Mar 14, 2012; Buffalo, NY, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny (26) during play against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center. Avalanche beat the Sabres 5-4 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Breakouts and Disappointments: Paul Stastny

With the 2013/14 season rapidly approaching – 20 days!!!! – it’s time to look towards the upcoming season with an eye on expectations.

Every year, every team has its breakout players; the guys who rise to prominence either as a rookie, totally out of nowhere, or as an established player making a big jump. Each team also has its share of disappointments (some more than others). Over the next several days, we’ll look at three of each for the Avalanche for 2013/14 and just why their name is mentioned.

Unfortunately, where there is good there is bad and it’s time for the disappointments for the 2013/14 season.

Next up on the list of disappointments will actually make things a little easier for the Avalanche in terms of decision-making. What am I talking about? Y’see, the Avalanche are paying Paul Stastny $6.6M right now. Unless he has a monster season, it’s unlikely he gets that but just how much of a cut would he be willing to take?

Before we jump to that, will the Avs want to keep Stastny at all?

Unfortunately for Stastny, history is going against him right now. Stastny broke into the limelight for the Avs as a skilled, underrated playmaker right from his rookie season. His first four years, he hovered around .95 points-per-game with a .80 throw in the middle. He even had one season well over a point per game. His rookie year inspired things like this:

The last three years, however, have told a different story. Stastny has always dealt with injuries; some of the nagging variety, others that have affected him greatly. So there’s that factor: he’ll likely miss somewhere between 8-10 games as that’s a “normal” year for him. If he gets unlucky and gets a bit more banged up? It could derail his season entirely and we’ve seen that in the past.

Another point of concern? His points-per-game numbers have declined steadily over the last four years, from .975 to .770 to .671 to .600. It seems unlikely that Stastny will continue this trend for a fifth year for a couple of reasons: he’s a talented player who can make things happen on his own, he’s still just 27 and theoretically in his physical prime, and his linemate situation is the best it’s been in awhile with Alex Tanguay and likely Steve Downie on his wings. I wouldn’t expect anything close to that .975 but he shouldn’t dip below .600, either.

Like Nathan MacKinnon before him, expectations will also set him up for the disappointment ahead. Many remember him from his first few seasons; the underrated playmaking center no one notices in lowly Denver. But as stated above, he hasn’t been that guy in a few years. If people are expecting him to have a point-per-game year again, that will only precipitate the fall. He’s set up to fail because people simply expect too much of him.

Finally, that contract issue could end up being another detriment. If he feels pressured to play well this season to score a payday in the off-season, he could find himself struggling, unable to get going. Not only that, but he has to know that he could potentially find himself traded out of town if things turn the wrong way. He’s only been in every Ryan Miller trade rumor for the summer and with Ryan O’Reilly, Semyon Varlamov, and Downie all needing new deals next year, who knows how the cap situation will look for the Avs. Trading Stastny may happen regardless of how he plays.

Paul Stastny is expected to bounce back this year and stay a member of the Avs for the foreseeable future but I’m here to tell you that another disappointing season, Nathan MacKinnon looming, and his expiring contract will change all that. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong about it all.

Follow me on Twitter: @RWTFC

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Tags: 2013-14 Season Alex Tanguay Colorado Avalanche Paul Stastny Ryan O'Reilly

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