Monday, May 05, 2008

2007-08 Rink Wrap: Eric Fehr

From Backstrom to Steckel, we're taking a quick look at and grading the 2007-08 season for every player* who laced 'em up for the Caps during the campaign (and is still with the team) with an eye towards 2008-09. Next up, Eric Fehr.

Contract Status: RFA; 2007-08 salary of $800,000 (average of $894,933 over the life of his expiring contract)
Age (as of October 1, 2008): 23
NHL Seasons (including 2007-08): Parts of three seasons, 48 NHL games played
2007-08 Regular Season Stats: 23 games played, 1 goals, 5 assists, +4, 6 PIMs (3 goals, 4 assists in 11 games for AHL Hershey)
Key Stat: To many, just the fact that he came back from a mysterious back injury and was able to play was key.
Surprising Stat: Fehr was third on the team (behind the Alexes) in shots on goal per minute of ice time.

The Good: Fehr's another guy who deserves an "incomplete" due to a lack of training camp and limited ice time and games played, but we'll have at him nonetheless. Anyway, Fehr posted an impressive plus-six rating in his final twenty games of the season and had the third best goals for/against on ice per sixty minutes of ice time ratio on the team (thanks in large part to being on the ice for the second fewest goals against per sixty on the team). Fehr was also on the ice for the most Caps shots on goal per sixty of any player, and was on for the third-fewest shots against, giving him a team-best ratio in that combined stat. All of this (though an admittedly small sample) means that the puck was in the offensive zone a lot when Fehr was on the ice. Fehr also drew as many penalties in 23 games as Tomas Fleischmann did in 75 (and in less ice time and usually on lower lines). Take all of the above with his high shot per minute total and proven scoring touch at lower levels, and a lot of the ingredients are there - now Fehr just has to put 'em all together.

The Bad: Take away his three-point game against the Bruins on March 3 and Fehr had a goal and two assists in 22 games. In fact, take away his career numbers against the B's and he has two goals and three assist in 44 NHL games. Fehr's 2.5 shooting percentage was worst among Caps forwards whose first names don't start with "Q," and he had the fewest points per sixty minutes of ice time of any Caps forward (and by a wide margin). Bottom line: with 109 goals in his last 142 WHL games and 50 in his last 121 AHL games, you'd like to have seen more than three in his first 48 NHL games.

The Vote: Rate Fehr on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.

The Questions: What role do you see Fehr playing on the 2008-09 Caps - is he ready for full-time duty on a top-two line in the NHL? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?

If you've missed any of the previous 2007-08 Rink Wraps, click here, get caught up, and vote - polls will stay open for a while.

* And by "every," we mean every one who played more than just a handful of games.



1) Yes, Fehr 'deserves' an 'incomplete', and its difficult when a guy misses so much time then is thrust into a playoff push.
2) He seemed to show some positives in spurts. Using his size effectively, etc. Then he'd be invisible in many stretches, or show a lack of finishing 'touch'.
3) He deserves a good look in camp, and it would be a disappointment if he fails to crack the lineup as a top 6 forward.

Christopher said...

The low shooting percentage was the one big downside to Fehr's season. Shooting percentage is very volatile and subject to a lot of factors outside of a player's control. This can lead to wild swings in goal productivity (see Pettinger, Matt and Ribeiro, Mike for two opposites on this spectrum). Given his proven scoring ability through juniors and the AHL, combined with his willingness to go to the net, I would be willing to bet that he'll get something like 15-20 goals next year. A lot of that total will depend on which line he plays on and whether or not he gets significant power play time.

The nice thing about Fehr is, he doesn't kill you when he's not scoring (see Fleischmann, Tomas).

Tyler said...

I've never understood shooting percentage as a stat... except that if you're a Tomas Holmstrom-type who goes to the front of the net to be an obstruction/shot-deflector you get a lot of games where you get a goal on two "shots." Which I only mention because that's where E. Fehr needs to station himself next year.

Fehr has top six skill and size (which is more than I can say for 43). The Caps need him to have a Laich-ian breakthrough 20G season next year. If he doesn't, the Caps' troubles at RW will probably keep them from getting out of the first round.

exwhaler said...

Fehr made the jump from Hershey to DC after only 11 games since returning from his mystery back ailment. Despite the lack of goal scoring, Fehr didn't look out of place when he got here, despite the long layoff, and he proved his value over Fleichmann in the playoffs. For that alone, I gave him a "6." I think many fans, me included, thought that Fehr's career was pretty much done. Just suiting up and contributing the Boyd Gordon Way on the NHL team is a big accomplishment.

Next season will be the big test; with Andrew Gordon and Bouchard continuing to progress in their development, Fehr's short on time to re-establish himself. One thing to watch: Fehr historically has needed at least one season to acclimate to each new level of hockey. Then, the scoring starts to come in bunches.

hotdog88gt said...

He's a solid 10 - he's as good as he is going to get. He had nearly 30 games in the NHL before he returned to the Bears and then the Caps. His stats this season follow the same general path as previous games.

We've seen all we're going to see from Fehr as far as offensive output goes. He'll likely be a solid 4th, maybe 3rd liner when the dust settles.

b.orr4 said...

Eric gets a pass for this past season but next year could be make or break for him; not only because of his age but because there are so many good young scorers who will be pressing him from Hershey. Right now Fehr's positive far outweigh his negatives. He's got tremendous size AND strength, surprising speed and a God-given scorer's touch. The big negative is that he's never really shown that touch at this level. But given that he's always excelled in his second and third years in both Juniors and the AHL, you have to hope the trend continues in the NHL. If it does you've got the prototype power forward. Off topic, did my eyes deceive me or did Malkin slew-foot another Ranger yesterday after NY's second goal?

breed16 said...

To play 30 NHL games after lying around for 10 months is incredibly difficult. To play your FIRST important NHL minutes at the tail end of a playoff push on a great team, after sitting around for ten months, is ridiculous. I had a mysterious back ailment for a few weeks; from my experience, his return performance will work wonders for his confidence.

I thought the Caps rushed him a bit, but the fact that he was able to come in and provide a clear (to me, though maybe not to BB) upgrade over Flash speaks to his raw ability. A full offseason and some experience under his belt, and I see him top 6 or top 9 next year easily, filling the role as a young/poor man's Chris Clark.

exwhaler said...

>>>"We've seen all we're going to see from Fehr as far as offensive output goes."

I highly doubt that. His ATOI in his first 11 games was only 5 minutes, while he's only been averaging about 10:30 for the last two seasons. In addition, most of his 2006-2007 games were played with a bad back that eventually threatened his career. Fehr hasn't had the opportunity yet to fully adjust to the NHL. After all, Brooks Laich and Mike Green had 151 and 92 NHL games of experience for their breakout seasons. Fehr's only had 25.

Let's not rush to judgement on a guy who's actually younger than Laich and the same age as Green. I think those two players showed the value of patience, and given Fehr's pre-injury history, his potential may be higher than those two.

Marky Narc said...

I gave Fehr a 4. Yeah, you could give him an incomplete if you wanted to, but what;s really incomplete is the development of his game at the NHL level. (See now neatly I tied it all together there? Yeah, narc, whatever...)

More than any other forward, I think Fehr is almost on the cusp of a breakout season. He has a history of starting slow and then busting out. He did it in the WHL, he did it in the AHL, and given what we've seen of him so far (which is admittedly limited), there's no reason why we shouldn't think he could do it at the NHL level.

If Flash deserves a two-year deal to see if he blossoms up to his potential, there's no way you can justify not inking Fehr to a similar deal and seeing if he can do the same.

dmg said...

We've seen all we're going to see from Fehr as far as offensive output goes. He'll likely be a solid 4th, maybe 3rd liner when the dust settles.

I agree with exwhaler. Fehr has a great track record: 109 goals over his last two season in juniors, 25 goals as an AHL rookie and 22 goals in 41 games before his injury last season. His lack of production is a little bit of a head scratcher, but as exwhaler mentioned he's seen so little ice time, especially with top tier players, that it's affecting him. If I were the Capitals, I'd consider him my 6th forward heading into the offseason because even if he isn't scoring, he drives the net, forchecks well, plays smart and plays good defense.

Assuming he can stay injury free, I see Fehr developing into a 2nd liner.

RandyD said...

I gave Fehr a 6, but he is a tough call. Without being at a training camp, and so few games after coming back from a lengthy injury, did we see the real Fehr? Like Faux says, I'd like to see what he does in camp. His AHL track record says he deserves a shot. The concern is that he a great AHL player, and just can't put it together in the NHL.

Scott said...

I'll give him a 6, just because I don't have any reason to go high or low and i'll give him an extra point because he scored a goal in the playoffs.

By the way - since there is no other post on here that this would fit - wow these conference finals absolutely suck. I guess pitt and philly will be interesting, but i despise all 4 teams.

Ogre said...

I gave him a three, because with all the talk we're getting about him being the teams future RW didn't show at all. I was expecting a quiet maybe 10 goal campaign. Less than that disappointed me.

JP said...

Injury aside, I'm surprised so few people were disappointed by one goal in 23 games.

Scott said...

I wasn't really dissapointed because I don't know that he was on the line(s) he really should have been to flourish points-wise. I tend to think that for a 3rd/4th line to develop scoring touch they really need to have time to develop chemistry. Those are the lines that shouldn't be altering all the time. The top lines will find ways to score, that's why those players are there.

exwhaler said...

>>>"Injury aside, I'm surprised so few people were disappointed by one goal in 23 games."

Well, for me, you can't put the injury aside. He's been out of action for about a year, barely even skating. I thought it was dangerous to call him up so quick, afraid that he wasn't completely reconditioned, that the back may act up again...any number of things. I wish the goal scoring was there, but given his historically slow starts and his long layoff, it doesn't really have me worried yet.

JP said...

Oh, I'm not worried. But c'mon - 23 games and just one goal isn't at least a little disappointing?

Anonymous said...

I'm convinced that Fehr has tremendous upside and we'll see good things next year from him. I'd much rather see him in the lineup than Flash. I'd like to see Fehr as a top-six, but he has the size and ruggedness to play well on the 3rd or 4th lines. A healthy Fehr, Clark & Nylander spell good things for the 2008/2009 Washington Capitals.

Ogre said...

I dunno, I like Flash's upside, he's young(the Eminger excuse) and he struggled in a place he shouldn't have been thrown so soon last year (the Pothier excuse).
I hope someday both Flash and Fehr pan out.
Ovechkin - Backstrom - Fleischmann
Semin - Nylander - Fehr
down the road if all of those players hit their full potential could be a devastating 1-2 punch. (Flash and Semin are too similar style to put on the same line).

Again - That's if both fehr and flash pan out EXACTLY to possibilities.

Brunella said...

Well, I gave him a '4'. I was delighted that he was able to play at all, but I have to admit I expected more from him. But I think the reason we didn't see more production was because of the (rehab?) role he was assigned. He summed it up in that article that JP found from the Lebanon Daily Yacker (or whatever): "With the Caps I was more of a checker and just trying to do the simple plays."

And so there it is. He did what was asked on the 3rd/4th lines -- which was cycle the puck deep and keep it at the attacking end. Only rarely did he attack with flair. Nor did he (and I kept yelling at him to do this) take a stand in front of the net and smack in some dirty goals. But his linemates weren't 'shooters' so there you go.

I also agree that next year is the fateful year for him, if he is healthy and given his age. If he can't step up and become an everyday 2nd line winger, then he may perhaps become a checker for life. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It's just not what I expected.

And this is all about expectations.

breed16 said...

A 2% shooting percentage will do that --> A symptom of rust and just bad luck. I consider it a fluke and I don't expect him to go a full season, shooting as much as he does, with a 2% shooting percentage.

Now on to's gonna be brutal.