The last time the NHL played a lockout shortened season, Peter Bondra was coming off a campaign in which he broke his hand and was limited to 69 games and 24 goals. But in that 1994-95 season, Bondra notched 34 goals – three short of his career high – to lead the league. It was a significant bounce back performance that led to a 52-goal season in 1995-96.
If we gave out a trophy for this kind of turnaround, you might call it the Brad Boyes Award, since he’s made a career of lulls and bounce back seasons. This year, there are a bunch of players coming back strong from performances that were either underwhelming, or interrupted by injury.
Honorable mention goes to Pittsburgh’s Paul Martin, who tied a career high with six goals, earned more ice time and showed much improvement from his previous years in Pittsburgh, before being put on the sidelines for four-to-six weeks because of a wrist injury.
10. Eric Staal
Staal’s turnaround really started last season, but too many wrote him off way too early in 2011-12. Sure, Staal started awful with eight points in 20 games, but as I said about Alex Ovechkin in my column Tuesday, you can only draw conclusions by looking at the big picture. In the final 62 games last season, Staal was a point per game player. In case there were any lingering doubts, here he is today rolling along at a slightly better clip.
9. Matt Duchene
After John Tavares spent two-plus years as the most hyped talent available in the 2009 draft, there was some debate leading up to the event about if Duchene was his equal. Four years on and that would have been a bad call. Duchene was a Calder finalist in his rookie year and improved on his totals as a sophomore. Then last year happened. A complete and utter disaster resulted in 28 points in 58 games and legitimate concern about what that meant for the young man. He’s found himself again this year and is scoring at his best pace yet.
8. Andrei Markov
The old Russian Bear is bouncing back from something that was no fault of his own. Markov has played a grand total of 20 NHL games the past two seasons, but is back healthy and still doing major damage. He is a driving force on Montreal’s fifth-ranked power play (which is up from 28th a year ago) and leads all defensemen in extra-man goals with seven.
7. Corey Crawford
When Crawford became Chicago’s starter he was replacing Antti Niemi, who had just won them a Stanley Cup. He started 57 games that first season and posted respectable totals, but last year his GAA jumped by .42 and his SP dipped by 14 points. You know what you’re going to get from the best goalies each season and many weren’t convinced the inconsistency Crawford showed was good enough to backstop a Stanley Cup contender. Now this season Crawford is in the Vezina discussion as the Hawks sit atop the standings.
6. Patrick Kane
Since the 2010 Stanley Cup championship, Kane’s offensive numbers were in steady decline. A lot of fingers were being pointed at his being caught up in celebrity distracting from potential on-ice excellence, but whatever the case, Kane is scoring at a higher pace this season than ever before.
5. Alex Semin
Washington let the one-time 40-goal scorer go for absolutely nothing last summer because his play had been waning and his point totals deteriorating. That speaks volumes. Carolina took the worthwhile chance on a one-year contract to Semin and it paid off right away, as he formed one of the NHL’s most dangerous offensive lines with Jiri Tlusty and Eric Staal. The Canes rewarded Semin for his quarter-season of output with a five-year, $35 million extension – in the seven games since he has scored a point in three games (six points) and has a minus-9 rating. It’s a bounce back for now, but beware.
4. Chris Stewart
When Stewart scored 28 goals and 64 points in a breakout 2009-10 season with the Avalanche, it was the coronation of the NHL’s newest impact power forward. He kept his pace up after being traded to the Blues the following season, but last year was a disaster. Stewart sunk to 15 goals and 30 points – totals he’s met and surpassed this season.
3. Sergei Bobrovsky
The Russian netminder turned a lot of heads as a Flyers rookie, but his GAA spiked over three and his save percentage dipped below .900 in his second go-around. The Flyers stopped viewing him as a potential solution as used him as trade bait. Now Bobrovsky is Columbus’ crown jewel and a lock for team MVP.
2. Alex Ovechkin
The Great 8’s past two seasons have only been subpar when comparing them to the extremely high standard he set for himself early in his career. Still, a lot of people had written him off as an elite player because of those years and his start to this season (10 points in 16 games) was an even deeper dive. But now that he’s settled in with new coach Adam Oates’ system, of which he’s been made a central piece again, Ovechkin is on a tear that is garnering Hart Trophy attention and getting people excited once again.
1. Ryan Getzlaf
The big Ducks center is more of a playmaker than goal scorer, but he managed an alarmingly low 11 goals last season and only 57 points. It’s no coincidence that the Ducks finished 13th in the West. Getzlaf is back amongst the highest scorers in the league this season and should be considered for the Hart Trophy. At this pace over an 82-game season, Getzlaf would surpass his career highs for goals and points.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.