Some very well-known names had sub-par performances last season, but 2014-15 offers a clean slate. So which NHLers are primed to have better outings this year?
Even the best players in the world can have slumps and it’s not fun when it happens to your favorite. But with every fresh campaign there is hope for renewal and as we approach the 2014-15 installment of NHL hockey, some players may be a little more eager than others, since last season was such a downer.
Here’s a look at 10 players who are primed for bounce-back seasons:
10. Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver Canucks
It’s tough to think of a player who had a rougher go in 2013-14 than Burrows, who battled injuries and a serious case of the schneid all campaign long. The former 35-goal scorer lit the lamp just five times – and they all came within the span of a week. He may lose his spot on the top line to Radim Vrbata, but even if Nick Bonino is feeding him instead of Henrik Sedin, Burrows will be much better.
9. Brad Boyes, Florida Panthers
Taking Boyes here is basically just picking up on a pattern: Every other year he seems to spike. The smart sniper is coming off a down year with the Cats, but Florida will be deeper this time out and Boyes has proven himself in the past as a player who can put up numbers.
8. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
Much like Boyes, Howard’s career has been an up-and-down affair. Last year’s .910 save percentage was preceded by marks of .923 and .920, then .908 before that and .924 before that. His goals-against average would similarly fluctuate, with bad years yielding half a goal per game more. A healthier Wings squad in front of him will help, too.
7. Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers
His points-per-game dipped as a sophomore and if you’re not getting offense from Schultz, you’re in trouble. Despite his mobility and confidence with the puck, Schultz had a worse Corsi rating last year than he did as a rookie. But with Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin coming in, Schultz can play softer minutes and hopefully reap the benefits. Plus, he’s playing for a long-term contract.
6. Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Another offensive defenseman who hit the skids last year, Green may never get back to his point-per-game days, but he can improve upon his 2013-14 results. His low PDO of 980 (his team’s shooting percentage plus save percentage while he was on the ice) forecasts improvement in the future.
5. Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres
Myers is actually bouncing back from a couple of seasons, but the Sabres’ acquisition of Josh Gorges and Andrej Meszaros will help give the lanky youngster softer minutes this year (Myers started just 41.5 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone in 2013-14). Gorges is a fellow Kelowna Rockets alum and that can’t hurt, either.
4. Brad Richards, Chicago Blackhawks
Obviously Richards did OK last year – his Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup final – but he was clearly gassed by the end and his numbers have dipped overall recently. You know what would help? Being Chicago’s second-line center, where his linemates will be two of Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa or Brandon Saad.
3. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
OK, the off-season muscle surgery is a little ominous, but at least he’s getting it out of the way now. Staal is coming off his worst points-per-game clip since his rookie campaign more than a decade ago, but he has a new coach in Bill Peters and a fresh season in which to rebound.
2. David Clarkson, Toronto Maple Leafs
Because it can’t get worse, right? Clarkson’s Toronto career began with a suspension, featured another suspension, then several injuries. In between, he tallied just 11 points in 60 games. With a low 988 PDO, just an improvement in puck luck (and no suspensions) would help his results incredibly.
1. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
As usual, Henrik can share this accolade with twin brother Daniel since they both had rough outings last year. But Henrik has improved on faceoffs and with John Tortorella gone behind the bench and replaced with the highly-lauded Willie Desjardins, both Sedins can get back to being the offensive machines they have been historically.