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