Friday, September 9, 2011

Top Ten NHL Players under Performing for 2011-12

By Peter Harling

As the 2011-12 season approaches and fantasy poolies prepare their lists for the draft seeking that edge. It is important to identify players that will have a break out season or find the sleeper picks. Equally important is to be prepared to know which players are likely to produce fewer points than the previous season.

Many poolies go into a draft armed only with last seasons scoring leaders. Unfortunately I don’t know of any pools that count the previous season’s points. The following is my top ten players most likely to produce fewer points. Being on this list only means I forecast them to score fewer points, not necessarily meaning they will have a terrible season and are not draft worthy, simply not worth drafting based on how they scored last season.

10. Mike Knuble, Washington Capitals
Obviously age is a factor with this choice as Knuble is now 39. However, my main reason for including Knuble in this list is the fact he stands a good chance of being relegated to the third line or at least separated from Alex Ovechkins line. With younger talent such as Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, and Marcus Johansson all competing to be on the second line and power play, Knuble may be the odd man out.

9. Erik Cole, Montreal Canadiens
After his second tour of duty in Carolina, Cole is moving on to Montreal. Cole also played briefly in Edmonton but was underwhelming there. Cole has enjoyed most of his success in the NHL playing shot gun with Eric Stall. Unfortunately Montreal lacks a center even close to comparable as Staal as did the Oilers when Cole was there. It is likely that Cole will struggle without a quality pivot.

8. Joe Corvo, Boston Bruins
Another former Carolina Hurricane player who, like Cole played his best hockey in Carolina. Corvo has also played for the L.A. Kings, Ottawa Senators, and played his worst hockey for the Washington Capitals. Corvo is an offensive defenseman with major defensive warts to his game. It is highly unlikely that coach Claude Julien gives Corvo more ice time than Tomas Kaberle received. Kaberle was played in a bottom pairing with secondary power play time.

7. Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
As a “Big Buff” fan, it pains me to include him in this list. Last season Byfuglien exploded out of the gate and with his wicked shot, was dominating the NHL. Byfuglien was leading the defense in scoring and was clearly the best defensemen and a Norris trophy favorite. The second half of the season was different as he was unable to maintain his terrific pace. In the past Byfuglien has struggled with his weight and recently Byfuglien was arrested for boating while intoxicated
During the booking it has been discovered that he weighed in at 286pounds, 40 pounds over his playing weight. This leads me to believe while still an excellent offensive and fantasy defenseman, Byfuglien may fail to duplicate last seasons 53 points.

6. Clarke MacArthur, Toronto Maple Leafs
In 2009-10 MacArthur had a career best 35 points playing for Buffalo, and Atlanta. Last season MacArthur broke out with a massive 62 point performance and was the team leading scorer for most of the season. The line of Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and MacArthur played with good chemistry and consistency and at times was the Leafs first line. Phil Kessel is the Leafs most offensively gifted player and showed signs of chemistry with Joffrey Lupul after he was acquired from Anaheim. Tim Connolly will center Kessel and Lupul to formulate the Leafs top line and play first power play minutes. As a result, MacArthur and his line mates may see reduced ice time and more importantly, reduced power play minutes.

5. Dennis Wideman, Washington Capitals
Washington acquired Wideman for depth for the playoffs. Playing behind the emerging Karl Alzner and John Carlson pairing and Mike Green will limit Wideman in terms of offensive ice time. While Wideman will have an improved plus/minus from the minus-26 rating he had last season while in Florida, he will be hard pressed to score 40 points he produced.

4. P.A. Parenteau, New York Islanders
As a result of injuries, Parenteau seized the opportunity to play premium minutes last season and produced 53 points. However with a healthy Kyle Okposo to start the season, the emergence of league rookie goal scoring leader Michael Grabner, first round pick Nino Niederreiter, and Matt Moulson all in the fold the opportunity for Parenteau to repeat is simply not there. From eight points the previous season to 53 last year, Parenteau came out of nowhere. He has a long way fall.

3. Lubomir Visnovsky, Anaheim Ducks
Visnovsky has enjoyed several successful NHL seasons. Last season was his best, leading all NHL defensemen in scoring with 68 points. During his career, his point’s totals have risen and fallen and staying with that trend, expect a decline. Visnovsky should still be a significant point producer with good fantasy value. Just don’t make him the first defensemen picked in your pool.

2. Louie Eriksson, Dallas Stars
Eriksson has managed to put together back to back 70+ point seasons. With consistency like that why is he second on this list you ask? Brad Richards! Richards and Eriksson had fantastic chemistry together, but with Richards gone to the Rangers Eriksson will struggle. 73.6% of Eriksson’s points last season were scored while Richards was on the ice, and 85.6% in the season before. Louie Eriksson is a very talented player and will continue to produce points. But don’t fool yourself and think the loss of Richards won’t have an impact.

1. Christian Ehrhoff, Buffalo Sabers
Ehrhoff’s two seasons in Vancouver were his two highest point totals in his career, playing with the Sedin twins on the team that lead the NHL for goals. Now in Buffalo with out Daniel and Henrik, Ehrhoff may have enjoyed his best season in terms of offense. Ehrhoff was a good fit in Vancouver where his transition skills were an important part of the Canucks game. Buffalo is not as efficient at transition and not as dangerous with the man advantage as the Canucks. These factors will impact Ehrhoffs point totals this season. Still a big minute all around player with fantasy value however.

Remember that being prepared for your draft is critical. Knowing when the appropriate time to draft a player is vital to good drafting. And relying on last years stats as a script for when to pick players is always a fatal mistake. Having an informed evaluation of players can win you your pool. Good luck!

Follow Peter Harling on twitter: @pharling

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