Five guys who have a chance to be a lot better in 2014-15...
All of us walked away from our drafts last summer with typical expectations. Nail Yakupov was supposed to take the next step, Dustin Brown and Evander Kane were going to be their usual multi-cat stud selves, the Sedins are always good for at least 65 points each, and Alex Burrows is a reliable 20-20 guy at worst. After their brutal 2013-2014 campaigns, there is no way we should witness consecutive tragedies from these players. Well let’s leave the jury out on Burrows and Yakupov for now, but even Captain Obvious could predict bounce back seasons for the Sedins, Kane, and Brown. But what about those players who underachieved but managed to remain low radar despite their terrible performances?
For this week’s edition of the Wild West, let’s look at five players that will likely slip down draft lists due to the classic group think mentality, as the majority mistakes their disappointing 2013-2014 campaigns as their future status quo. In reality, these five players could very well sneak up on us with bounce back seasons.
#5 – Sam Gagner, Edmonton Oilers
We may never see Gagner put up a better season than his 49 point rookie campaign, but there should be little doubt that he will improve on this season’s paltry 37 points and minus-33. Gagner has a no movement clause that kicks in on July 1st and has been the subject of trade rumors since the end of the season. Whether he stays in Edmonton or gets a fresh start elsewhere we should see Gagner bounce back to at least 40 points and possibly reach 50. To put it in perspective, Gagner had 37 points in 67 games this season, one point less than the 38 points in 48 games during the 2012-2013 lockout shortened season.
This year’s jaw injury had a significant impact and there is a chance that Gagner bounces back to his 60 point pace from 2012-2013. Don’t let him go too late, especially if he is traded.
#4 – PA Parenteau, Colorado Avalanche
After two seasons which saw him find success on the wing alongside John Tavares and then in Colorado with Matt Duchene, Parenteau had established himself in the league after a long journey in the AHL. Under new coach Patrick Roy, last year Parenteau saw himself finish with just 33 points in 55 games after getting healthy scratched and bounced around the roster while receiving less ice time and less power play time. Parenteau had 13 power play points during the lockout shortened season and this past season he had only 3 PPP. Parenteau’s 43 points in 48 games in 2012-2013 was a surprise and was in part due to his unsustainable shooting percentage of 17.6%. This season he fell back to reality posting a shooting percentage of just over 12%.
He is not a guarantee to have a bounce back year in 2014-2015 but there are some promising signs for Parenteau. He was once again lining up with Duchene in the playoffs and hopefully that carries into next year. Remember, Parenteau is just two seasons removed from 67 points on Long Island and is the type of player that would thrive in a new setting if the Avalanche decided to trade him.
#3 – Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings
He struggled this season but Richards is not a 40 point player, and shouldn’t be treated as such at this point in his career. Next season we should see him bounce back from a dreadful campaign that saw him finish with just 41 points despite playing all 82 games. It is no secret that Richards is a slow skater who has lost a step – a point that has been illustrated by a number of analysts and armchair GMs during these playoffs.
Richards is just three years removed from four consecutive seasons in Philadelphia that saw him finish with more than 60 points. Before this season, Richards had 76 points in his first 122 games with the Kings, which works out to .62 points per game and a 51 point pace. Richards may never see 60 points again, but he is a 50-55 point player who just happens to be trapped on a defensive minded team. Before writing him off, smart poolies will note that he continues to get ample power play time, averaging almost three minutes per game with the man advantage last year. We should see Richards climb back to 50 points again.
#2 – Alexander Edler, Vancouver Canucks
It would be fair to say that Edler won the Blame Award for a number of poolies who had their fantasy dreams crushed this year. Edler’s tragic campaign saw him finish with a league worst minus-39 and a depressing 22 points. Just two seasons removed from a 49 point season, it should be safe to assume that this year was rock bottom for the 28-year-old Swede. To put it in perspective, Edler had 22 power play points in 2011-2012 which would have matched this year’s entire point total.
Not only did Edler struggle, but so did his entire supporting cast. The Sedins had their worst season in a decade while Burrows and Ryan Kesler also lost their way. There is hope for a bounce back for Edler as the Canucks blue line led the Conference in shots on goal this year. With a new coach incoming and expected improvement from his teammates, we should see Edler bounce back to 40 points and an improved plus/minus.
#1 – Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver was a fantasy wasteland this year. While most of the attention was put on the underachieving Sedins and the team’s ongoing goalie drama, most of us tend to forget about Ryan Kesler. After a dismal campaign that saw him surrounded with trade rumors while compiling just 43 points, Kesler is the West’s number one candidate for a bounce back season in 2014-2015. He is a few years past his back to back 70 plus point seasons, and it would be ambitious to think he will reach that plateau again, but to settle on Kesler as a 40-45 point player would be a huge mistake. The minimum (even if he misses 6-10 games due to injuries) next year should be 50 points for Kesler and he should bounce back to the 55-60 point range in 2014-2015.
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