Every season the NHL sees the toppling of giants due to regression, age, or a combination of the two. Unless one’s name is Jaromir Jagr, everyone is susceptible to steps backwards from one season to the next.
The past two seasons saw Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards drop in production, with each of the pair retiring following the season in which it happened. This season should be no different, so let’s take a look at some candidates to see their performance drop in the upcoming campaign.
A classic example of an ultra-talented player that has finally aged to the point where he cannot keep up. A popular joke has become comparing Chara to Robert Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon as Chara watches the youth of the NHL skate circles around him.
Thus far in the World Cup of Hockey, Chara’s Team Europe has seen the Under-23 team score four goals while he’s been on the ice, speeding past him as he attempts to maintain his first pair defenseman role. The reality of the situation for Chara is that his first pair days are behind him, yet he is still needed to play the big minutes.
The Boston Bruins lack of depth on defense will place Chara in a role against top competition once again, meaning when the likes of Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid come to Boston, Chara will be tasked with keeping up with the speedsters. Offensively he managed a fine 0.46 points per game last season, but the number was a far cry from his 0.66 points per game in 2012.
Chara posted a negative relative Corsi For percentage in 5-on-5 play for the first time in his career last season, as well as posting a below even Corsi For percentage. The season was likely the first major sign of his decline, something that can happen rather swiftly in today’s fleet-footed NHL.
With Chara constantly being exploited in difficult matchups, look for the previously perennial Norris Trophy contender to have a down season.
Continuing with the theme of aging superstars, Patrick Marleau should be considered this season’s Martin St. Louis. Marleau was a non-factor in the San Jose Sharks’ postseason run, scoring only five goals in 24 games.
He ranked 15th out of 19 Sharks skaters that played 40 or more games in even strength Goals For percentage, with a 40.40 percent mark, serving as an anchor rather than a helping hand. In the regular season, Marleau managed only three even strength goals in the final 46 games of the season, despite being playing with Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and Joe Thornton at times.
Marleau’s inability to contribute offensively will likely lead him into Peter DeBoer’s doghouse this season, unless he has another fast start to fall back on. The Sharks have a bounty of options offensively, meaning if Marleau struggles, he can easily be replaced in the lineup at any point.
The long-time Shark did score 0.59 points per game last season, so he likely will still get a lot of leeway for struggles in the coming campaign. Look for Marleau’s numbers to drop once again, but remain a mainstay in the lineup.
Brassard is a case much different from Chara and Marleau. At 28 years old, most would expect Brassard to see his game improve. He is not expected to struggle with the speed of the NHL, nor is he looking at any change in the competition he will be facing.
He changed scenes this offseason by moving in a trade from the New York Rangers to the Ottawa Senators, but his role as a top six center and power play leader should remain the same. Where Brassard’s regression will come from is the mere fact that he was an incredibly lucky player last season.
He scored at a 14.8 percent clip last season, far higher than the 11.3 percent he posted in each of the previous two seasons. As Brassard’s shooting percentage regresses back to his career average, a likely scenario, his goal totals will come down.
He’ll also be playing alongside new teammates, meaning there will be some time needed for the building of chemistry between linemates. Over the past three seasons, Brassard has had a steady linemate in Mats Zuccarello, and he’s benefitted greatly from the winger’s seemingly magical passes.
Time will tell how Brassard is impacted by the trade, but his shooting percentage points towards clear regression, and his change of scenery could slow him down some as well.