Rick Nash, born June 16, 1984 in Brampton, Ont...

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This year is probably the craziest trade dead that I’ve seen in quiet some time. There appear to be 84 teams competing for a playoff spot and nearly 40 of them are willing to make a move to acquire that final piece that will either allow them to bring home the Stanley Cup or just squeak into the eighth and final playoff spot.

As it stands now the biggest fish in the pond is of course Columbus Blue Jackets prized winger Rick Nash. I’ll try not to dwell too much on this as it’s been over analysed for nearly two weeks now. The asking price for Nash is absurd. Scott Howson appears to be unwilling to move Nash for anything less then 15 players and 10 first round draft picks.

Well that’s what it seems like. All the articles that I’ve read have mentioned first line players, a couple top prospects and a couple of early draft picks….just to be considered! WHAT!

We’re talking about Rick Nash here, this isn’t Steve Stamkos or Evgeni Malkin. Rich Nash. Now I’ll admit Nash is a good player, but I’m no fan. He’s not the type of player that can carry team by himself. If he were the Blue Jackets wouldn’t be competing for the lottery pick.

There is a tremendous amount of pressure on Howson to make the right move. At the same time there is no pressure at all. Howson would be wise to wait until the draft to move Nash as plenty of teams that are interested in him aren’t willing to mess up their team chemistry, let alone their entire roster to acquire Nash’s services.

A handful of teams would make a good fit for Nash, but those teams likely don’t have enough pieces to make a deal work. Nash will likely end up in San Jose to play along side his buddy Joe Thornton. Where he will explode and everyone will proclaim him to be a godsend. But we all know that his game will be brought to a new level playing along side one of the NHL’s greatest and most proficient playmakers of all time.

In return the Jackets would likely require a goalie (duh) which could mean the end of Antti Niemi’s run in California. Which would leave a big hole in net for the Sharks. But never fear the Sharks could sign Tomas Vokoun or Evgeni Nabokov via UFA (assuming they aren’t resigned by the Capitals and Islanders respectively).

Enough with Nash, I don’t like him and I don’t particularly care if he’s dealt or not. In the end someone will greatly over pay for him.

 

There are a host of teams that are looking for some solid secondary scoring and the most attractive options appear to be the New York Islanders P.A. Parenteau (whom I love) and the Toronto Maple Leafs Mikhael Grabovski.  These guys would be good fits for teams like the Nashville Predators or the New York Rangers. The biggest plus is that the return wouldn’t be nearly as high as the impending Nash deal.

Two other players that I’m highly interested in Mason Raymond of the Vancouver Canucks and Mike Ribeiro of the Dallas Stars.

Raymond is pretty much a redundant player on the Canucks who could use a little bit of size in exchange for him to compliment the Canucks tremendous skill. He’ll likely be dealt at the deadline and the Canucks. Though don’t expect the player they receive in return to be someone of tremendous value a player like Mike Knuble would be a good fit as he adds some size to the lineup., Despite being an old guy and not over productive he can still help out.

Ribeiro on the other hand might be more difficult to deal as he’s still under contract with a limited no trade clause…oh and he makes $5 million so he’s not a cheap option. But he does have tremendous talent and would be a great addition to teams looking for some added offensive at the deadline.

Of course we’ll just have to wait until Monday to find out who goes where and what prices are paid to acquire them.

The trade deadline whether you love it or hate is probably the single most exciting day on the NHL calender. It has the ability to push your team over the top this season or set your team up for the next five years.

English: Alex Ovechkin, warmups.

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Dominance, talent, desire, skill, drive, rock star.

One of these things is not like the other. One of these things is not a desirable trait in a hockey player.

All of these words at one point in time used to describe the enigma that has become Alex Ovechkin.

It’s no secret that Ovechkin is struggling this season. After all a player that was expected to be the next great player hasn’t been anything more then an average player in two seasons. So what’s to blame for the down fall from Hall of Fame career to merely a popular player who just can’t get it done anymore.

Few players have had a career that started with as much promise or gusto as O-Show’s. Through his first five years he never failed to score more then 90 points. In four of those seasons he broke the 100 point plateau with a career high 112 points coming in his third season.

He followed that year up with two near carbon copy seasons that saw him top the 100 point mark and the vaunted 50 goal mark. Once the most feared marksman in the league Ovechkin has fallen on hard times over the past two seasons.

Last year marked the first time in his career that he failed to surpass 90 points and yet still he finished with a respectable 85 points. He still managed to play at a 1.07 point per game pace but that was still considered a disappointment for a player that up until last season had been a 1.34 point per game monster.

This season has been even worse for one of the league’s most recognizable and marketable figures.

As of right now Ovechkin has a rather pedestrian 48 points in 58 games played. Resulting in a mere .83 points per game pace. A mark that would see him finish the season with a disappointing 68 points. A far cry from the mark that many were expecting from their super star when they selected him with their first pick in fantasy drafts this season.

So what gives? Is there some magic reason to explain his demise from fantasy hockey god to mere complimentary player?

It could be something as simple as the number of shots on goal. After all we all know just how much Ovechkin loves to score. If you don’t shoot, you won’t score, it’s a simple adage that has seemingly slipped Ovechkin’s mind.

His shot totals per game have slipped over the past 4 seasons from a ridiculous 6.683 shots on net in 2008-2009 to 3.775 this season. That may not be enough to explain his tremendous slide but it helps to shed some light.

But what is the cause of that? Is it an unwillingness to go to the dirty spots to score goals? We all know that Alex loves to shoot the one timer from the outside, and he loves to shoot the big slapper from the circle but how many goals to do you see him shooting from the slot or around the net?

Could it be that teams have finally learned that keeping him to the outside renders him nearly useless. I highly doubt that. After all teams have been trying to do that since his rookie season and that proved futile for 6 years.

Could it be a lack of cohesion with his head coaches? That doesn’t appear to be the case as Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter aren’t the kind of coaches to let a player walk all over them.

It could be blamed on a lack of talent surrounding him as Nick Backstrom – an offensive dynamo in his own right- has missed significant time with a concussion. Without an elite play maker feeding him the puck Ovechkin may be facing more pressure when he has the puck. But that can’t be the root of the problem. After all his first two seasons he played without Backstrom.

For me Ovechkin’s problems stem from the blueline. Yeah that’s right Ovechkin is struggling so mightily because defenceman Mike Green can’t stay healthy.

During Ovechkin’s three most productive seasons Green played in 68 or more games. From the 2007-2008 season to the 2009-2010 season Green averaged 72 games played and an impressive 68 points per season. Over that stretch Ovechkin saw his own stats explode as he averaged an amazing 110 points.

Since the start of the 2010-2011 season Green has only played in 64 games picking up a mere 30 points along the way. That coincides with Ovechkin’s tremendous drop in production down from an average of  110 points the previous three seasons to a disappointing 66.5 points the past two years.

Clearly Ovechkin is still a tremendously talented player but without an offensively gifted player like Mike Green on the blue line feeding him picture perfect break out passes from the blue line he won’t be able to return to his former glory days.

A healthy season from Nick Backstrom and Mike Green next season could see Ovechkin return to the top of the fantasy rankings but that’s not likely to happen any time soon. After all injury prone players like Mike Green don’t suddenly become healthy. It wouldn’t be out of line to say that Green could be healthy it’s not very likely and until then you can’t count on Ovechkin to be anything more then a complimentary player for your fantasy roster.

If someone else is willing to pay top dollar for his services let them, you know better.

 

 

Ottawa Senators

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Wow! This is something new for Ottawa Senators fans. Suddenly the Senators have an abundance of quality goaltenders in the organization.

Today the Senators have traded a second round draft pick  in 2013 to the St.Louis Blues in exchange for minor league goaltender Ben Bishop.

Now on the surface that may be confusing for a team to surrender a second round pick for a minor league goaltender but one must take into consideration that Bishop has the talents to be an NHL stopper and the only thing stopping him from seeing time in the NHL this season has been the superb play of Jaroslav Halak and running mate Brian Elliot.

For the Blues this deal makes sense in that a strong team that has built itself through shrewd free agent signings and strong drafting will get another pick to help add some talent to a group that already includes a host of players with tremendous talent and even higher upside.

From the Senators stand point they may have complicated things a bit. The recent injury to their work horse starter Craig Anderson has left the Senators scrambling to address an immediate need in net. We all know that Alex Auld is not going to take the opportunity and run with it like other back ups have in the past. He’s just not suited that handle that kind of work load. He’s a league average goalie at best who is most effective when given 10-15 games a year.

Senators fans may be even more confused with this move as the Senators already have a tremendous future number one in Robin Lehner. Last year’s Calder Cup winning goalie.

A quick comparison of their numbers this season may help to clear things up a bit.

Bishop has posted an impressive 24-14-4, 2.26 GAA, .928 SV% in Peoria this season.

Lehner on the other hand hasn’t impressed nearly as much this season with a 8-16-1, 3.38 GAA, .905 SV% mark though 27 games this season in Binghamton.

Granted Lehner is still very young as he is just 20 years old compared to Bishop who is 5 years his senior.

It’s hard to say what the Senators plan here is, but one can assume that management is more then comfortable going with Bishop as the interim number one goalie and letting Lehner get more seasoning in the AHL.

For those looking for goaltending help it’s time to jump all over Bishop. Finding a new number one this late in the season is near impossible so this should be considered a coup.

Add him now…I did.

 

Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist (Photo credit: Robert Kowal)

So it’s February 11th. The season is almost 70% over, and the trade deadline is approaching. There is plenty of the typical speculation of which teams will be buyers or sellers. Which players are likely to be dealt and where they may go as well as their potential impact. But most importantly will any of these players have any additional fantasy impact.

This means that the trade deadline in your fantasy league is approaching as well so what should you do? Well you should look to address your biggest needs. Most likely it’s too late to make a significant impact but a small jump up the standings is still worth something when it comes to bragging rights.

As for me I’m finding it difficult to make any moves of late. Sure the waiver wire is still dominated by me. I may not have made the most moves but I’ve made the best moves. Currently the only players on my roster that are owned in less then 99% of leagues are scoring sensations Sam Gagner, Kyle Okposo, Tyler Bozak and Martin Hanzal. I’ve also added Kurtis Foster and his booming shot from the point to my already stacked blueline.

Finding players like these guys on the waiver wire isn’t that difficult especially in leagues that count PIMS and hits as categories because there are always a couple of managers that stash away a fighter or a hitter on their roster in hopes of dominating those categories. Often times at the expense of the other more common and frankly most important offensive categories.

Which brings me back to my difficulties in making a trade. I would love to acquire another goaltender for my team- having just parted ways with Sergei Bobrovsky. The biggest issue is that managers are often unwilling to deal with the team atop the standings even if they stand to gain the most ground.

Let’s face it, if I add another goalie to my team it’s not likely to be a stud goalie like Jonathan Quick or Henrik Lundqvist because their owners aren’t willing to part ways with them and I’m not willing to pay the toll to acquire them. So I’ve set my sights a little bit lower to the lower tier of starting goalies.

I’ve targetted Craig Anderson (whom I love because he’s a Senator). His wins alone is the main reason why he’s a target of mine even though his GAA and SV% would likely cost me a spot of two in the standings.  I’ve offered a handful of trades of lower end offensive options to his owner. Cody Hodgson, Kyle Okposo amongst others weren’t deemed to be “enough” to acquire his services.

Ultimately it’s not a big deal and has taught me something that I will employ next season in my drafts. Draft a third goalie. Sure I only “need” two goalies but a third goalie will make a big difference in the long run. Currently my goaltenders have combined to start just 72 games. My combination of Roberto Luongo, Tim Thomas and Sergei Bobrovsky (formerly of Team Vandenbrand fame) have guided me to 46 W, 2.33 GAA, .925 SV% or in other words 26.5 pts out of a possible 36 in the goalie categories. All this despite having fewer starts then all but two teams in my league.

A third goalie like a Craig Anderson would be best served a plug and play guy in favourable matchups. An extra 10-20 wins with 2.40 GAA and .920 SV% would be more then enough to help capture a top three finish in all the goaltending categories. Something that I had not considered during my drafts.

A strong offense has pushed me to 78 points of a possible 84. Or put in other terms I’m first or second in every category but PIM (where I rank fourth. )

So what does this all tell me?

I know that given a working computer on draft day and great pre-rankings (just incase) I can build an offensive strong enough to beat anyone. I’ve also learned that I must take a third goalie to compliment my selections of the elite netminders.

Next season my personal rankings will be drastically different then they were this season. Sure the power forwards like Jamie Benn, Milan Lucic etc will still be ranked higher then most will surely rank them but after the elite scorers (Evgeni Malkin, Steve Stamkos, Pavel Datsyuk, Claude Giroux,  Daniel and Henrik Sedin ) my top ten will likely include Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard, Pekka Rinne. Of which I will draft one of those goaltenders and if another is available to be in the second round I will grab them.

With so few goaltending stats to be had giving yourself an immediate advantage by drafting two of the best goalies is the way to go. There are so many more stong offensive options in the mid-late rounds that you can make up for it. After all guys like Adam Henrique, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, Milan Michalek, Radim Vrbata come along each and every year and help to fill the void left by not drafting players like Geno or Stammer.

Filling in the rest of your roster from the third round to the tenth round is the most vital part of the draft. After using my first two selections on goalies I will be in a huge hole when it comes to filling the net. But I have no worries. Grabbing the underrated guys like Johan Franzen, the much maligned Jason Spezza, Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Eric Cole, Brad Marchant, Matt Moulson etc and working the waiver wire like an extended bench will make up for the lack of stud scorers.

Throw in a handful of solid reliable blueliners and a couple break out perfomers (yes I know impossible to predict) and you’ve got yourself a contending team.

For those reading this that play in leagues with me it doesn’t matter if you know my intentions ahead of time the hardest thing for you is to try to stop me from winning.

My team as it currently stands is -

Pavel Datsyuk

Ryan Kesler

Johan Franzen

Jason Spezza

James Neal

Jamie Benn

Ryan Callahan

Patrick Elias

Kyle Okposo

Sam Gagner

Tyler Bozak

Milan Michalek

Martin Hanzal

Dan Boyle

Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf

Ian White

Dennis Wideman

John Carlson

Kurtis Foster

Tim Thomas

Roberto Luongo

English: Ryan Malone of the Tampa Bay Lightnin...

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Well the New Year didn’t open as well as I had planned for it to. The players that I recommended a couple of weeks ago have been…well they’ve been disappointing. My group of Kyle Turris, Bryan Little, Clarke MacArthur, Erik Gudbransson, Trevor Daley and Josh Harding combined to produce 10 pts, +7, 20 PIM, 22 H, 59 SOG, 1-2, 3.00 GAA, .915 SV%. Yeah that’s right, 5 players combined to produce just 10 pts, what’s even worse about it about is that only one player actually had a good week.

Turris put up a 5 pts, +6, 13 PIM, 14 SOG, 3 H line by himself, essentially accounting for half of the total production of the above group.  Clearly there was a good reason why I recommended him.

Little’s return was a big disappointment as I personally added him to my roster in hopes that he would return to form immediately, good thing he never left the bench.  Daley who is also on my team was pinned to the bench last week. Gudbransson was a tease, he still possesses tremendous upside but for now he’s only worth a watch list add.

MacArthur has been terrible and will need to put up 40 pts the rest of the way in order to just match his production from last season, good luck with that one.

The MOST disappointing player though was Josh Harding. In his 4 starts he allowed 2 goals in two games and 4 goals in the other two games. One thing that has been established though for Harding is that he’s the Minnesota Wild’s away starting goalie. 7 of his last 8 games started have been on the road, and he hasn’t won back to back games since November 23rd. He’s owned in 18.7% of ESPN leagues right now and even though he may be better then Backstrom of late he’s shown that he’s better served on the waiver wire and not clogging up an all valuable bench spot.

So let’s move onto to players that should be better this week.

Colin Greening- This is the second time that I’ve recommended him. The big power forward has been productive of late with 4 pts in his last 4 games. Combine that with his +1,  7 SOG, 4 H, 1 PPP and you’ve got yourself a nice little addition to your lineup. He’s playing on the Senators top two lines night in and night out. Given the amount of fire power in the Sens lineup it’s only a matter time before he a legit fantasy option. He brings a physical presence to the ice with 96 H on the season and though he may not be a 70 pt guy at the end of this season  his current Pts/GP pace would translate to 20 pts the rest of the way. He’s definately worth keeping an eye on, if you’re looking to add some hits to your lineup do it now. He’s owned in 3.4% of ESPN leagues. Meaning he’ll give you plenty of reasons to brag at the end of the season if he continues to play the way he has of late.

Ryan Malone-  He may be the least sexy forward on the Lighnting’s roster but he’s been quietly effective of late. His 8 points in his last 6 games show that he’s starting to heat up. What’s even better is that over that time he’s picked up 3 PPP, and 18 H. He’s not going to help you out too much in the +/- department as he’s been a minus player each of the last 3 seasons and is a career -37, but he’s worth adding while he’s hot given his power play time. He’s owned in 6.6% of ESPN leagues so he’s available if you’re looking for some PPP help.

Cody Hodgson- With 9 pts in his last 12 games the youngster is finally starting to deliver on the promise that him a first round draft pick. Unfortunately for those in leagues that count more then the standard offensive stats he doesn’t bring much else to the table. He’s worth picking up if you’re in a deeper keeper league but for those in one and done leagues it’s probably best to look else where for more production across the board. Hodgson is a gifted player and his development has been stunted due to injury so it may take another season for him to make a big fantasy impact. He’s owned in 6.6% of ESPN leagues like Malone, for those in keeper leagues he’s the one you want, for those that aren’t Malone is the better play.

Kyle Okposo-  For a team that doesn’t win many games the Islanders have a handful of impact fantasy forwards. John Tavares is an absolute monster and will only get better as he progresses. Throw in wingman Matt Moulson, and the Islanders have their very own dynamic duo.Throw in P.A. Parenteau, the struggling Michael Grabner and Okposo and the Islanders are team that clearly has some talent on the top two lines. Okposo in particular has been highly effective of late, 11 pts in his last 12 games he’s currently riding a 4 game point streak. The former first rounder is owned 22.4% of ESPN leagues which is surprising considering he’s shown some tremendous promise in seasons past. He doesn’t produce much outside of points and hasn’t produced anything on the PP for now, but why mess with a good thing after all the Islanders rank 9th in the NHL on the PP. Add Okposo to your roster now!

Justin Faulk-  Another young player to keep an eye on. The Hurricanes young puck mover is the most offensively gifted blueliner on the team. Faulk has 6 pts in his last 10 games, showing that he’s really coming into his own as those 6 points account for more then half of his 11 on the season.All that after struggling through the first two months of the season with 2 points in his first 13 games. He and Jamie McBain are clearly the blueliners of the future for the Hurricanes so you may want to grab him while you still can if you’re in a keeper league. He’s owned in a mere 10.8% of ESPN leagues so you’ve still got time to add him to your roster but a player with his upside- think Tobias Enstrom- won’t last too much longer.

Ryan Ellis- We’ll keep with theme of young mobile blueliners with the Predators latest addition to their already stacked blueline. Ellis is a former OHL Champion, Memorial Cup Champion, and World Junior Champion. Now he’s looking to add the rare Triple Champion crown to his resume as he seeks a Cup with the Preds. Ellis is a power play quater back in the making, though he’ll be blocked as long as the Predators still have Shea Weber, and Ryan Suter. For those in keeper leagues Ellis is a must add (presuming your league keeps a large amount of players), for now he’s a worth keeping an eye on as the Little Giant has picked up 5 points in his last 5 games. Unfortunately he’s averaging only 15:18 Mins per game but could easily develop into Brian Rafalski clone, and who wouldn’t want that?

Jay Harrison-  Who? You know the Maple Leafs draft pick from 2001. The guy who wasn’t an NHL regular until last season. The same guy who prior to this season had not produced more then 10 pts in any NHL campaign. The same guy who…you know what, it doesn’t really matter what he has and hasn’t done in the past the fact of the matter is that Harrison has 7 pts in his past 10 games. That means you should be picking him up for your team. He’s not a sexy pick by any stretch, but for those that are searching for some scoring help from the blueline he’s worth an add. His ownership has skyrocket the past few days moving up to the 30% mark. He’s still an unrealiable asset but he’s worth the risk at this stage in the game.

Jonas Gustavsson- Could the Leafs have already had their franchise goalie in Gustavsson? Probably not, but should they give him some more run? The answer is obviously yes. Over the last 30 days both Gustavsson and James Reimer have made 6 starts. The results have been dramatically different. Here’s a quick break down-

Gustavsson- 4 W, 2.14 GAA, .927 SV% 

Reimer-  2 W, 3.08 GAA, .912 SV%

It’s pretty clear that the Leafs have a better chance (of late) of winning games whent he Monster is between the pipes.  Given the amount of uncertainty with the Leafs netminders it’s probably best to steer clear of the situation. Though if you must own one of the two I’d roll the dice with Gustavsson, he’s owned in 64.2% of ESPN leagues meaning he’s not likely available in your league. But if you’re in need of a goalie he’s worth the risk. Riemer on the other hand if owned in 52.8% of leagues, but without a couple of back to back strong performances that number will/should plummet.

Jonas Enroth-  Can they just name him the starter already? Clearly Ryan Miller is not the same goalie as he was last season. The concussion he sustained from his run in with Boston’s Milan Lucic may have hurt him more then initally thought. Not only will be concussion prone now, he can’t stop the puck either. Movies and logic would dictate that the next sentence include the words, “Enter Jonas Enroth”, but logic doesn’t apply to the Sabres – see Ville Leino free agent signing.

Miller’s stats are abyssmal and there doesn’t seem to be any bright spots on the horizon either.  Over the past month their numbers are polar opposites.

Miller-10 GS,  3 W, 3.12 GAA, .890 SV%

Enroth- 3 GS, 0 W, 1.90 GAA, .949 SV%

What’s amazing is that the Sabres continue to give the majority of starts to Miller despite the fact his numbers on the season- 3.12 GAA, .898 SV%- rank 42nd in GAA and 40th in SV%, so essentially he’s producing like a terrible back up goalie.

Combine those poor stats with his constant whining and you’ve got yourself a player to trade AWAY. If you own him trade him for anyone with a pulse, he’s likely already sunk your GAA and SV% beyond repair. Enroth on the other hand has been strong all season his 2.42 GAA, .924 SV% rates are strong and rank him 17th in GAA and 11th in SV% he’s owned in only 9% of ESPN leagues and while he’s not likely to get the majority of starts the rest of the way he’s clearly the safest bet between the pipes in Buffalo.

Scott Clemmensen-  Ok so he’s not the best goalie around, but he’s better then Miller is so that stands for something right? The Panthers have been struggling of late, yes you could say it’s because of the absence of Jose Theodore between the pipes but Clemmensen hasn’t been terrible since he was thrust into the starters role. He’s started 8 of the Panthers last 10 games but only has 2 W to show for his efforts. He’s been relatively strong over his previous three starts against three strong teams, allowing 2 or fewer goals in two games, but the third game of 4 goals against has sunk his GAA and SV back in line with this season totals of 2.80 GAA, .908 SV%. He’s owned in 14.2% of ESPN leagues and though he’s not likely to turn into a stud he’s a better stop gap goalie then others that are likely available on your waiver wire.

 

English: Josh Harding, goaltender for the Minn...

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Well we ended last year on a good note! So begins 2012 on a high note. Last week my motley crew of Curtis Glencross, Chris Neil, Tyler Bozak, Travis Hamonic, Anton Srtalman, and Jason LaBarbera combined to produce 7 pts, +4, 13 PIM, 24 SOG, 47 H, 2 PPP, as well as a 3.23 GAA, .903 SV%…. fine so LaBarbera didn’t perform so well,  and Bozak also managed to find himself on the IR with a shoulder injury but Glencross and Neil produced enough to make this week a win in my books. Those two alone produced 4 pts, -2, 13 PIM, 13 SOG, 20 H, 2 PPP….guess which one was most productive, I’ll give you a second. Go ahead look it up if you must.

Yeah that’s right Chris Neil is the man! The tough guy has 5 pts in his past 7 games to go along with +1, 11 PIM, 18 SOG, 33 H, 3 PPP,  there’s some sneaky fantasy value if you’re looking for help with minor contributions in the scoring departments and major contributions in the PIM category. 

On the plus side Glencross has had 10 pts in his past 12 games playing alongside Jerome Iginla and Olli Jokinen and even though his production might cool off some if he spends the rest of the season on this line he’ll be a solid fantasy forward the rest of the way.

As the New Year rolls in team managers should be taking a good hard look at their rosters. We’ve played roughly 50% of the season so far, ok so it’s 47.3% to be exact, but now is the time for managers to start making moves. Whether those moves are designed  to ensure a finish in the money this season, or to set themselves up for next season today would be a good day to start looking at your team needs with a completely unbiased view. Hell if you need that view just feel free to ask, that’s what I’m here for.

Right so back on topic, for those that are still in the hunt now would be the opportune time to make a deal for a blueliner if you’re over the max pace for your forwards. Like I did when I dealt away Milan Hejduk for Dennis Wideman a couple weeks ago to shore up my slumping blueline. A move designed to keep me way ahead in my league.

For those looking to play for next season now would be the time to hit up the waiver wire for free agent junior prospects like the Florida Panthers Jonathan Huberdeau, or the New York Islanders Ryan Strome. Throw in NHL rookies Sean Courtier and Jordan Schenn of the Philadelphia Flyers and Brett Connolly of the Tampa Bay Lightning. If they’re not available on the waiver wire then you may have to swallow your pride and hold a fire sale. There’s nothing wrong with selling off star players today for a handful of star players for tomorrow.

If you’ve exhausted all means of trading and there are few or no high upside prospects on the waiver wire you may have to plug a few of these free agents into your lineup for a short term boost.

Kyle Turris- I feel I should mention his name again because I’m a big fan. Well that and I would like to see the kid start to produce a little more offensively. After all he was a first rounder, and the Senators did trade a first round prospect of their own in David Rundblad AND a second round pick for him. I can’t complain too much though, he does have 4 pts (all assists) in his last 6 games with a +4, 19 SOG, 4 H. Not quite first round production, but it looks like Turris will be one of those first round picks that takes a year or two to start producing at a higher level. Something along the lines of Jason Spezza…hopefully. He’s owned in 2.7% of ESPN leagues so he’ll be available for a couple weeks. If he picks up 3 or more points this week snap him up.

Bryan Little- The Winnipeg Jets 24 yr old center has missed the past 6 games with a foot injury, prior to that he had picked up 17 pts in his previous 24 GP. At that pace he would pick up another 31 pts from here on out if he were to come back into the lineup today. The prospect of that alone makes him an attractive pick up. I dropped him from my lineup when the news of his injury broke, but rest assured, he will be part of  Team Vandenbrand before the end of the night. After all he did produce 11 pts for me in the 12 games he played for my team. He’s owned in just 23.7% of ESPN leagues, his current production and possible future production means he should be owned in the vast majority of leagues.

Clarke MacArtur- 6 pts in 5 games. 1 pt in 7 games, and those are just his stats in the last 12 games.  The Leafs left winger is trying to pick up the pace after having had a few lengthy scoring droughts along the way. Despite knowing this I’m still recommending him. He’ll still get plenty of run from Ron Wilson though not enough to match last years points totals. He’s owned in 9.1% so consider this is more of a recommendation for next week based on a season long trend.

Eric Gudbranson- The Florida Panthers struggles over the past decade have resulted in a team that’s deep with talented prospects, and young NHL players. Their blueline in particular is a thing to take pride in. With Brian Campbell, and young stud Dmitry Kulikov at the fore front the Panthers have two blueliners to build around. But that doesn’t even take into account Gudbranson. The rookie is coming off a two game point streak, nothing much to get excited about in the short term but it’s worth taking note of for those in deep long term keeper leagues. His upside is similar to that of Kulikov, a player that fantasy managers have grown fond of over the past two seasons, similar growth could be on the horizon for Gudbranson in the near future. He’s nearly unowned, just .2% of ESPN leagues use the guy. Add him to your watch list for now, but if his minutes start creeping up towards the 15-16 minute mark grab the future stud before someone else grabs a future franchise cornerstone.

Trevor Daley- While Sheldon Souray is out with an ankle injury, and Stephan Robidas is nursing a sore foot the Dallas Stars are going to have to continue to lean heavily upon blueliners Alex Goligoski, and Trevor Daley. Daley has responded by producing 9 points in his last 11 games, running his season total to 14 pts in 34 GP. Though he hasn’t seen a dramatic increase in time on ice like Goligoski has he’ll continue to get 22 minutes per game and plenty of opportunities to continue to pick up points with the man advantage. He’s owned in just 3.2% of ESPN leagues and for those that are looking for PPP help, Daley is a cheap investment as 5 of his 14 totals points have come with the man advantage.

Josh Harding- Some times coaches confuse me with their decision making. If an expensive player is struggling why do they continue to give said expensive struggling plenty of ice time, when they have the opportunity to play a cheap player who has similar or even greater talent level. Especially when it comes to goaltenders. How many examples do we have of young back up netminders with equal or greater potential and talent stuck on the pine because management refuses to bench or trade the more expensive number one netmider. Such is the case in Vancouver, Los Angelas, Boston, Buffalo, Edmonton, Philadelphia and of course Minnesota. A quick comparison of their stats over the past 30 days breaks down like this.

Backstrom- 9 GS, 2 W, 2.74 GAA, .912 SV%, 546 MIN 

Harding-  4 GS, 1 W, 2.27 GAA, .922 SV%, 185 MIN.

It’s reasonable to belive that if Harding had started the same number of games that Backstrom had, would have posted similar numbers or even better numbers than he had over the past 30 days. Consider his season totals to date, 2.03  GAA, .914 SV% they’re slightly better than his past 30 day marks are. Backstrom is struggling of late it would only make sense to go with the better option between the pipes.

For those that are Backstrom owners, Josh Harding is a must own hand-cuff. For those in deeper leagues or even keeper leagues for that matter he would be a player that I would highly recommend acquiring.  He’s owned in 23.5% of ESPN leagues so there’s still time to grab him.

20100206 Shea Weber

Image by Dan4th via Flickr

Chris Gallagher-

 

Alright i’m getting pretty fed up with the concussion “epidemic” I don’t see why everyone thinks its a hard problem to fix. Two quick fixes are as so…

1) Go back to the days when all these NHLers played youth hockey and were always told KEEP YOUR HEAD UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m sorry but why is it ok all of a sudden to cut to the middle of the ice staring at the puck on your stick or admiring your pass as it crosses the ice. Its getting ridiculous how many players get to the pros and forget the fundementals.

2) Get rid of the INSTIGATOR penalty!!!!!!!!!!! make the bonehead players who are out there throwing dirty hits accountable for their actions. If you bring back the policemen players will think twice about throwing that elbow if they know it’ll cost a couple teeth.

They say the players are getting bigger, faster, stronger but I personally haven’t seen a rock’em sock’em movie with a good line up of hits since before they got to double digits. I wonder if Scott Stevens would have a life ban from the nhl if you policed his hits with the new nhl rules. You want to take hitting and fighting out of a sport you’re trying to sell to the U.S. when two of their most population fan watched sports are MMA and Football how does that make sense to anyone?

Anyways I had to get that out after watching highlight after highlight of bothLiles and Weber being taken out. Liles was a perfect example keep your damn head up!!

Evgeni Malkin in St. Louis on November 1, 2008.

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With New Years Eve creeping up on us with each passing second, now would be an appropriate time to take a look back at the players that have helped our teams this seasons, and also those have helped to sink them as well.

There have been a handful of waiver wire pick ups that have proved to be useful fantasy fill in while a couple have turned themselves into lineup mainstays. From one week wonders like Alex Burmistrov to guys that taken the fantasy world by storm like Adam Henrique.

So let’s jump right into the fire by awarding the biggest title that we can, Supreme Master of the Universe. Clearly that goes to me, but the second most important award is fantasy MVP.

 Our Mid-season  MVP award goes to the Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin.

The Penguins forward has stepped up big time in Sidney Crosby‘s absence. Geno has picked up 42 pts in 29 games thus far this season a tremendous total for one of the leagues most talented and dominate players, yet you’re still wanting more from him. It seems to crazy to expect more then his current 1.44 Pts/GP pace but anything less to me is a let down. Before the season started Geno was my pick to win the Hart and Art Ross trophies before the season began, and of late he hasn’t disappointed. His 18 pts in his last 8 games equates to a 2.25 Pts/GP pace, which is even higher then my own outrageous expectations. Barring injury or some kind of tremendous collapse there is no reason for Geno to continue to produce at a 1.5 Pts/GP pace. 

Honourable Mentions- Claude Giroux, Jonathan Toews, Steve Stamkos, Henrik/Daniel Sedin.

Mid-season Break Out Star- There have been a number of undrafted or late round draft picks that have emerged so far this season including New Jersey’s Adam Henrique. A relative unknown entering the season the rookie has burst onto the scene with 28 Pts in 33 games this season, but even that’s not good enough for him to garner our Break Out Star award. Brian Elliot has seemingly taken over the crease in St.Louis from high priced encumbent Jaroslav Halak, his gaudy numbers – 14 W, 1.63 GAA, .940 SV% are phenominal Vezina caliber numbers, and yet even that is not enough to take home the hardware.

No this years Break Out Star belongs to Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I’ll admit it, I sold him short before the season, I didn’t think that he would stick with the big club when training camp came to an end. Even more insulting to RNH, I picked Nino Niederreiter to win the Calder Trophy, an award that RNH is all but assured to take home when the season comes to an end. His 35 pts this season are good for second on the team, behind winger Jordan Eberle, but offer just a glimpse at his tremendous upside. 80+ points this season is all but assured but his upside in nearer to the century mark.

Nugent-Hopkins talents on the ice are elite. It’s straight forward, he may not be the most physically impossing player in the league but his hockey IQ and vision are world class. Back in the day the Oilers had a similar player, small in stature, but large in talent and vision, we all know who I’m talking about here, I’m not proclaiming him the 4th coming- you know after Lindros, and Crosby. For those that managed to grab RNH late in the draft or off the wire early in the season they’re likely riding the train to the top of the standings.

Mid-season Category Beast-  The title alone should be enough to let you know what it means, but I’ll lay it out regardless. I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for players that provide contributions to fantasy teams in all kinds of statistical categories. These are the Category Beasts. The rare category beast is the forward that will pick up 70+ Pts on the season while racking up 80+ PIM, and 100+ Hits. Or in other words, a true power forward.

We all know how much I love Ryan Callahan, Jamie Benn, David Backes, Milan Lucic etc, but at the end of the day the award can only go to one to player.

That player is none other then Boston’s own…Brad Marchant. The team that had essentially created the proto-typical power forward has a handful of players that fit the bill, Marchant, Lucic and Nathan Horton could all be primier power forwards in this league but Marchant stands above the rest.

The pint sized ball of hate is the kind of player you wish played for your team, and he is the kind of player fantasy managers should be killing to get on their rosters. His 30 pts in 35 games indicate that he has even more offensive upside. Coupled with his tremendous +/- mark of +25, his chippy style of play 58 PIM, 41 H has endured him to his fantasy owners. His current pace translates to a final season mark of 72 Pts, 139 PIM, 98 H. Nothing short of amazing. Don’t be surprised if Marchant finds himself drafted in the 2nd/3rd round of fantasy drafts next year.

Mid-season War Horse- Of course I would be selling blueliners short if I failed to mention the blueliner that picks up 40+ pts while picking up stats in the other key categories, these are the true war horse defensemen. There are a few monster blueliners that spring to mind guys like Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber, Dustin Byfuglien, but our winner is not one of those players.

He’s an under appreciated commodity on one of the leagues better teams. He’s so under appreciated that he’s not even considered the best blueliner on his own team despite 24 pts in 37 games the blueliner in question of course is Nashville’s Ryan Suter. He may not bring the physical game that Weber or Chara do, and he doesn’t rack up PIMS like others due, but his solid consistent presence across the board adds up to an elite blueliner. He’s on pace to finish the year with 53 Pts, 57 PIM, 55 H, his points total alone make him a top 5 blueliner and he’s still got even more to give.

Mid-season Twine Tender- Clearly this for the goalies, and it’s pretty clear that the studs have played well so far this season. Henrik Lundqvist is again staking his claim as one of the best  in the league. He’s being pushed by the other elites, Pekka Rinne, Tim Thomas, Roberto Luongo, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick, and company. Throw in new arrival Brian Elliot, and the resurgence of Tuuka Rask and it’s becoming clear that picking a winner for this award is going to be difficult.

The winner? The Boston Bruins. Yeah that’s right I’ve awarded to it a team as a whole.  The Bruins have the best netminding tandem in the NHL as Tuuka Rask and Thomas rank 1st and 3rd in GAA, and 1st and 2nd in SV%. Combined they are 24-9-1, with 6 SO between the two of them. Both players are capable of being Vezina candidates and are more then able to carry a team on their shoulders.

The Bruins will continue to win as long as this duo stays healthy and on their games. Until then the rest of the teams in the East are playing for second and every team in the West should hope and pray that some unfortunate circumstances knock the Bruins out of the playoffs before they reach the Cup finals for a second consecutive year.

Mid-season Bust of the Year-  There are busts a plenty this year as super talented players like Eric Staal, Alex Semin, Jeff Carter, etc have failed to produce at all this season. But ultimately it’s a two horse race for “award”. It’s a tie between two of the leagues primier talents, and most marketable players. Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby share this award.

Managers knew going into their drafts this season that Crosby was a risky pick in the first round, but no one saw this coming. Sure a tremendously productive 8 game cameo from Crosby was a reminder of what he’s capable of, but a collision with teammate Chris Kunitz and an inadvertant elbow from David Krejci has the leagues most offensively gifted star on the IR again. From now on Crosby must be viewed as damaged goods, as any type of contact could result in him missing substantial time.

Ovechkin on the other hand was viewed as a can’t miss bounce back candidate. His rare blend of physical force and dynamic offensive flair reminded fans and fantasy managers of few players in history, namely Jeremy Roenick circa 1994. But Ovechkin despite his best attempts and coaching change has to be a considered a major disappointment. His 27 points have him second on his team in scoring behind Nick Backstrom, and AND he’s only 4 points ahead of defenseman Dennis Wideman. Yeah we’re not talking about an offensive dynamo anymore. We’re talking about a serviceable player that should be entering his prime, but by the looks of it Ovechkin has already peaked.

From a fantasy stand point seeing Crosby and Ovechkin fall by the way side is disappointing, but from MY personal point of view. It’s good for the game as other stars will now get their day in the sun…well that and I didn’t draft either of them so I’m sitting pretty without them clogging up a roster space.

English: Forward Curtis Glencross warming up p...

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Well that’s not the way that I had planned on closing out the year but that’s how things go some times when you’re playing roulette with the waiver wire. Last week my picks combined to put up 7 pts, -8, 4 PIM, 33 SOG, 27 H, 2 PPP. Oh and my goalie? Well Sergei Bobrovsky actually performed well in his one start picking the W, and giving you a 1.29 GAA, and .958 SV%. Which was enough to help me jump another spot in the wins category.

On the bright side of last week’s poor performance Jiri Hudler picked up 3 pts, to continue his scoring ways with 10 pts in 12 games. For those that have a need for some scoring help Hudler is a must add.

Martin Hanzal had himself another solid performance picking up a point and compiling 20 hits in the process. His only point was twice as good as it came on the power play.

This week I’ll try to better my performance, so here we go.

Curtis Glencross- He’s one of the streakist players in the league but when he’s on he can carry your team for weeks at a time. Right now he’s on and he’s producing a great value for the few managers that own him. He’s owned in 17.8% of ESPN leagues despite pickign up 7 pts in his last 7 games to go along with a +5 rating, 10 SOG, 3 H, 3 PPP.  His 11 pts during his last 13 games has to have helped someone along the way. Why not your team?

Chris Neil- The tough guys has 3 pts in his last 3 games. His 10 SOG is an added bonus but his real value lies in his hit totals and PIMS. Unfortunately last week Neil provided none of his usual pugilism instead opting to run over 19 players and pick up a couple points on the PP. He’s owned in 4.3% of ESPN leagues but his contributions in PIM and serviceable point totals make him a valueable fantasy option.

Tyler Bozak- Bozak may have moved down to the third line but he’s still got plenty of potential. It’s a shame that Tim Connolly is on the team and preventing him from getting more ice time. The sophomore has 8 pts in his last 11 games. Clearly if he’s given enough ice time he will produce offensively. He’s owned in 42.9% of ESPN leagues so he may already be gone in your league but if he’s not he’s worth adding to your roster if you’re need of scoring help.

Travis Hamonic- The Islanders blueliner brings a full bag of goodies to the fantasy table with 4 pts in his last 7 games along with 21 PIM, 9 SOG, 19 H. Unfortunately playing on the Island will result in a poor +/- but that’s to be expected from most free agent blueline addition. He’s owned in 17.5% of ESPN leagues but his talent and upside say that he should be owned in far more leagues. Deep league managers should snap him up.

Anton Stralman- Last year I was a major Stralman supporter. Anyone that spends as much on the power play as Stralman did in Columbus is worth keeping an eye on. Unfortunately last year he disappointed all fantasy managers and found himself without a job at the end of the season. Right now he’s getting plenty  of run on the Rangers blueline. With 3 pts in his last 2 games he appears to have found his groove. For those in desperate need of help on the blueline, especially for those that are looking for power play work Stralman is worth adding to your watch list.

Jason LaBarbera- With Mike Smith battling injuries right now the Coyotes are rolling with the veteran netminder until Smith is ready to return to action. LaBarbera  won’t win any Vezina trophies in the future but he’s a viable stop gap if you’re looking for a couple wins at the expense of your GAA and SV%.

Hopefully thses guys produce a holiday miracle for your teams this week. Merry Christmas and Happy New Years folks. I wish you nothing but health and happiness for you and your hockey teams in the new year.

Don’t forget to take in as much of the World Junior Championships this holiday season, after all they’re the future of our sport, and you can never really take time from hockey now can you?

Phoenix Coyotes forward Kyle Turris carrying t...

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According to a report from Pierre LeBrun, the Ottawa Senators have completed a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes to acquire center Kyle Turris.  Reports from NHL.com have said that the Senators have sent David Rundblad and a second round pick to the Coyotes for the slick center man.

Turris would immediately add some offensive pop to the top two lines in the nations capital and becomes a jersey that I must add to wish list to go along with Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and the captain of course.

His fantasy prospects improve tremendously if he’s paired on a line with Daniel Alfredsson or other options like Nick Foligno, Zach Smith, Colin Greening, Peter Regin etc.

David Rundblad is a promising blueliner whom the Senators acquired from the St.Louis Blues for a first round draft pick in the 2010 draft. It won’t be obvious who won this trade in the short term as both players still have a long way to go before they reach their ceilings but as it stands now the Senators have added another weapon to their offense and the Coyotes have added some substantial talent to a blueline that already includes Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.