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Forwards looking to bounce back this season

Editor’s Note: Jimmy Hayes, who won a National Championship at Boston College before embarking on a 334-game NHL career, died at his Milton, Mass. home Monday at age 31. Jimmy was a former teammate of mine, and I am heartbroken for his wife, two kids, and the entire Hayes family. The countless quotes, social media posts, and statements about Jimmy’s personality are a true testament to the father, husband, brother, son, and man he was. His loss is a painful reminder that life is fragile, and we must cherish time with those we love. Jimmy had a sense of humor, infectious smile, and a truly kind soul, and he will be missed dearly by many, including me. Rest in Peace, Jimmy.

Forwards Looking to Bounce Back

Poor Pair of Preds: While the Nashville Predators managed to make the playoffs this past season, it wasn’t because of centers Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. In fact, for players who are supposed to be first- or second-liners, they respectively ranked 14th and 8th on their team in points. In the case of Duchene, he went from 30 goals and 70 points in 73 games (0.96 Points Per Game [PPG]) in 2018-19 to a measly 6 goals and 13 points in 34 games (0.38 PPG) in 2020-21. Not much better, Johansen went from 14 goals and 64 points in 80 games (0.80 PPG) in 2018-19 to 7 goals and 22 points in 48 games (0.46 PPG) in 2020-21. With both on a downward trend over this three-year period and cap hits of $8 Million, all parties should be expecting much more.

Chopped in Half: Some other big names have been producing rather small as of late. Although a 0.62 PPG this past year is nothing to scoff at, winger Taylor Hall’s productivity has nearly halved over three years. In 2018-19, Hall was at a relatively consistent 11 goals and 37 points in 33 games (1.12 PPG). But since then, he’s steadily dropped, getting down to 10 goals and 33 points in 53 games (0.62 PPG) this past season. After re-signing with the Boston Bruins at a cap hit of $6 Million, better production during his end-of-season stint with the team (8 Goals and 14 Points in 16 Games), and David Krejci leaving the team, the Bruins are certainly going to need him to be in form.

While the Detroit Red Wings have done horrendously as of late, center Dylan Larkin has also seen a major drop in productivity. After having a stellar year of 32 goals and 73 points in 76 games (0.96 PPG) in 2018-19, he slipped to 9 goals and 23 points in 44 games (0.52 PPG) this past season. As captain of his team and with numerous off-season improvements, general manager Steve Yzerman and coach Jeff Blashill will expect much more out of their star player. Another falling star is Calgary Flames’ center Sean Monahan. Having produced 34 goals and 82 points in 78 games (1.05 PPG) in 2018-19, he only put up 10 goals and 28 points (0.56 PPG) in 50 games in 2020-21. If he and the Flames are to make their way back to the post-season this coming year, they’re certainly going to need him to get back on track.

The Blue Jackets-Jets Block-busts: In arguably the blockbuster trade of the season, Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 2022 3rd round pick were sent from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. At the time of the trade, Dubois was underperforming, while Laine was seeking a change. In the end, both finished the season well below expectations. For Dubois, he went from 27 Goals and 61 Points in 82 Games (0.74 PPG) in 2018-19 down to 9 Goals and 21 Points in 46 Games (0.46 PPG) in 2020-21. As for Laine, he sunk to 12 Goals and 24 Points in 46 Games (0.52 PPG) from 28 Goals and 63 Points in 68 Games (0.93 PPG) in 2018-19.

At a cap-friendly hit of $5 Million, Dubois can easily get back to good value for the Jets. Conversely, at $7.5 Million for the Blue Jackets, Laine will need a marked improvement in order to be worth his dollar figure. In both cases, there is lots of room for improvement and their teams are going to need it.

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