Contract years will affect last year's top scorers

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Sedin.jpgWe all have different philosophies about what drives success and results in sports. One thing that always dominates my predictions is contract years. Going by the Gordon Gekko principle of “Greed is good,” I often assume that a great player will be even better with that financial carrot dangling. It’s not always true (just look at Marc Savard’s troublesome 2009-10 season or, conversely, Henrik Sedin’s great post-contract year), but it’s a good rule of thumb.

Puck Daddy put out a very interesting post today that took a look at which of last season’s top 20 scoring players are “trending” up or down compared to last season. It’s a great read, but I couldn’t help but throw my own two cents (based on my own assumptions, philosophies and prejudices) for who might improve or decline.

Henrik Sedin

PD’s take: trending up; My take: trending down.

Reasoning: Look, I’ll always have a soft spot for the Sedin twins. After all, I named my old blog after them. That being said, Henrik Sedin had more assists last season than his previous career high in points. He saw a 30-point increase from the 08-09 season to 09-10. What do those numbers tell me? That he had a “perfect storm” season last year and it might be a little bold to expect more from next season. My guess is he “regresses” to 100 points in 10-11.

Steven Stamkos

PD’s take: trending down; My take: trending up.

Reasoning: This is the first of the contract year guys who could make a big impact in 10-11. Greg Wyshynski thinks that Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis will improve next year and the Lightning added some nice players including Simon Gagne this summer; in other words, the supporting cast around Stamkos will be quite a bit better this season. All of these factors make me think he’ll either match his 95-point total or improve upon it, as long as he’s healthy.

brichardstrendingup.jpgBrad Richards

PD’s take: trending down; My take: trending up.

Reasoning: Once again, this is a contract year (and supporting cast) based observation. For the latter, the Dallas Stars couldn’t get much worse than they were last season. Let’s not forget how well Richards did in his last contract year, either; the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup with a big assist from a Conn Smythe-worthy performance from Richards. Just saying.

Alex Semin

PD’s take: trending down; My take: trending up.

Reasoning: Sure, last season was a contract year for Semin too but this season is enormously important for Semin’s future. Will he be a member of the Washington Capitals after this season? Trade bait for a defenseman during the trade deadline? Either way, I’m not too worried about his linemates; he played quite a bit with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom last season and will certainly get time with them on the powerplay if nothing else. The fact of the matter is that Semin puts up plenty of points per game but cannot seem to stay healthy. What if he actually put together an 82-game season?

OK, that might be asking for too much, but the explosive Russian winger could top 40 goals and 84 points, though.

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Anyway, that’s just my take on who might see better or worse seasons. Obviously, I fixate on contract years, but I think there’s some fire to go with that salary-focused smoke. I agree with a lot of Wyshynski’s assessments (especially Marian Gaborik trending down and Evgeni Malkin trending up), but I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject for the sake of discussion. Click here to read his picks.

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    Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

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    BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

    Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

    There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

    It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

    Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

    Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

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    Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

    The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

    It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

    Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

    Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

    Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
    Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

    Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

    The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

    “Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

    Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

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    In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.

    Video: This Kane-to-Panarin goal is all sorts of ridiculous

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    When people were arguing against Artemi Panarin‘s Calder case, they often discounted his work because of Patrick Kane‘s brilliance (at least when they weren’t focusing on age questions).

    It always felt a little unfair to Panarin.

    Do we blame a great wide receiver playing with an adept quarterback? Sure, it’s an interesting discussion to have, but it seems fairly clear that there’s a symbiotic relationship between Panarin and Kane.

    One could see that plainly in a 1-0 goal for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins that … admittedly was driven by Kane’s almost audacious creativity and skill.

    But still, Panarin has 26 goals this season because he’s really good, too. This season has been a nice showcase for such thoughts, and a reminder that – like most great combinations – they make each other better.

    (Seriously though, Kane was out of his mind there.)

    ‘Old Time Hockey’ video game takes a bit of an early beating from reviewers

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    From the sound of things, “Old Time Hockey” is a video game with a lot of heart, but maybe not the skills to make it to the big time.

    While “NHL 17” is pumped out by publishing giant EA Sports, this title is very much an independent labor of love by a company called V7 Entertainment. Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy provided a great interview with the developers here. It’s worth noting that the game reminds one of 8-bit titles in another way: lacking an NHL license, these teams are instead fictional. This isn’t necessarily a drawback as much as it provides the title with its own unique “flavor.”

    It’s hard not to get behind a scrappy development, especially in an age where sports video game options are so scarce. Some leagues barely see any licensed games any longer (see: the MLB, which feels woefully misrepresented these days), and the arcade-style that “Blades of Steel” and other old-school games popularized is even tougher to come by.

    Combine these factors with an aesthetic inspired by “Slap Shot” and “Old Time Hockey” seems like it could really scratch an itch … except, it sounds like the puck missed the net.

    So far, reviews are pretty mixed for the title, which is currently on PC and Playstation 4 (with planned releases on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch).

    While there are a few good reviews here and there, the general reception is of disappointment.

    A Sporting News review states that “the promising premise falls apart quickly.” Game Informer slams a “slew-footed story mode.” PC Gamer notes that, with EA not releasing an NHL game on that platform since 2008, there was a need here … but it wasn’t met.

    Does that mean there’s no fun to be had? Not necessarily, but it’s a bummer that the game might be off the mark, especially since V7 Entertainment seems to have its heart in the right place.

    Then again, maybe those who want that “NHL 94” fix merely need to dig a little. As this Vice article points out, there’s still an active community playing the sort of game that scratches the itch that “Old Time Hockey” – perhaps – can’t quite reach.