June 5, 2015

Michael Clifford


Looking at the fantasy value of a pair of Islander wingers, what’s in the future for Zach Parise, and other fantasy winger thoughts. 


It's kind of hard to not to think about the fantasy value for the higher-end Toronto Maple Leafs skaters for next year. The Mike Babcock Decision was a great 80s punk rock band, and it also put the fantasy projections for next season into a bit of disarray. When trying to put together fantasy projections, the more continuity there is with a team, the easier it is to project. Not so much the case in Toronto. 

Detroit was a team that really limited the opposition's offence over the last three years. It’s easy to say that Detroit was really good defensively when they had one of the greatest blue liners in the history of the NHL. I'm using that span of years specifically because that's the post-Nicklas Lidstrom era. Having some of the high-end talent that they’ve had like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, and a host of good young players has obviously helped the Red Wings stay staunch defensively even after Lidstrom's retirement. It's clear that Babcock believes in suffocating the other team's offensive game, and it's clear that the Toronto Maple Leafs did exactly not that for several years. This is a team that scored a lot, and got scored on a lot. That won't be acceptable for a team with this coach. There will be a renewed commitment to defence, and the players are going to have to buy in.

I bring this up because James van Riemsdyk still hasn't taken that next step as he's shown flashes of doing. Scoring 57 goals and managing 117 points over the last two years is very good, but there's no doubt that he possesses the talent for more. I wonder if this can become a reality under Babcock. James van Riemsdyk (and that whole first line for Toronto, really) have been very bad defensively over the last two years, clocking in with the most scoring chances allowed. That's all regular forwards in the NHL, not just the Leafs.

So it leads to my final point: can that top line stay together? There's no doubt that for the most part over the last few years, that top line was very good for fantasy, especially in leagues that didn't use plus/minus. They also got scored on a ton. That won't fly under the new Toronto regime. If that trio is broken up, what are the values of each player? In this instance, I'm worried about van Riemsdyk. From Hockey Analysis, van Riemsdyk has averaged 1.43 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five when not playing with Phil Kessel over the last three seasons (that's in over 671 minutes away