It’s not often a team is over the moon about squeaking into the playoffs and losing in the first round. That’s the beauty of low expectations; it’s very easy to exceed them. In all fairness though, the Ottawa Senators did accomplish more than just about anyone thought they would in 2011-12. Many had them pegged to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, so making the playoffs just proves why they play the games.
While top guns Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, and Milan Michalek deserve most of the credit for the Sens turnaround, the contributions of Nick Foligno can not be ignored as well. Foligno recorded a career high 47 points in 2011-12 and benefited from a less featured role.
|12.65%||EV||71 FOLIGNO,NICK - 25 NEIL,CHRISTOPHER - 42 O'BRIEN,JIM|
|12.01%||EV||11 ALFREDSSON,DANIEL - 71 FOLIGNO,NICK - 7 TURRIS,KYLE|
|8.45%||EV||71 FOLIGNO,NICK - 25 NEIL,CHRISTOPHER - 15 SMITH,ZACK|
|5.31%||EV||11 ALFREDSSON,DANIEL - 24 DA COSTA,STEPHANE - 71 FOLIGNO,NICK|
In 2010-11 Foligno played in all 82 games, but Spezza, Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson all missed significant time with injuries. This meant Foligno had to play higher up on the depth chart for extended stretches of the season. While this may seem like a benefit, someone with Foligno’s skill set isn’t necessarily going to fair well against the opposition’s best checkers.
This season a healthier Ottawa group allowed Foligno to thrive further down the food chain.
To clarify this point just think of Jordan Staal in Pittsburgh. Now I’m not saying Staal isn’t a great player, but when you have the luxury of being the third center on the depth chart behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, that’s a huge bonus. You get to go against a weaker defensive pairing regularly. Now while Foligno’s fellow forwards aren’t as potent as Staal’s, he still benefits when Michalek and Spezza are healthy and playing on the top line.
Another thing Foligno owners have benefited from is the big jump in the left winger’s PIM. He went from eighth on the Senators with 43 in 2010-11, to third on the squad in 2011-12 with 124 PIM. Combine that 81 minute increase with a 13 point offensive improvement, and poolies are getting some solid value with Foligno.
Not only has Foligno become a potent PIM producer, but he has become a much more consistent offensive player. In 2010-11 Foligno had a nine game stretch where he was held pointless and a run of 13 games where he recorded just a single point. In 2011-12 however, his longest streak without a point was just five games. Foligno’s consistency this season helped both the Sens and poolies.
Foligno also improved his plus/minus in the 2011-12 campaign. His rating last season resembled the temperature of a cold winter night in Toronto at minus-19. So a modest plus-2 this year is certainly a step in the right direction.
The Senators are a young and up and coming team so Foligno’s numbers could get even better in the near future. With players like Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad waiting in the wings, Ottawa’s depth at the forward position should also improve. For those poolies in deeper leagues, Foligno could be a nice option. Forwards that can put up steady offensive numbers, maintain a plus rating, and offer decent PIM, are not easy to come by.