We continue our annual, player-by-player look at the 2010-11 Philadelphia Flyers. In no particular order, we'll analyze one player per day (or so) over the next few weeks. Up next, forward and cult favorite Andreas Nodl.
#15 / Right Wing / Philadelphia Flyers
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Expectations: Entering 2010-11, the expectations surrounding Andreas Nodl were rather low. Like, AHL-level low. But then the Flyers decided to carry Nodl on the roster rather than the more experienced Bill Guerin, with Nodl penciled in as the 13th forward on the team. After watching him as a Black Ace in the 09-10 playoffs, Nodl proved a defensive forward capable of playing big minutes. While he was never counted on as a scorer since turning professional, some around here had higher expectations than others.
But taking emotion and bias out of it, a reasonable expectation for Nodl would have been a strong defensive forward, who would chip in a bit offensively, while playing with the energy expected of a bottom-of-the-roster player.
Defensively, Nodl did what was expected and then some. When he was still in the lineup - mostly prior to the Kris Versteeg acquisition - Nodl played almost exclusively with Mike Richards against the other team's top lines. The pair did a fantastic job at shutting them down. Only Jeff Carter faced tougher competition this year than Nodl did, but nobody had a lower GAON/60 than Nodl.
Most of this was due to his team-high on-ice save percentage, as he was below average at controlling the play relative to his teammates. But the fact that Nodl faced tougher competition than anybody not named Carter, while starting in the defensive zone as often as Carter - most among top-9 forwards - shows that Nodl was fantastic defensively. How much of this was luck is open to debate, but the coaches trusted Nodl in the most difficult of situations, and he reward them.
Offensively, Nodl finished 10th among forwards in points per 60. This obviously could have been better, but as we've shown numerous times, Nodl scored as an average #8 or #9 winger in the NHL. His production may not have been great, but it was perfectly in line with most team's #9 forwards. When you then factor in the fact that Nodl started the year as the 13th forward, you have to admit that he exceeded expectations on offense as well.
Are there better third-line players in the NHL than Andreas Nodl? Absolutely. Kris Versteeg is Exhibit A of that very person. But there aren't many third-line players who are better than Nodl and who cost equal to or less than Nodl will cost next season. On a team that is not only up against the salary cap next year, but looking to increase spending in goal, those value contracts become even more crucial.
Grading criteria: We assign grades on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the best. We base our grades on expectations, execution on those expectations and a player's overall potential. A 10 means that the player had a fantastic, expectation-surpassing season. A 1 means that he was horrible and needs to go. Like, yesterday.
The grade: We're giving Nodl an 8. Nodl had a tremendous season defensively, and a slightly below expectation season offensively. Had his offensive numbers been better, he easily could have gotten a 9. Instead, in a year where he was expected to be a Phantom, he came in and was as good defensively as the Flyers' best defensive forward. Defense isn't sexy, nor is it often appreciated, and Nodl is a great example of that.