Crashing The Net: Best, worst and biggest surprises of 2011 season
Steven Stamkos, Lightning
After 51 goals and 95 points in his second season it looks like Stamkos will fall just a bit short of those numbers this year, a result of a horrific slump to end the year that includes just six goals in his last 27 games. Still, the kid has been dynamic yet again and is a sure fire Top-5 selection for 2011 drafts.
Cory Perry, Ducks
MVP talk continues to swirl around the league's leading goal-scorer who, is also the only skater in the league with a triple-digit PIM mark and more than 30 goals. Perry has been hotter than Kim Kardashian in a skin tight dress of late with 16 goals in his last 13 contests.
Daniel Sedin, Canucks
The only skater in the game with 100 points, Sedin appears likely to capture the league MVP as the best player on the best team in the game. A fantasy owner's dream, Sedin has scored at least 71 points in each of the past six years, has already set career bests in goals, assists and points, and is working on a third straight year with a plus/minus of at least +24.
Dustin Byfuglien, Thrashers
Not only did he set career bests in goals and assists, while moving to the blue line, he also fired a career-best 334 shots on net, 123 more than he ever had and 82 more than any other defender. Before slowing down after the All-Star game, he had 15 goals and 40 points in his first 41 games.
Lubomir Visnovsky, Ducks
The leading point-getter among blue liners, Lubomir has used his offensive skills to post his best season since 2005 in his first full year with the Ducks. He has been particularly lethal on the power-play, where he has recorded 29 of his points (5g, 24a).
Tim Thomas, Bruins
There might be nine goalies with more victories, but Thomas leads the league with a 1.98 GAA and has a chance to set an all-time single season save percentage record as well. Toss in nine shutouts and he has been the fantasy MVP in net without question.
Joe Thornton, Sharks
Since he became a Shark in '05 Thornton has never failed to hand out 61 assists or to record at least 86 points. He has no shot at either mark this year. Thornton will also see his five-year run of finishing with a plus-16 or better mark come to an end. Toss in a six-year low in penalty minutes and goals, and you have yourself a whopper of a fantasy disappointment.
Dany Heatley, Sharks
Part of the reason that Thornton struggled for points was that Heatley had his worst full season production since being a rookie. In each of the past five seasons Heatley had scored at least 39 goals, and that alone is enough of a reason to call his effort this year a massive disappointment. My goodness -- he has fewer assists this year than his five-year low in goals.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Devils
For the ninth straight year he has scored at least 29 goals, but this will be his first effort since his rookie year with fewer than 38 goals. Historically pitiful prior to the All-Star break (29 points, minus-29 in 48 games), Kovalchuk performed well over his last 29 games (15g, 12a, +6). Hopefully it won't take him two-thirds of a season to wake up next year.
Victor Hedman, Lightning
He entered the year with a ton of hoopla after a successful rookie season, which, when coupled with what was thought to be a potential offensive juggernaut in Tampa, had Hedman's star on the rise. As a result, his effort this season was a major disappointment in that his numbers are virtually identical to last year -- he has one less goal, nine fewer PIMs, five fewer hits and only 11 more shots. Defenders sometimes take a bit longer to develop, but there wasn't much development to note his second season in the league.
Zach Bogosian, Thrashers
In his first full season last year he recorded 10 goals and 23 points. He's missed a few games with injury, having appeared in 67 games this year, but that doesn't excuse his awful performance. The third overall selection in '08 has all but fallen out of favor in Atlanta and has a long ways to go to fulfill his potential.
Marty Turco, Blackhawks
It may be tough to remember at this point, but going into the year most expected Turco to make 55 starts for the Blackhawks. It hasn't played out remotely close to that. In his first year in Chicago his GAA has climbed to a career worst while his save percentage has also fallen to a career worst. He has only one shutout, another bottom feeder mark in his career, and any way you cut it his effort has been wildly disappointing.
Logan Couture, Sharks
He's scored more goals than Martin St. Louis, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin. If that's all you knew about Couture you would think he'd had a hell of a season. When you add in that he's also a plus-19 skater, has taken more shots on net than Johan Franzen, Anze Kopitar and Thomas Vanek, and that he is still considered a rookie, well then you have an out-of-nowhere All-Star.
Michael Grabner, Islanders
Released by the Panthers, Grabner latched on with the Islanders and turned into a scoring star. In one blazing hot stretch in February and March he lit the lamp 16 times in 24 games. Throw in a plus-15 for a team that most nights is already behind by the end of the first period, and in Grabner you have the quintessential waiver-wire add that helps teams to win fantasy leagues.
Teemu Selanne, Ducks
It's tough to call a future HOFamer who has the nickname of "The Finnish Flash" an out of nowhere star, but Selanne really does qualify. Thought to be playing his last season at age 40, all Selanne has done is to score 76 points in just 70 games for his highest point total since '06. He's also four PIMs away from the second best mark of his career and has lit up keepers on the power player (15g, 17a).
Brent Burns, Wild
The plus/minus is bad, but otherwise it's been a hell of a season for the Wilds' blue liner. First, he appeared in more than 60 games for the first time in three years (77 so far). Second, he set a career best with 16 goals, this after scoring 11 times the previous two years. Third, he tied his career best in assists while setting a new high in penalty minutes. When healthy, as he has been this year, he's a hell of a player.
Alex Pietrangelo, Blues
About the only thing he hasn't done is produce in the penalty minute category. After being unable to crack the everyday lineup in two abbreviated seasons, this '08 first round draft pick has exploded with a strong offensive showing built largely around even strength performance (he has 13 points on the power-play). The Blues have a lot of young talent to build around, and Pietrangelo is one of those foundational blocks.
James Reimer, Leafs
I could have gone with Corey Crawford, who has been the better goalie this season, but Crawford was, at worst, going to function as a part-time keeper for the Blackhawks this year. Reimer, on the other hand, wasn't drafted in a single league this season. Reimer was the main reason that the Leafs stayed into the playoff race until the last week of the season and has won seven of his last eight decisions. To think, all that from a mid-year waiver wire pickup.