From Backstrom to Steckel, we're taking a quick look at and grading the 2007-08 season for every player* who laced 'em up for the Caps during the campaign (and is still with the team) with an eye towards 2008-09. Next up, Michael Nylander.
Contract Status: 2008-09 salary of $5,500,000 (salary cap hit of $4,875,000); UFA after 2010-11 season
Age (as of October 1, 2008): 35 (he'll turn 36 two days later)
NHL Seasons (including 2007-08): 13+
2007-08 Regular Season Stats: 40 games played, 11 goals, 26 assists, -19, 24 PIMs
Key Stat: Nylander was second on the team in points per game (.925).
Surprising Stat: Nylander won 48.8% of the faceoffs he took before he got hurt (while taking 12.8 faceoffs per game) and 48.6% while playing injured (while averaging 14 draws per game).
The Good: Even though he played hurt for a third of his season, Nylander was on pace for a 22 goal/53 assist season, which is just a tick under his post-lockout averages of 24.5 and 56.5, respectively, and given that more than half of his games came while Glen Hanlon was still behind the bench, it's quite possible he would have beaten those averages. Nylander's 14.3 shot percentage trailed just Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin among Caps who played 20 or more games and was the second-best efficiency of his career. He trailed only Ovechkin in average ice time per game among forwards, had eleven multi-point games and two five-game point streaks, and his 36.9 power-play point pace would have had him in the top 10 in the League had it continued for a full season. But the biggest positive from Nylander's season (as Peerless notes) may have been the blessing in disguise that his injury turned out to be, as it forced Nicklas Backstrom into an undisputed number one center role, one in which the rookie flourished.
The Bad: That team-worst minus-19 sticks out like a sore shoulder, err, thumb, but owes a bit to Nylander playing through pain - from the game in which he is believed to have hurt his shoulder until he finally shut it down for the season, Nyls was minus-seven in 13 games (though he did manage to rack up a dozen points in that stretch). But that still leaves 26 "healthy" games in which he was a minus-14 (the game in which he was injured isn't included in either the pre- or post-injury numbers, since it's unclear when during the game he was hurt), including a miserable minus-ten November. But you can probably chalk it up to an adjustment to new teammates and a new system (two, actually), since in his entire career, Nylander has only finished a season with a minus rating three times, and never in double digits. There's more bad too, but take it with the grain of salt that 1/3 of his season was played with just one shoulder. Nylander was on pace for the third-highest PIM total of his career, had the most secondary assists per sixty minutes on the team but was only sixth in primary helpers per sixty (not necessarily a bad thing, but somewhat surprising), and perhaps most importantly, opponents scored more goals per sixty when Nylander was on the ice than when any other Cap was.
The Vote: Rate Nylander on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Questions: Which wingers would you like to see flanking Nylander most often in 2008-09? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?
If you've missed any of the previous 2007-08 Rink Wraps, click here, get caught up, and vote - polls will stay open for a while.
* And by "every," we mean every one who played more than just a handful of games.