The Matt Hendricks Career Curve

Jonathan Willis
March 15 2014 08:41PM

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Matt Hendricks was a somewhat controversial addition by the Edmonton Oilers earlier this season. On the one hand, in a lot of ways he’s what the doctor ordered: tough, physical, capable of finding his way to the defensive zone without a map and compass and competent once he gets there. On the other hand, he’s also signed to a terribly risky contract for a depth player.

All of which makes his career scoring curve an interesting study.

Bring on the Chart!

Hendricks career curve 3.15.14

First a quick note about the process here: all of these numbers are total projected points over 82 games played, with NCAA/AHL totals coming from Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract. The numbers are a 50/50 blend of Vollman’s newer numbers and Gabriel Desjardins’ old ones; Vollman’s totals are newer but Desjardins’ numbers have a larger sample of data. We’re also missing one season of ECHL data (at age 23) because there isn’t a calculated equivalency for that league.

We see slight dips in point totals both times Hendricks jumped a league. When he went to the AHL he posted a lousy 18 points/82 games total, and he fell very slightly to 23 points/82 games when he moved up to the majors. Overall, though, the NCAA and AHL and NHL totals match each other pretty nicely, which is a nice data point in favour of our equivalency process.

What It Means

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Thanks to the work of people like Gabriel Desjardins, we know that forwards generally hit their scoring peak between the ages of 24 and 26, which fits pretty well with Hendricks’ age-26 season in the AHL on the chart above.

What about that sharp drop-off around age 30? It’s a bit of an extreme case, but it fits with what others have found. SBNation’s Eric Tulsky looked at this a few days ago (considering even-strength points/hour rather than points per game) and came to the following conclusion:

[W]e now have an estimate of how even strength scoring ability changes through a player's 30's. On average, players retain about 90% of their scoring through age 29, but the drop from there is pretty sharp -- they hit 80% at age 31, 70% at age 32-33, and 60% at age 35.

Tulsky notes that this is a population average rather than a hard-and-fast rule, and my inclination would be to think that marginal NHL’ers – people like Hendricks, who made the jump late and never climbed especially high up the depth chart – are more likely to be hit with a steep decline than higher-end players. I’m not backing that up with data here; that’s just what strikes me as likely.

Hendricks is in an extreme role with the Oilers right now, and his scoring might recover somewhat in other circumstances, but it looks like he’s a fourth-line level scorer right now and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was never more than that. He does bring things other than scoring to the table, but he also has a $1.85 million cap hit for the next three seasons – which is steep for a guy who looks a lot like a depth defensive zone specialist.

Some will doubtless say, ‘big whoop, it’s not a lot of money and he does valuable things (fighting, hitting, leadership, defence, etc.).’ That’s a fair take, but it’s also fair to think that there’s a decent chance Hendricks isn’t in the NHL a year or two before the end of his contract. In a lot of ways, the deal he’s on is similar to the ones Eric Belanger and Ben Eager signed in Edmonton, except for more money and longer term, and with clear signs that the decline in skill is already well under way.

Maybe that’s a fair risk for what Hendricks brings and maybe it isn’t (I lean the latter direction, but appreciate others will hold the former view), but it is a risk that team and fans alike should be cognizant of.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 oilerjed
March 15 2014, 09:04PM
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JW, Is there a chart the compares the decline in points for with a decrease in points against throughout a players age cycle?

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#3 Al Low
March 15 2014, 09:13PM
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Watching guys like Eberle, Gagner, Petry and Schultz play as soft as they do, I'm actually proud to have Matt Hendricks on our team. We need more guys like him.

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#4 oilerjed
March 15 2014, 09:18PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I think it's a stretch to suggest that players just get lower-event as they age, as opposed to just worse.

Not if experience in defending balances out the ledger for a few years after the decline of offence. Cmon throw us 30 somethings a bone would ya.

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#5 Oiler Al
March 15 2014, 09:32PM
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Desperate measures for a DESPERATE TEAM. Further proof of how terrible this team is when and aging player is the shinning light on the team.

Could have been worse, if Clarkson would have accepted the Oilers offer, Talking about overpaying for a useless player.

How about doing a chart on Boyd Gordon, not all players are on board to score points only. The problem with this team that there are players that are being paid big bucks to score and are not.

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#6 David Staples
March 15 2014, 09:34PM
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If Hendricks had one more year on his deal, I'd be keen about this trade. But he does not.

Oilers can put him in minors, though, if he fails, and be down not so much.

I like his work on PK. Good stick, smart player.

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#7 admiralmark
March 15 2014, 09:34PM
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I think acquiring this player is a direct result of a desperate team with a desperate GM. I think there is no doubt that this is a poor bet to make, but maybe a bet that had to be made? They needed/wanted toughness in the bottom 6(he brings that). Ultimately time will tell how detrimental his contract will be in the last 2 seasons. I think there is evidence it will be somewhat regretable. To what degree? Thats harder to predict. The rate the cap rises will play a key role in this.

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#8 Smokey
March 15 2014, 09:36PM
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We were better to make Dubby 3rd string then take on this Hendrix contract. He is here or OKC for the duration. Why do Pheonix the favor and rid themselves of a bad contract, their laughing causing their off the hook for a bad deal. Shoulda waived Dubby or trade for a short term contract. Another blunder by mismanagement.

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#9 toprightcorner
March 15 2014, 09:44PM
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Hendricks as only a player is over paid and for probably one too many years. He is playing more minutes than he would on most other teams becasue he is one of only 2 true shutdown players on the team.

My hope is that Hendricks becomes contagious for some of the younger guys either coming up through the system or new aquisitions. If over the next 3 years he can teach a couple younger guys to play like he does and to become duplicates of him in the bottom 6, they will become very important pieces to the puzzle.

I think there is a huge difference between Belanger and Hendricks. Belanger did not play with heart, determination or passion, he was not a role model for bottom 6 players. Hendricks is a competitive SOB and gives everything he has and does what it takes to help the team win. Thats the role model you want.

If Hendricks can teach Lander, Pitlick or any other young players with a bit more offensive potential to play with the passion he does and to be a positive vocal influence on the team, the money he will be paid with minimal production will be worth it.

It is all about role models with young players. I don't think Gagner, Hall or Eberle were surrounded by the best of role models when they entered the league and it has had a negative affect on them. In a perfect world, you would have a positive role model on each line and each pairing, since theat is not achieveable a positive role model for the bottom 6, one for the top 6 and one for the top 4 defenceman and one fore the bottom pairing would be fantastic.

We have Hendrick (somewhat Gordon) on the bottom 6, Ference for the bottom pairing so if we could get a veteran role model for the top 6 and the same in a top pairing defenceman, this team should finally adopt those same habits and improve at a much faster rate.

That is why I would over pay Jagr to just play one season here so his work ethic and attention to detail would rub off to the others in the top 6. Seguin said he learned a lot from Jagr at the end of last season and playoffs, Benn said Jagr really showed him what it takes to play at an eleite level, Cotourier and Schenn both said they learned about commitment on and off the ice from Jagr. Everywhere JAgr had been in the last 3 years he has made an impact on the younger players on that team.

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#10 ThatButthurtOilersFan
March 15 2014, 09:55PM
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Al Low wrote:

Watching guys like Eberle, Gagner, Petry and Schultz play as soft as they do, I'm actually proud to have Matt Hendricks on our team. We need more guys like him.

And the fact that we gave him up for a goalie that is now under .900 in the AHL makes it so much sweeter.

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#11 Woogie63
March 15 2014, 10:12PM
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Hendricks is growing on me, he plays tough and has the "A" now.

I wonder why it is so hard to find a 12-15 minute per night SOB winger in the league, that can chip in 15 goals, play the screen on the PP.

Any idea what player development is going to do with Monoz and Khaira?

Player development did a poor job with Curtis Hamilton and Tyler Ptlick.

We should be paying $925 for the role Hendricks is providing.

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#12 Team Hall
March 15 2014, 10:49PM
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He kills penalties, and adds a little fear into the hearts of the opposing team. You cant statify that, but if they molest a young star, they better keep their heads up, because Hendricks is a devastating bodychecker.

You cant put a price on that. Protection.

Gazdic should ride the popcorn booth most nights though.

Goals win games, not facepunching. You need 250 goals per season. Where do they come from?

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#13 gongshow
March 15 2014, 11:11PM
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@toprightcorner

I totally agree with your comment "I hope Hendricks becomes contagious". We need more cowbell!

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#14 Ivan Drago
March 15 2014, 11:35PM
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What is the purpose of this article? To point out the oilers have a guy on the team who is paid more than he's prob worth? Big whoop. Every team in the league has those. Guys like Hendricks have qualities stats don't work on. Things like heart, determination and pride.

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#15 kgo
March 16 2014, 12:01AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I think it's a stretch to suggest that players just get lower-event as they age, as opposed to just worse.

Why? Because it doesn't suit your argument?

Tell me if Wayne Gretzky, from 29 - 35 got LOWER EVENT, OR WORSE...

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#16 Wonger
March 16 2014, 12:26AM
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David Staples wrote:

If Hendricks had one more year on his deal, I'd be keen about this trade. But he does not.

Oilers can put him in minors, though, if he fails, and be down not so much.

I like his work on PK. Good stick, smart player.

Hendy is worth every penny!!! He comes to play HARD EVERY NIGHT and is a great LEADER!!! Worth every penny, and every year on that contract!!! Thank God Hendy is an Oiler!!!

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#17 God
March 16 2014, 12:59AM
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kgo wrote:

Why? Because it doesn't suit your argument?

Tell me if Wayne Gretzky, from 29 - 35 got LOWER EVENT, OR WORSE...

Don't know much about math/statistics, do you?

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#18 BLAKPOO
March 16 2014, 01:18AM
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Are we seriously debating whether or not Hendricks is worth a measly $1.85m? With the cap increase?

Let's talk about the $6m/year they're paying for the "Ghost of Jordan Eberle".

That's enough cash for 3 Matt Hendricks' and free beer for every ON member at every home game for the next 3 years.

If you're concerned about the Oilers wasting money, let that sink in.

We'd be a hell of a lot harder to play against, and the games would be significantly more enjoyable to watch.

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#19 kale
March 16 2014, 01:31AM
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God wrote:

Don't know much about math/statistics, do you?

With all due respect, I am not sure you get it. Using individual stats like this in a team sport is so misleading. When Hendricks scored his most points at 26 the stat suggests players are the best offensively at 26. It hypothetically ignores the fact that he may have played with a far more offensive center at 26 and winger as well as defence. If you stuck Gordon between eberle and hall i would be reading stats about how he defied the odds. No player (is an island) plays alone. That is the problem with these stats. In addition they cannot measure the intangibles.

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#20 THRNHJE
March 16 2014, 03:28AM
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@BLAKPOO

Eberle and Nuge seem to be the new whipping boys around here. For point production, there is no ghost, Ebs is putting up the numbers for his money.

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#21 RexHolez
March 16 2014, 04:08AM
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Ales Hemsky, 1-6-7 in 4 games? Best 3rd round pick ottawa ever used. Oilers still playing in this league or did they finally get booted to juniors where they belong?

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#22 RexHolez
March 16 2014, 04:11AM
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THRNHJE wrote:

Eberle and Nuge seem to be the new whipping boys around here. For point production, there is no ghost, Ebs is putting up the numbers for his money.

We've been playing the number's game around here for years.., Doesn't get you anywhere. Show me these kids can play on a team and actually help them win, and I'll stop calling them pathetic sad sacks of losers. Until then, they're just a pathetic sad sack of losers

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#23 RexHolez
March 16 2014, 04:22AM
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Oh wait I forgot.:. Patience! They're still young and learning. Not too young to make 6mill a year, but too young to expect them to backcheck

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#24 RexHolez
March 16 2014, 04:40AM
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RexHolez wrote:

We've been playing the number's game around here for years.., Doesn't get you anywhere. Show me these kids can play on a team and actually help them win, and I'll stop calling them pathetic sad sacks of losers. Until then, they're just a pathetic sad sack of losers

I take this back. I want to be honest and truthful in my assessment. And it's obvious they're not a "sack". They're more of a "group"

Might get lucky and win 25 games....PATHETIC - Most loyal and patient fan base giving up.... SAD - A collection of individuals put together...,GROUP - 8 Years out of the playoffs at or near the bottom of the standings.... LOSERS!

I stand correct - "pathetic sad group of losers"

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#25 BLAKPOO
March 16 2014, 05:02AM
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THRNHJE wrote:

Eberle and Nuge seem to be the new whipping boys around here. For point production, there is no ghost, Ebs is putting up the numbers for his money.

Who's talking about points?

Eberle has enough skill that he's not going to miss many chances around the net. Problem is, he's rarely, if ever, the player driving the play to the net. You and I both know he's capable of so much more.

Aside from Hall, the first-rounders that we sucked so long to get are not showing up this year. And it's not about points. Gagner, Ebs, Nuge.. all thought to be leadership material at the start of the year. Who's stepping up? Who's taking the reins and bringing this team together?

Why is the newest forward to the organization wearing an 'A'?!

There's obviously still a big issue with team unity, and the team effort level.

So what's the problem? Are the kids incapable of being leaders? Are they pissed at Eakins for strutting in, erasing any semblance of success they had last year, and making a newly acquired 5-6 dman Captain?

I don't know, but someone must. All I know is I see Eberle float around the ice all night, and Hendricks skates his bag off. He stands up for teammates, drops the mitts, and lays out punishing hits. If I had a choice to spend money on three hard working Matt Hendricks' types, or this year's version of Jordan Eberle, Ebs would be on the next flight out of town.

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#26 kboof
March 16 2014, 08:13AM
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This guy earns his money every night, more than you can say for too many players on this team.

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#27 Rod from Viking
March 16 2014, 08:26AM
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Al Low wrote:

Watching guys like Eberle, Gagner, Petry and Schultz play as soft as they do, I'm actually proud to have Matt Hendricks on our team. We need more guys like him.

People can say what they want about some of the decisions by Mac T and justifiably so but he does know that you need team toughness as well as skill to be successful. This team is not a destination that is going to attract even the better role players since it hasn't won for 20 years and is in 29th again, the only reason Hendricks came was via trade, it is public knowledge he was pursued as a FA this summer. I would not be a bit surprised if Calgary goes out and signs John Scott and or big Mac this summer, you can call them knuckle draggers, coke machines or what ever but ask people who have played the game how better you play when they know someone has their back and strikes fear in opposing teams. This is a rebuilding team not a Stanley Cup contender and needs some size and meanness, its not like the powerplay is going to inflict any damage.

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#28 Rdubb
March 16 2014, 08:35AM
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In my opinion, Hendricks is worth every penny!!! Why? Because he brings CHARACTER, something that is lacking the Oil dressing room. He brings a strong work ethic, something lacking in the Oil dressing room. He brings it every shift of every game, something lacking in this Oil dressing room. He stands up for his teammates, even though he may not like them, something lacking in the Oil dressing room. Maybe, and I am hopeful of this, that the younger guys on this team will see how hard Hendricks works all the time and maybe some will rub off on them. How does he practice? I do not know, but maybe one of the writers on ON can answer that... It is my feeling that there is a cancer in the Oiler dressing room, who or what it is I don not know, but I do have a few thoughts: I think Gagner realized just how little everyone has his back with the lack of "payback" for the stick-in-the-face, and this could have fractured things somewhat...or Yak's (& his agents) comments earlier in the yr, where he said that he plays like he does and he won't change...or having Fernce come to a new team and making him the captain over everyone that has been here for a spell...or because of the BAD early season goaltending... I do not know, but something is fracturing this room

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#29 Gored 1970
March 16 2014, 08:40AM
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Smokey wrote:

We were better to make Dubby 3rd string then take on this Hendrix contract. He is here or OKC for the duration. Why do Pheonix the favor and rid themselves of a bad contract, their laughing causing their off the hook for a bad deal. Shoulda waived Dubby or trade for a short term contract. Another blunder by mismanagement.

Smokey, did you go further than Grade 6? I trashed you not on your comment but for the grammar and spelling errors.

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#30 Rod from Viking
March 16 2014, 09:41AM
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@Gored 1970

The great or not so great thing about the internet, he may not even be in grade six yet.

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#31 Serious Gord
March 16 2014, 09:43AM
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Al Low wrote:

Watching guys like Eberle, Gagner, Petry and Schultz play as soft as they do, I'm actually proud to have Matt Hendricks on our team. We need more guys like him.

A team full of Hendricks would not even be in the top half of the AHL.

Having guys if his character would help, but as Johnathon hints he will likely be a big bust for the oil over the entire term of his contract. He was a bad acquisition by MacT.

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#32 Serious Gord
March 16 2014, 09:48AM
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Wonger wrote:

Hendy is worth every penny!!! He comes to play HARD EVERY NIGHT and is a great LEADER!!! Worth every penny, and every year on that contract!!! Thank God Hendy is an Oiler!!!

Let's check in with you a year and half from now when the oil is up against the cap trying to add players and Hendricks is slogging it out in the ahl burning up cap room.

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#33 Rod from Viking
March 16 2014, 09:51AM
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@Serious Gord

Gord you are so positive this morning, did you get lucky last night or what (lol).

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#34 D-Unit
March 16 2014, 10:29AM
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@Serious Gord

Not saying Hendricks is the answer, and over time the deal is too much, for too long.

But having a teams full of Hall, Crazy Eyes, Gagner, RNH, Schultz...might be better than top half in AHL, but gets 29nth in NHL where things count.These guys don't even have enough character to come up with original nicknames.

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#35 Dog Train
March 16 2014, 10:52AM
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Meh, I'll take Hendricks on this team right now. He comes to play every game, something that can't be said for most of the lineup. If we are going to play one line with guys like Gordon and Hendricks on it though, it would be nice to have another line that could chip in offensively. Maybe a fourth line of Smyth, Lander and somebody else next season.

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#36 albertabeef
March 16 2014, 11:14AM
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maybe the problem with Oilers management is they put too much stock in the metrics, and not enough in the intangibles. Hendricks is just the kind of guy this team needs. How many comments have we heard that we are too soft. Now we have a player that isn't soft, but the metrics say he is overpayed.

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#37 Neal
March 16 2014, 01:04PM
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I think signing Hendricks was a great move by Mac, and is just what this team so sorely needs. Many posters have mentioned the heart, pride, work ethic, and leadership, so I won't repeat.

For the accountants out there, here's another way to look at this:

Right now we have a pile of money tied up in contracts for 93, 14, 89; and because these players are not earning their money, we have a large amount essentially wasted. (Then there's 19 and 64 coming up).

If Hendricks can help instill some pride, work ethic and character into the over-paid pansies who are supposed to be leading this team - then he helps us recover that wasted money. Don't begrudge him what he makes; think about the bigger picture. Indirectly, he could be a great bargain!

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#38 Rod from Viking
March 16 2014, 02:03PM
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@Neal

Hendricks showing his value in the first period, scoring a goal, blocking shots and killing penalties, easily the best player so far today.

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#39 albertabeef
March 16 2014, 02:09PM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

Hendricks showing his value in the first period, scoring a goal, blocking shots and killing penalties, easily the best player so far today.

yeah, but his relatively modified corsi numbers suck.

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#40 oilerman53
March 16 2014, 04:48PM
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Seriously paying Hendricks $1.85 million for the next three years is an issue? And people wonder why players hate coming here. I sure hope Hendricks never comes to the Oilers fan forums because we dont want him here because he doesnt put up numbers or points that satisfy our liking. He may be taking away ice time from a younger developing player with offensive upside wah wah wah. Hendricks has been a godsend for this team. Is it any wonder why the Oilers happen to be doing better having battle tested warriors on their team like Hendricks? I think were just grasping at any little thing to nitpick on here now. Remember all those years ago when we got Jason Smith in a nothing deal with Toronto and how well that turned out? Its been a while but I think MacT got this one right.

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#41 Wonger
March 16 2014, 06:46PM
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oilerman53 wrote:

Seriously paying Hendricks $1.85 million for the next three years is an issue? And people wonder why players hate coming here. I sure hope Hendricks never comes to the Oilers fan forums because we dont want him here because he doesnt put up numbers or points that satisfy our liking. He may be taking away ice time from a younger developing player with offensive upside wah wah wah. Hendricks has been a godsend for this team. Is it any wonder why the Oilers happen to be doing better having battle tested warriors on their team like Hendricks? I think were just grasping at any little thing to nitpick on here now. Remember all those years ago when we got Jason Smith in a nothing deal with Toronto and how well that turned out? Its been a while but I think MacT got this one right.

Agree 100%!!!! I'm buying a Hendricks jersey and thanking God every night that Hendy is an Oiler!!!

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#42 Wonger
March 16 2014, 07:27PM
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Wonger wrote:

Agree 100%!!!! I'm buying a Hendricks jersey and thanking God every night that Hendy is an Oiler!!!

Tough battle tested WARRIORS like MARK FRASER help a lot too!!! Re-sign him soon MACT!!!

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#43 Wonger
March 16 2014, 07:30PM
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And, of course, don't forget to sign GAZDIC ASAP MACT!!! Kid is amazingly TOUGH with tons of UPSIDE potential!!!

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#44 Neal
March 16 2014, 09:38PM
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Wonger wrote:

Tough battle tested WARRIORS like MARK FRASER help a lot too!!! Re-sign him soon MACT!!!

Haven't been commenting as much on this site as the blind anger gets a little much...

So it's good to see you back Wonger.

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#45 Tikkanese
March 17 2014, 11:22AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Let's check in with you a year and half from now when the oil is up against the cap trying to add players and Hendricks is slogging it out in the ahl burning up cap room.

Even if he is in the AHL, which I highly doubt, he is still an asset.

Let's check in next year when Dubnyk is in the Swiss "B" league after being released 3 more times. Great trade by MacT.

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#46 TigerUnderGlass
March 18 2014, 09:22AM
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kgo wrote:

Why? Because it doesn't suit your argument?

Tell me if Wayne Gretzky, from 29 - 35 got LOWER EVENT, OR WORSE...

That's easy. Gretzky was significantly worse from 29-35.

The guy basically averaged 200 points from 21-26 and his WORST =/- during those years was 60.

From 29-35 he was scoring 60-70 points less and putting up a lot of minus seasons.

Of course he was still great, but he was't close to his younger self.

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#47 TigerUnderGlass
March 18 2014, 09:28AM
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There is a lot of talk about how Hendricks is going to teach the younger players a thing or two, and it's kind of absurd.

You're basically suggesting that 20-23 year old star players are going to pay rapt attention to learn from the actions of an overpaid ageing 4th liner player because *THUNDEROUS HITS!!111!*

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