Jimmy Hascup

In The Crease

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Disappearing Acts!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


  This fantasy conundrum presents itself every year: Player X starts out the season on a tear. Do you try to sell high, or, if you believe this level of production is sustainable throughout the season, decide to stand pat?  

  By this time of the season, your decision has had ripple effects -- good and bad -- throughout your lineup.  

  Let's take a look at a number of players who started out the season as swans but have since turned into ugly ducklings.  

  Ryan Getzlaf: Anaheim has played much better since Bruce Boudreau took over, but their number one center has endured a career-worst campaign. Getzlaf, who has nearly three times as many assists as goals in his career, is also a three-time, 20-plus goal scorer and has had two seasons with 19. But this season, his numbers across the board have been down: 36 assists and nine goals. Getzlaf, drafted among the best centers in the game, is on pace for 11 goals and 44 assists. The goals are the area of most concern, especially when you factor in that four of them came in the first month, and he has five in the four-plus months since. Getzlaf is getting shots on net --143 this season to 117 last year when he had 19 goals -- but he's run into a wall of bad luck. His shooting percentage is a woeful 6.3 percent, compared to a career rate of 11.8. This may just be one of those years where the “puck luck” isn’t on his side, making him an excellent bounce-back guy next season.  

  Nikolai Khabibulin: No goalie has crashed and burned worse since the start of the season, but nobody could say it was surprising. Yes, the Edmonton Oilers hung around for the early stages. But they are a young team, thin on defense and would rely heavily on the  man between the pipes. For a while, the 39-year-old was up to the task, starting 17 games in the first two months while compiling a 1.12/2.46 goals-against average and .960/.918 save percentage -- with nine wins. He made some fantasy friends, though most should've been a little paranoid starting him. Since November, he hasn't had a goals-against average below 3.20 and a save percentage above .896, and he also has three wins in 18 starts. For a while there, the Russian looked like a true find, but it was too good to be true.  

  Brad Richards: The New York Rangers’ prized free-agent acquisition may not have been the pivot to jumpstart Marian Gaborik’s game, but that didn’t end up mattering, as he produced like a top center early on. Richards had 31 points (14 goals) in the first 39 games of the season. Six goals were game-winners and 12 points came on the power play. He has only 45 points now – and his struggles on the power play (four points) are a direct reason why New York’s man-advantage play has been so dreadful. Some point to Richards’ leadership and veteran presence in the locker room when discussing his struggles. Others say coach John Tortorella’s system is contingent upon players competing fully at both ends of the ice, thus limiting Richards’ offensive game. I say he’ll eventually be fine: He thrived in Tortorella’s system with the Lightning.  

  Thomas Vanek: This year, the expensive winger has 22 goals and 25 assists -- all very serviceable numbers, though certainly below expectations. It looks even worse when you realize he began with 16 goals and 21 assists through the first three months of the season, so he was very much filling up the stat sheet in every way. Since December, though, he's accumulated four goals and four assists -- with one goal on the power play, compared to eight from October to January. Vanek was getting a ton of shots on net early in the season but has been in a bit of a lull lately, corresponding with a dip in confidence. His shooting percentage is at a career-low 13.2 percent (compared to 15.3 for his career), which means two things: He was never going to keep pace with his early tear, but there is an opportunity for a decent finish if he gets more shots on net. Even with the Sabres battling for a playoff spot, Vanek's game hasn't risen to the occasion, so it's hard to put too much trust in him the rest of the way.  

  Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann and Brian Campbell: I'm grouping them together because these guys are the top scorers on the Florida Panthers and all four have seen their production dip substantially since torrid starts. Despite the lag in production from their top guys, the Panthers remain atop the Southeast Division because of how pitiful the contenders are. Midway through the season, each player had at least 33 points and the quartet combined for 46 goals, each ranking 10 through 16 in point production in the NHL. Now, none are found until number 56, and that's Versteeg, who has accumulated 10 points since the mid point of the NHL calendar year and has seen the most dramatic dip compared to his start. In the first three months of the season, Versteeg had 17 goals and was a point-per-game producer. He's got five goals since and has been a half-a-point-per-game producer in the months following.



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