Shifting Gears

Dobber Sports


Colby Armstrong


The best keeper-league (and roto-league) owners don’t get that way by stubbornly sticking to their opinions for too long, despite evidence that they were clearly on the wrong track. No, the really good ones know when it’s time to change gears and roll with the trends. At the same time, they need to balance what truly is a contradicting trend with events that are just ‘hot streaks’.

Pittsburgh is a great example. Long term, it was clear that Ryan Whitney is the power-play quarterback of the future and that he will accept the mantle full-time from Sergei Gonchar when the latter leaves or retires in a couple of seasons. Rookie Kris Letang would then be the understudy and in five or six years take Whitney’s spot.

We are 23 games into the season and Whitney has disappointed with just 10 points and is on a 41-point pace. While the 24-year-old will certainly pick up his game and likely finish into the 50’s or even the low-60’s, it is looking as if the youngster Letang may leapfrog him on the power-play ladder. In his last two games, the 20-year-old has garnered more power-play time than Whitney and has a pair of power-play points. The Penguins are experiencing a resurgence, so perhaps this trend will continue. That means Whitney has been bumped to the second unit.

Keeper-league owners need to be prepared for the possibility that Letang will accept the mantle from Gonchar as opposed to Whitney. It’s early yet, but the situation bears watching and owners need to be ready to shift gears on their philosophy.

The secondary scoring in Pittsburgh has been found once again – and Mark Recchi has nothing to do with it. Ryan Malone and Colby Armstrong have been playing on Sidney Crosby’s line and the results of been successful. Poolies need to adjust to the fact that Mark Recchi, a frequent healthy scratch of late, is no longer a big part of the picture. In fact, he will be hard-pressed to hit the 40-point mark this season. An injury to a top winger is needed for Recchi to get another chance.

Meanwhile, Malone, who played some pretty weak hockey for the first 15 games, and Armstrong, who was even worse, have turned their games around. This is more of a roto-league philosophy change, but poolies need to quickly get on board with this.

Armstrong has played excellent hockey when lined up with Sid the Kid, picking up 37 points in 38 games on that line to finish the 2005-06 season. He continued to look good last season, but hit a lot of posts and missed a lot of opportunities despite the hustle. This lack of production caused him to be removed from the line and it took him a full year to get back there. Now that he’s there, he has three points in two games and from this writer’s standpoint things look very good for similar production to continue.

With a 34-point season last year and just four points in 17 games this year, it will be hard for poolies to look at Armstrong as a promising fantasy contributor. It goes against everything that their staunch opinion stands for. It may be time to shift gears…


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