Monday, Aug. 24

Neil Parker

2015-08-24

Petr Mrazek - USA Today Sports Images

 

More Christian Ehrhoff, the Detroit crease, Oilers top six, and Babcock the recruiter?

 

 

***

 

Ian hit up the Christian Ehrhoff news yesterday. I would be nervous to draft Ehrhoff as anything more than an endgame defenseman in deeper leagues.

At 33, there could be a sharp decline ahead. Once a fleet-footed, puck-moving rearguard, Ehrhoff has been diagnosed with multiple concussions, and he hasn't made a significant fantasy contribution since leaving the Canucks following the 2010-11 season.

Some of the blame can be shifted to surroundings. Though, it won't be a copout this year.

Los Angeles adds a potential second-pairing defenseman at a discount, which is a low-risk grab for them. Unless you're selecting Ehrhoff in a similar scenario for your virtual club, you'll likely want to look elsewhere. In other words, there is absolutely no reason to reach for Ehrhoff.

25-point defensemen are readily available and easily obtainable, and while a bounce-back campaign isn't out of the question, there is no reason to project Ehrhoff to skyrocket to 35 or 40 points. Plus, he has just 19 goals over his past 241 games.

What you can bank on — for those in deeper formats — is a high-shot total and a likely boost in plus/minus rating. When you add a few points and penalty minutes to the mix, Ehrhoff's rank checks out in the 50-to-60 range among his peers on the blue line.

In a 12-team, four-defenseman format, Ehrhoff is a fringe asset, at best.

Also, view this signing as a likely indication you shouldn't count on anything from Slava Voynov this season.

 

***

 

There is an intriguing goalie battle in Hockeytown, USA.

Petr Mrazek is in the final year of his current contract but remains a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Jimmy Howard, meanwhile, is locked up for big money — a $5,291,666 cap hit per year — through the 2018-19 season. Four more years of average goaltending at that cap hit is concerning, especially considering Howard is already 31 years old.

Our boy, Slim Cliffy, would be able to share a lot more insight on the finer details of Howard's numbers. But I'll come at it from this angle …

Howard started 42 of 48 games during the 2013-lockout-shortened season, and he hasn't been the same since. He was a second-round pick in 2003 who took six years to make it to the league, and then had three exceptional seasons over a six-year span.

Unfortunately, Howard's past two seasons have been average, at best, and barring a significant bounce-back showing, he checks out as a time-share tender going forward — again, at best.

I point out the 2013 season, his long road to the league and recent poor play for this reason. Professional sports and athletes are faster, quicker and stronger than ever before. The three sports I follow closest have all adapted in various ways to this.

In the NFL, a running back committee is utilized but the majority of teams. Pitch counts, innings limits and six-man rotations are daily discussions in Major League Baseball, and the pursuit to have four-line depth in the NHL follows suit, too. We also see more tandems splitting starts in the crease.

A professional athlete's body only has so much to give, and unfortunately, in my opinion, Howard has little left to give, especially for my selfish fantasy purposes.

Remember, the 2013 schedule was a gong show, too.

Enter Mrazek.

He has sterling numbers in the American Hockey League to go along with a .920 save percentage and 2.23 goals-against average at the highest level through 40 games over three seasons.

Mrazek is 23 and set to prove he is ready to be a No. 1 starter … or not. He has already fleetingly proven he is Detroit's best goaltender.

However, the problem for our fantasy pursuits is Howard's contract isn't going to be swept under the rug. He'll be given an opportunity, and likely another and another, to reclaim his spot atop the depth chart.

Further discouraging is the reality that in the majority of fantasy leagues, I suspect, Mrazek will be a trendy selection. Typically, this would make Howard a great value pick. Unfortunately, again, banking on Howard doesn't look promising at this point.

Mrazek is the goalie to own, but he might not receive enough starts to justifying the cost of grabbing him in drafts. It most certainly is a situation to monitor, both throughout camp and as your draft unfolds.

 

***

 

There was a somewhat comical but telling article from the Edmonton Journal about Nail Yakupov written earlier this week. Yakupov said he was initially scared of Derek Roy,

“The first five or six games with Derek I was scared of him,” Yakupov said. “He would be yelling or swearing at me, but it was worth it. Sometimes you’re trying to be everywhere on the ice, but you have to be in your spot and listen to the center"

This kick-starts a pair of talking points.

First, Yakupov appears lost a lot, from my viewing. I wouldn't claim to have a strong grasp on his game-in, game-out play, but my assessment has always been he seems to do a lot of unnecessary skating.

Secondly, why is Derek Roy yelling at a teammate? Was it so bad in Edmonton that a midseason pickup needed to coach up Yakupov?

No wonder all these kids were reeling in the years, am I right Dan Steely?

Everything suggests Edmonton will look to fly with Conor McDavid between Taylor Hall and Yakupov, which makes Yakupov a compelling fantasy commodity. Yakupov did finish last season with 20 points — nine goals — over his final 28 games with 82 shots on net.

Expect Benoit Pouliot to present sneaky fantasy value in your drafts this fall, too.

The top six in Edmonton has the potential to flash fantasy gold this season, and you'll want shares. Capitalize on value, though, as your leaguemates might be eager to land Hall or McDavid. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Pouliot and Yakupov might return the most juice for your squeeze.

 

***

 

While I'm sure there were plenty of other factors, Shawn Matthias made a point to acknowledge Mike Babcock played a significant role in his decision to sign with the Maple Leafs.

If the Leafs are committed to the strip-down, collect-assets rebuild, an excellent way to insulate it is by creating a desirable location for established players to come to.

Not for the 2016-17 or 2017-18 seasons, but for when your collection of young talents are ready to take the step forward.

I've watched the Chicago Cubs assemble a strong front office and fully commit to a rebuild over the past five seasons. Finally ready, they acquired a number of established pieces this offseason, including manager Joe Maddon, and promoted their young core.

Only three teams in baseball have more wins.

All I can hope for with the Leafs is they stay committed to the long-term goal.

Bringing it full circle, Maddon's addition surely helped with the Jon Lester signing. And while Blue Jays fans won't want to hear this, don't rule out Maddon's connection with David Price also having a significant impact on potential negotiations.

If the cast is in place, can Babcock be a similar recruitor?

These things aren't linear, after all. It is a scatter plot, and it takes time to connect the dots. So if you're rebuilding your keeper team, keep that in mind.

 

 

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency CHI Players
22.3% KIRBY DACH ALEX DEBRINCAT PATRICK KANE
20.6% DOMINIK KUBALIK BRANDON SAAD JONATHAN TOEWS
17.7% RYAN CARPENTER MATTHEW HIGHMORE DAVID KAMPF

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