When you think "bounce-back players," he'd be high on the list: A 22-year-old goalie who won the Calder with a 2.29 GAA and 10 shutouts, and whose sophomore slump is the stuff of hockey infamy. You want to believe the kid can rebound, that he won't be another name in the long, painful history of young NHL goalies that never delivered on their promise.
But are you convinced he'll find his game again in 2010-11?
Other players who struggled mightily last season have a better shot at redemption. As you'll see on the following list, many of them couldn't handle a change behind the bench or the weight of their own contracts in 2009-10.
Now, they're 10 players primed for a comeback season.
When the Wild were philosophically dedicated to smothering (and tedious) defensive hockey, Backstrom's numbers were stellar: Three years in which his GAA didn't rise above 2.33 and his save percentage never dipped below .920.
Out goes Jacques Lemaire for 2009-10. In comes Todd Richards. His Goals Against Average balloons to 2.72 in 58 starts, his save percentage plummets to .903 and he manages just two shutouts.
There are reasons to believe that Backstrom was a trap-aided keeper who was exposed last season. But if anything, he's just like every NHL goalie: He found it hard to be good when the team in front of him (a) has training wheels on for a new coach's system and (b) it's very good, despite costing more than the gross national product of Liechtenstein.
I know that there certainly were a few goals he more or less was powerless to stop but he also gave up more 'soft' goals than Wild fans are accustomed to seeing. Backstrom also faced more traffic near his crease and at times it seemed to bother the normally calm Helsinki-native. Unfortunately, an inconsistent Backstrom sometimes spelt doom for the Wild even when they seemed to be capable of creating offense.
Can he rebound? The conditions are favorable: Second year in the system, a team that should be better than last season (by default) and one year making $6 million annually under his belt. He's not worth that money in a downgraded goalie market, but he should regain form this season if he's healthier than last year.
Bouwmeester's contract looks preposterously antiquated next to those signed this offseason; hell, even Sergei Gonchar(notes) was under $6 million against the cap on a 3-year deal. His offensive output last season -- 3 goals and 26 points, a point below his previous year with the Florida Panthers -- led to widespread labeling of J-Bouw as J-Bust.
Of course, that doesn't take into account how underwhelming Calgary was and the intangibles Bouwmeester brought to Calgary in his considerable ice time. He wasn't terrible; just disappointing, as Coach Brent Sutter told FanHouse:
"Jay has to be better, like all of us do. Last year was his first with us and his first getting accustomed to my style. He is an outstanding all-around defenseman. Everyone knows the level of talent he has. I'm confident he is going to have a great year for us."
The Flames figure to be better offensively than the team that managed just 204 goals in 2009-10. Bouwmeester should trump his goal and point totals from last season ... even if he still won't live up the contract.
You could argue the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft wasn't one of the top 3 rookie defensemen in the League last season. But he averaged 20:50 TOI per game, with time on special teams, and was only a minus-3 for the season -- best on the team among regulars.
Twenty points in 74 games showed his offensive potential. The Lightning bolstered their blue line with the likes of Pavel Kubina(notes), so Hedman might have the luxury of both a year under his belt and additional support on defense.
In the meantime, he might be the NHL's foremost authority on books written by porn stars, which should count for something.
Harntell's goal output dropped considerably from an average of 25.3 over the last four seasons to just 14 last year for the Flyers, failing to replace what left with Mike Knuble(notes) in free agency. From Broad Street Buzz, the Fartsmell Conundrum:
I'm all mixed up because of what we saw in the playoffs. He was hungry, he didn't take stupid penalties, and he scored timely goals. But can he sustain that type of play for an entire regular season, and have a repeat performance in the playoffs? He should have it in him.
Based on his career averages, he should have a bounce-back in him. Hell, even Serena Williams is ducking Sideshow Bob during his road to resurgence.
Alas, the most noteworthy action for Havlat as a member of the Wild probably occurred on Twitter before the season. Otherwise, his season was exactly as his critics envisioned it: Injury-plagued and ineffective, as his offensive numbers dropped from this outstanding season with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008-09 (from 77 points down to 54) and he sported a dismal minus-19.
It was Havlat's lowest points-per-game total (0.74) since he was a 20 year old with the Ottawa Senators (0.69), and it came in the first year of a massive free-agent contract. Like his Minnesota goaltender Backstrom, a year in Todd Richards's system and living with the contract hype will ease the pressure for Year 2.
Smart money's on him regaining form, unless he becomes Gaborik Part Deux with the wonky groin.
As with other players here, there's no getting around the fact that Horcoff is woefully overpaid for his production, to the tune of $5.5 million against the cap and $6.5 million in base salary next season. For what? Thirty-six points and a minus-29 last season, after a 53-point campaign the previous year.
He can rebound from last season if he's given something to work with; last season saw him skate primarily with Fernando Pisani(notes) and someone who used to be Ethan Moreau(notes). If not, then Lowetide may be right in its great assessment of Horcoff last season: "If Horcoff's offense continues to erode and the club ends up with a 30-point C making $5.5M then we have our 'Bobby Holik(notes) is a Ranger' centerman."
Brassard signed a 4-year contract extension to start the season. It was all downhill from there.
His first full season produced 36 points in 79 games with
just nine goals; he scored 10 in 31 games in the previous campaign. He's a
vital offensive weapon on a team that doesn't exactly have an arsenal. New
Jackets coach Scott Arniel told The Sporting News he's already chatted with
the young pivot:
Well, that's comforting. Now score some [expletive] goals.
I just wanted to hear what he had to say about what he sees himself as. I'm not one to live in the past, I was more concerned about moving forward. He said his shoulder is feeling a lot better. He's got himself physically better and felt more comfortable as the season wore on. I just wanted to listen to how he spoke, how he felt. He really seems to care about the success of the team and cares about where we are going.
Yet another player who signed a free-agent deal and then crapped the bed. His point total dropped by 21 from his previous (contract) year, and his ineffective play helped dig a hole for the B's. From Sportsnet:
He'll be looking to rebound from an '09-10 season that saw him post 17-35-52. While still decent stats, those totals represented a drop from the 22-51-73 tallied in his breakout '08-9 campaign. The Globe notes that he went into last season recovering from hip surgery, which, he said, contributed to his slow start.
"My first half of last season was slow. I wasn't producing,'' said the 24-year-old native of the Czech Republic. "A few weeks before the Olympics I picked up my game and my second half of the year was very good.
"I need to start the way I finished last year. It's not easy. I believe if I've done it two years ago all season, and if I've done it last year for the second half, I don't see any reason why I shouldn't start the same way.''
His second-half performance and a surgically repaired right wrist offer hope that Krejci's numbers will improve this season.
The thing to know about Ribeiro and the Dallas Stars is that they tried to make him an ex-Star this summer. He was on the block, but the jammed up transaction market didn't produce a trade. Or maybe the allure of a 53-point center with declining numbers and impact ain't what it used to be.
If he's going to bounce back into a player flirting with 80 points, he may need to do it elsewhere. Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News had a terrific psychological profile of Ribeiro and his place on the Stars:
Dave Tippett loved Ribeiro's style of play, and Tippett helped foster the best years of his career as the team's No. 1 center. Marc Crawford loves Brad Richards'(notes) play and has helped foster Richards' ascension. And that has been difficult for Ribeiro. Crawford pushes 45 second shifts where you get on the ice, get on the attack at high speed and then turn it over to the next line. He loves to get his lines in a flow and wants to use that flow to try to find the best match-up, not only against the other team but between his forwards and defenseman. Ribeiro likes a slower pace where he can sort of meander around the ice and pick spots. He has said before that he believes the end of a long shift is often when he can strike because the defense is tired and loses its focus. He is an extremely patient player in an impatient system.
It's a great read, pointing to one bit of speculation: That Riberio will be a Dallas center to start the season, and that it's on him to fit Marc Crawford's needs rather than the other way around.
He's on a 1-year, $1.6 million contract with the Panthers to prove his value as an NHL player after bouncing from the Montreal Canadiens to the New York Rangers to the Calgary Flames then down to Florida in the last year. (Talk about the law of diminishing returns.) His career high 27 goals in 2007-08 linger on the brain, but the hockey vagabond had just 8 in 68 games last season.
And if this hockey thing doesn't work out, there's always Olympic swimming relay races with Mike Komisarek.