Don’t Worry: Ryan Malone Always Hits His Season Goal Mark

ATLANTA - OCTOBER 22: Ryan Malone  of the Tampa Bay Lightning watches as a Brett Clark  scores a goal past goaltender Chris Mason  of the Atlanta Thrasher at Philips Arena on October 22, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

I don’t know who does Ryan Malone’s publicity, but they’re very good.

The Tampa Tribune reports Malone is working his way out of a recent slump:

He started with one goal and seven assists in the first 14 games, continuing a scoring drought from the second half of last season, when the five-time 20-goal scorer went without a goal for the final 19 games and had only seven assists during that time. That’s one goal during a 33-game span between the end of last year and the start of this season.

Malone was having a tough time of it, but seems to have found his game via the power play. Four of his five goals this season are on the power play.

But the interesting thing is, Malone really isn’t that much off of his game. He’s a 20-something goal guy. In fact, he only has one sub-20 goal season: 2006-07, when he scored 16 goals in 64 games. Last season he had 21 goals in 69 games. Right now, Malone is on pace for 17 goals, but if he continues to heat up and doesn’t miss too many games, neither of which is inconceivable, he should have no trouble hitting his over-20 goal season mark. Especially given his slow start to this season which is skewing the projected goal number down.

And that’s the beauty of Malone. He’s a solid, two-way player. He’s a big body. He’s great on special teams, both the power play and the penalty goal.

And he’s remarkably consistent: he’s a 20-goal guy.

And yet we act like he’s not. We act shocked when he goes into a bit of a slump. We lock him into seven-year contracts, like we can’t afford to let him get away (although, to be fair, that contract averages out to a cap-friendly $4.5 million per season).

Malone is a solid player but he’s also shockingly consistent. At this point in career, it’s safe to say there’s no hidden upside. There’s no 30-goal scorer lurking within him. It’s not a critique of Malone. It’s more a critique of some of the hockey world’s reaction to him.

Malone will slump. He’s always had slumps. But at the end of the season, given enough games to play, he always makes that 20-something goal mark.