Collins counts down the 10 players most in need of a change of scenery...
A little more than a year ago, I wrote a post about the top 10 players in need of a change in scenery.
Apparently, NHL general managers thought so too, as five players on that list have since been traded (Brett Connolly, Zach Bogosian, Tyler Myers, Mikhail Grigorenko, and Evander Kane, although three of them were involved in the same deal). With those trades, those players are in a much better fantasy situation than they were before.
Sometimes, that’s all it takes to get a player’s fantasy career back on track. Maybe it’s because of a different coaching system, different lineups, different responsibilities, or just knowing the fact there’s someone on another team who believes in you, there are plenty of reasons why players need a fresh start.
For this list, we’re not looking at player’s cap hit or how many years are left on the deal. This is basically a list of players who needs a new place.
Here are the newest players that need a change of scenery:
10. Lars Eller
Many Habs fans believe that Eller has the talent and the defensive acumen to be an effective second-line centre. The problem is he will never be that in Montreal. The Canadiens already have Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and possibly Alex Galchenyuk in front of him when it comes to centres. And coach Michel Therrien has a tendency to bench Eller whenever he has a bad game, a move he doesn’t use for other forwards. For Eller to flourish, he’s going to need to go to another team where he can be a top six forward and be trusted.
9. Dan Boyle
Like many other great players who get to play with the Rangers, his time in New York has been disappointing. His 20 points this season was good for 13th on the team, and was the lowest for him in a non-lockout season since 2001-02. He’s been on the decline for a while, but the Rangers also have much better offensive weapons on defence. Keith Yandle, for example, averaged 3:19 power play ice time a game once he was traded to New York. For Boyle to recover, he needs to go to another team where is guaranteed top power play ice time.
8. Brian Gionta
Two years ago, Gionta was a top six forward and captain of Montreal. Last season, he was a top six forward with Buffalo, seeing the fourth most power play time among forwards and the third amount of ice time among forwards at 18:03 per game. Well, that ice time is about to take a hard hit. Guys like Evander Kane, Jack Eichel, and Ryan O’Reilly will be taking a large chunk of it. Matt Moulson should also see an expanded role, and don’t count out Jamie McGinn and David Legwand. And what type of minutes will rookie Sam Reinhart get if he makes the team? Gionta could easily see himself on the third, maybe even the fourth line, a month into the season. A new team could give him an expanded role could see him flirt with 40 points.
7. Ales Hemsky
With most of these guys, we’re looking at what has happened, but for Hemsky, it’s more of what is about to happen. And what is about to happen is that Hemsky will be on the third line by the end of training camp. There’s no way he’s beating out Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Jamie Benn, Patrick Sharp, Valeri Nichushkin, and Patrick Eaves (who has great chemistry with Seguin and Benn) for a top six spot. That puts him down to the third line, which isn’t great for a scorer. He needs to be a top-six forward to be effective, and he won’t be that in Dallas, especially after scoring just 11 goals and 32 points last season.
6. Dion Phaneuf
The Leafs number one defenceman is being paid as he is a top-10 defenceman in the league. He isn’t, and that may be why the Leafs are having a tough time trading him. Despite having the sixth highest cap hit of any defenceman in the league, Phaneuf has struggled in Toronto to live up to expectations, both real and fantasy. In the last two seasons, he’s had just 11 goals and 60 points combined. Compare that to when he was with the Flames. His lowest-point season there was 47 points. Since he’s been in Toronto, he’s only been higher than 31 once.
I’ve never been a big believer of Lehtonen as a top-option fantasy goalie. But he’s a great number two, usually. Unfortunately, he’s going to be the number two goalie on Dallas this season, which means he’s going to be paid a lot of money to be the backup once Antti Niemi usurps him for the number one spot. Only once has Lehtonen been at .920 save percentage or higher, and only twice has he been below 2.50 GAA. To be able to be a bona fide number one goalie again on a team that trusts him, he needs to be dealt.
4. Dustin Brown
It’s always hard to trade away a captain, but the Kings and Brown both need this to happen. Brown is simply not effective anymore in L.A. Gone are his consistent 20-goal, 50-to-60 point seasons. All that remains is a 15-goal, 27-point player. And with the moves the Kings made this offseason, it’s almost as if the Kings are already thinking of replacing Brown. Lucic is three years younger, but more important, has a lot less wear and tear on his body (thanks to almost 250 less games of NHL action). Brown could see himself on the third line this season. Despite his troubles, he was still fourth on the Kings among forwards last season in ice time. A move may be needed to rejuvenate his career.
From 2007-08 season to 2012-13 season, Burrows was a bit underrated. In those five seasons (including prorating the 2012-13 lockout season), he averaged 79 games played, 28 goals, 52 points, plus-27 and 106 penalty minutes. In the last two seasons, he’s averaged 60 games played, 12 goals, 24 points, minus-five and 70 pims. Part of that could be chalked up to the disastrous John Tortorella hiring, but Burrows has also seen the quality of his linemates decrease. Last season, he played with the Sedins about 38 to 39 per cent of all even strength 5 on 5 shifts. Compare that to 2011-12, when he played with Henrik 73.7 per cent of the time, and Daniel 65.9 per cent. His time on ice has also decreased to 15:28 this past season (just 1:42 of that on the power play). Right now, he’s a second-line/third-line tweener. He needs a trade to a team where he can be a top six player again.
2. Travis Zajac
As I mentioned about Zajac a few weeks ago, he needs a top-line player to be able to be effective. If not, he winds up with 25-point seasons. Well, there’s no top-line players in New Jersey. And there likely won’t be for a long time. After all, they’re not a popular destination for free agents, they don’t have a lot of high-end offensive prospects in the system, and they don’t have enough assets that they could trade for one. To rejuvenate his career, and fantasy relevance, he needs to be traded to a team where he can play with elite talents.
1. Joe Thornton
I’m honestly surprised he hasn’t waived his no trade clause yet. San Jose obviously doesn’t want him (as evidenced by comments from general manager Doug Wilson over the past year, as well as stripping Thornton of his captaincy). Statistically speaking, Thornton just had his worst season points-wise since the 1999-2000 season. He’s obviously still a good enough player that the Sharks could get something decent in return, and there are plenty of teams where he would jump in as the first-line centre.
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