Adam Pyde

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Bounce Back Players

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Bounce Back Players

When you consider 700+ players play in the NHL, you have to figure there are some players coming off disappointing seasons. Stars having pedestrian years. Quality producers magically unable to score. Aspects of a players production completely disappearing. So let us take a look at five of the most likely players to bounce back this 2014 season.

By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde

Honourable Mention – Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Alex Burrows

These guys should honestly be higher up the list but since they’re all on the same team I put them together.

Here is the point-per-game totals for Henrik the last 8 years – 1.04. Last season? 0.71. Daniel Sedin? Last 8 years is 0.97 with last season being 0.64.

Granted, both players are now in their age 34 season but a drop off of .33 PPG is pretty steep considering they were basically point-per-game locks most of their careers. Will they have 90 point seasons again? Unlikely. But 70? You’d think so. Radim Vrbata is also about as ideal a linemate for them as you could find.

Burrows is in a similar boat. Goals per game from 2008-2013? 0.29 goals per game. Last season? 0.10, largely in part to injury struggles. He might not be taking 30 goals out to dinner again any time soon, but potting 20 shouldn’t be out of the question.

There is almost no way that all three of these players are as bad as they were last season which is good news for the Canucks.

5. Alex Tanguay, LW, Colorado Avalanche

Tanguay has always been a good offensive producer. Year-in and year-out he goes about his business, scores at about a 0.7 PPG rate and makes your powerplay effective.

Unfortunately, he struggled with health issues last season and was held to only 16 games. If he can come anywhere near 70 games he can be counted on for 50-ish points.

With the departure of Paul Stastny, there is an open spot in Colorado’s top-six, as well as a spot on the powerplay. His former Calgary linemate Jarome Iginla was added to the team this summer and if the two can replicate any of their old chemistry then both players may put up some surprisingly high point totals.

He’ll either slot next to Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan Mackinnon, or slide in with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly/Iginla. As long as Colorado can get the puck out of their own end, he’ll prove he can still score.

4. Loui Eriksson, LW, Boston Bruins

The big “win now” piece of the Tyler Seguin trade hasn’t quite worked out in Boston while Seguin has gone on to become one of the elite scorers in the NHL. If Eriksson is unable to bounce back then the Bruins will have a serious offensive problem on their hands.

There is some hope for him. He never seemed able to quite find his groove in Boston, partly due to spending last season battling some on and off injuries highlighted by a concussion that he never really seemed to fully recover from.

His shooting percentage also fell off to 8.7% when he is about a 12-13% shooter. Some of that might be the fact that he wasn’t the go-to winger last season. That won’t be an issue this season with the departure of Iginla and no incoming top-six wingers. He’s about as go-to for the Bruins now as it is going to get.

He probably won’t touch 70+ points anymore, but getting solid 50+ with 20-some goals shouldn’t be out of the equation. Or at least they’re hoping so in Boston.

3. Michael Grabner, RW, New York Islanders

While Grabner has never been known as a playmaker, he has been known to be a talented finisher. Except last season he didn’t have a whole lot of finishing going on.

For the first time in his career he had more assists than goals as he only managed 12 goals with 14 assists. He also didn’t do his usual terrific job of generating shots as he only took 137 compared to managed 107 during the lockout shortened season and 174 and 228 in the two most previous full seasons.

Add all that to a low shooting percentage of 8.8%, when he’s generally converting at 14%, and you get the pedestrian year he had last season.

At 26 years old there is no reason to expect him to continue putting up third line goal totals. Especially not with a vastly improved team wearing blue and orange.

2. Tomas Fleischmann, C, Florida Panthers

‘Flash’ has been a solid borderline first line contributor from 2009-2013. His points-per-game along that time was 0.73. Something went horribly wrong last season and he plummeted to 0.34 PPG. That’s catastrophic.

What contributed to that catastrophe? Well, he only shot 4.3% when he’s approximately a 12% career shooter. So he basically shot at one-third of his average. Mix that with a pretty terrible Florida team and you just have a bunch of things going wrong all at once.

Florida should be better this season with Jussi Jokinen being added to the attack, and they quite honestly could flirt with the playoffs speed-dating style if Fleischmann can get back to his regular production and the continued improvement of the young forwards on the team. He’s a big piece of that attack and there is no logical reason for his dive last season.

I’d look for a 50+ point season where he gets into the 22-24 goal range again.

1. Eric Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes

Staal is a very good hockey player. He’s big, talented and a proven scorer, but his point totals dropped well off his career pace last season. He’s been a .9-1.0 PPG player in his career.

A big part of that was his powerplay production, which used to be very reliable. His powerplay production last season was anything but, with only 1 goal with the man-advantage. One. And a measly 12 points when he scored 23 and 29 points in the other two most recent full seasons.

The big reason for the optimism is that Kirk Mueller is no longer the coach. His powerplay was atrocious and the entire teams powerplay production numbers tanked under him.

He’s too good to have another down season and new coach Bill peters already seems intent on fixing the powerplay, and the preseason results look optimistic with 6 powerplay goals in 5 games as of october 1.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @adam_pyde.

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