|2009 - James van Riemsdyk||78||15||20||35||-1||30||4||6||29||12:57||173||8.7|
Oh, James. I spent an entire year defending you - even when you probably didn't deserve it - and you finally came through for me. You started the comeback against Boston, and you followed it up with a big goal to start the run over Montreal. But beyond all of that, you performed exactly as expected, according to Gabe Desjardins' NHL Equivalencies anyway.
But other than that, van Riemsdyk is the victim of high expectations. We've already covered - in the context of his draft counterparts - why those expectations aren't fair, but he went from 47 games in a year to 99 games. He doubled his work load, doubled the level of competition, and still put up points in the Stanley Cup Final. For that reason alone, he deserves respect.
Unfortunately, that's not how it works. People will look at his long dry spell in the regular season, they'll say he shouldn't have been in the NHL anyway, they'll call him soft, they'll say he glides around defensively, and many others. That's fine. But he was a 20-year old kid playing against average to above-average competition, with below-average teammates. Yes, he was sheltered in his zone-starts, but he performed under those circumstances, as evidenced by his Corsi and Fenwick scores.
Now, I can make all the excuses I want for van Riemsdyk's year - and I'd argue he doesn't need excuses - and a lot of people will still say he needs to have a much better year. That's fine. There are a lot of areas where van Riemsdyk needs to improve upon, but he's still only 21, entering his second season, and expected to fulfill a secondary role. If you are one of those people who want to see a massive increase in his counting stats - goals, points, plus minus - you're probably going to be disappointed.
Until van Riemsdyk starts getting (or earning) power play time, those numbers aren't going to be as impressive. In terms of 5-on-5 points per 60 minutes of ice time, van Riemsdyk was fifth on the team at 1.72. He didn't exactly light up the scoreboard on the power play last year, which will only make it more difficult for him to find ice time - with Richards, Carter, Briere, Hartnell, Giroux, Leino, and Zherdev - this year. But so long as he's being used primarily as a third-line winger, his counting stats will reflect that.
This year, some people are predicting 22 goals for van Riemsdyk. That's probably a bit high, especially for a second year player whose role doesn't expect to change. If he scores 20 goals this year, that should be considered a win. I'd look for more of a 18 goal, 25 assist season. Now, if van Riemsdyk finds himself in a different role - like, perhaps Mike Richards' winger - that could change. But for somebody who averages 13 minutes a night, that should only be seen as a solid season.