Looking at players in the Central Division destined to bounce back.
As we creep ever closer to a seemingly inevitable NHL lockout, and I continue to wake up in a cold sweat during the night, I thought it might be useful to look at the Pros and Cons of the whole situation.
Pro: A lockout could really challenge and help me develop creativity as a writer.
Con: I will probably have to use the words "revenue sharing", "Collective Bargaining Agreement", and "Bettman" way more than I would like.
Pro: The Toronto Maple Leafs will no longer be the only team that hasn't made the playoffs since the lockout. A new lockout would mean every team is back in that boat.
Con: I would have to listen to an entire year of talk about how the Leafs plan to fix their goaltending situation.
Pro: I could spend a lot more time with my family.
Con: I would have to spend more time with my family.
Pro: My title as defending champion of my hockey pool would live on for another year.
Con: I would have to join a fantasy Curling league instead.
It seems to me the Cons far out way the Pros, so let's hope for a miracle and that we see plenty of action on the ice this season. Now let's continue our look at players who are due for a bounce back year, with the Central Division.
Crawford's GAA and Save Percentage took a substantial hit in 2011-12 and he failed to record a shutout, but that may have just been the dreaded sophomore slump. He actually faced more shots in his rookie campaign then he did last year. The Blackhawks made a big statement by not adding a goalie in the offseason, so it shows that they have confidence in Crawford.
Chicago has one of the deepest defensive corps in the league, and having Johnny Oduya around for a full season should make a difference as well. Oduya has averaged 137 blocks a year over his last three campaigns. If the Hawks can stay healthy, look for Crawford's wins to go up.
Wisniewski was one of NHL Minister of Safety Brendan Shanahan's first victims in 2011-12. That suspension, along with a broken ankle limited him to just 48 games last season. Despite the missed time he was still able to post 27 points and 99 shots. If you average those out to a full 82 game campaign you are looking at some solid production.
Playing alongside Jack Johnson for a full year should help Wisniewski’s point totals go up, especially with the man advantage. The Blue Jackets also introduced a novel concept in the offseason called "keeping the puck out of the net". So they added goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to help do just that. The addition of the Russian netminder should help Columbus improve on their 28th GAA ranking, while bettering Wisniewski's or any other Blue Jackets plus/minus in the process.
Cleary played in seven more games last season than he did in 2010-11, but his goal totals dropped by 50% and his point totals dropped by 13. The main reason was that two years ago he played nearly 30% of his even strength shifts with either Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg. In 2011-12 that percentage dropped significantly and Cleary spent the majority of his time playing with the likes of Drew Miller, Darren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader. Nothing against those three, but any good poolie knows those names don't exactly scream offense.
With Jiri Hudler gone to Calgary it should allow Cleary to move up the pecking order back to the top two lines, and see decent time with Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Also the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom means the Wings won't be getting as much scoring from the blueline as they have relied on in the past. So there is a good chance they will be counting on Cleary to become more of a focus in the attack.
The Avalanche gave up on Yip after a season with a bit of promise in 2010-11. He ended up in Nashville midway through last year in a campaign that was marred by injuries and plenty of time in the press box. I'm not saying Yip is going to be anything special, but he does have a hardnosed game, loves to shoot the puck, and a bit of an offensive upside.
The only thing that may be holding him back is the Predators themselves, and their scoring by committee mentality. I'm starting to think it may be impossible for anyone to crack the 60 point barrier there. However, Yip did play in all the Preds postseason games and should be a regular in 2012-13. Could be a decent depth player to keep an eye on in deeper leagues.
The only reason I have Perron on this list is because of injuries. He missed much of last season and the majority of 2010-11 with concussion problems. Even still, Perron managed to post 42 points in 57 games which works out to be a 60 point pace for a full 82 games. He was also a plus-19 and his concussion issues seem to be a thing of the past.
Perron had a strong finish to 2011-12 as he posted 12 points in his final 15 regular season games, and five points in the Blues nine playoff games. Concussions, as everyone knows, can be tricky to manage. Hopefully Perron bounces back the way Patrice Bergeron did and proves that you can still be an elite player after a serious concussion.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @amato_mike.