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Draft Guide

Not Living up to Expectations

by Corey Abbott
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Corey Abbott: We are getting to the point in the fantasy season where it's acceptable to drop big name players who have been under performing.  So, this feels like a good time to discuss which players have disappointed you the most this season.


Michael Finewax: Brad Richards has really disappointed me. I thought that last season was bad with 20 goals and 51 points but with less than a month to go, he now has only 10 goals and 33 points. He is seeing second power play time at best now and it could be at age 34, he may be done.


Kevin Brown: A player I was on record as being a big fan of prior to the season was Florida’s Aleksander Barkov. Although he struggled in his rookie season before suffering a season-ending injury at the Sochi Olympics, the feeling around him entering this season was mostly positive, but he has failed to become a productive player. His 2014-15 stat line of 11 goals, 13 assists and a minus-5 rating in 57 contests actually looks nearly identical to his poor rookie totals. Considering he’s still just 19 and was the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, there’s no way I’m giving up on him in keeper formats, but a few steps in the right direction would make me feel little more comfortable about his prospects.


Ryan Dadoun: I agree with Michael that Brad Richard's days of fantasy relevancy are behind him.  Perhaps the best case scenario for him would be to sign with a very weak team offensively over the summer where he doesn't have a lot of great competition for a top line spot.


I know that betting on a sophomore is usually the safe way to go, but I thought Nathan MacKinnon would be the exception.  I still have high hopes for him in the long run, but with just 14 goals and 38 points in 64 games, he's taken a significant step back from his rookie campaign.


Abbott: MacKinnon is definitely someone I was expecting more from this season.  I figured if one player from last year's rookie class would be immune to the dreaded sophomore slump it would be him.  When it looked like he was finally starting to work his way back, he sustained a season-ending foot injury. 


Another player who I held in high regard going into this campaign was Valeri Nichushkin.  Getting a chance to play with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn or Jason Spezza was supposed to be the golden ticket for a great year, but he's been limited to a mere four games in 2014-15 because of a hip problem.  The good news for him is that he could be back in the lineup soon.


Finewax: In the Hockey Forecaster magazine before the start of the season, I wrote that Nathan MacKinnon was one of my 'busts' this season as I figured he would regress. I didn't think the regression would have been as great as it was and with his injury he has no chance to recover the rest of the way.  There is nothing you can do about injuries so Valeri Nichushkin shouldn't be thought of  as underperforming.


I am greatly disappointed in Mike Smith. I really thought he would come back after a poor 2013-14 season and have a good season this year, especially under Dave Tippett's system, but that is not to be. He could be done as a first string NHL goalie.


Dadoun: I don't think you can be anything but disappointed in Mike Smith.  I talked about him in our February 2nd roundtable about potential 2015-16 bounce back candidates and made the argument that he could turn things around in 2015-16.  I don't want to get too much into that because we already had that debate, but it's worth noting that since then Smith has been better.  He had a .910 save percentage in February, which is leagues ahead of what he did in the first half of the season, and he has a 2.39 GAA and .931 save percentage in five March starts. Smith's recovery has been drowned out by Arizona's continued struggles, but it is there, at least to some extent.


Anyways, while we're on the topic of goaltenders, I'll throw Robin Lehner out there.  I was hoping that he would take a step forward this season, but even putting aside his current injury,he's had a rough season with a 3.02 GAA and .905 save percentage.


Abbott: I'm not disappointed with Nichushkin because I feel he underperformed.  I'm disappointed that he wasn't able to play.  He never got the chance to live up to the expectations that pundits placed on him. 


Mike Smith has been better this month, but he's still a goaltender I would avoid next season.  His stats for the past three seasons haven't been good and playing in front of a rebuilding squad isn't something I want to risk in 2015-16.  I thought he was going to rebound this year, but I couldn't have been more wrong.  I don't want to be fooled again, especially since he was excellent in February and March a year ago as well before struggling mightily for most of this campaign. 


What about Alexander Semin? I know expectations weren't sky high for him this year, but it's probably safe to assume that four goals and 16 points in 43 games is well below what we were looking for.  He also spent a considerable amount of time in the press box.  Then you see a play like the goal he scored against Edmonton on March 8 and you wonder where that has been all year?


Finewax: I have to agree with Alexander Semin. Seven million per year is certainly a lot for four goals and 12 assists in 43 games with plenty of healthy scratches.


But the player who has disappointed me the most is Cody Hodgson. I thought he would take a step forward after scoring 20 goals and 44 points in 72 games as a 23-year-old. But he has taken two giant steps back with only four goals and seven assists in 64 games. He has been horrible and you have to wonder if something is wrong or if this is all he has left.


Brown: I was also a believer in Semin prior to the season and I targeted him in a few leagues since I thought talent would ultimately win out, but clearly I was mistaken.


Another player I thought would provide decent value was Eric Gelinas of the Devils, but his inability to remain in the lineup consistently has eliminated all potential for profit. He’s been frustrating from this standpoint since part of the reason I was so high on him what the fact there was no real competition for power play time among New Jersey’s defensemen and that have proven to be true, but he has been too much of a defensive liability to earn any trust from the coaching staff. The departure of Marek Zidlicky at the trade deadline seems to have created a consistent role for him and while I think he can be useful down the stretch, it’s too little, too late in my opinion.


Dadoun: Semin has definitely underperformed, although the shock of it is mitigated by his inconsistent record in previous years.  At this point, I'm not even sure I would take him as a final round gamble in 2015-16 fantasy drafts.  There's just better gambles out there. 


To be honest, I'm more disappointed in his teammate, Eric Staal.  He used to be a great bet to record 70 points per season, but this season he has just 19 goals and 43 points in 62 contests.  It's obviously still leagues ahead of Semin, but I had higher expectations for Staal to begin with.


As just a final note, can I say that my biggest disappointment this season has been superstars as a group?  We might not even get a 90-point player this season.  Not counting lockout shortened seasons, the last time that happened was 1967-68.  It's incredibly sad and while you might assume that it's a symptom of the league becoming more defensive again, the data doesn't support that.  In terms of goals per game, the league has largely been unchanged season-to-season for the last four campaigns.  It's just top end players in general that haven't lived up to expectations this season rather than forwards as a group.


Brown: Eric Staal’s difficulties have definitely been disappointing and I’m beginning to wonder whether this is the new normal for him. He’s still only 30 so I’m not suggesting he’s reaching his twilight years, but he does have a lot of miles on those tires and has now under performed in two straight seasons.


As for the lack of superstars, I find it surprising as well, but I’m not prepared to call it a league-wide trend just yet. Sure, the decline in Sidney Crosby’s points-per-game has been unexpected, but I’m not betting against him anytime soon. Also, some untimely injuries to Tyler Seguin and Patrick Kane stifled what could have been big years by each of them. Considering every player current;y in the top 15 in scoring is either 30 years old (Rick Nash) or younger, I’m optimistic this is just an aberration.


Abbott: It is a bit of a disappointment that the top players haven't been churning out points in 2014-15.  Alex Ovechkin is the only player on pace for 50 goals this year and he doesn't have much in the way of competition for the Rocket Richard. Injuries to Seguin and Kane did put a damper on the Art Ross Trophy race, but I will join Kevin in the optimistic group that we'll see an improvement.


Another elite scorer who had a tough time this year was Phil Kessel.  He has been a top-10 scorer for the past three seasons, but he fell apart after Toronto's coaching change.  Kessel may not even hit 30 goals after he was firing on all cylinders for the first few months.  Watching his decline has been very disappointing.  It wouldn't be surprising if he was traded in the off-season.

Corey Abbott

Corey Abbott is an Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @CoreAbbott.