The Fantasy Guide can be picked up online (pdf) for $9.99 – it comes with an updated spreadsheet. Updates are all free, download as often as you like. Last update was September 29 – Draft list, too – but with all of today's cuts (more on those below), you should expect to see another update quicker than you can say Bo Horvat.
Dobber here with breaking news per the Ottawa Sun – the Senators have cut Mika Zibanejad, which tells me that J-G Pageau beat him out of a roster spot. I’ll have this and other updates in the Fantasy Guide later today.
Thanks to Rick Roos for covering me off today. I threw my back out Friday and had a tough time sitting at a computer this weekend – compounded by the fact that I had a draft Sunday. Better now, thanks to a couple of chiropractor trips. Still a couple days from 100%
Greetings again – time for my second crack at the Ramblings. This time I'm subbing for Dobber, who – no joke – is on the shelf due to a back injury. Insert snarky Band-Aid Boy comment here.
Perfect timing for me to do the Ramblings, as I'm nose deep in preparing for the Tuesday night draft in my long running league where last year I finished outside of the prize pool (eight teams, top three get paid) for the first time in ages. Given the shortened season, I went with a "win big or go home" strategy and….well…..let's just say I had no trouble finding my way home before it was even dark outside. The silver lining was I traded some players to get nice extra picks for this season's draft because I knew early enough that, after all was said and done, I'd be on the outside looking in (wow, a rare double cliché sentence – Crash Davis would be proud!)
It's actually an interesting league – teams ice 24 players (14 forwards – any combo of centers/wings, seven d-men, three goalies) plus have eight reserves (only limit is five total goalies per team). Each team gets only six keepers per season, and you can only keep a player for two seasons after drafting him. A really fun and competitive league – I recommend the format to folks looking for something a bit different.
While on the topic of drafting, has everyone checked out the draft results for the various DobberHockey fantasy leagues? You should, even if your league format isn't quite the same. Just go to the Your League Chat section of the DobberHockey Forums; there's one thread specifically dedicated to the Expert League, where I selected 12th/5th in the snake draft.
Sunday's big news of course was the roughly gazillion (okay, more like 40) players gone from their teams, whether by waivers, demotions, or releases from try-outs. Unlike other cuts from the past week or so, these are players whose names should ring a bell to most, although nearly all of them fall into the "if you were counting on these guys for your fantasy team, then you have bigger problems than losing their contribution" category.
Some of the high/lowlights that are among the listed names as I'm writing this include Andrew Ebbett, Dana Tyrell, Stu Bickel, Joey Crabb, Cam Janssen, Nick Johnson, Alexander Sulzer, Darroll Powe, Philip Larsen, Cory Emmerton, Frazer McLaren, Patrice Cormier, and Jeff Schultz.
Two bigger fantasy names – aside from John-Michael Liles (more on him below) – were Tyler Toffoli and Chris Kreider. Both made brief splashes in the NHL (Kreider in 2011-12, Toffoli last season), but their teams wisely realize they're best served by getting regular shifts in the AHL at this stage. If you own either guy, be happy to see this; after all, it's better than having them play on the first line one game then bounce between the fourth line and press box after that.
And of course there was also teen phenoms Jonathan Drouin and Bo Horvat being sent back to their junior teams. Sure, Tampa Bay and Vancouver could've kept them around for the first month to give them a quick taste of the real NHL, but I applaud any team that's patient enough not to rush their prized prospects. Stardom can wait a year.
I've been more active in the Forums lately (under the name rizzeedizzee), generally with one main mission – to help prevent kneejerk reactions based on pre-season numbers. Whether it's to tell folks that Matt Bartkowski isn't going to get you 50 points and Eric Fehr isn't going to end up with 70, or to talk poolies off the ledge who have Henrik Lundqvist and his 4.00+ pre-season GAA, my goal is to make sure poolies don't drink too much pre-season stats Kool-Aid.
The biggest key to remember is younger players rarely forecast an actual breakout campaign by dominating in the pre-season. Take currently injured Victor Stalberg for example – what price did some of you pay to get him in 2009 when he netted six goals and nine points in eight pre-season games as a 23 year old rookie for the Maple Leafs? I shudder to think of the poor souls who traded real value for Stalberg back then, only to see him come back down to earth with a crashing thud, to the tune of a split season bouncing between the AHL (33 points in 39 games) and NHL (14 points in 40 games).
You really have to remind yourself that pre-season is, at most, as meaningful as a small random sample size from the regular season. Look at Fehr – here's a 28 year old with 113 points in 306 regular season games. So let's say he tallies 17 points in the first 41 games of the 2013-14 season and then suddenly runs off a stretch of eight points in four games (like he did in his first four pre-season games of 2013) – would that prompt you to pick him up or trade a real asset to get him? I certainly hope not, especially since he actually did have separate stretches of six points in four games and five points in three games in 2012-13 on the way to posting…………you guessed it…….17 points in 41 total games.
A big question going into this season is what version of Cam Ward will show up. It's interesting to see that Ward allowed zero, one, five, and six goals in his first four pre-season appearances. I know I just got through talking about not paying too much attention to pre-season stats, but in his case I think this campaign could be one where, indeed, his performance varies a lot between great or sub-par, without many stretches of games where he gives up a consistent two or three goals each game. I'd be a wary of owning him in H2H leagues or ones with weekly roster settings (I say this despite – somewhat lamentably – owning him in the weekly setting DobberHockey Experts League), since he'll probably turn your hair gray.
Another goalie I see following a feast or famine pattern this season is Ondrej Pavelec, in part because of how he plays but also due to the team in front of him. Other than the usual superstuds, goalies who I'm thinking will be very consistent this year are Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider and Jimmy Howard, plus back-ups like Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss.
Speaking of Lehner and Greiss, they're both playing for new contracts and are among those I see with potential to steal away the job from what, by all accounts, would appear to be a true #1 goalie. And while I wouldn't exactly call him a back-up, I also think Anders Lindback (he too is playing for a contract) might just emerge as the true #1 in Tampa Bay by the Olympic break. I know I'm in the minority on this belief, as Bishop went 72nd overall in the DobberHockey expert league draft, while Lindback was drafted way down in round 18; but remember that Yzerman paid a hefty price to land Lindback in the form of two second rounders and a third rounder, so it stands to reason that he'll have a legitimate shot (if not a leg up) to win the job this season.
Nice to see Brad Boyes land a contract with Florida. I'm sure the mere mention of his name causes some poolies to cringe, what with him scoring 137 points in 164 games from 2007-2009, and then a grand total of 120 points in the next four seasons combined, until finally rebounding last season by being the good kind of third wheel on a line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. It’ll be interesting to see what the now 31 year-old Boyes has left in the tank. One thing is for sure – his agent should send a gift basket to Peter Mueller's agent, since if Mueller had re-signed then Boyes likely doesn't even get the try out that led to this deal.
Now that Cody Franson is signed and John-Michael Liles has been waived, that means the Toronto d-man drama is ending, right? I'm guessing no – not by a long shot. My hunch is Jake Gardiner, who's already not winning compliments from Randy Carlyle, is going to be on a very short leash. Yes, Gardiner showed he can respond when given the green light to unleash his offensive side, but that was in the playoffs when the Leafs desperately needed some magic. Once push came to shove in tight games five and six against the Bruins, Gardiner was invisible on the ice.
Here's how this season will unfold – first he'll start getting his ice time dialed back, next will come the healthy scratches, and then…..well….let's just say I think we'll see RFA-to-be Gardiner in a new city by next season, and highlights like these might be a distant memory in Toronto:
The news that Kris Letang is injured news didn't surprise me at all, other than how he managed to go this long during the pre-season without already getting hurt. And now words like "uncertain" and "undetermined" are being thrown around regarding his prognosis. Not good.
I honestly don't see how Letang continues to be ranked so high despite his injury recidivism (sorry, the lawyer in me had to find a way to sneak in that word). Joffrey Lupul is slotted at 64th in the Yahoo rankings, and probably would be in the twenties or thirties if he'd played more than 82 of 130 games over the past two seasons. But somehow Letang is ranked third among all defenders (and 35th overall) despite playing in only 86 of those same 130 games (just four more than Lupul). Explain that one to me?!
Yes, in the end Letang still must be drafted as either the second or third defenseman in pools since he's that good on paper, but if I owned him going into this season I'd explore options to trade him to receive a package that includes a "notch below" guy (like Ryan Suter, Alex Pietrangelo or Oliver Ekman-Larsson) since you'll probably do nearly as well in the end with one of them, plus you'll have received something else from the other GM as part of the package.
Interesting to see the flurry of "our spare parts for your spare parts" trades over the past few days. I don't think there's much to be said, as people likely don't come to the ramblings this time of year to hear deep analysis about the likes of Krys Barch and Zac Dalpe.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, I consider Joe Colborne a spare part too at this point. Let's face facts – if he was three inches shorter or was drafted 20 picks later then he likely would've been written off a few years ago. In fact, I had forgotten he was drafted all the way back in 2008 (just one pick ahead of the aforementioned Gardiner). And yes, that's the same year as Luke Schenn and his already 357 NHL career games!
Sure, I subscribe to Dobber's theory that bigger guys take longer to actually find success in the NHL; and Calgary has so little to play for that they'll have no issue giving him minutes he's never managed to get. But in the end it's more likely than not Colborne will be just another first rounder who never finds much, if any, success in the NHL.
I had almost forgotten Colborne was actually drafted by Boston, which reminds me that you should do yourselves a favor and check out their "Behind the B" program. The first episode is online and it gives great behind the scenes access, including for prospects camp, replacing Nathan Horton with Jarome Iginla, and, in particular, trading Tyler Seguin. I think it's great that more and more teams are pulling back the curtain on the process that goes into running an NHL club, and this kind of thing can only help sharpen our fantasy hockey minds. Two more episodes are scheduled to follow later this month.
Lastly, mentioning Jarome Iginla means I have to again provide the public service message I've trumpeted several times in my columns and my first Ramblings, which is that all of you need to do yourselves a huge favor and stay away from him this season. Those who think I'm off my rocker – go ahead and convince me why he'll score more points than Dany Heatley (they're ranked within five spots of each other on Yahoo).
Yes, Iginla hasn't dipped below 67 points in a full season since Y2K while Heatley hasn't topped that number since 2009-10, but you have to put first instincts aside to make a truly reliable assessment here. For one, the last three seasons have arguably been the most successful for the Bruins franchise since Bobby Orr had two good knees. And it just so happens during that time no Bruin has scored more than 67 points, since ice time – both EV and PP – is so evenly divided among the top nine. Beyond that placing a cap on Iginla's point total, it creates a situation where he won't be the top dog for the first time since…..ever? And I think he'll struggle to adapt.
Meanwhile, say all you want about Heatley and his disappointing performances over the past three seasons, but to me it's been more of a case of lack of motivation than apparent lack of skill. In his mind, what's he had to play for with the Wild? Guess what, now he's looking at impending unrestricted free agency and with it the need to actually play well enough to prove his worth. And unlike Iginla's situation in Boston, the Wild would be more than happy to play Heatley into the ground if he's producing. When the dust settles on the season I like Heatley for 65 points and Iginla for 50, maybe 55 at the very, very best.
I promise the next time I do Ramblings I won't mention either of these guys again, especially if I turn out to be wrong about this (which I won't).