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10 candidates for bounce-back seasons

by John Kreiser

Disappointing seasons happen to almost everyone. Sometimes they're due to injuries; sometimes they're just bad luck, and other times they are a combination of circumstances.

Here are 10 players who, for a variety of reasons, didn't have their best season in 2011-12 -- but are good candidates to bounce back in 2012-13:

Ryan Getzlaf
Ryan Getzlaf
Center - ANA
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 46 | PTS: 57
SOG: 185 | +/-: -11
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks -- Getzlaf averaged more than a point per game from 2007-08 through 2010-11, but his scoring touch inexplicably vanished last season when he managed 11 goals and 57 points while averaging 21:35 of ice time in 82 games. Not surprisingly, the Ducks missed the playoffs. It was the worst full-season offensive showing of the forward's career. For the Ducks to get back into the playoffs, Getzlaf has to return to being the player who was among the NHL's best centers in the previous four seasons.

James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs -- After signing a three-year contract with the Leafs last summer following an impressive rookie season, Reimer was off to an excellent start until he was injured in a goalmouth collision in late October. He was 4-0-1 before missing six weeks and never looked the same after his return. The 24-year-old finished 14-14-4 with a 3.10 goals-against average and .900 save percentage -- he had a 2.60 GAA and .921 save percentage a season earlier. Reimer is healthy again, and the Leafs need him to return to his 2010-11 form if they hope to end a playoff drought that dates to 2004.

Brad Richards, New York Rangers -- Last summer's big free-agent signing provided a voice of experience in the dressing room -- but not the kind of on-ice production the Rangers were looking for when they gave the forward a nine-year deal. Richards dropped from 77 points to 66 and was a minus player on a team that scored 38 more non-shootout goals than it allowed. With Marian Gaborik destined to miss several weeks at the start of the season due to shoulder surgery, the Rangers need Richards to pick up the pace offensively.

Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings -- Richards earned a Stanley Cup ring in his first season with Los Angeles -- but for the Kings to have a chance to repeat as champs, they'll need a much better showing from him during the regular season. Richards had 18 goals and 44 points in 74 games for L.A., his worst offensive showing since 2006-07 and a 22-point drop from his last full season with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Kings, who barely made the playoffs before storming through the postseason, need Richards to provide more offense from his role as the No. 2 center.

Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were part of the Los Angeles Kings' first ever Stanley Cup championship team, but each player will look for more individual production in the 2012-13 season. (Photo: Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings -- Richards' longtime running mate in Philadelphia rejoined him in L.A. in a late-season trade and was part of the Kings' run to their first Stanley Cup. But he's also coming off the worst regular season of his career. Carter dropped from 36 goals with the Flyers in 2010-11 to 21 (15 in 39 games with Columbus and six in 16 games after coming to the Kings). He did tie for the NHL playoff lead with eight goals, so there's every reason to believe a full season with Los Angeles should revive his scoring touch.

Christian Ehrhoff, Buffalo Sabres -- Ehrhoff followed a career season in 2010-11 by signing a 10-year deal with Buffalo. The Sabres are certainly hoping for better things in Year 2. Ehrhoff dropped from 14 goals to five and from 50 points to 32, missing 16 games with injuries. His plus/minus fell from plus-19 with the Vancouver Canucks in '10-11 to minus-2 last season. The Sabres need the 30-year-old defenseman to be more like the player who averaged 12 goals and 45 points in the three seasons before he came to Buffalo.

Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals -- Two years ago, Backstrom was a 101-point scorer on the NHL's best offensive team. He was still a point-per-game player last season, but his 44 points came in 42 games -- he missed nearly three months with a concussion suffered in early January. The arrival of new coach Adam Oates, one of the great passers in NHL history, could help Backstrom become one of the League's most prolific point producers again -- as long as he stays healthy.

James Wisniewski, Columbus Blue Jackets -- The 28-year-old defenseman went from a career year in 2010-11 to a nightmare season in '11-12 after signing with the Blue Jackets last summer. He earned an eight-game suspension during the preseason and battled injuries all season; as a result, he went from 10 goals and 51 points playing for the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens to six goals and 27 points for the Jackets, who dropped to the bottom of the League standings early and stayed there. If he can stay healthy, Wisniewski should be a top-pair defenseman and put up good numbers while playing about 25 minutes a game.

Peter Mueller
Peter Mueller
Center - FLA
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 16
SOG: 82 | +/-: -3
Peter Mueller, Florida Panthers -- The eighth player picked in the 2006 NHL Draft (by the Phoenix Coyotes) has seen his career derailed by injuries, most notably concussions that cost him all of 2010-11 and a chunk of last season. The Colorado Avalanche opted not to qualify him and Florida signed the forward to a one-year contract. He had 36 points in 48 games with the Avs, a 61-point pace over a full season -- and if he's healthy, the 24-year-old figures to get top-six time on a Florida team that's on the upswing.

Lubomir Visnovsky, New York Islanders -- The NHL's top-scoring defenseman (68 points) in 2010-11 plummeted to 27 points in 68 games last season with the Anaheim Ducks, missing 14 games. He'll get a fresh start with the Islanders, who figure to give him plenty of ice time -- especially on the power play -- without having to carry the entire load offensively.

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