What do we make of The Curious Case of the Neglected Nylander?
Here is a player who coming into this season built a solid career for himself. Over 15 seasons he had a per-82 game line of 19-43-62, +7. He'd actually done better in each of his two seasons with the New York Rangers, eclisping all of these averages, before signing with Washington in the summer of 2007. He had the kind of numbers you'd like in a scoring line center. He was injured for most of last year, but you'd have thought his return would be a big plus.
Then the curtain rose on this season. So far, Nylander is 3-15-18, +3, in 39 games, but his recent performance is somewhat alarming for its utter lack of presence. Since Thanksgiving (18 games), he is 1-4-5, +4. His single goal was a game winner -- a fine effort, scoring while almost flat on his back against Montreal. However, outside of that his performance has blended so far into the background as to be almost invisible. He has four multi-point games this year, none since November 19th (he had 20 multi-point games in his final year in New York).
He's averaged 14:49 in ice time, which is good for only 19th on the team. There are five call-ups from Hershey (albeit all of them defensemen) who have higher averages. In four of the last five games, his ice time was lower than his season average.
We don't think Nylander has forgotten how to play hockey and play it at a high level. We don't know if there are any lingering effects from the injuries he suffered from last year. It might just be a case of being something less than the best fit for this team and the way it goes about playing the game these days.
With Sergei Fedorov coming back soon, the Capitals are going to be facing some interesting and perhaps difficult personnel decisions. We can't help but wonder if, despite still having the talent to contribute and there being risks that might ensue for the Caps (Fedorov's health foremost), such decisions won't finally -- as rumors have had it for most of the season -- involve Nylander.