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Can Valtteri Filppula bounce back in 2015-16?

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The Finnish forward had a solid first season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but took a step back in his second. What does he need to do to get back to where he was?

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman signed Finnish forward Valtteri Filppula to a five year, $25 million contract prior to the 2013-14 season, stepping into the second line center role vacated by way of the compliance buyout of Vincent Lecavalier. As a two-way, playmaking center, Filppula was expected to fill in the depth chart behind Steven Stamkos while Tyler Johnson was starting his first full NHL season as third-line center and Nate Thompson rounded things out. When Stamkos broke his leg in November 2013, Johnson leap-frogged Filppula to take over as top-line center

Filppula, usually sharing the line with Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell on his left and right wings, posted a career-high 25 goals and his second-best points finish with 58 in 75 games that season, placing him third on the club in scoring. His offensive production came by way of both even-strength and special teams: 19 goals and 19 assists for 38 points came at even strength play, generating 65.5% of his total points on the season. On the power play, Filppula contributed 6 goals and 14 assists for his other 20 points. In general while he was on the ice, the Lightning had a 55.7% Goals-For percentage and a Corsi-For % of 52.4%.

In 2014-15, Filppula saw a bit more flux with his linemates and his position in the lineup and his even strength play suffered. He scored 12 goals, 36 assists for 48 points in 82 games. Additionally, his +/- dropped from a +5 to a -14. He had 10 goals and 21 assists at even strength. During 5v5 play though, he had a 45.3% Goals For percentage and a Corsi For % of 50.6%, both down from the previous season. His most common partners at 5v5 were Ryan Callahan and Steven Stamkos. Both of those players had significantly better GF% when not with Filppula. Additionally on the power play, Filppula contributed 2 goals and 15 assists for 17 points. 64.5% of his total points came at even strength.

Comparatively, by percentage of his total points, even strength vs. power play, Filppula's point production didn't change much other than being down overall. However, the advanced statistics of his play at 5v5 tells a story of allowing a lot of goals. Hopefully this coming season, he'll have more stable linemates that he'll be able to develop chemistry with throughout the year and he can get back to being a positive player at 5v5. While his production was down from 2013-14, he still had a decent year in 2014-15 and at this point is still worth the investment that Steve Yzerman made in him because of his locker room presence and off-ice leadership. By next offseason, he could become expendable if Vladislav Namestnikov can prove that he is ready to be the third line center behind Stamkos and Johnson. A career year would also make Filppula a very valuable commodity for a team needing a 2nd line center next offseason.

Statistics and information drawn from GeneralFanager.comEliteProspects.comHockey-Reference.com, and HockeyAnalysis.com.