Five to Bank On & To AvoidWednesday, March 21, 2012
With this fantasy season nearing its conclusions, I’m ready to identify five players I think will be undervalued next season as well as five who will be overpriced.
Five to bank on
- Ryan Getzlaf – The crafty playmaker entered the season having averaged 1.09 points per game over his last four seasons and appeared to be one of the safest bets in hockey, but he has taken an unexpected nosedive this year with just 51 points in 74 contests (0.69 ppg). That might be enough to convince some fantasy owners that the bloom is off the rose, but I see no reason to downgrade my expectations going forward. Much of Getzlaf’s trouble has been caused by a ridiculously low shooting percentage of 5.3%, which has led to only nine goals on the campaign. Presuming the bad bounces even themselves out next season, I expect to get Getzlaf at a discount and reap the rewards throughout the season.
- P.K. Subban – As he did last season, Subban is ending his campaign with a flourish, but you should be hopeful he doesn’t produce enough to blow his cover this upcoming draft. He’s a 50-point talent who hasn’t even cracked 40 yet due to a series of defensive miscues and mental lapses, but his talent is obvious to anyone who has seen him play. The fact that he has averaged a point per game in March now that Andrei Markov has returned to the lineup is not a coincidence. I’m expecting a breakout in his third full season.
- Patrick Kane – While his season hasn’t been a complete disaster, Kane is in serious danger of failing to reach the 70-point mark for the first time in his five-year career. Whether he reaches that plateau or not, he’ll be a player I target in drafts next season, as his combination of youth, talent and a supporting cast that is locked up for a number of years are all factors that make me want to invest for the long-term.
- Drew Doughty – After he racked up 59 points in his breakout 2009-10 season, Doughty seemed like a lock to contend for the Norris Trophy every year for the next decade, but things haven’t exactly played out that way for the silky smooth blueliner. With just 33 points in 67 games, he hasn’t performed to expectations, but I attribute much of that to him being dragged down by the Kings’ scoring woes, as Los Angeles has been outscored by every team in the league save for Minnesota and Columbus. I don’t see the team struggling so mightily next season and I fully expect Doughty to be a major factor in their success.
- Eric Staal – One of the league’s most consistent goal scorers, the eldest of the Staal brothers averaged nearly 36 goals per season during a six-year stretch from 2005-2011 so it’s quite the disappointment to see him sitting on 21 markers with only nine games remaining on the calendar. What seems to have gone unnoticed, though, is that Staal has amassed 26 points, nine of which have been goals, over his last 20 contests. He’s also on pace to register the second highest assist total of his career if he can notch two more on the season. With the youthful Jeff Skinner still improving and Tuomo Ruutu in the fold for four more seasons, I’m willing to buy into the Hurricanes captain while he’s still in his prime.
Five to avoid
- Daniel Alfredsson – The surprising play of the Senators has been one of the bigger feel-good stories around the league and Alfredsson’s resurgence is a major reason for their success, but forgive me if I’m not willing to bet on a repeat performance by a player who will turn 40 before next season ends. He has certainly been one of the league’s most consistent scorers throughout his career, but very few players manage to avoid a steep decline in their final years. I’ll side comfortably with history in this case.
- Jason Garrison – Only the super-human Erik Karlsson has scored more goals from the back end than Garrison has this season, as his 15 markers have demolished his previous best of five. Unfortunately, when I see the paltry 14 assists he has accumulated I can’t help but be reminded of another one-trick pony who has been unable to sustain a similar anomaly in his statistics. In 2008-09, Anton Babchuk unexpectedly tallied 16 goals for the Hurricanes, but after spending a season playing in Russia, he returned to the NHL and has been unable to duplicate that production over the past two campaigns. In fact, Babchuk has had difficulty just staying in the lineup for the Flames this season, registering no goals and five assists in just 23 games. It may prove unfair to Garrison to make such a comparison, but I prefer drafting more well-rounded players in the fantasy game.
- Joffrey Lupul – It would be disrespectful to say Lupul’s production this season has been a fluke. As someone who has watched a lot of Maple Leafs hockey this year, I can attest to the fact that the winger was arguably the team’s best player until he recently suffered a separated shoulder, but that just underscores the greatest issue with him. Lupul has only once reached 70 games played over the past five seasons so expecting a complete year of production from him in 2012-13 is probably a pipe dream. Throw in the fact that he and new Toronto bench boss Randy Carlyle have had their share of difficulties going back to their days in Anaheim, I see too many red flags to let me trust him.
- Curtis Glencross – With 25 goals in just 58 games, Glencross has been one of the more pleasant surprises in the NHL, especially when you consider that he was likely picked up from waivers in your league. Having said that, expecting him to continue scoring at a pace anywhere close to this would be foolish, as his 25.5% shooting percentage screams “outlier”. It’s simply unsustainable for any player to maintain a rate of one goal for every four shots so let someone else be impressed by his raw numbers and know there are better options out there for your late-round flyer.
- Patrik Elias – I’ll admit that, other than a declining rate of shots on goal over the past few seasons, there’s nothing in his stat line that jumps out at me as an obvious reason to worry, but I do have serious concerns about what the Devils might look like up front next season. Ilya Kovalchuk is locked up for all of eternity, but all signs point to Zach Parise leaving as an unrestricted free agent this summer and without many top notch prospects ready to step up, the team is primed to take a step backwards in 2012-13. The soon-to-be 36-year-old hasn’t yet shown obvious signs of decline, but I’d rather get off the bus one stop too early than one too late.