NHL Stars Who Will Decline in the 2016-17 Season

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2016

NHL Stars Who Will Decline in the 2016-17 Season

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The career arc of NHL players depends on all kinds of things, including injury, level of peak ability and luck. Impact players often enjoy productive seasons into their mid-30s before beginning to post seasons that are not reflective of previous production.

    It is extremely rare for NHL players to see a spike in performance past 35—so Jaromir Jagr's 2015-16 season really was spectacular in history terms. It doesn't mean Jagr will perform at the same level as last year though, and the aging process does give us some degree of certainty when talking about a downward slide. Some great NHL stars—like Jagr, Marian Hossa and Henrik Zetterberg—are at that point in their careers where erosion is inevitable.

    Here are six outstanding NHL players facing a year of decline in 2016-17.

Shane Doan, RW, Arizona Coyotes

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    2015-16 statistics: Shane Doan of the Arizona Coyotes scored 28 goals last season, his highest total since 2008-09. 

    Why he will decline: There are two main reasons that a decline is likely. His shooting percentage spiked to 16.5 last year—his career average is 10.4—and will probably return to previous levels in 2016-17. Also, Doan turns 40 in October, and it is difficult to predict career paths at that age—even with exceptional players like Doan.

    Outlook for 2016-17: Doan is the face of the Coyotes franchise and productive enough to play a feature role. Last year he averaged 17:36 a night for Arizona, his lowest total since the turn of the century. The coaching staff may feel he is more effective in fewer minutes, and that reduction of ice time may continue this year.

Zdeno Chara, D, Boston Bruins

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    2015-16 statistics: Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins remains one of the best defensemen in the game, as reflected by his enormous workload and productivity. He played over 24 minutes a night, posted 37 points, blocked 123 shots and had 134 hits last season—and is still a solid possession player at age 39. 

    Why he will decline: The Bruins are in a tough spot, as they have no player of similar caliber who can push Chara's minutes downward. He is close to 40 and remains a player relied upon for almost half the game. This will not end well, and the impact will be major if Boston cannot find a suitable replacement.

    Outlook for 2016-17: Fans should expect another big season from Chara, who has delivered quality during his career with Boston. There are signs of a slide, but defensemen tend to age well compared to forwards, and the things Chara delivers rely less on things like speed and skilled hands. Danger is lurking for the Bruins, but they should have a productive player this coming season.

Jarome Iginla, RW, Colorado Avalanche

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2015-16 statistics: Jarome Iginla had another impressive season, his second with the Colorado Avalanche. 

    Why he will decline: Iginla scored 13 power-play goals last year, his highest total since 2010-11. Iginla's even-strength goal production declined from 21 to nine—a substantial total that impacted his value to the Avalanche a year ago.

    Outlook for 2016-17: Iginla is 39, well inside the age where we see numbers slide. Last year's even-strength goal total represented a significant downturn and a recovery is likely. Even with that predicted, it does seem Iginla's enormous even-strength impact is faltering after a long period of success.

Henrik Zetterberg, C, Detroit Red Wings

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    2015-16 statistics: Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings posted another productive season in 2015-16, notching 50 points in 82 games. 

    Why he will decline: Despite the production, Zetterberg fell off offensively in a significant way. In 2014-15, he delivered 66 points—meaning a 16-point drop. His even-strength production fell from 38 to 28, suggesting that at age 35—36 in October—the offense may be fading from his game.

    Outlook for 2016-17: Zetterberg has the complete range of skills, so he remains a useful player. The offense is a concern, and Detroit may have to rely on younger players in skill positions if the numbers continue to slide this year.

Jaromir Jagr, RW, Florida Panthers

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    2015-16 statistics: At age 43, Jaromir Jagr scored 27 goals and 66 points in 79 regular-season games. His season ranks No. 7 in NHL history in points-per-game among players 40 or older. Jagr posted an amazing season considering the era he is playing in.

    Why he will decline: At 44 this season, Jagr is a good bet to fall off his pace of last year based on age alone. His even-strength totals are especially vulnerable based on age—his 55 points at even strength ranked No. 7 a year ago—and a slide is a reasonable assumption.

    Outlook for 2016-17: Expect Jagr to play a major role for the Florida Panthers in the coming season, but the production is likely to erode at least a little. Predicting a downturn from a 44-year old forward is an easy call, although Jagr has been defying the aging process for some time.

Patrick Marleau, LW, San Jose Sharks

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    2015-16 statistics: Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks had a good season, scoring 25 goals and 48 points in 82 games. At age 36, his production was impressive. 

    Why he will decline: Marleau's production has declined over the last three years—70, 57 and 48 points, respectively—and that is likely to continue in the coming year.

    Outlook for 2016-17: Marleau's 48 points last year tell us he can still be productive on a skill line, so another 20 goal season is probable. It is a good bet that his final goal and point total will be less than a year ago. Marleau is a free agent in the summer of 2017 and it will be interesting to see how things go between player and team.

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