Rebound or Bust? What to Make of These Five Slow Starters

by Russ on November 28, 2017
  • Eastern Edge
  • Rebound or Bust? What to Make of These Five Slow Starters

Now that the season has passed the first quarter mark, it’s time to look at those players who may have had a slow start to the year and see if there are any signs that they will return to their expected levels of production.

 

Justin Schultz

 

Last year, Schultz put up some very impressive numbers; 12 goals, 51 points, 20 of them with the man-advantage, 116 blocked shots and a sweet plus-27, all career highs.

 

This season hasn’t started with quite the same offensive flair. Heading into last night’s game, he had eight points in 19 contests. The problem for Schultz owners is a healthy Kris Letang. The lone defenseman on the Pens lethal top power play unit is Letang’s by default, although Schultz did have two power-play helpers on Saturday night.

 

Do those two points mean that Schultz might take over the top power play unit? Uh, definitely not, but when it comes to Letang staying in the line-up, one thing is certain, he WILL miss time. His track record as a band-aid boy is well documented. If you can buy low on Schultz, now might be a good time to make that move.

 

Carey Price

 

After watching Saturday night’s shutout victory over the Sabres, I hope it’s not premature to say that he’s back? I’m writing this before seeing the Habs next game on Monday night, so he better follow-up with another great effort.

 

A goalie of his caliber doesn’t simply fall off due to a bad start to the year. The Canadiens are decidedly weaker on the back end after letting senior citizen Andrei Markov go his own way and trading what many thought was a young defenseman with top four potential in Nathan Beaulieu. The signing of Karl Alzner helps, but he’s only one average defenseman. Couple that with dealing away future star defender Mikhail Sergachev for future star forward in Jonathan Drouin and it is understandable that a team might struggle to find their identity on the ice.

 

Prior to Saturday night’s successful return, Price only had three games where his save percentage was higher than 0.882. That’s three out of 11 matches. Am I concerned that Price is no longer at the top of the goaltending heap? Not really. There is always a little voice inside me that questions things I normally take for granted, but I still consider Price to be one of the top three goaltending options in the NHL even with his horrendous start.

 

Ondrej Palat

 

I often end up drafting Palat in one-year leagues, especially roto leagues that count hits. He’s often overlooked in the hits department, but his 141 last season are nothing to sniff at. Palat also had 66 blocked shots, 14th amongst all NHL forwards.

 

Over his last 10 games, Palat has played nearly 80 per cent of his even strength shifts with Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde. He also receives the sixth most average power play time on ice on the league’s number one ranked team with the man advantage. In his last four contests, Palat has four points. It’s a small sample size to be sure, but it just feels like he’s starting to turn it around offensively.

 

Matt Duchene

 

With all the drama going on about his future in Colorado, it was surprising that he was able to score 10 points in 14 games before ending up in Canada’s capital. He has struggled to score since arriving, recording one point in his eight games with the Sens.

 

Prior to last season’s disappointing 41 points, Duchene averaged 67 points per 82 games played (0.82 points per game). Now that he’s scored his first goal as a Senator, look for him to start doing what he does best, creating chances and putting up points.

 

Cam Atkinson

 

Last season’s 35 goals and 62 points were the culmination of a four-year progression in his numbers. That’s a far cry from this campaign’s six goals and nine points in 19 games.

 

Season

GP

G

A

Pts

PPP

SHP

SOG

2012-13

79

21

19

40

9

1

216

2013-14

78

22

18

40

10

1

212

2014-15

81

27

26

53

10

2

226

2015-16

82

35

27

62

21

3

240

 

He started the year playing with Artemi Panarin and Alexander Wennberg and now it looks like he’s sticking with Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner. The good news is that Atkinson is still getting first unit power play reps. Combine the man-advantage minutes with his overall ice time and it’s nearly a certainty that he improves his current pace.

 

Kyle Okposo

 

An interesting story. Last year’s serious health scare (adverse reaction to medication) was just one of many stints that have landed the talented Sabre on the Injury Report. Looking at his last four seasons, pro-rated to 82 games, Okposo was on pace for 57, 66, 70 and 80 points.

 

Firmly entrenched on the team’s number one power play unit and playing on a line with Ryan O’Reilly, Okposo is in a position to put up points. Even if the coach shakes up his lines, he’d likely end up playing with Jack Eichel, not a bad swap if you ask me.

 

The trouble with Okposo is that he has an issue staying healthy. I trust that the points-per-game numbers will come up this season and there is evidence that they are already on the rise. He has seven points in his last nine matches, so his 11 points in 22 games on the season is a bit misleading. If you can manage his penchant for ending up in the infirmary, he should reward you when he does play.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

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