September 20, 2013

steve laidlaw

2013-09-20

You can pick up the Fantasy Guide for $9.99. It’s an online pdf that you can download along with an excel spreadsheet. It is updated frequently, most recently on September 17th.

 

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Both Jonathan Bernier and Nazem Kadri left last night's pre-season game with undisclosed injuries. It's probably nothing to get worried about, certainly not in Kadri's case because he's got a job guaranteed but Bernier is in a battle for minutes.

 

Personally, I don't see the logic behind bringing Bernier in. James Reimer was solid last season, skating on a team that was consistently outshot. I'm not sure Bernier could hold up under fire the way Reimer did last season. If Bernier is just in Toronto to be a backup or an insurance policy the Leafs are paying way too much for it.

 

I'm not saying that I'm in love with Reimer but I'm not sure Bernier makes the issue better. Both goaltenders are big stay-aways for me in fantasy this season beyond taking a late flyer. Neither one has a long track record, nor has one been a workhorse starter. This situation is doomed to end in a time-share and that's a situation I would rather avoid.

 

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Of course, I'm the knucklehead who took Cory Schneider in the Dobber Experts' League draft on Wednesday and I didn't get Brodeur to lock down the tandem. In my defense, this is just me sticking to my guns. I said it yesterday and I'll say it again today, if New Jersey wants to field their best team, they will give Schneider the ball and let him run with it. Brodeur just isn't as good as Schneider at this point. Anything short of 60 starts for Schneider will be a disappointment to me.

 

I also snagged Jonathan Quick as my number one. In a 16-team league it was important for me to grab two starters I felt comfortable rolling with for the season. Quick is coming off of a down year but I don't question his talent. He was coming off a down year and was able to recover in time for the playoffs. I'm expecting a really solid bounce-back for him.

 

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Since we are on the subject of goaltending allow me to elaborate on my goaltending drafting strategy. I like to use a "tier" system to help determine when and who I should draft to fill my goaltending spots. The strategy is simple, rather than ranking goaltenders 1-60 I put them into groups of similar value. There will always be favourites within groups but the logic is that you can address other aspects of your team prior to going after a goaltender if there are enough goaltenders of similar value still available to be picked.

 

For me the tiers go as such:

 

One: Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, Quick and Tuukka Rask

 

Two: Carey Price, Antti Niemi, Corey Crawford, Jimmy Howard and Roberto Luongo

 

Three: Sergei Bobrovsky, Kari Lehtonen, Mike Smith, Cory Schneider, Craig Anderson, Marc-Andre Fleury and Braden Holtby

 

Four: Ryan Miller, Cam Ward, Devan Dubnyk, Ondrej Pavelec, Niklas Backstrom, Semyon Varlamov

 

Five: The terrible tandems of Anaheim, Philadelphia, Florida, Toronto, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Calgary.

 

My feeling is that the top four guys are basically beyond reproach. Rinne is still dealing with a nagging hip issue but I would still take him over anyone outside of tier one because he's such a workhorse. Beyond the top tier, however, I see a middle-class that is altogether pretty tightly packed. There's an argument to be made that any of those tier four guys could step up/bounce back and have a top-ten season. Or maybe one of the tandem goalies gets injured and suddenly there's a new 60-start goalie added to the talent pool. I could see a big year out of a goalie from any of those destinations given the right circumstances. Hell, Bobrovsky emerged from the wreckage of Columbus' goalie tandem to post a Vezina-winning season. Don't count any goalie out.

 

The big take-away is that I took Quick with my first pick as the last "tier one" available and then was able to wait until the fourth round to take Schneider because all of the "tier two" goalies were taken before my second pick but there were enough "tier three" guys still around for me to wait another two rounds.

 

Obviously your league settings matter. In a 16-team league that starts two goalies weekly, it is important to grab two starters you know will play a lot of games because you need reliable play and there are only 30 starters available – and realistically less once you count the tandems.

 

I encourage you to consider employing some tier method for drafting goaltenders in your league this fall.

 

You can also use tiers for other positions but I find that since skaters all count towards the same categories, while goaltenders score in their own categories it is of supreme importance to focus on tiering goaltenders.

 

What are some draft strategies that you employ?

 

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One more on goaltending – an excellent response to Ondrej Pavelec's absence from ESPN's top-25 goaltender ranking:


We’ll ignore the fact that the article wasn’t based of statistics, as otherwise the order would be much different. Otherwise, Noel is spot on. Thus far, Pavelec has not deserved or earned the privilege to be named one of the better goaltenders in the league when looking at the on-ice results. Over the last three years combined, Pavelec ranks 35th for stoping pucks from going into the net. The order of that list kind of matches with the eye-test, doesn’t it? This is a very significant difference, where shot quality could only change so much (we’ll get back to this later).

What I liked best about this article was all the different links provided at the end discussing shot quality and how much of an impact it really has on goaltender performance from many different view-points like coaching, shooters, defensive players, etc. All fields well worth examining.

 

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Some of the cuts from Flames camp include Mark Cundari and Morgan Klimchuk. I mention Cundari because he has a fair amount of upside as a multi-category producer should he find his way onto the Flames roster in the future, however as it stands Tyler Wotherspoon may have a shot at making the Flames.

 

It's also worth mentioning that sixth overall pick Sean Monahan remains at camp. He will likely get the nine-game tryout and then head back to junior.

 

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Jamie Benn was named captain of the Dallas Stars. I doubt this has any fantasy impact whatsoever beyond getting him some prime time press.

 

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Who will lead the Nashville Predators in scoring this season?

 

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The Edmonton Oilers extended Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for seven years and $42 million. Essentially the same extension as they gave to Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle last summer. Next season they will have the three of them signed for a combined total of $18 million. That's somewhere between a quarter and a third of the team's salary cap (depending on where the cap lands next season) on just three players. Those have to be three damned good players.

 

I'm not saying that Hall, Eberle and now Nugent-Hopkins aren't worth that money but it highlights how certain teams are able to extract value beyond entry-level contracts by signing their RFAs to bridge contracts. 

 

Consider the Montreal Canadiens this season. They were able to sign Daniel Briere for $4 million in part because they have PK Subban under contract for just $2.875 million this season and they will still hold some RFA control over Subban at the end of the season so it's not like they lost much leverage.

 

Now, you can argue that Briere for $4 million isn't great value at this point in his career (I would tend to agree, I just don't see him making a big impact) but my point is how Subban's bridge contract created the possibility for the Canadiens to make a splash in free agency this summer to help them compete now, which is something that the extensions the Oilers' top young players signed will not afford the team.

 

Of course, what would constitute a reasonable bridge contract for a player whose cap hit was already $3.775 million annually with performance bonuses factored in (which is exactly what Hall and Nugent-Hopkins received as first overall selections)? Their annual salary was only $900,000 but those performance bonuses really jack up the price tag for top picks, which makes it damn hard to convince them to take a pay cut for a year or two on a bridge contract. I honestly cannot think of an example of that happening. That just makes one more problem with drafting so high for so many years in a row.

 

The Oilers basically wasted the cheap entry-level years of their young stars and now those guys have to be in a position to carry the team because of what they are being paid. So far, out of the three, only Hall strikes me as a true franchise player. The other two must still prove themselves to be complete players.

 

Not that I question the value of these extensions long term. By the mid-way point of these deals they will be considered steals. And considering that the Oilers managed to avoid giving any of those three any sort of no-movement or no-trade clause they are coming out ahead because despite the size of these contracts they are all still very moveable if necessary so the Oilers have all the leverage now.

 

Contrast that with the way the Oilers handled business with Sam Gagner. Gagner signed two separate bridge contracts that spanned the past three years. Had he instead signed a long-term extension like Hall or Eberle he would be under contract until basically the end of his latest three-year deal that kicks in this season. Each and every one of Gagner's years under contract both over the past three and into the next three will come in at a cap hit much lower than that of Hall, Eberle or Nugent-Hopkins'. You can argue that Gagner isn't the player that those three are or that at least he wasn't over the past three years but what's important to note is that the Oilers saved millions by using the bridge contract method.

 

Of course, they wasted all of those years tanking. They will really have to make use of the savings they get over the next three seasons with Gagner because there is no way he signs for less than $5 million a year any time in the next decade. And the Oilers are married to him because they had to grant Gagner a NMC as part of his latest deal. But cap savings has to come at some sort of cost, right?

 

The point of this rambling is that the Oilers' young stars could be even more prolific if given the right role players in the rest of their lineup. I actually liked most of the moves the Oilers made this summer to improve their organizational and pro depth, particularly on defense. That should help the young Oilers forwards be put in better situations to score. With better cap management however, one can only wonder the type of free agents the Oilers might have been able to attempt to lure.

 

It's also worth pointing out that Nugent-Hopkins earned this deal despite playing two seasons and just 102 NHL games and is scheduled to miss more time this season. That's a lot of faith on behalf of the Oilers front office.

 

Remember when Nugent-Hopkins first generated buzz about cracking the Oilers lineup as an 18-year-old? The logic at the time was that the Oilers would be best served keeping him in the minors to develop and to help stagger their entry-level deals out a little better. Well, here they are two years later with nothing but a couple of lottery picks after some wasted years to show for it.

 

Who knows if Nugent-Hopkins would have been better served spending another year in the minors but as it stands the Oilers burned the years on his ELC for nothing. You can argue that he "developed" but he's a really talented athlete, he would have improved playing at any genuinely competitive level.

 

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For those concerned about Dustin Byfuglien's reported weight loss this summer, he still has plenty to throw around:

 

 

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