Wednesday, October 08, 2008

2008-2009 Previews: Viktor Kozlov

We’re getting close to the end, and the next look is at…

Viktor Kozlov

Last year: 16-38-54, +28

Career average (per-82 games): 18-31-49, +6

Fearless’ Take: Let’s get this out of the way right at the top. Kozlov is Kozlov. He is a guy who is going to be a consistent goal scorer. In the last eight seasons he has played at least 60 games, he’s scored 16-17-16-17-22-12-25-16 goals. In eight of his last nine seasons, he’s put up between 0.54 and 0.88 points per game. He’s generally had 5-7 power play goals per year (last year he had two). Whether one thinks Kozlov does or does not have the potential to score more than what he has, he is 33 years old with more than 800 games of NHL experience. He’s going to be a good bet to score somewhere in the high teens in goals and get about 50 points. He’s going to get those goals playing on the right side of the top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. If anything, Kozlov looked like a steadying influence for the early-20-somethings on that top line. After Bruce Boudreau took over, Kozlov didn’t have a point streak of more than four games (three times) and didn’t have a scoreless streak of more than three games (five times). He had only ten “minus” games in the last 61 under Boudreau, and never did he have consecutive “minus” games. There might be question marks here and there on the roster over what to expect, but Kozlov shouldn’t be among them.

Cheerless’ Take: The most lethal shooter on the planet to occupy a defense, a gifted playmaking (even if rookie) centerman, and Kozlov scored nine fewer goals than he did on Long Island in 2006-2007? Yes, he had 12 more assists than in the previous season, but wouldn’t you expect that? There isn’t anything about his game that really merits complaining about, but by the same token, it’s hard to get excited about anything he’s bringing in his game, too. Well, the last time he was in the walk year of his contract (2006-2007), he had a career year in goals (25). This is a walk year…we’ll see.

The Peerless’ Take: Some guys seem to be magnets for fan frustration. On the Caps, Jeff Schultz is such a player (he isn’t physical enough); Viktor Kozlov is another. The Peerless is not exactly sure why. One could reasonably argue (we did last year, so maybe it’s not reasonable) that Kozlov was a 30-plus goal scorer in waiting. But, he’s not. And that’s not the end of the world. He is consistent, and on a young team, that’s still a plus. He’ll be among the team leaders in most of the obvious statistics – he was fifth in goals last year, third in assists, fourth in total points, tied for first in plus-minus, fourth among forwards in average ice time. Where he might slip is in power play ice time. He was fifth among forwards who played the entire year in DC. Sergei Fedorov is likely to get a fair amount of man-advantage ice time, and Chris Clark might get some as a traffic creator. If Tomas Fleischmann shows improvement in his finishing ability, he could eat into Kozlov’s power play ice time as well. But somehow, some way, Kozlov will find himself at the end of the year somewhere close to his career averages.

Projected: 16-36-52, +19

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that what frustrates many fans about Viktor is that he looks to the casual observer like he is lazy. It doesn't appear that he is hustling. He doesn't look like he is skating hard. He doesn't make the sharp cuts and turns of an OV or Nylander.

But watch a while and you will see something completely different. His stride is remarkably smooth and efficient. He is fast without looking fast. Watch him work the puck in traffic. Looks like it is velcroed to his stick. Watch him find the exact right place to be at the right time.

He kind of reminds me of Cal Ripkin in a way. Ripkin had a reputation for close plays at first because he only threw the ball just fast enough to get it there just in time. Viktor plays in much the same way.

Viktor will never be the #1 scorer on our top line. In fact, he will probably be #3 this year. But if he can dig the puck, feed OV and Nick, and use his body to distract goalies and occupy defensemen he is doing his job.