The Trash Heap: The First Half’s Biggest Fantasy Busts
We’ve just recently crossed the halfway point of the season and plenty of surprises and positive story lines have presented themselves. I can only imagine what the parlay of a Columbus Blue Jackets 10+ game winning streak and a Minnesota Wild 10+ game winning streak would pay. Former depth players like Michael Grabner, Pat Maroon, and Sam Gagner are lighting up goaltenders around the league, a class of rookies as deep as any in recent years has stepped forward to become critical pieces of their team’s success, and former basement dwellers like the Jackets and Oilers look to be well on their way back to the playoffs.
Of course, with any season also comes plenty of disappointments. My Nashville Predators can’t win on the road, the Florida Panthers are doing God-knows-what, Johnny Tavares is stuck in Brooklyn all by himself, the Avalanche are even worse than predicted, and the league somehow allowed the Vancouver Canucks to win six straight hockey games. Craziness.
One of my favorite mid-season things to look at are the many stars (or former stars) that have been completely underwhelming and who have almost single-handedly ruined their many fantasy hockey league lineups, and as the calendar turns to 2016 there is no shortage of disappointments. For this week’s Trash Heap, I figured I’d take a look at the five most disappointing players that should’ve been drafted in the majority of fantasy leagues and try to figure out what’s going wrong:
5. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
38 GP: 4 G, 16 A, 20 PTS, -3, 12 PIM, 76 SOG, 20:47 TOI
I can guarantee that nobody in hockey saw this coming from Anze Kopitar. There have been plenty of top-end centremen who have struggled to score so far this season (the likes of Joe Thornton, Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Tavares, Patrice Bergeron, and Jonathan Toews immediately come to mind), but perhaps none have slumped harder than Raccoon Jesus. Kopitar has hit at least 60 points in all nine non-lockout seasons he’s played (including six seasons of 70+ points), but at this stage of the year is on pace for 42. He’s scored only four times, with one of those goals coming Monday night, and his assist totals are down since his line mates can’t score either.
Not all hope is lost though, as his possession metrics (including an elite 59.2% Corsi rating) are close to his career high’s while his shooting percentage has fallen to 5.4% – or below half his career average of 12.1%. He’s had fewer high percentage scoring chances then he’s accustomed to, but his slump is largely driven by bad luck. If you own him in your fantasy league, stay patient. If you don’t, now would be a good time to try and buy low before his scoring rates rebound.
4. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
29 GP: 7 G, 6 A, 13 PTS, -10, 30 PIM, 58 SOG, 18:45 TOI
Something tells me it won’t be long before we refer to him as “Gabe Landeskog, former captain of the Colorado Avalanche.” 2011’s 2nd overall pick hasn’t quite developed into the dominant power forward he looked like in junior, and now the trade winds are beginning to swirl. He’s missed some time due to injury this season but he’s been less than mediocre when he’s been in the lineup. His production and shot generation is the lowest it has ever been and his seven goals are resulting from a career high 12.1% shooting percentage. His ice time has climbed up over 19 minutes per night over the last two weeks and he only has two points to show for it. In fact, if you ignore his two-goal night against the Flames on December 27th, he’s got 2-3=5 in his last 19 games with a -11 rating.
He’s still only 24 years old and provides a lot of value outside of scoring, and maybe a change of scenery benefits both parties. The pit of despair that is the Colorado Avalanche seems to have finally swallowed up the Captain.
3. Brian Elliott, Calgary Flames
20 GP: 8-10-1, 2.95 GAA, .889 SV%, 0 SO, 1,167 MIN
If you’re a Flames fan you must be thanking the Man Upstairs everyday that they managed to land Chad Johnson in free agency because, oh boy, has Brian Elliott ever stunk. Calgary acquired Elliott from the Blues for a 1st round pick, and things have gone south from that day forward. He was brought in to lend some experience and stability to the Calgary crease and to give them their first legitimate starting goalie since Miikka Kiprusoff, and by Game 4 of the season he lost his starter’s job. Getting shellacked by the Oilers on back to back nights can often make a team reevaluate its entire process.
It’s not a complete shock that Elliott has struggled, so maybe it’s not fair to call him a bust. Even still, I don’t think anyone expected him to be this bad, especially in October. Over his career, he’s been an average to above-average goaltender and has a .914 save percentage, putting him in line with the midpoint of the league. If you take his time with the Blues away though, the numbers don’t shine nearly as brightly. He posted a .903 save percentage during his three years in Ottawa, followed by .893 in Colorado and .889 in Calgary. All of those people who said Elliott was a product of the St. Louis system seem to be right, although he’s been getting a bit better as of late. I’d expect that him Johnson will continue to share the crease until the end of the regular season.
2. Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators
33 GP: 7 G, 7 A, 14 PTS, -1, 10 PIM, 53 SOG, 15:18 TOI
What on Earth has happened to Bobby Ryan? This guy has seemingly been getting worse every year and is now on pace for the lowest output of his career across almost every category. Although he hasn’t hit 30 goals since his time in Anaheim, he’s been a lock for 20+ goals and 50+ points along with being a powerplay force. He’s going to need a big second half if he wants to clear 40 points this year.
The decision to pay him $7.25 million per year until 2022 was already met with skepticism the day the contract was signed, but now he doesn’t even look like a guy who should be earning half of that. He had a “bad” season last year while registering 180+ shots and 16 powerplay points. This year he’s on pace for about 120 and seven, respectively. His ice time is down by almost two minutes compared to his career average and is dwindling by the day. He also mysteriously missed a game on Saturday and Sens coach / noted Bond villain Guy Boucher won’t (or can’t) explain why. Barring some sort of miraculous turnaround, the bad Bobby Ryan contract is only going to get worse as time goes on.
1. Andrew Ladd, New York Islanders
38 GP: 8 G, 4 A, 12 PTS, -9, 28 PIM, 61 SOG, 16:04 TOI
Speaking of terrible contracts, this man here might have the worst in the league and it was signed a mere seven months ago. Seven years at $5.5 million per for a 31 year-old secondary scorer is never a good idea, and yet – despite numerous examples of similar contracts also being immediate busts – NHL GM’s can’t help themselves. Ladd’s best years have been of the 20-goal 50-point variety with his best season coming during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, and his production has declined since then. He’s been given numerous opportunities to be John Tavares’ trigger man and still hasn’t been able to score. His eight goals thus far puts him on pace for 17, although half of those goals have come in his last six games. His ice time has been dropping significantly, with him averaging under 14 minutes in recent weeks. In fact, he’s only logged two nights of 17+ minutes since mid-October.
A large decrease in his shot production has also raised a lot of red flags, meaning his lack of production isn’t due to bad puck luck. He’s only on pace for 132 shots after registering 184 and 224 in the past two seasons. His PIMs and hit totals are also down, further sapping his fantasy value. Ladd’s a guy who is becoming a waiver-wire fantasy player and a bottom-six calibre scorer, and I don’t like his chances of ever coming close to the 30-goal scorer the Islanders (apparently) thought he’d become.