Wednesday, 6 June 2012
06/06/12 Expect A Bounce Back From Belanger
On December 16th of this year Eric Belanger will turn 35 years old. In NHL years, that's not an age at which you'd expect a player to be on the rise. On the other hand, when you start as low as Belanger's 2011-12 season, there's nowhere else to go.
Since the lockout and before joining the Oilers, Belanger had a shooting percentage of 10.9%. If that had happened for him in Edmonton, the center would have had somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 goals, which is right in line with his average total since the lockout. Instead of that, he scored just four goals because his shooting percentage fell to 3.4%. That's the 15th-worst total shooting percentage of any NHL forward who played at least 40 games in 2011-12.
It's fair to say that Belanger's offensive production is due to decline because of his age, but a 3.4% shooting percentage is just ridiculous. Even an average shooting percentage in 2011-12 (8.94%) would have seen him score ten goals on the season.
The Oilers weren't scoring as a team with Belanger on the ice either. That contributed to his picking up just 12 assists - the lowest total since his rookie year in 2000-01.
Belanger was 11th on the Oilers in total powerplay time (and averaged 1:04 per game), but picked up just 1-4-5 all year. Interestingly, though, Belanger was eighth in total powerplay time in 2010-11 with Phoenix, but had the exact same number of powerplay points (5). He ended the 2010-11 season with 40 points in total. This is a player who does his damage at even strength and the bounces simply weren't going his way with the Oilers.
Both bad luck and good luck can and will change over a long enough period of time. Belanger still brought his other tools to the table as advertised (penalty killing and faceoff ability), and the points should come eventually as well. Even allowing for a drop off in his production due to age, Belanger should be able to boost his stats up to more acceptable levels.
The Belanger Triangle, much like the one in Bermuda, is fun to talk about but also a myth. To be sure, this is a player on the downslope of his career, but it's highly unlikely that he will continue to be a 16 point player.