Should we temper our expectations, or are these four players for real?
It is one of the most difficult challenges we face in fantasy hockey, the evaluation of players who have put together career years and whether or not they can sustain their peak production. Do we shop these guys in a classic sell high situation or do we hold them in anticipation of continued success. Will Tyler Seguin continue his point per game ways and establish himself as a superstar, or was this past season his peak? Many of us would suggest this season was a taste of what we should expect from Seguin year after year. Is 65 points and fantastic peripherals the norm for Gabriel Landeskog or should we expect a bit of a decline next year? Colorado’s captain will consistently post fantastic peripherals but his point total could go either way next year depending on how Patrick Roy utilizes him next season and whether or not Paul Stastny sticks around.
Last week we looked at five players out West who should bounce back after putting together a dreadful 2013-2014. This week we are going to temper some expectations and take a deeper look at four players from the Western Conference who should experience a dip in production next season.
Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
It is safe to assume that 47 points in 64 games (a 60 point pace) is not the norm for Giordano. Prior to this season, Giordano’s career year was 43 points in 82 games in 2010-2011. A season that also saw him fire 165 shots on goal which was a career high before this season’s 180 shots in 18 fewer games. Giordano’s consideration for Canada’s Olympic team was well deserved and his plus-12 this season was very impressive when looking at Calgary’s place in the standings. Giordano was heavily relied up on this season, playing 25:14 per game, which was two minutes more than his career high TOI. This was in part due to Dennis Wideman being injured at various times during the season but Giordano’s increased time on ice was earned and deserved considering how he played this season. Giordano deserves more respect than poolies gave him last summer and will be taken higher in drafts next year, but before reaching too high for Giordano keep in mind that in his seven years in the NHL, he has only played a full season twice. In his five other seasons he has never played more than 65 games. His inability to play a full season is one reason to temper expectations, the fact that he plays for the Flames is another obvious reason to be cautious, and finally his career point per game pace is .44 so we should expect Giordano to find his way back to the 35 to 40 point bracket in 2014-2015.
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
In 2009-2010 Keith had an amazing season putting up 69 points in 82 games on his way to the Norris Trophy while also winning a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal. This year’s 61 points was impressive but barely holds a candle to that feat, although Keith just won another Olympic gold medal and is also in contention for another Norris Trophy and potential Stanley Cup. There are few reasons to doubt that Keith can put up similar numbers next year as his shooting percentage (3%) this season was below his career average (4.6%), and his TOI this year (24:39) was his second lowest total in the past seven seasons.
However, Keith seems to be one of those players that steps up during the Olympic year and we should be cautious going into next season. After all of those accolades in 2009-2010, Keith posted “just” 45 points in 82 games in 2010-2011. Keith followed up the next two seasons with 40 points in 74 games in 2011-2012, and 27 points in 47 games (a 47 point pace) in 2012-2013. The norm for Keith over the past three seasons appears to hover around 45 points. Also, considering that the Hawks’ seem poised for another Cup run during the Olympic year, we should expect a tired Keith to fall back to the 45-50 point range next year.
Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
There is a picture of the Russian beside the phrase “breakout goalie of the year” and very few of us expected it. The question now is should we expect similar production next year? Varlamov led all goalies in the West who played at least 30 games with a .927 save percentage (Josh Harding managed .933 in 29 games). Looking at all goalies in the Western Conference, Varlamov also won the most games (41), faced the most shots (2013), and made the most saves (1888). The Russian also improved on his career GAA of 2.55 as he finished 2013-2014 with a GAA of 2.41. Overall an impressive season that should see Varlamov race up the draft list in one year leagues in 2014-2015.
Before putting Varlamov on a pedestal though, keep in mind that his career save percentage is .917 and this is the first time in his career that he has played over 60 games. Varlamov deserves his selection as a Vezina finalist and appears to be for real but we should temper expectations for next season. Over the past five years only Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne have repeated as Vezina finalists in consecutive years – should we expect Varlamov to join such elite company?
Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
After this year’s playoff disappointment, we should expect to see a determined and motivated Pavelski in 2014-2015. To anticipate him to put up another 79 points in 82 games next year may be ambitious though. Pavelski’s career shooting percentage is 11.1%. Last season Pavelski scored on 18.2% of his shots on goal which is a significant increase and realistically, unsustainable. Pavelski’s 225 SOG this past season was also his lowest total in the past six years, excluding 2012-2013’s lockout. So we have two factors here, a dipping shots total and a shooting percentage that was well above his career average. Even if Pavelski matches his career high shot total (282) next season at his career average shooting percentage (11.1%) that would leave him with 31 goals.
Ironically, the 29-year-old’s career high before this year was 31 goals (and 66 points in 2010-2011). The deeper one looks at Pavelski’s numbers, the less likely it is that he will repeat another 40 goal season that sees him flirt at a point per game pace. He is a 30 goal player and we should see him fall back to 60-65 points in 2014-2015.
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