NHL Predictions: Alex Ovechkin and 5 Players Who Will Have a Letdown Year
Big NHL seasons mean bigger expectations. If Alex Ovechkin puts up 80 points in a year the expectation becomes 90 for the next season. Some guys are able to live up to these lofty, ever-increasing standards. And some end up being labeled underachievers, or worse, one-hit wonders (I'm looking at you, Jonathan Cheechoo).
The 2011-2012 season in no different from any other. 2010-2011 produced some big years, setting up a few guys for inevitable failure viewed through the warped lens of anticipation and possibility.
Looking over some of the hefty numbers from last year, there are several players that won't be able to live up to the standards they have set for themselves with career, breakout or comeback seasons.
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The Finnish Flash has got to slow down sometime.
Teemu Selanne resurrected his career last season as he put up 80 points after three forgettable years for the Anaheim Ducks. He was one of the most effective secondary scoring threats in the NHL, and finished eighth in the scoring race.
It may seem foolish to bet against the seemingly ageless Selanne as he has already put up three points in five games in Anaheim, but the old Duck turned 41 over the summer. He's been playing professional hockey since 1988, and that will catch up with him sooner or later.
I'm guessing it will unfortunately happen sooner.
That isn't to say that Selanne won't have a solid year. He'll be good for 60 points or so, I'd imagine. But repeating his 80-point season just doesn't seem likely as there are too many factors pushing back against him.
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The Columbus Blue Jackets are off to a nightmare start in 2011-2012. I couldn't have made up a more devastating and disappointing series of events for a team that honestly appears to be attempting to fight off mediocrity.
So far? No good.
Jeff Carter was supposed to come to Ohio and electrify an aching fanbase with his All-Star-caliber skill. But right now late-offseason pickup Vaclav Prospal is outscoring the former 40-goal scorer. That wasn't in the script for a team that simply can't afford another throwaway season.
After posting no goals in his first five games as a Jacket, Carter sustained a fracture in his foot. The injury will shelve him for at least a week, and only adds to the misfortune that has swept through the Columbus locker room.
It's hard to imagine him falling away from the 66-point mark that he set last season while skating with Rick Nash, but at this point it certainly seems feasible.
Tim Thomas has continued to be scary-good through all four of his starts so far in 2011-2012. His GAA is below 2.00 again, and his record is only at .500 because of some poor offensive outings from his Boston Bruins.
But after stopping nearly everything that has been thrown at him over the last year or so, at some point all that hockey is going to catch up to Thomas. He played through 57 games last season, and tacked on an additional 25 during Boston's Stanley Cup run.
Coach Claude Julien seems to be aware of the possibility for wear and tear, and stated before the season started that he currently employs two No. 1 goalies.
I'm not going to fall back on the age argument here. At 37 I believe Thomas is still very capable of playing top-notch hockey. I just don't see how he can continue to dominate at the same level for another whole season.
There has to be a little bit of a letup somewhere.
Saying that Thomas won't be able to repeat last season's stats isn't a slight to his talent, but a testament to how outstanding and once-in-a-lifetime his year was in 2010-2011. It's only natural that he'd come down to earth a bit after putting up some of the most outstanding numbers in the history of the league.
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I didn't understand all the hoopla over Dustin Byfuglien last season. After being instrumental in a third-line role during the Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup win he was dealt away to the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets, RIP Thrashers) in a move for cap space.
The sometimes-forward was bumped back to the blue line and subsequently blew up for 53 points. Those numbers placed him above names like Dan Boyle, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith on the scoring chart.
Plenty of fans were selling the whole elite-status thing. I just never bought into it, and it seems like Byfuglien is showing a bit more of his true colors in Winnipeg so far this season.
I'm not saying that he can't be a good defender. I just don't think he is the kind of player that can put up 50-point seasons consistently over his career. There have been some rumblings in Winnipeg for the team to move him back to a forward position to inject some fire into a weak Jets attack.
That sounds like a great idea to me—he's an important player to that squad, and the Jets need to start winning hockey games. Just don't look for him to turn in a 50-point seasons regardless of where he ends up playing.
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The question that has been looming over Alex Ovechkin since the middle of last season is a simple one: What happened to the dynamic, blistering goal corer that caused goaltenders and blueliners to lose sleep at night?
There are multiple theories in play about the Great Eight's play, and I wasn't on board with the Ovechkin-peeking-already movement until very recently. I wanted to believe that the guy was in a bit of a slump, and would reinvent himself the way all the best players do.
Greg Wyshynski over at Puck Daddy finally brought me around with this staggering post.
Ovie has reinvented himself, but not in the way some hockey fans would want. There is a likelihood that he has recognized the simple fact that his Washington Capitals won't ever win the whole thing with him playing a downhill, north-south game.
Yes, the thundering offensive force of nature may be shifting to a more all-three-zones kind of player.
Or maybe defenses really do have him figured out. Maybe he isn't changing, and has instead been neutralized (to an extent) by gap control.
Whatever the reason for Ovechkin's offensive decline, it seems to be a real trend as opposed to a phase. He'll still be good for 70 or 80 points, but the days of seeing Ovie break the century mark in points and climb onto the 60-goal plateau appear to be history.