Monday, August 6, 2012

What to Expect From: Derek Dorsett

In this series, we're going to go through each player, examine what they have been able to produce in the past and what it would be reasonable to expect from them in the coming season, mostly using logic. The goal is to have a statistical expectation for the team as a whole, to see how well they might fare in 2012-13. This is an alternative to just throwing your hands up in the air, crying, drinking excessively (although this activity doesn't exclude drinking) and playing russian roulette alone in my basement all summer.

"My sweater tastes ok. How about yours?"
Derek Dorsett was drafted in the seventh round back in 2006. He has always been a fan favorite: gritty underdog, lays it all on the line every night, occasionally lights it up and some nights this past year, he was the only guy to show up to play. Throughout his career, he's been a third or fourth liner and a designated fighter. Before this past season, I thought he was a doppelgänger for Jared Boll, somebody who will fight when Boll goes to the box (the penalty box). As last season's living nightmare wore on, more and more fans started to look to Dorse to provide us with some kind of inspiration and he didn't let us down.

Dorsett took his fighting game to a new level, although he was embarrassed and nearly killed at least once. He was fearless, and this was something that everybody attending games noticed including teammates and management. This, coupled with a modest increase in production, a solid defensive game, strong forechecking presence and likable persona helped him get more ice time (injuries helped too) and eventually was named an alternate captain. Here are his NHL stats.

'08-'09 52415-1150596.800001--8:5392:26
'09-'10 51410146105577.001000--10:5339:40
'10-'11 7641317-151841123.600030--13:1359:03
'11-'12 7712820-112351378.821101--14:4256:34

If you'll notice his stats over the past few years, they've definitely been improving every year. The only thing that went down in '11-'12 was his assist count, but we can discount this for two reasons: a) second assists often give players empty points, and b) nobody counts on Dorse to be Adam Oates. He broke double digits in goals and without re-reviewing all of the games from the past year, I can think of two obvious reasons for this. He experienced play on the top-6 this year and PP time, which led to at least two of the goals. When you see some of his highlights, it's clear he has the hands to be in the pros and can finish when he gets opportunities. It's just that he doesn't always create opportunities well and this is why I don't believe he will ever be top-6 material for a competitive team.

Dorsett now has a few well-established roles which won't show up on a lot of stat sheets but need to be mentioned. He's now the alpha pugilist, after Boll has gradually faded in both his on-ice performance and his ability to intimidate pretty much anyone in the NHL (rumor has it squirrels aren't afraid of him anymore, either). He's an above average third liner, in the sense that he can check well, isn't a defensive liability and occasionally does something to energize the team. His leadership qualities have come through and having him around to teach younger guys how to leave everything on the ice is something this team desperately needs. He also seems to enjoy it here, which Adam Foote and Jeff Carter taught us is now an important player attribute.

When it comes to predicting his stats next year, I have to say I can't see his goal totals increasing because the top 6 should be full of guys with better offensive instincts than him. His power-play experiment should probably be over as well. With fewer opportunities, I think he can still crank out double digits but will struggle to get more than 10G. His assists will probably be the career average of around 10. His PIMs will probably depend on the health and willingness of Boll, as fighting punching bag duties will be Boll's only job for the foreseeable future. I'm not mentioning plus/minus on purpose, because I think it will be too skewed by the goaltending.

As far as his intangible qualities, Dorse should continue to be part of the leadership group in the coming push for improvement. I don't see him being captain at any point, however. He will fight, but I hope not as much. We need him to be a deterrent/threat rather than John Scott's chew toy. Dorsett also has some skill and he can continue to develop into a top shutdown forward and a solid PK contributor. Maybe he can pop in a few more beauties on the PK this year. He could improve his shot-blocking to help the goalies even more. If he can continue to develop these basic skills and not slow down his work ethic, I could see him playing another 10 years in the league and retiring a Blue Jacket legend, like Tyler Wright.

2012-2013 Prediction for Derek Dorsett: 10G, 10A for 20 Pts. 150 PIMS.

"Move over Cleveland, Derek Dorsett has something to say about steamers."

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