Simon Gagne had 34 goals and 74 points in 79 games last season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
One of the great things about hockey is the mixture of skills and attributes athletes must possess to be successful. Size, speed, vision, hand-eye co-ordination, strength and anticipation all play roles in making an NHLer – and sometimes at least one of those is so tantalizing it can overshadow the lack of the others.
But at what point do we give up believing in a guy? In reality, “giving up” on a player only matters if you play fantasy hockey or if he plays for the home team, but since that covers a large swath of fans, let’s look at some players with boom-bust potential right now. Not surprisingly, injuries are often a factor.
Speed and skill are Max’s calling cards, but consistency and health were the problems in Buffalo before the Sabres let him walk this summer. Now, the nifty right winger is trying to catch on with the Thrashers down in Atlanta and the early returns are promising. â€¨â€¨
Afinogenov seems happy to be surrounded by familiar Soviet faces such as Ilya Kovalchuk, Nik Antropov and Slava Kozlov and has impressed coach John Anderson with his speed so far. â€¨â€¨According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Afinogenov has been staying with Kozlov in Atlanta and playing on a line with him. So can we expect to see the former Sabre get back to the 70-plus point level he is capable of?
It was clear Afinogenov’s time in Buffalo was up long ago and maybe that change of atmosphere is all he needs – that and a healed groin.
How’s this for a return on investment: In Minnesota’s weekend pre-season game against Chicago, Havlat and new linemate Petr Sykora combined to score the only three goals of the contest in a 3-0 victory. â€¨â€¨The Wild, of course, is charting out a new course in franchise philosophy under new coach Todd Richards and new GM Chuck Fletcher. This ‘new philosophy’ includes ‘offense’ and ‘goal-scoring’ and Havlat is the centerpiece.
And, yes, Havlat has been beset by injuries in the past and many believed last season’s 81-game attendance record in Chicago was a miracle, but maybe the black cloud has lifted.
Havlat has all the motivation in the world to set the West on fire this season after Chicago dumped him on free agency prom night and gave Marian Hossa the $62.8 million corsage instead. Plus, Havlat’s got his buddy Sykora in town now and Derek Boogaard to pummel anyone who even looks at the Czech star funny.
The franchise record for points in a season by a member of the Wild is 83 (Marian Gaborik, 2007-08). Havlat can beat that this year.
Basically everything I write here can be used to describe the aforementioned Gaborik (now with the Rangers) as well.
Gagne is a tremendously skilled winger with Olympic-quality talent who has problems with injuries to his core (and concussions). With training camps underway, Gagne is already feeling tightness in his surgically-repaired hips and that’s a very bad sign for Flyers fans (Gabbo is also less than 100 percent at New York’s camp).
I can imagine this drives serious fantasy poolies crazy. Gagne can score more than 70 points a season when he’s healthy, but his toxic cocktail of head and groin woes is disturbing. On the other hand, if everything’s fine, he makes Philly extraordinarily difficult to defend against.
Here’s hoping all these guys live up to their potential this year; it’s more fun for everyone when the best play against the best.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly throughout the off-season, his column - The Straight Edge - on Fridays, and his prospect feature - The Hot List - on Tuesdays.
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