It's the eve of the NHL season! Talking player over/unders and more…
I am very excited to announce that these will be my last ramblings before the start of the NHL season. After this, we have real games, with real scores and real fantasy hockey implications! It’s like Fantasy Hockey Eve. Make sure you have your lineups set.
Before diving into some of the news I want to comment on the Toronto Blue Jays’ season and how you can draw inspiration from their turnaround. If you recall, back on May 23rd, about a quarter of the way into the season, the Blue Jays had bottomed out with just an 11% chance of making the playoffs. Remember this if your team gets off to a slow start.
All too often teams will pack it in if they don’t get the early breaks. Think about all the pre-season work you’ve done. All of the time you spent planning your draft. Not to mention the hours and energy invested into the draft itself. Don’t throw that away if a few weeks go sour. Keep plugging away and make your own miracle. Stranger things have happened, like playoff baseball in Toronto.
A few have asked about Dobber’s pre-season over/under bets for players. I’ve no doubt he’ll treat us to those in the ramblings tomorrow night. For now I’ll give you a couple that caught my eye off of Bodog:
Tomas Tatar – Over 53.5
Gustav Nyquist – Over 53.5
I am bullish on the Red Wings offense in general, but in particular these two should continue to grab larger chunks of the pie as veterans like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk continue to age. I have both projected to flirt with 60 points this season so this is an easy OVER for me.
Taylor Hall – Over 64.5
The only thing that can stop this bet is an injury. An injury is likely but even if Hall misses 10 games, he should clear this hurdle. Remember, Hall is just a year removed from scoring 80, and he’ll skate alongside that McDavid character.
Brandon Saad – Under 54.5
I know he’s been clicking with Ryan Johansen this pre-season but I remain skeptical. There are just so many forwards in Columbus who could steal ice time – in particular power play time – from Saad.
Claude Giroux – Over 76.5
This goes hand in hand with betting Giroux at 30/1 to win the Art Ross. He looks like the best “long shot” available. Remember, I had Patrick Kane at 30/1 in the lead before he went down. May as well try it again.
Mark Giordano – Under 52.5
He’d have cleared this total the past two seasons if he could stay healthy, but therein lies the rub. Giordano can’t stay healthy and with a loaded defense corps, the Flames don’t need to force him out there to the point where he would score this total. 50 is just a tough total to get to for a defenseman.
Tyler Bozak – Under 43.5
Phil Kessel isn’t walking through that door.
Alexander Ovechkin – Under 86.5
Tyler Seguin – Under 88.5
These last two are total buzzkill picks but picking the Under is typically the way to go. Bookies set the lines knowing that people like to hit on Overs but all it takes is an injury to throw an Under in your favour, plus these are some awfully high totals to hit. Both are capable but it’ll take a perfect season.
I’ve got five bucks riding on each of these. Hoping to hit on two thirds of them.
One last bet to toss out there:
Blackhawks – Under 47.5 wins
Winning damn near 50 is tough, particularly in the loaded Central division. The Blackhawks didn’t even get there last year with their Cup-winning roster. It’ll be that much tougher this time around, especially given all the playoff wear and tear.
As a special bonus, you can even get 6:1 odds on the Blackhawks missing the playoffs entirely. The Kings did after winning the Cup the previous season, just saying.
Some of the most exciting news of the day, particularly for prospect hounds, was Dylan Larkin making the Red Wings out of camp. There are murmurs he might skate with Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader, which is truly exciting. The question I have is whether or not there would have been room if Datsyuk and Darren Helm were healthy? That being said, when are those two ever healthy? I’m also wondering where this leaves Johan Franzen in his attempt to come back from concussion woes.
I suspect Larkin doesn’t last the full season with the Red Wings unless the injuries pile up, which you can’t rule out. The Red Wings don’t have to worry about waivers for Larkin, which makes him a likely candidate to get sent down when the vets are all healthy.
Bob Hartley announced Karri Ramo as his opening day starter, which certainly pushes him up in value. I still have Jonas Hiller as the number one in Calgary but that’s more due to a lack in confidence in Ramo as a full time starter than it is a belief in Hiller. With Ramo seemingly having the upper hand at this point, the projected split for starts looks more like 40/40, than the 50/30 in Hiller’s favour that I’d originally envisioned.
What really muddies the waters is that Calgary already has enough questions about them without a goalie controversy brewing. I have Calgary winning the Pacific this year because of how loaded they are on defense but if their shooting percentages regress and no one takes over in goal they could easily miss the playoffs entirely. They are one of the toughest teams to project.
The real question for fantasy owners is whether or not either Ramo or Hiller is worth the headache if both are set for 40 starts. At least when you grab part of the Blues’ tandem you know you will get great numbers, here it’s much more volatile.
Across the province there is another questionable goalie situation developing.
The Oilers waived Ben Scrivens, which leaves Anders Nilsson and Cam Talbot to duke it out for the bulk of starts. This is essentially a reboot of where the Flames were last season with Talbot in the role of Hiller and Nilsson in the role of Ramo. As you can tell from the example above, these controversies can span multiple seasons.
Talbot has the contract and the upper hand but the Oilers have proven with recent moves that contract status won’t guide their decision-making. Nilsson has a real shot here. We know that goalies pop up out of nowhere to become season-swinging commodities every year. Nilsson fits the mould.
Zack Kassian has entered a substance abuse program and will be suspended without pay while he completes the program. Obviously, the most important thing is that Kassian is safe after his crash over the weekend and that he is hopefully getting the help he seemingly needs.
In the short term, this hurts fantasy owners but the payoff could be great long term. After all, Kassian is still just 24, which is young for a power forward. Still plenty of time for him to develop into the Milan Lucic-esque force we all dreamed about.
This solidifies a spot in the lineup for Devante Smith-Pelly but he’ll have to work his butt off to get more than fourth-line minutes.
Some serious cuts came down the pipe yesterday, including Dylan Strome and Lawson Crouse, both of whom were expected to at least get nine-game trials with the big club.
This leaves just seven 2015 draftees remaining on NHL rosters: McDavid, Eichel, Noah Hanifin, Pavel Zacha, Mikko Rantanen, Daniel Sprong and Brendan Guhle. It feels almost certain that Sprong and Guhle will be sent down before they reach 10 games and Rantanen has AHL options so the Avalanche shouldn’t be shy about making a move if need be. That would leave just four draftees to make the full time leap right away.
The Crouse news means we might just see Martin Havlat sign a full-year deal with the Panthers. Don’t get too giddy, however. He made less noise than a mouse fart skating on a shallow Devils team last season.
Other cuts made yesterday:
Leon Draisaitl – this one comes as unexpected but is a huge vote of confidence for Anton Slepyshev.
Mason Raymond, Max Talbot, Andrew MacDonald, and Stephane Robidas were all waived. None necessarily makes room for anyone of huge fantasy relevance but they’ve all got sizable guaranteed deals so these moves show that teams are unafraid of making tough decisions. Like Bryan Bickell, however, I wouldn’t doubt if one or two of these waivers was just a fishing expedition to see if they could offload some cap for free.
The Canucks waived Linden Vey who was a fantasy sleeper this time last year after impressing in training camp. He even earned some time on the top power play unit next to the Sedins. This makes room for hard-hitting rookie Jake Virtanen to make the lineup.
On the other side of all these cuts is the players that made dreams come true.
For instance, the Bruins signed Jonas Gustavsson to a one-year deal, officially making him their backup goaltender. Even a year ago this would have been viewed as a good situation. Now, the Bruins don’t look so hot and Gustavsson is unlikely to see much action behind a workhorse like Tuukka Rask. Still, he’s once again an injury away from getting a chance at starting.
Another guy on a tryout who received a full deal was Scottie Upshall with the Blues. His signing comes at the expense of an exciting youngster like Ty Rattie but so be it. Upshall will stick with the big club until at least when Patrik Berglund gets healthy, then the team may not have much more use for him.
Raffi Torres was given a 41-game suspension. The biggest fantasy impact here is that there’s one less wrecking ball out there for one of your players to run into.
In other Shark news, they have named Joe Pavelski team captain. No fantasy relevance here, especially since Pavelski is such a well-known commodity that a little more press won’t affect his draft stock.
Check out even more news on prospects that have made the cut over at DobberProspects .
Thanks for reading. You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.