Whether it is rule changes, injuries, new faces in new places or any of the myriad of potential factors. This season the biggest factor will be the condensed schedule. It is believe the biggest factor of a condensed season will be injuries. The health of any team, whether in the NHL or for fantasy purposes, usually plays a big role in their success.
The most recent comparison is the NBA following their lockout last season. When their players finally hit the hardwood the number of one-game absences because of injury over the season’s first 60 days rose 62.9 per cent year over year. The NBA alleviated this by allowing teams to increase their active roster to 13 players from 12, and coaches adjusted by liberally using their benches, boosting the minutes of the reserves. This created a lot of opportunity for the savvy fantasy manager, as well as headache for others.
With the season just around the corner here is a list of last year’s top 10 scoring players as well as reason why they will or won’t be in the same position when the 2013 regular season ends.
Evgeni Malkin – A shortened season gave Malkin more time to rest his knee. However, a condensed schedule could lead to a few nights off or even worse reaggravating his injury. The same could be said for Crosby, but a concussion is more of a fluke injury than the wear and tear of an NHL schedule on a knee.
Steven Stamkos - Perhaps the only candidate to put up 30 goals this year. Depending on how he plays, scheduling and if he stays healthy we could spend a small portion of the season wondering if he could touch 48 goals in 48 games à la Maurice Richard’s 50 goals in 50 games in 1944-45.
Claude Giroux – This young Flyer’s career was just beginning to peak. However, an injury at the hands of Sidney Crosby in last season’s playoffs. The extra time off should be a good thing for the young centre and some of the talent around him will be taking their games to the next level as well so he should find his place in the top 10.
Jason Spezza – Nobody expects the Senators to repeat their offensive explosion again this season. However, with their depleted defense corps the Sens could find themselves in a few shootouts again. There is no reason to think he won’t be in the top 10 again.
Ilya Kovalchuk – The biggest issue for him cracking the top 10 in scoring again next season will be if he is even playing in the NHL. Personally, I believe that is a non-starter and he’ll be back in the NHL and destroying goalies once again.
Phil Kessel – Three things could keep Kessel from reaching the top 10 in scoring again. 1) Linemates? Does the Van Remsdyke experiment work at centre and which Lupul shows up? 2) How does he fit in under coach Randy Carlyle? 3) His trends. Kessel has often had more success in the first half of the season. Whether it is the calendar, schedule, fatigue, pressure or fluke it is a career trend. Just last year he started off October to December at a pace of 1.16 points per game and 0.55 goals per game (38 games). In the second half January to April he put 0.86 points per game and 0.36 goals per game (44 games). Will he produce like the first half of the season this year? If so the Leafs stand a good chance at the playoffs and Kessel could finish atop the league in points. If not, it will be the same refrain this summer for Leaf fans.
James Neal – It appears Neal will be playing with Malkin again to start the season. Given the chemistry with the two the scoring winger should have very similar numbers to the past season. The overwhelming amount of offense on the Penguins shouldn’t affect Neal’s icetime as they are slim on offensive production from the wings.
John Tavares – Tavares quietly put us a career year last season with 81 points. He increased his production by 13 points after his rookie season and 14 points after his sophomore season. It will be interesting to see if he can keep this trend up. He will start the season with either Boyes or Okposo. A comeback season by either could help him increase his points per game.
Henrik Sedin – Sedin has been a top point-getter for years now. There is no reason to think he’ll struggle out of the gate.
Patrik Elias – It will be interesting to see if Elias has much left in his 36 year-old legs. It sure looked like it during the playoff run last year. However, a condensed season doesn’t forecast to be very forgiving to older players.
Players who could creep into the Top 10:
Sidney Crosby – A healthy Crosby is a lock for a finish among the top three point-getters. His ability to stay healthy still has to be a question mark.
Eric Staal – The most offense he has played with since the Cup run in 2005.
Joe Thornton – Does he have another point-per game season in him?
Marian Gaborik – Will the addition of Rick Nash increase or decrease his productivity?
Jamie Benn/Loui Eriksson – Both players were close to the top of the league in points-per game last year. Is this the year they make the jump.
Marian Hossa – More than a decade as a perennial threat to lead the league in scoring, but injuries usually stop him in his tracks.
Jordan Eberle – With all the talent in Oil Country can last year’s leading scoring make the jump.
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