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Players coming back to Earth

Troy Brouwer scored as many points (33) in 47 games last season as he did in 82 games the season prior. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Troy Brouwer scored as many points (33) in 47 games last season as he did in 82 games the season prior. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

In 1994-95, Alexei Zhamnov scored a career high 30 goals. The 65 points he earned would end up as the fourth-most in his 13-year career (with his highest total ever standing at 72).

That year was also the last time the NHL had a 48-game season.

Zhamnov clearly benefited from the shortened schedule, just as there are bound to be a few players who exceeded expectations in 2013 that will fall back to the pack over 82 games. With the larger sample size comes a greater opportunity for a slump – and for opponents to adapt.  

Who are the most likely players to fall short of their efforts in 2013? That’s the focus of this week’s Top 10.

10. Cory Conacher: The former American League MVP stormed out of the gates last season and was an early and, at one point, clear favorite for the Calder Trophy. But after scoring 18 points in his first 20 games, Conacher finished with 11 in his final 27 and was dealt to Ottawa at the deadline. So he already started to slow down. Will he reach 50 points, which would (likely) see him finish as a top five scorer on the Sens this season?

9. Andrew Ladd: The captain of the Jets had a monster season by his standards and a darn good one compared to most NHL stars. He scored 46 points, which was only four shy of his 82-game total in 2011-12. Will he keep up his pace and notch 78 points in 2013-14? That would improve his career high by 19 points.

8. Corey Crawford: The Blackhawks goalie posted terrific totals of .926 SP and 1.94 GAA last season, but even they were inflated some by the record-setting regulation unbeaten streak the Hawks put together at the start of the season. Through January and February, Crawford had a .942 SP and 1.37 GAA – the rest of the way he posted a .915  SP and 2.36 GAA, which was about in line with his 2010-11 totals. We’re not saying Crawford won’t be fine in Chicago’s net – we’re just saying his numbers were trending back to normal levels by the end of the short season.

7. Thomas Vanek: OK, so someone will have to do the scoring in Buffalo this season and Vanek is far and away the most likely candidate to lead the way. But to keep up his pace from last season, he’d have to set a career high mark of 88 points, which is about 25 points better than what his average output was the five seasons prior to last. We’ll consider that highly unlikely playing alongside Cody Hodgson and Ville Leino.

6. Chris Kunitz: Yes, Kunitz plays alongside Sidney Crosby, so his totals will never drop too low. However, for Kunitz to match his 48-game pace over 82 games, he’d have to score 88 points. Unlikely, considering his career high is 61.

5. Mike Ribeiro: With 49 points in 48 games, Ribeiro had his best PPG mark since the 2007-08 season, when he accumulated 83 points in 76 games. Ribeiro would have to equal that 83-point total over 82 games to match the points-per-game he earned with the Capitals last season. But, crucially to his inclusion on this list, he’s no longer on one of the most offensive teams in the league. Ribeiro signed up with the Phoenix Coyotes who, in the five seasons prior to the lockout, had a player go above the 60-point mark only four times. Shane Doan’s 78 points in 2007-08 represent the highest total by a Coyote in that time span.

4. Sergei Bobrovsky: When the Russian first arrived in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers, he turned a lot of heads with his flamboyant style of stopping pucks because it got results. In 54 games, he posted a .915 save percentage and 2.59 GAA. The cursed goalie nation seemed to finally have found a diamond in the rough. But the following season, after the arrival of Ilya Bryzgalov, Bobrovsky was much less awesome and much more awful – he posted .898 and 3.02 totals. So, which is it? Will Bobrovsky be able to maintain his Vezina performance? Here’s betting he won’t match his .932 SP and 2.00 GAA with Columbus over a full season.

3. Nazem Kadri: Since last season was Kadri’s first full (kind of) NHL season, there’s no track record to hold his point total up against. However, when you consider Kadri’s pace last year was better than the ones he set in the AHL the two years prior, it’s hard to imagine him continuing it over 82 NHL games. He’d have to finish with 75 points to match his 2013 pace – a total that would have made him the 18th highest scorer in 2011-12.

2. Kris Letang: An offensive defenseman on an attacking zone team, Letang’s output took a sharp uptick in 2011-12 and then went even higher in 2013. With 38 points in 35 games, Letang tied with Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban as the top blueline scorer – and he did it in seven fewer games. But despite this rising trend now three years running, does anyone expect Letang to hit 89 points to match last year’s pace? The last time any defenseman even hit 80 was Nicklas Lidstrom in 2005-06 – the free-flowing first year after the lost season.

1. Troy Brouwer: The Washington Capitals didn’t get Brouwer for his scoring, but he posted similar totals over 47 games last season to what he had posted over full seasons the three years prior. The 19 goals he scored was the second-highest mark of his career. His NHL-high for points is 40, but he’d have to register 58 points this season to keep up his short season pace.

The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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