injury.

Ryan Callahan (-16) – Callahan has been a solid fantasy player over the years despite playing such a crash-and-bang style. However, the total absence of his production this season is very alarming considering his style of play and his age (30). No doubt he has suffered from some bad puck-luck but he has also had difficulty maintaining a high level of play down the stretch in past years. While he will likely fare better in the final months, he should not be counted on for big offensive numbers.

Jason Garrison (-14) – Garrison has been an underrated fantasy defenseman over the years. Prior to this year he contributed 30 or more points in his prior three campaigns while adding an interesting combination of shots, power-play points, blocks and sometimes hits. This year his offense has suffered along with the rest of the Lightning and as a result his ice time finds itself under 20 minutes per game for the first time since he became a full-time NHL player. He is still shooting at a decent rate but he is no longer featured regularly on the power play. Unlike many of his teammates, the future does not look very bright for Garrison.

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