It’s that time of year again, folks. We’re in the final week of the regular season and it’s time to evaluate what kind of job I’ve done. No, you won’t be asked to complete a customer satisfaction survey because the evidence supporting my successes and failures is out there for all to see. In my first installment of the season entitled Preseason Notebook, I offered up a number of predictions concerning players I especially liked and disliked heading into the season. Let’s go tally up my results.
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Player: James Neal
Pre-Season Yahoo Ranking: 35
Current Ranking: 126
Pertinent statement: “A more wide open, offensive game plan will be installed and Neal, who qualifies at both wing positions in Yahoo leagues, figures to rank among the NHL leaders in shots on goal and remain a premier power play asset and a decent contributor in penalty minutes.”
Verdict: Although I was correct about the Predators becoming a more offensive team (their 2.79 goals per game are 12th in the league) I can’t say I’m satisfied with the performance submitted by Neal. If you owned him in a rotisserie format his plus-14 rating, 57 penalty minutes and 211 shots have all been a benefit to you, but with only 37 points in 65 contests he didn’t come close to the offensive production I had been hoping for. No goal.
Player: Cam Atkinson
Pre-Season Yahoo Ranking: 222
Current Ranking: 190
Pertinent statement: “It should be noted that among Blue Jackets, only Johansen directed more shots on goal than Atkinson’s 216 last season and this was in spite of him placing eighth among Columbus forwards in terms of ice time at 15:47 per contest. An uptick in playing time and a commensurate increase in production should be in store this season.”
Verdict: A late-season surge by our #goldenboy almost turned this prediction into a winner, but I’m still somewhat discouraged that Atkinson failed to capitalize on the predicted increase in ice time of about 1.5 minutes per night. Despite the expanded role, his goal and shot totals this season are nearly identical to the figures he posted last year. That said, he has outperformed his preseason ranking and probably didn’t cost you much at your draft. Because of how he has looked since signing his new long-term deal, I’ll probably be touting him again next year, but for this season? Push.
Player: Antoine Vermette
Pre-Season Yahoo Ranking: 269
Current Ranking: 412
Pertinent statement: “Vermette appears set to score the quietest 55 points in the NHL this season after the Coyotes saw two of their top four scorers depart when Mike Ribeiro and Radim Vrbata found new homes during the offseason."
Verdict: As you can see by his preseason ranking, expectations for Vermette entering the year were extremely low and I thought he could easily surpass them, but he has failed to clear even this hurdle. You may point to his three points in 17 games with the Blackhawks as the reason for his downfall, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that the veteran center was on pace for just 45 points when he was dealt by the Coyotes despite averaging almost 19 minutes a night. There are no suitable excuses. No goal.
Player: Jonathan Huberdeau
Pre-Season Yahoo Ranking: 149
Current Ranking: 112
Player: Aleksander Barkov
Pre-Season Yahoo Ranking: 215
Current Ranking: 436
Player: Brian Campbell
Pre-Season Yahoo Ranking: 129
Current Ranking: 407
Pertinent statement: “Even if the team doesn’t crack the top 20 in league scoring, the offense was so anemic last season that it almost can’t help but be better. In addition to Barkov and Huberdeau, the player I’m targeting most is power play quarterback Brian Campbell, who managed 37 points last season despite the train wreck that was the power play.”
Verdict: Well, the Panthers did climb all the way up to 25th in the league in scoring and 27th in power play efficiency, both of which actually represent fairly significant improvements. That said, Huberdeau is the only one of the group who has delivered satisfactory production, as his 52 points (27 in 36 games since the All-Star Break) have been accompanied by a plus-8 rating and his 13 goals have actually been held down by a career-worst 7.8 shooting percentage so for his prediction…he shoots, he scores!. Unfortunately, his success doesn’t come close to making up for the awful campaigns submitted by Barkov and Campbell. In both cases, no goal.
Player: Braden Holtby
Pre-Season Yahoo Ranking: 73
Current Ranking: 19
Pertinent statement: “The former Nashville coach runs a notoriously tight defensive system and its one that that has historically benefitted the goaltenders on his team. That Holtby is being drafted, on average, as the 19th goaltender in Yahoo drafts this fall is downright criminal.”
Verdict: Finally a prediction that I got unequivocally correct. If you play in a league with a number of sharp competitors you may not have gotten quite as much value, but I feel comfortable saying all of his owners turned a profit. His numbers across the board have been career-bests and he leads the NHL in games with 71. There’s nothing not to like. He shoots, he scores!
Player: Jarome Iginla
Pre-Season Yahoo Ranking: 84
Current Ranking: 97
Pertinent statement: “On a team loaded with young talent, there’s no way that Iggy can be assigned a role similar to that which he garnered in Boston and as a result, his production will dip.”
Verdict: Although the future Hall of Famer did underperform relative to his preseason ranking as I predicted, I expected a much sharper fall from grace than this. The fact the has managed to put up nearly 60 points at this stage of his career is impressive, but let’s not forget that he was being drafted with these high expectations. Push
Player: Paul Stastny
Pre-Season Yahoo Ranking: 122
Current Ranking: 140
Pertinent statement: “In addition to his undetermined role, there’s the matter of Stastny’s unsustainable shooting percentage. A career 12.8 percent shooter, he found the back of the net on a career-best 16.7 percent of his attempts last year, allowing him to record 25 goals when he would have otherwise tallied just 19 times had he maintained his career norms. Consider me bearish.”
Verdict: While I was correct about his shooting percentage falling back down to Earth and his point total following closely behind, the former member of the Avalanche saw his ranking get propped up by a plus-7 rating and a healthy 15 power play points, meaning he didn’t fall as far short of his preseason ranking as I had expected. For this reason, we have to call this one a push.
Player: Jimmy Howard
Pre-Season Yahoo Ranking: 46
Current Ranking: 189
Pertinent statement: “On average, the Red Wings number one keeper is being selected as the 14thgoaltender in Yahoo leagues, ahead of better options Cory Schneider, Jaroslav Halak and my personal favorite Braden Holtby. At that price, I certainly won’t end up with him on any of my rosters.”
Verdict: Maybe I should just stick to goalies since my calls on Braden Holtby and Jimmy Howard have been the biggest slam dunks of my season. I don’t think it was difficult to see this type of drop-off in production coming after Howard’s struggles last season, but even I didn’t expect him to get usurped by Petr Mrazek, which may have occurred over the past week. In any case, put this prognostication in the win column. He shoots, he scores!
In addition to the players noted above, I would love to receive credit for my early season touts of Filip Forsberg and Tom Wilson, but it would only be fair to also eat crow for my recommendations of Eric Gelinas and Andre Burakovsky so let’s just leave the audit of my in-season calls for another day.