TravisZajac USA Today

 

 

Should poolies expect Travis Zajac to bounce back after a tough couple of years in New Jersey?

 

 

Last year, Travis Zajac signed a massive contract extension that would see him get an average of $5.75 million a year for eight years.

 

At the time, life was pretty good. Gone to the Stanley Cup playoffs the previous year, he probably figured he would spend the majority of that contract playing with the likes of David Clarkson and Ilya Kovalchuk, his top two linemates last season in New Jersey.

 

A little more than a year later, and Zajac has lost both of them before his contract has even kicked in.

 

Now he’s the go-to guy in New Jersey being forced to play with new linemates as the Devils try to recover from the loss of three 30-goal scorers when you include Zach Parise.

 

Zajac’s most frequent linemates in 2011-12 (although he played in 15 games due to a torn Achilles tendon), according to Frozen Pools:

 

Frequency

Strength

Line Combination

31.3%

EV

17 KOVALCHUK,ILYA - 9 PARISE,ZACH - 19 ZAJAC,TRAVIS

20.58%

EV

23 CLARKSON,DAVID - 21 TEDENBY,MATTIAS - 19 ZAJAC,TRAVIS

8.04%

EV

15 SYKORA,PETR - 19 ZAJAC,TRAVIS - 8 ZUBRUS,DAINIUS

6.32%

EV

17 KOVALCHUK,ILYA - 12 PONIKAROVSKY,ALEXEI - 19 ZAJAC,TRAVIS

 

And in 2012-13:

 

Frequency

Strength

Line Combination

19.61%

EV

23 CLARKSON,DAVID - 26 ELIAS,PATRIK - 19 ZAJAC,TRAVIS

8.49%

EV

17 KOVALCHUK,ILYA - 12 PONIKAROVSKY,ALEXEI - 19 ZAJAC,TRAVIS

8.04%

PP

23 CLARKSON,DAVID - 26 ELIAS,PATRIK - 17 KOVALCHUK,ILYA - 19 ZAJAC,TRAVIS

 

Eight different linemates appear on his top lines over the last two years. Only Tedenby, Elias and Zubrus remain with the Devils.

 

He’s gone from playing with Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Clarkson to now having to play with Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder and an aging Jaromir Jagr. That’s a major step down in talent and goal-scoring.

 

And while he had two back-to-back 60-point seasons, it was four years ago since he’s had more than 45 points.

 

2009-2010 Line production:

 

Total Points for Travis Zajac : 67

Str

On Ice Line Combination

Points

%Total
Points

EV

LANGENBRUNNER,JAMIE - PARISE,ZACH - ZAJAC,TRAVIS

14

20.9%

EV

PARISE,ZACH - ZAJAC,TRAVIS - ZUBRUS,DAINIUS

7

10.45%

EV

BERGFORS,NICKLAS - PARISE,ZACH - ZAJAC,TRAVIS

5

7.46%

PP

BERGFORS,NICKLAS - LANGENBRUNNER,JAMIE - PARISE,ZACH - ZAJAC,TRAVIS

5

7.46%

EV

CLARKSON,DAVID - PARISE,ZACH - ZAJAC,TRAVIS

4

5.97%

PP

CLARKSON,DAVID - LANGENBRUNNER,JAMIE - PARISE,ZACH - ZAJAC,TRAVIS

4

5.97%

 

2008-09 point production:

 

Total Points for Travis Zajac : 63

Str

On Ice Line Combination

Points

%Total
Points

EV

LANGENBRUNNER,JAMIE - PARISE,ZACH - ZAJAC,TRAVIS

32

50.79%

PP

ELIAS,PATRIK - LANGENBRUNNER,JAMIE - PARISE,ZACH - ZAJAC,TRAVIS

11

17.46%

 

Most of the guys who helped him get to those points are no longer on the team. Now he’s expected to show he can be the leader of a new batch of guys. The smart money is that he won’t.

 

The peripherals


For leagues that count faceoffs, Zajac is one of your main players to target.

 

In 2012-13, he was seventh in the league in faceoff winning percentage (57.4 per cent).

 

In 2011-12, he never played enough games to rank, but he did have a 57.8 faceoff winning percentage.

 

In 2010-11, he was 17th in the league with a 55.3 per cent faceoff winning percentage.

 

In 2009-10, he was 22nd in the league at 52.9 per cent.

 

He’s one of the best in the league. He’s consistently a top faceoff guy, and seems to be getting better every year. It’s a category he dominates in, and is underrated.

 

However, in the rest of the categories, he’s not that great.

 

Career Stats






 Year GP +/- PIM Hits BkS SOG Pct
 2009-10 82 22 24 64 29 210 0.12
 2010-11 82 -6 24 56 31 173 0.08
 2011-12 15 -3 4 11 3 25 0.08
 2012-13 48 -5 22 33 10 82 0.09

 

Zajac has been a negative player in plus/minus for the past three years. He’s not a guy who is going to get lots of penalties. He throws under a hit a game. He doesn’t block a lot of shots. He averages around two shots a game. 

 

On the bright side, he’s almost the exact opposite of a Band-aid boy. Except for 2011-12, he has never missed a game. He started his 2006-07 rookie season playing 80 games, and has played 376 games out of a possible 376 games when you take out that one season. 

 

Basically, if you need a faceoff guy, Zajac is your guy. However, you are sacrificing yourself in the other categories, as he doesn’t do enough to justify having him on your roster.

 

Position


Zajac plays centre, the deepest position of any in fantasy hockey, thereby making it tough for someone to waste a roster space on someone who doesn’t do well in anything except for faceoffs.

 

Before the season began last year, NHL.com had Zajac as the 31st-ranked centre, ahead of Derek Stepan, Tomas Plekanec, Brandon Dubinsky and Mike Fisher.

 

 

But not only do these guys give you help in other scoring categories, they have a better chance of getting you points.

 

Overall


Don’t count on Zajac to do much this season, except for faceoffs. He’ll finish at around 40 points, 22 penalty minutes, 60 hits, 30 block shots and a lot of frustrated poolies. 

 

***

 

Tom Collins, born and raised in a small town in Labrador, has been in hockey pools for about 15 years, and actually managed to win his keeper pool for the first time ever this past year. With a background in journalism and now living in Ottawa, he has been working hard to make sure his twin daughters cheer for the Canadiens instead of the Senators, a fight he is winning so far.


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Comments (3)add comment

mbrown said:

mbrown
Good Point I'm totally with you on 50 points being disappointing for a top line guy. Kovalchuk may not be a big loss though as he tends to be a more selfish player. I'm just suspicious Zajac suffered a post-injury, and big contract-blues type of situation and have a sneaking suspicion he will be better this year. No real evidence, just a hunch.
August 17, 2013
Votes: +0

newfcollins said:

newfcollins
... That's a fair point, but one you could say about every player that has new linemates. No one knows, so you can only make your best guess.

However, he's been a great faceoff guy before (especially the past two years), and it hasn't led to a lot of points. And as I mentioned in the article, his top linemates this past year was Kovalchuk and Clarkson, and he still had trouble getting points. I don't think Clowe and Jagr (or Ryder) will help that too much.

Now, it's quite possible that Zajac and Ryder have great chemistry and he rebounds big-time (although I think 50 points is still a disappointing season for a #1 centre being paid almost $6 million a year). Things like that, you won't know until the season starts.
August 16, 2013
Votes: +1

mbrown said:

mbrown
Interesting, but not compelling argument It's always interesting to see how prognosticators break down potential success of a particular player and while it makes sense to compare his situation to what we know, there are so many variables that are beyond the obvious, but they matter. How much better are the NJ rookies going to be this year. How will Clowe bounce back. Is Rider still good for 30 goals? Is Jagr a good fit. What contributions will come from the defence that will have the puck a lot with Zajac's high faceoff capabilities.

I say Zajac has a solid year. 50+ points. Intangibles matter too, and reading them is important to the final prognosis
August 16, 2013
Votes: +0
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