Five NHL Players Who May Surprise Us Next Season
Every season, there are always those players who everyone writes off, saying that they are done because they had a bad season or whatnot. Sometimes they are right, and those players just never seem to get their game back.
Many times, however, fans are left eating a big helping of crow at the end of the season.
Here are five players who I think will bounce back next season and have great years.
Scott Gomez, Montreal Canadiens
Gomez has been taking lots of flak since he signed a seven-year, $51.5 million contract with the Rangers on July 1, 2007. With a cap hit of $7.357 million, fans in New York were expecting more than the 70- and 58-point seasons he put up while there.
After his trade to Montreal, message boards were alive with people laughing at how Rangers GM Glen Sather fleeced Bob Gainey.
While Gomez has broken 20 goals and 80 points only once in his career, playing with two goal scorers in Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta should give him a boost, especially since he is a playmaker and his best season came while he was playing with Gionta in New Jersey.
Prediction: 25G 60A 85P
Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers
Ever since signing the $21.25 million offer sheet with the Edmonton Oilers, people have said that Penner is massively overpaid and will never live up to his contract.
In his first year with Edmonton, Penner had a pretty good season, scoring 23 goals and a career-high 47 points.
Last year, however, Penner was in Craig MacTavish's doghouse for the majority of the season. As a result, he jumped lines very often, spending time with the third line for the first quarter of the season and only managing 17 goals and 37 points.
The Oilers have new coaches this year in Pat Quinn and Tom Renney, which means a fresh start for Penner. If he spends the season getting a decent amount of power play time (where he is most effective) while playing a top six role, Penner could finally live up to his contract.
Prediction: 28G 30A 58P
Brian Gionta, Montreal Canadiens
As mentioned earlier, Gionta has been reunited with center Scott Gomez on the Montreal Canadiens, although at a steep price of $5 million a season.
He has only scored more than 25 goals once in his career—the last season he played with Gomez—where he scored a whopping 48 goals. Since then, however, he has scored 25, 22, and 20 goals. Not bad, but not worth $5 million.
If Gionta can find that old scoring touch and score 35-40 goals, the contract isn't so bad. We will see just how much of an effect Gomez has on Gionta's game.
Prediction: 37G 42A 79P
Cristobal Huet, Chicago Blackhawks
After losing the starting job to Nikolai Khabibulin last year, Huet looked like a very average goaltender. Having never played more than 52 games in a season, and never winning a playoff series, he can't be the goalie to take the Blackhawks to the next level...can he?
Huet has only had two seasons where his save percentage has been under 0.910: his sophomore season, where he played almost four times as many games as the year before, and last year. Otherwise, he has never had it below 0.916, a very respectable number.
The only question people should be asking about Huet is whether he can play at least 50 games in a season and be a true starter. If Huet has any pride, he will probably want to show the whole NHL that he can. He could very well play like Khabibulin did last season.
Prediction: 55GP 25W 2.45GAA 0.915SV%
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
After taking a nasty hit from Philadelphia's Randy Jones in 2007-08, Bergeron missed the rest of the season. He came back in 2008 and scored only eight goals and 39 points. Those are underwhelming numbers for a player like Bergeron, who scored 70 points or more in his first two seasons after the lockout.
This drop in points was probably due to him having some rust after not playing a whole season, as well as the loss of line mate Marco Sturm to injury after only 19 games.
A full season with Sturm and on a powerhouse (literally) Bruins team, Bergeron should come back with another stellar season.
Prediction: 25G 40A 65P