Last week, we took a closer look at five of the biggest surprises in this NHL fantasy season, which featured such players as Joffrey Lupul, Radim Vrbata and Brian Elliott. The majority of feedback received from that post focused on a perceived glaring omission from the list – Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, who’s emerged as the leading scorer among all NHL defencemen by a country mile this season.
For the record, the decision to leave Karlsson off was based primarily on his Yahoo! Fantasy ranking change from a year go – in 2010-11 he finished the season as the #103-ranked player in the NHL, while this season, he has vaulted himself into the top ten, where he currently sits eighth. Still, despite only jumping those 95 ranking spots in 2011-12, he is undeniably the NHL’s breakout player of the year, and it might even be fair to say that no one truly saw this coming from the 21-year-old Swede. A surprise performer, certainly worthy of making the list.
Now for the fun part – a chance to rip in to some of the biggest fantasy busts this season. For the sake of this exercise, let’s leave out the guys who suffered major injuries this season (you got lucky this time, Havlat) and focus on the players who failed to, at the very least, live up to expectations on the scoresheet.
ALEX OVECHKIN – WASHINGTON CAPITALS
On draft day, there were surely some (myself included) who made the decision to select Ovie, based largely on reputation, high in the first round (in my case, 2nd overall) in their non-keeper pools. What a mistake that turned out to be. Ovechkin, like an unsharpened skate, has lost the edge. His overall attitude has translated into the, dare I say, FORMER Russian superstar not providing the consistent effort on the ice game-in an game-out necessary to produce at an elite fantasy level. His stats are rapidly decline season to season; Ovie’s on pace for a paltry 65 points this year, down 20 from 2010-11 (85 Pts), which were already down 24 from the previous 2009-10 season (109 Pts). Caps management can take solace in the fact that he ONLY has 9-years, $88 million remaining on his contact.
JEFF CARTER – LOS ANGELES KINGS
Will the real Jeff Carter please stand up? This year has been a disappointment for Carter, as well as Fantasy GM’s hoping for big things in his new home in Columbus. Clearly, his trade out of Philly – just one year after signing a mega long-term deal to stay there – had a profound impact on the 27-year-old sniper, who’s managed to only light the lamp 15 times this season, down from 36 in 2010-11. The recent move to LA hasn’t paid immediate dividends either; Carter has been held pointless in his first three games with the Kings.
ILYA BRYZGALOV – PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren shocked the hockey world last offseason when he shipped out the aforementioned Carter, along with Mike Richards, in order to bring in Ilya Bryzgalov to address Philadelphia’s goaltending problem. Instead, Bryzgalov, referred to as “Universe” by teammates for his “out there” personality revealed during HBO’s 24/7, has turned out to be a flake. The bad news for Fantasy GM’s is the fact that he’s digressing as the stretch drive approaches. The 31-year-old hasn’t won consecutive games now in over a month, and his inflated 2.79 GAA and .898 SV% are nowhere near good enough – by his, or anyone else’s standards.
LUBOMIR VISNOVSKY – ANAHEIM DUCKS
You have to wonder if there’s something seriously wrong with Lubo – either physically or mentally – for him to suffer such a dramatic drop off in point production this season. The leader among all NHL defencemen a year ago (68 points), Visnovsky has been stuck on a pathetic 22 points for the last 10 games and counting. Next year is the contract year for the 35-year-old Czech native, so expect a bounce back year in 2012-13. But that hardly softens the blow of what can only be described as a horrendous offensive season with the Ducks this year.
BOBBY RYAN – ANAHEIM DUCKS
Daily Faceoff founding father Ryan Campbell was all over this one early, warning against taking Ryan as a potential late first-round selection, largely due to his inadequacies in power play production. He couldn’t have been more spot on. Ryan’s numbers are down considerably this year from last, when the former 2nd overall pick (2005) recorded 71 points while playing on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. While Ryan still has an outside shot at 30 goals, he’s basically on pace for a 50-point season – and only 3 PPGs – while toiling on the second line in Anaheim.
Dishonorable Mention: Christian Ehrhoff (BUF), Chris Stewart (STL), Corey Crawford (CHI), Brandon Dubinsky (NYR), Danny Briere (PHI), Rene Bourque (MTL), Alexander Semin (WSH), Tomas Vokoun (WSH), Mike Cammalleri (CGY), James Reimer (TOR).
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