Adam Pyde

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Players to Take a Step Back

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Players to Take a Step Back

Continuing the NHL Preview Series, I bring you the top five players that are likely to take a step back this season. Every season a number of players over perform, and fans grossly inflate their expectations for that player. Then when that player “under performs” to their previous season, fans and fantasy owners alike are up in arms over that “bust”.

So to save your arms going up, you should check yourself before you wreck yourself with these players who are almost certainly going to put in far more pedestrian seasons than last year.

By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde

Tyler Bozak sucks. I’m not wasting 300 words on him.

Honourable Mention: Jaromir Jagr, Jarome Iginla
Now, Jagr doesn’t quite meet the criteria above, as in he didn’t burst onto the scene, which is why he is only an honourable mention. Not because I think he’s a bad player, he most certainly isn’t. He’s about half a billion years old and still a top 20 scorer in the league.

His treads have already fallen off, and they’ve been gone for quite some time, which makes me wonder just how close the rest of his game is to tailing off too. Even if he’s “bad” he’ll still probably top 45 points which is quite good. At 42, he’s pretty well older than any other NHL player has been and still produced except Gordie Howe. But like I said, he’s gotta drop off at some point.

For Iginla, just read this. Poor Iggy no Iggy no!

5. Ryan Johansen
If he potted 26 goals and 57 points I’m sure some people would look at that rather favourably. But there are a lot of people who think that his 33 goal season is a huge sign of things to come, and he’ll only build off it. Which it is likely true, but a little premature.

The big thing for me is that his shooting percentage was 16.45% at even strength last season accounting for 25 of his 30 non empty net goals. The league average shooting percent is around 8.2% and his previous seasons were both about 8.5%.

Also, his shooting percentage and shots generated per 60 minutes numbers at 21 place him in elite company with Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin, Eric Staal and Steven Stamkos, among elite others, and that is some pretty snazzy company. Nothing against Johansen, but I wouldn’t quite put him on those players levels. Not yet.

So did he become twice as effective at shooting the puck last year? Unlikely. He probably got better, but you have to believe a fair bit of luck was involved. He’s probably more a 11-12% shooter, and that is some cause for concern because it would drop him to about 20-24 goals on the season if he generates shots similar to last season.

Its good production, but not the elite level many people in Columbus will be hoping for.

4. Ben Bishop
There was a lot to like in Tampa Bay last season, and Bishop was part of it. He finally seemed to emerge as the starting goaltender that many had hoped he would be since his time in St. Louis. He had a Vezina calibre season and posted 37 wins.

But, that was his first full season and while he posted Vezina calibre numbers for much of the season, he began to taper off after the trade deadline before getting injured. Now, was the dip because he was coming back to being an above average but not great goaltender? Was it fatigue because he never played more than 13 games in a season before appearing in 63 last year? Was he playing through his injury at the end?

I have no idea, but I’m leaning more towards the first option. I don’t think I’d pencil him in for another .924 SP and 37 wins. A .919 or .920 doesn’t seem like a huge dip, but that is easily the difference between home ice and missing the playoffs across a starting goaltenders workload.

Unfortunately for him, he won’t have much help at the backup position with the old and not-good Evgeni Nabokov slotted in behind him.

3. Gustav Nyquist
Nyquist tore it up for the Red Wings last year to the tune of 28 goals and 48 points in 57 games last season. Outstanding numbers for a player who started the year in the AHL. He was a huge reason that the Red Wings were able to keep their historic playoff streak alive and squeak into a wildcard spot. He’s going to counted on again as a big contributor for the Red Wings who likely won’t be bringing back leading scorer Daniel Alfredsson.

However, counting on him to crack 30 goals in a full season and be one of the leading scorers is unlikely. For players who played more than 40 games last season, he finished 4th in shooting percentage at a massive 18.3%! The only player in the NHL to regularly shoot at that efficiency is Steven Stamkos.

So there are 2 scenarios here. Nyquist is going to be one of the greatest shooters in the NHL or, like a lot of players, he had a hot hand last year. Call me a cynic, but I’m going to go with the latter especially since he’s proven to be about a 12% shooter his entire career outside of last season.

2. Semyon Varlamov
I can keep this one quite short.

.909, .924, .913, .903, .927. Those are the career save percentages of Varlamov in the NHL as a full-time goaltender. A whole lot of fluctuation. Down, up, down, down further, way up.

So will the Avalanche get the star goaltender? Or the less than league average goaltender? Well, for their sake I hope they can get at least a league average .917 save percentage or its going to be a long, depressing and painful season for Colorado, as Reto Berra isn’t much of a puck stopper in the backup position.

1. Joe Pavelski
With all the turmoil in San Jose this summer, it sounds like that the Sharks are going to be hitching a lot of their cart onto Pavelski this season. For their sake, lets hope he can repeat his career year. The one where he exploded, at the age of 30, to score 41 goals and lead the Sharks in scoring with 79 points.

The same career year where he shot 18.2% after 7 previous seasons of shooting 10.4%. The career year where he played half his season on the wing of Joe Thornton, he who can make anyone score like crazy. The same career year where he had 16 powerplay goals, behind only Alex Ovechkin.

I wouldn’t count on it. Its less of a concern when a guy explodes for a career year at 22, like Johansen, but when its a 30-year-old player blowing away his previous marks you shouldn’t count on it again. I’d be surprised if he breaks 30 goals next year.

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

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