Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2009-2010 Previews -- Forwards: Eric Fehr

Eric Fehr

Theme: “I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders”

Well, healthy ones, at least. That will be the key to Eric Fehr’s season, whether his off-season surgery on both joints allows him – finally – to taking that big step to being the scoring right wing the Capitals have lacked since… well, it’s been a long time (and no, we don’t count an $11 million point-a-game guy as a “scoring right wing”).

Fehr’s prodigious production at the junior level (11, 26, 50, and 59 goals in four years with the Brandon Wheat Kings) is mirrored quite eerily by his silence as a goal scorer in parts of four years with the Caps (0, 2, 1, and 12 in parts of four seasons with Washington). Yes, there is the injury history, but unfortunately that sort of thing can be rather unforgiving at some point. Is he, can he be, will he be that scorer on the right side?

While Mike Knuble provides a measure of productive potential for this season and next, the thought (not to mention his production in juniors) has given folks in Caps Nation visions of a 30-40 goal scorer in Fehr. Having had his development interrupted by injury, he is at least a couple of years behind in that time line, if in fact he will ever reach that level of production.

But Fehr is not without talent and not without having achieved some measure of production in his short (109 games) NHL career with the Caps. Playing in 61 games last year, Fehr did manage 12 goals (16 on a per-82 game basis, which would not be a bad number for essentially a second year forward with 48 games of previous NHL experience starting the year).

He had two game-winning goals among his number that, while not quite Ovechkinesque (he had 10) was as many as Sergei Fedorov and one more than Nicklas Backstrom.

He was plus-8 for the year, which tied for third among Caps forwards – with Ovechkin.

He did this while ranking 12th among Caps forwards in total ice time per game (11:14) and 12th in power play ice time per game (0:45).

Despite his missing time (21 games) and playing with a couple of bum shoulders, Fehr was a rather efficient player.

Fearless: His relative Corsi rating (accounting for his rating on the ice versus that off) was second best on the team, behind Sergei Fedorov. And, his relative plus-minus to his teammates was fourth best on the club. The four ahead of him – the Alexes, Nicklas Backstrom and Sergei Fedorov – aren’t exactly insignificant hockey players (see cuz, I can do that thing, too).

Cheerless: Somebody once said, “ninety percent of life is just showing up (it was Woody Allen, cuz).” If you’re showing up for less than a third of your team’s games over a four year stretch, well… you ain’t showin’ up. Yeah, yeah, I heard about them injuries, too. My shoulders ache holding your ego up all the time (watch it, cuz…). But the Caps are at the point where they need to know just what they have here. And he’s coming into this year kinda gingerly with that yellow jersey in practice and all that. Maybe that’s a good thing though… save on wear and tear in the early season. Could be he’ll be all rarin’ to go come spring time.

Well, we sure hope so. The disappointing thing about Fehr’s year last year wasn’t so much his not getting a point in the playoffs, or that after getting a game-winning goal against Atlanta on February 26th, he finished the regular season 2-2-4, minus-1 in his last 20 games. It was that over a 13-game stretch ending with that game-winner against the Thrashers, Fehr was 7-5-12, plus-8, and did it all while averaging less than 11:30 a game in ice time. Caps fans saw the kind of production – efficiency and effectiveness – that he could provide.

Looking at Fehr’s last season – 61 games, 12-13-25, +8, at age 23 in his fourth season – you could say it is comparable to that of Bill Guerin’s fourth year in the league (12-13-25, plus-6 in 48 games with New Jersey in 1994-1995). It is also comparable to that of Alexander Korolyuk (12-13-25, plus-2 in 70 games for San Jose in 2000-2001). One became a five-time 30-goal scorer in 17 seasons (twice with at least 40), the other never tallied more than 19 in six seasons.

It might be that Fehr is approaching that crossroads. Let’s hope he has two strong shoulders to carry his career in the right direction.


58 games, 15-16-31, +6

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good luck, Eric! Stay healthy. He's one of my sentimental favorites among the players, since he was the 1st Round Pick for the Caps for the "class" of my daughter's age group.