Top 10 Slow Starters

by Tom Collins on October 20, 2014


10 players you want to be patient with in your league.


Fantasy hockey managers probably make more bad decisions in the first two weeks of the NHL season than any other time of the year.


A player who starts the season on a hot streak is seen as the next big thing, and GMs will overpay to get them. Meanwhile, a star that starts off slow is traded for peanuts, all because a GM lost his first matchup of the season, or finds himself in ninth place in a points only pool when they were expecting to be competing.


My theory is this comes from football, where a typical fantasy football season lasts 14 weeks, so a bad start can have a major impact if your fantasy team makes the playoffs.


Below are 10 guys who are off to slow starts with whom you need to be patient.

I also can’t stress these three words enough: small sample size. Most players have played four to seven games this season. If a guy went scoreless for four games in February, you wouldn’t worry about it, so there’s no need to worry about it now.


10. Marian Hossa


On the bright side, Hossa hasn’t missed a game yet because of injury. But his only goal so far has been a shorthanded marker against the dreadful Sabres. One of the reasons is the fact that Andrew Shaw has taken his place on the top power play unit (Shaw plays with Kane, Toews and Sharp, while Hossa is stuck with Bickell, Richards and Saad). Surprisingly, Hossa is only seventh on the Blackhawks among forwards for power play ice time per game. However, there are some encouraging signs: Hossa is averaging the second most even strength ice time among Hawks forwards, and has fired an average of 3.5 shots a game. He’ll be back to a 60-point pace before you know it.


9. James Neal


Every poolie expected Neal to suffer fantasy-wise once he was dealt to Nashville in the offseason, but many were still optimistic that Neal could be a 30-30 guy in Nashville. But he’s off to a pretty slow start, scoring one goal in five games. Worse, he’s been a minus-player in four of the five games so far. There’s still plenty of hope that Neal can rebound: He’s on the top power play unit, averaging 3:40 ice time per game. And he’s still shooting the puck, averaging 3.2 shots a game. He also has a shooting percentage of just 6.2 per cent this season, about half his career average (his worst ever season was 11.3 per cent last year). After all, someone on Nashville has to score, and he’s getting the best opportunity to do so.


8. Henrik Lundqvist


Despite a 33-save shutout last night, Lundqvist doesn’t have great numbers. But he also has a history of starting slow, and this is the third year in a row he’s done this.

2014-15: 3-2 record, .892 save percentage, 3.21 GAA, one shutout

2013-14: 2-5 record, .895 save percentage, 4.43 GAA, one shutout

2012-12: 3-5 record, .900 save percentage, 2.83 GAA, zero shutouts


Right around the eight game mark, Lundqvist starts to pick it up. In each of the last two seasons, he’s finished with a save percentage in the .920s, a GAA of 2.36 or less, 35-plus wins and five shutouts (prorating the 2012-13 shortened season) So there’s no reason to worry when it comes to King Henrik.


7. Milan Lucic


This one was a tough one to include, as Lucic is still contributing in the peripheral categories (his 26 penalty minutes is tops in the league). But in one-year leagues, since you can draft solely PIM guys late, Lucic was drafted higher up because he could also score. So far, he has just two assists in seven games (both of those coming against Montreal last week). There is a worrisome trend for Lucic that he is averaging just 16:19 of ice time this season, his lowest since 2009-10.


6. Jason Garrison


A season after he became the go-to power play guy in Vancouver, many poolies were high on Garrison in Tampa Bay. After all, he was going to a team with more offence, and had a chance to play alongside high-scoring defenceman Victor Hedman. So far this season, Garrison has just one assist, a plus-one, two penalty minutes and nine shots in five games. One of the main reasons is that Garrison hasn’t been used on the power play much this season, averaging just 33 seconds a game, down from 2:43 last year with the Canucks. An injury to Hedman on the weekend may change that. Hedman suffered the all-too-common upper-body injury, and is expected to miss at least four games. This gives Garrison an opportunity to show Lightning coaches that he can help lead a power play unit.


5. Carey Price


Anyone who is in a wins only for goalies probably don’t realize how much Price is struggling. After all, he has four wins in five games. But if you count more than that, he’s been dreadful for poolies. He has a 3.38 goals against average and an .890 save percentage. What’s worrisome is that his even strength save percentage is just .901. But as Price himself would say, “Chill out.” He’s one of the calmest goalies in the league, and there’s no doubt that he can recover from a shaky start.


4. Tuukka Rask


Rask versus Price is one of the biggest player debates that come up on the Dobber forums, probably second only to Malkin versus Stamkos. Many give the edge to Rask, as he plays in front of better defence and a better all-around team. But this season has been exceptionally brutal for Rask. He has just two wins in five starts, with a 2.90 GAA and .870 save percentage (tied for 50th overall). But many of the Bruins have had rocky starts. As the team starts to rebound, so will Rask.


3. Ryan McDonagh


One of the Norris favourites going into this season, the new Rangers captain hasn’t been helping poolies in any category this season. His stat line is full of zeroes: zero goals, assists, points, plus-minus, power play points or shorthanded points. All he has is a measly four pims and 13 shots though six games. But there is hope. The Rangers power play has been horrific this season, (they have yet to score a goal, one of four teams to do so). In fact, they have more shorthanded goals than power play goals through half-a-dozen games. McDonagh is too simply good to remain off the score sheet for too long, and as the team’s offence improves, so will McDonagh’s numbers.


2. Gabriel Landeskog


The Colorado captain was expected to take a step forward this year, as were most of the Avalanche forwards. However, most of them have fallen back and probably none more so than Landeskog, who has just one point in six games this year. He also hasn’t had a single game where he’s been a plus-player. Part of the reason may be that coach Patrick Roy insisted on dressing rookie Dennis Everberg (until he was sent to the minors last week) on Landeskog’s line, whereas last year, his top two line mates were Paul Stastny and Nathan MacKinnon. In his last game, Landeskog spent most of his shifts with MacKinnon and Ryan O’Reilly, so it’s a good bet a rebound is coming sooner rather than later.


1. Anze Kopitar


The Kings forward is one of the most consistent point-producers in the NHL. Since entering the league in 2006-07, he has points of 61, 77, 66, 81, 73, 76, 73 (pro-rated) and 70. So his slow start is a bit concerning as he has just two points in six games (a 27-point pace). Odds are the slow start is simply because of too much hockey. Last year, he played all 82 games, plus five Olympic games, plus 26 playoff games. In the last three seasons, Kopitar has played 275 of a possible 276 NHL regular season and postseason games for the Kings (and that doesn’t include preseason games, games in Sweden during the lockout or the Olympics). Kopitar is probably more fatigued than anything else, and as the season goes on, it shouldn’t take long to get his groove back.