Comeback Candidates

Updated: January 16, 2012 at 12:01 am by Ryan Campbell

Everyone who has played hockey, no matter the level, is familiar with those days when absolutely nothing goes your way offensively.  Your shot from the slot strikes iron, or the teammate you gave a breakaway pass to falls victim to the dreaded rolling puck and doesn’t even get a shot off.  These things happen, and unfortunately sometimes seem to last for weeks.  NHL players are no different, and bad luck is part of the game.  However, like in every aspect of life, bad luck doesn’t last forever, and greener pastures lie just over the horizon.  The following is a list of players who have had some bad luck so far this season, and are good candidates to have a better second half.

Drew Doughty

After a relatively disappointing year last season, fantasy owners were hoping that Doughty would regain his 2009-10 form, when he was a fantasy force.  Unfortunately, Doughty is having the worst season of his career since his rookie campaign, at least from a fantasy perspective.  He currently has 17 points and a -1 rating, making him a #2 defender at best on a fantasy squad, his value salvaged only by his 32 PIMS.  Fortunately, it seems like Doughty is largely the victim of a string of bad luck.

He is currently the owner of the 20th worst on-ice even strength shooting percentage in the NHL, due largely in part to playing for the Los Angeles Kings, who have the lowest shooting percentage in the NHL at 6.7%.  This has led to a grand total of 9 even strength points in 37 games, As such, he is producing points at a pace of 0.76 per 60 minutes, tied with offensive luminary Roman Polak.  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to tell you that Doughty has more offensive talent than a guy like Polak and he should turn it around.  His Corsi Rating of 14.49 is 6th best among NHL defenceman, so he is doing a good job of generating offence while preventing the other team from getting to the net.  Neither his point total or his plus/minus currently reflect this.  This may be a symptom of a larger systematic problem in LA, but if they can manage to get their conversion rate closer to league average, Doughty will be the main beneficiary.

Derick Brassard

If only I had a nickel for every time someone said this will be the week/month/year/decade Brassard is going to break out.  For what seems like forever, he has been tabbed as the man destined to set-up Rick Nash.  Unfortunately, he has failed to deliver and has scored 122 points in 234 games, numbers unworthy of a fantasy roster spot.

He currently owns an on-ice shooting percentage of 4.6%, one spot below Doughty.  Like Doughty, he is the victim of a team that cannot seem to convert their scoring chances, as the Jackets 7.6% team shooting percentage ranks better than only LA.  However, as Alexander covered yesterday, there is a new coach on the way, and Brassard’s advanced statistics demonstrate that he is one of the more competent players on the Blue Jackets.  I certainly wouldn’t pick up his 12 points and -16 rating at this point, but it is worth monitoring his ice time.  He won’t be a top 2 center by any stretch of the imagination, but if he can put up 0.6 points per game and an even rating as some of his underlying numbers suggest, he does have value in deeper leagues.

Dustin Penner

Obviously, Penner is currently out of commission due to a pancake related incident, but he is another guy worth keeping an eye on, as much as it pains me to say it.  Having watched him play a lot a hockey, I can safely say that very few players can dominate a shift like Penner.  The problem is he rarely seems interested in playing hockey, and spends most of his time thinking about his next meal, or funny lines for reporters after the game.  This is evidence by the 9 points he has scored this season, to go along with the 6 he produced in 19 games following his trade from Edmonton last season. However, the underlying stats paint an interesting picture.

Like the previous two guys, Penner is suffering from an abysmal 4.98% on-ice shooting percentage, not to mention a personal shooting percentage of 3.6%.  However, he is 8th in the NHL with a Corsi Rating of 20.40.  I understand the beef some people have with this statistic, but it is hard to argue when the remaining top 10 in the NHL are Malkin, the Sedin’s, Datsyuk, Kesler, Neal, Kunitz, J.Staal, and Steen, all who are having either solid or excellent seasons.

I haven’t watched enough Kings hockey this season to back these numbers up with my eyes, but having watched a hundred Penner games in Edmonton, I know he does have the potential to be this kind of player.  He is worth following once he gets his wonky back under control and promises to stay away from the flapjacks.


*A quick note on on-ice shooting percentage.  I often discuss how shooting percentage is prone to random fluctuations, and while this is certainly the case, it is a bit more stable at the lower end of the spectrum.  For obvious reasons, guys like Zenon Konopka don’t exactly produce high quality scoring opportunities, either for themselves or their linemates.   The bottom of the leaderboard for shooting percentage is generally littered with 4th line scrubs and fighters.  However, there are exceptions every once in a while like Doughty.  While there is no guarantee that he will rebound, and bad luck can easily last an entire 82 game schedule, he is just as safe of a bet moving forward as an equally talented player who is currently sitting in the 9-10% range.  The difference is that because of his counting stats, his value is depressed, and you may be able to acquire him on the cheap.


Derick Brassard, Drew Doughty, Dustin Penner