Tangential Reality: They Were Merely Freshman…but what about next year?

‘Sophomore Slump’. Two horrendous words. Having a player on your fantasy team who is going through a brutal second season can make things interesting…

‘Sophomore Slump’. Two horrendous words. Having a player on your fantasy team who is going through a brutal second season can make things interesting during your quest for league supremacy.

Steven Stamkos proved this year that The Slump doesn’t hit everyone, more than doubling his rookie season output of 46 points. Of course, only one team in your league had his stats accumulate to their benefit, while the rest of the armchair GM’s were saying to themselves, “Damn, I wish I had that guy.”

It’s a bit early with the playoffs in full gear, but I’m going to look at some of this year’s rookies that ought to have better seasons the second time around (or, at the very least, should avoid taking a step backward). So, without further ado – and in no particular order – let’s get started with a few from the Eastern Conference…

  • Johnny Boychuk, D, BOS (RFA) – Not a great rookie campaign, with 5G and 10A in 51 games (along with a strong +10 rating), but with injuries depleting the Bruins blueline, Johnny saw top pairing time alongside Chara at the end of the regular season that is carrying over into the playoffs. It’s working out for him (8 games, 2G, 3A, 1PPG), and should earn him a bigger role on the team next year. With Chara, Wideman, and Hunwick as the only everyday Bruins’ defensemen under contract for the ‘10-‘11 season, Boychuk has an opportunity to become one of the team’s big guns if he re-signs in Boston. At 26, he’s a bit older, so he’s got maturity going for him too.
  • James van Riemsdyk, LW, PHI – Just 20 years old at the start of the year, JvR was thrust into the Flyers roster out of necessity when he could have used some time at the AHL level to get his feet wet. While he finished in the top 10 in rookie scoring with 15-20-35, 4 PPG and 6 game winners in just under 13 minutes/game, the long NHL season – he played in 78 games for the Flyers following 2 years of 31 and 36 games at the University of New Hampshire – took it’s toll on the youngster. He had a stretch of 21 games from November to January in which he scored just 1 goal and 1 assist, and scoreless drought of 14 games that lasted through the end of February. With some conditioning, look for better things in ‘10-‘11.

  • Tyler Myers D, BUF – Obvious, right? I only include him to remind those of you in a keeper league of any kind to contact his owner and inquire about his availability, but be willing to pay. This big (S)lug is the real deal.
  • Michael Del Zotto, D, NYR – The only other Dman to crack the Top 10, at #7, in rookie scoring besides Myers (#3), Del Zotto’s only negative is his -20 rating. He finished 5th on the Rangers in scoring while playing 80 games, and his two longest stretches without his name on the score sheet were 9 and 7 games in length. His 37 points (9G and 28A) sure helped me out in my Dynasty league this year, and the 4 power play goals he scored will be his lowest total for years to come.
  • Tyler Bozak, C, TOR – Having played one NHL game in October, Bozak got the call from the Leafs for their January 12th game and never looked back, amassing 8 goals and 19 assists for the season. That’s 27 points in 37 games. In his 10 January contests, he had 1 goal and 4 assists, but he took off after teammate Matt Stajan went west in a trade with Calgary, so make that 22 points in 27 games. Very nice. I’m going with the maturity factor here, again, as Bozak is 24 years old, and I think that with the ‘10-‘11 season being a contract year for him, he won’t be letting up on the gas.

So there’s a handful of names for you to chew on for a while. Let me know what you think in the comments.

MOTHER’S DAY ALERT: This Sunday is Mother’s Day, so you Papas (and even you guys with ‘significant others’, mothers or not) out there do something special for those ladies who tolerate you sitting in front of your TVs and computers during hockey season. We should really thank them for allowing us our passion for hockey, especially now during the playoffs, since they could make it very difficult for us. Think about it. *This goes for you ladies, too…be extra special to the guys that let you watch the games even if they aren’t quite as interested as you are.*

Now I’ve got a project for you – I want you to put together a list of your Top 5 All-Time Playoff Beards. Think carefully, make a list and send it to me at I’ll tally up the votes and have the results for you next week, along with some honorable mentions from my hockey memory banks.

One last, umm….tangent – Just like Steve Heinze finally got to wear #57, Rob DiMaio should have worn the number 5. It’s only right. Jose Cuervo shots today! Happy Cinco de Mayo!!

Have a great week and enjoy the playoffs!

** Tangent Man — Keith Filling… a fantasy and NHL hockey junkie who has a lot to say about the reality of life experiences, Scotch, hockey, music and the bane of being addicted to a fantasy game. Read more of his work over at his “Off on a Tangent” blog.


9 Comments on this Post

  1. OMGitsJen

    I think I regained my freshman 15 reading this article 🙁 aww

    Regarding JvR, I hate ever saying anything nice about the Flyers but I do think that kid’s gonna be great! I can’t wait to watch where he goes.

    Course, I’m totally spoiled with Sid.

  2. Mayor of Angrytown

    I don’t understand all the chatter about fantasy hockey when the Penguins are going to be offering more than 30 beverage choices in their new arena. MORE THAN 30!!!!

  3. Mayor of Angrytown

    Participation in the Beard poll should be mandatory… thinking you might see a surge in the Bill Guerin vote.

  4. mag66

    just saying…Metz i know you are moving on and moving up but since your new release of your website i have yet to see a “just saying” blog. Please hang on to your roots and give us loyal readers a “playoff just sayin”

  5. Funny you should say that mag66! I have been trying to get one up for about two weeks! They are one of my favorites to write! My plan is to have one up for you tonight…tomorrow at the latest!

    Thanks so much for popping over here! Great seeing the friendly and familiar faces from my old home!

  6. mag66

    absolutely man ive been following you for several years from the time when Bing was a rookie. You and Pensblog are who i get my info from. But i really like hearing your opinions on those “just sayings” figured id bust your balls a lil bit for slacking off. cheers bud

  7. Walshy


    I have no time to get involved with a fantasy league, too hard over here anyway, the time zones make it almost impossible for me to watch enough hockey from the west coast.

    I love the read, always very enlightening…

  8. @ Jen – I think it will be another season of learning for JvR before we see what he’s really capable of. The only other knock on him (besides stamina) is that he doesn’t use his size, but that will come.

    @ The Mayor – I try to leave the Pens news, and that of their new arena, to Brian. Can’t step on any toes, you know. But a choice of 30 different beverages is, well, making me thirsty, Your Honor.

    @ Walshy – It won’t always be fantasy related, but I’m glad you’re getting something out of it. Keep reading, my friend.

  9. ixnay8

    I for one won’t be horribly dissapointed if JVR never lives up to his potential. Maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the fact that I hate everything Flyers and also I sold him off to the highest bidder in our dynasty league this year. Odds are he’ll be a pretty solid player at some point. He seems to have all the tools and it will just be a matter of putting it all together for him.

    As for some of the other guys, every year you see some young players make great strides thanks to being thrust into a great situation. Sometimes it’s due to injury, other times it’s the result of a GM screwing up the salary cap situation in a particular year. It’s always interesting to see which players are able to take their success and build on it in the following seasons. Sometimes when the situation is different the next season you don’t see nearly the same production. Colby Armstrong was nearly a point per game player during his first stint along side Sidney Crosby. It was a great run that he has never been able to reproduce since then.

    Other times you see a rookie have a great year only to be outdone the next year by a new incoming rookie. Michael Del Zotto may have leap-frogged a couple guys in the Rangers system to have a great rookie campaign but all it might take is one dry spell or a sub-par training camp for someone like Bobby Sanguinetti to make the jump and steal his spot on the #1 PP unit.

    Not to pick on Del Zotto, but another issue impacting young players (especially D-men) is when their stat line is showing a -20 at the end of their rookie season often times you’ll see a step backward in offensive production the following season as they attempt to round out their defensive game and become less one dimensional.

    I’m not suggesting that any of the above players are due for a setback but it just goes to show you that there are so many unknowns about rookies that it’s hard to say who will move forward and who will fall back. Certainly maturity plays a big part in it. Those players who recognize that they have to work just as hard, if not harder, to stay in the league as they did to get there in the first place will be the ones with the most success.

    Long winded…I know.

    Keep up the good work guys.

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