Most Surprising: Matt D’Agostini
Every season brings surprises and unexpected performances. The Blues had several players step into new roles for the first time and bring large returns for relatively small investments. From a strict return on investment (ROI) view, no one had a larger return than Matt D’Agostini.
In order to fully appreciate D’Agostini’s contributions in 2010-11 for the Blues, it’s important to look back and see what he has done earlier in his career.
His first regular season experience at the NHL level came with an extremely brief (one game) cameo in the 2007-08 season with the Montreal Candiens. He earned two penalty minutes in his one and only appearance.
Moving on to the 2008-09 campaign, the Canadiens elected to give D’Agostini an increased role with the team. Here he skated in 53 games and contributed 12 goals and nine assists for a total of 21 points. The red flag from this season came through his plus/minus of (-17), a typical indication of his role on the team and his (and his linemates) inability to shut down the opposition.
The 2009-10 season was one of transition as D’Agostini skated in 40 games with the Canadies before being shipped to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline in exchange for Aaron Palushaj. Unfortunately, D’Agostini’s first exposure to the fans of St. Louis was rocky as he finished out the season by recording zero points and a (-3) in seven contests.
Heading into the 2010-11 season, it wasn’t too clear what D’Agostini’s role with the team would be. He wound up being a member of the checking line in the hopes he could bring a bit of offense to the lines typically composed of the bash & crash skaters.
D’Agostini’s solid play mixed in with a wealth of injuries that struck through the heart of the team’s lineup saw the winger jump into the second and even first line. Needless to say, he made the most of his opportunity.
Over the course of 82 games, D’Agostini first proved he was a reliable skater as he was able to suit up for each and every game this season. Secondly, he proved that he had more offensive talent than most believed as he scored 21 goals and 25 assists for a total of 46 points. He also rounded out his defensive game and finished the year as a +8.
His opportunity to shine might have come more as a result of key injuries, but plenty of credit should be given to D’Agostini as not only was he able to make the most of his opportunity (how many times have we seen guys stumble when given a chance, say like T.J. Hensick) but he also remained a solid weapon once the walking wounded returned.
Many fans may not look at their teams as a business, but there is no denying the fact that they are. Every team is looking to get the most bang for their buck – except for the New York Islanders that like to give 15-year deals to fragile netminders (I couldn’t resist).
The main objective is keeping a player’s salary as low as possible and receiving a larger return than you are paying for. In D’Agostini’s case, he made a mere $550,000 in 2010-11. To put that number in perspective, he was actually making $50,000 less than Cam Janssen who was earning $600,000, yet D’Agostini finished 5th on the team in scoring.
Heading into the 2011-12 season, D’Agostini is a restricted free-agent and is due a pretty hefty raise based on his performance.
Needless to say, his huge production of 46 points was an enormous return on such a tiny contract/investment. This fact not only makes D’Agostini the biggest surprise of the 2010-11 season but also the best surprise of the 2010-11 season.
The selection of Matt D’agostini as the most surprising story this year probably doesn’t come as a big surprise. Tiny contract + big offensive output = pretty surprising.
However, there actually was one storyline that I thought rivaled the D’Agostini story in terms of most surprising – the huge emergence of Alex Pietrangelo.
We knew Pietrangelo was good. We knew he had a ton of talent, but honestly, did anyone out there really think he would overtake Erik Johnson and become such a gifted defenseman both defensively and offensively in his very first NHL season? Probably not.
This point struck me sharply when I saw a fan on Twitter state that Pietrangelo was making Johnson look like the “rookie” and not the other way around. It made me realize that while injuries hampered Johnson’s career, his development had been much slower than we anticipated. With Pietrangelo, it’s the exact opposite. I believed he’d be a nice addition to the roster, but I can’t say I expected him to completely take over the blueline and make us ask, “Erik who?”.