The Bulls and Bears
As we are just 3 weeks out from the season start this will be a two part series surrounding players I'm bullish and bearish on for this season.
Part 2. The 10 Bears.
As a lead in to the following names it's always about context. It's not that they are bad, but most of them had excellent 2015-2016 seasons that I don't think they will repeat.
I am bearish on....
1. Erik Karlsson (D, Ott). That's right, I'm going bold and calling out the 2014-2015 James Norris winner right from the start. His 82 points last season was amazing, but it's not the normal production from him. He'll be good, don't get me wrong but he's a low 70's points kind of defenseman. Expect about 4 more goals and 4-5 more power play points while also seeing about 12 fewer assists.
2. Marc-Andre Fleury (G, Pitt) Fresh off a second Stanley Cup win, all signs are pointing to the slow changing of the guard in Pittsburgh. I would not be surprised if he isn't their main goalie by the end of this season. He will assuredly start the season as their number one goalie but I think Matt Murray will be given a chance to compete for the job as the season progresses. My bold prediction here is that Marc-Andre Fleury will start fewer than 45 games this season.
3. Taylor Hall (LW, NJD). I was very bullish on him in 2015-2016 season and it paid off for the first 2/3 of the season. Now I flip, he's on a team that is gritty and fights for every goal with some small margin victories, a world which he was called out as not being very adept in. Add in the change to a defensively grinding division, I don't see him having the same success as he's historically seen.
4. Patrick Kane (RW, Chi). There is a difference between being great and ‘that great'. Patrick Kane is great, he will likely score high 70's/low 80s this season. He will not eclipse 100 points again (going a full 18 points higher than his previous season high), he's not ‘that great'. Look for him to be a top 20 player but my advice - DO NOT select him with the first overall pick.
5. Joe Thornton (C, SJS). On a year where he seemed to have traveled back in time 6 years, Joe scored the most points (82) since his 2009-2010 season (89). The Sharks team as a whole was firing on all cylinders and they went far into the Playoffs. He's turning 37, he's still a dynamic, great passing center but I think the true mean for Joe lies in the mid 60's for points.
6. Max Pacioretty (C, Mtl). Word is starting to expand on contentions with Max. Here is a guy with a lot of talent and some amazing on ice vision but I don't think the worst days for contentious locker rooms in Montreal is past us. It's his ship, he controls the team now as the Captain and as such I think with a myriad of distractions to face (especially as Captain of the most storied program in hockey history), we see his point total go down.
7. Brent Burns (D/RW, SJS). It's tough putting two San Jose players on here, especially as I anticipate they will continue to do well as a whole but much like Joe Thornton, Brent exceeded his normality last year. Scoring 75 points (a full 25% his previous season high) he was playing at the top of his game. I think he is still a valued asset as a qualified defensemen but the point production is low 60's.
8. Scott Hartnell (LW, CBJ). This pains me to write as I like Hartnell. His team (CBJ) will likely improve with some fresh young talent (Oliver Bjorkstrand, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Sonny Milano) sprinkling into the lineup through the year but I think Hartnell's 49 points will see a dip, partially due to a decrease in playing time and partially to a lower shooting percentage (at 15.3% last year). He might still be a valued commodity if we see the PIM stay higher.
9. Jaromir Jagr (RW, Fla). He dipped into the fountain of youth and nearly doubled his point production from the prior season. I think we see a regression to the mean here. The 44 year old will net in the mid-fifties instead of upper 60's this year. One watching point on Florida, look to see if the talented young group regresses much the way Calgary did last year or if they are able to sustain the strong output. Regardless, it will still be a treat to see the dynamic of young forwards like Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck out there with Jagr.
10. Blake Wheeler (RW, Wpg). He scored 78 points last year which up over 25% from his previous year's production. The line of Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele and Blake clearly works well together but I think we see Blake come down to the low - mid 60's this year. Winnipeg will be an interesting team to see if how they fare in 2015-2016. They are building well with some young players (Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Morrissey and obviously Patrick Laine will be fun to watch).
Until next time, Prost!