Anatomy of an undervalued hockey player



Niclas Bergfors. Tyler Kennedy. Torrey Mitchell. Scott Gomez. Martin Hanzal. Scottie Upshall. Nikolay Zherdev. Peter Regin. Michael Frolik.

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What do all nine of these players have in common?

They all had unlucky seasons, with low production numbers despite strong performance and underlying numbers, and are, hopefully, on the track to turn it around this season and benefit hockey pool players worldwide, or less importantly, their new hockey teams, as is the case with two and potentially three of them. Over the course of the NHL season, we will do routine check-ups with these players.

Niclas Bergfors, Nashville Predators

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2010-2011: After coming off an impressive 21-goal rookie season with New Jersey and Atlanta, Bergfors floundered after a deadline day trade that saw him go from 11 goals in 52 games to just 1 out of the next 20 in Florida. He put up just a 1.9% shooting percentage with the Panthers, was not tendered a qualifying offer, and was promptly scooped up by the Nashville Predators on a one-year deal worth $575K.

He shot 10.4% before the Florida trade. I have oft talked about the value of Bergfors and the inability of the Panthers to use him properly. With the lack of scoring depth in Nashville, it’s likely Bergfors may play his way onto some powerplay time and inflate his goal total, and earn a fairer contract next summer.

Scott Gomez, Montreal Canadiens

I was very surprised that neither Florida or Colorado made a trade for Scott Gomez this summer, but I suspect that those teams don’t get to be regular playoff outsiders based on shrewd management decisions. Gomez is expensive, but this is the last year where his salary ($8M) is worth more than his salary cap hit ($7.357M) and thus penny-pinching teams could save a few bucks and not give up a whole hell of a lot useful to Montreal to get him, who might have been looking to open up space.

Gomez had strong underlying numbers last season, but his on-ice shooting percentage was just 4.73%, which was one of the lowest on-ice totals among forwards (non-goons) this season. His teammate, Tom Pyatt, landed in Tampa Bay, and Gomez will look to improve upon his 38 point total this upcoming season and turn that career-low 4.5% shooting percentage around.

Martin Hanzal, Phoenix Coyotes

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Hanzal’s bad luck came in the form of his teammates, not necessarily his own shooting talent. He scored 16 goals in 61 games but recorded just 10 assists. If he had moderately competent teammates, his assist total would be much higher. That low shooting percentage of 6.87% among his teammates is unsustainable and pucks are bound to go in.

Tyler Kennedy, Pittsburgh Penguins

Initially, the Penguins did not qualify Tyler Kennedy and it looked like he might explore free agent waters, but General Manager Fred Shero smartened up and gave him a 2-year deal worth $2M per season. With 45 points last season and a case similar to Hanzal’s, Kennedy might really be the late round steal in any hockey pool draft as there’s always going to be wingers needing to play with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, who all spend significant time on the shelf this season.

Torrey Mitchell. San Jose Sharks

Two things may happen with Mitchell this year, who played at the end of the season on the Sharks third line with Kyle Wellwood. Wellwood will not play next season with the Sharks, hence there is a chance that Mitchell could get some better linemates: Michael Handzus, Joe Pavelski or even Martin Havlat are all candidates to end up on San Jose’s third line. This team has terrific scoring depth and even with the second highest Corsi rating in the entire NHL, Mitchell’s team shot just over 6% around him and he registered just 23 points. That could spike up to 30 next year accounting just for variance. On a balanced three-line unit with easy minutes, it could be 35.

Peter Regin, Ottawa Senators

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I hoped to go a full offseason without mentioning the Senators, and we will continue this here. Regin had a similar luck to his teammate Nick Foligno this past season, but Foligno got the good minutes and 34 points to Regin’s 17, despite Regin being the much better forward in terms of underlying numbers. Powerplay minutes appears to be an issue here, and there may be a chance Regin could sneak in as a regular this season and hit 25 points.

Scottie Upshall, Florida Panthers

Every now and then, a blind squirrel finds a nut and signs it to a 4-year/$14M deal. After a career high in goals with 24, Upshall takes his +10.93 Corsi/60 rating and his 985 PDO to Florida where he will likely be a pretty good player on a pretty mediocre team, which may have been what Dale Tallon was looking for.

Nikolay Zherdev, un-signed

Still without a team, Zherdev is presumably in NHL limbo due to perceptions of his work ethic and off-ice issues. On the ice, Zherdev can still score goals. I will have a post further evaluating Zherdev earlier this week and the term ‘Czar of Corsi’ may come up. Zherdev scored 16 goals in 56 games this season without all that much powerplay time and without his shooting percentage deviating far from his career average.

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h/t to @67sound for help compiling the list

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  • ryantologist

    I like the “Moneypuck” concept a lot, but Gomez would need more than a bit of positive regression (which I agree he’s likely due) to move out of “likely the very worst contract in the entire NHL” territory. Even teams with floor troubles would, I hope, not be planning to be in the same situation when his deal expires in 2014.

    • He might be a better option for a cap floor team next year. Again, he makes less than his cap hit (starting that season), so he’d actually save a team money.

      I think I’d much rather pay Gomez $4.5 in 2014 than Tomas Fleischmann, as Florida is doing. Plus, it’s a creative-ass way to build a team, and I’m a sucker for creativity.

  • RKD

    Gomez is pretty terrible, he usually shows up in the playoffs. His price tag is so high, I’m not surprised teams don’t want him.

    I think Bergfors can elevate his play next season, not surprised his play sank when he got traded to a bottom feeder.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Of that list I will say Bergfors has the most improvement and Upshall (duh) the most regression.

    Failed to see link between the articles picture and the content though.

  • Something has to be up with Bergfors, because his underlying numbers and overall contribution is far too good to be tossed around like he has.

    You don’t go from being the cornerstone the other way of a blockbuster deal to being dealt for next to nothing to being not qualified and finally signing for next-to-nothing without something else going on behind the scenes.

    It’s the same thing with Zherdev. They both are good players and can contribute on the ice, but there’s a reason why they bounce from team to team…hence, I’d rather other options if I could.

  • marty

    i hate to suggest it cause i am leary too but if hagman is going to abby,khl or europe and bmo’s knee is well (questionable at best) i wouldn’t mind if the feast offered zheredev a 1.5 per for 2 yrs. gamble i say with more pp time he could score 20 plus. as long as there isn’t a ntc attached they could demote or move him. why not? nothing to lose

  • John Chambers

    I don’t know. Was Patrick O’Sullivan just undervalued after the ’09-’10 season because he played on a bad team? Do you think Buffalo picked up former 20-goal scorer Alex Kotalik because the rest of the hockey world undervalues him?

    If anyone bounces back my guess is Hanzal. Scott Gomez’s play has considerably fallen off and the rest of these guys just suck.

  • John Chambers

    I wonder why the Flames don’t take a flyer on Zherdev. 1 year 1 mil. They might find the next Oiler killer since Huselius. If CBJ had not been down that road with him, hed be a good fit. The guy can score and I don’t think his plus minus was that attrocious. Chances are hell end up with the NYI or Nashville. He’ll put up 55 points and be concidered a real bargain. Im not naive as to the fact why teams are leary of him, but at a mil per hes going to get you 45 points and score some goals while pickin his butt the rest of the time. Maybe NYI should bring back Yashin, flank him with Zherdev and Frolov. I don’t think Wanger will get his arena deal through if he does that.

  • John Chambers

    Disclaimer: Martin Hanzal is my favorite player…. but….

    If Hanzal had talented linemates? His linemates were Radim Vrbata (19 goals, 29 assists) and Ray Whitney (17 goals and 40 assists) who were 3rd and 4th on the team in points.

    Exactly who did you think should be his linemates there slick?

    • Wait you forgot something: punch yourself in the head.

      You might be right but only time will tell. Ok now that’s enough. Now punch yourself in the head. Now imagine you are making 7 million per year. Now punch yourself in the head again. Haha just kidding, now punch yourself in the head. Lol this rules, now punch yourself in the head. Ok we are done here (now punch yourself in the head).

      In conclusion, I am quite convinced of the value of punching yourself in the head.

  • I have no idea if they’d fit into what’s going on in Edmonton at the moment but I’m really surprised no teams have taken a chance on free agents Vaclav Prospal and JP Dumont yet. Both have proven themselves capable of putting up some decent numbers in the past, and could be a steal of a deal if they sign on low and achieve to their full potential ever again.