November 13, 2015

steve laidlaw


How the Flyers' power play woes are crushing the fantasy value of several players, Zucker emerging and plenty more.

Ron Hextall wants the Flyers to be more accountable. Whatever that means, they were most certainly not it last night falling 5-2 at home to the Capitals.

Steve Mason is an easy target but he is drowning right now, having lost four in a row and boasting some horrific numbers. His numbers are worse than any season he had in Columbus. Yikes!

Just as Mason was not as good as last season’s numbers indicated, he also is not as bad as this season’s. He should approach something closer to average as the season wears on. Even Semyon Varlamov and Mike Smith found competency by the end of last season.

How many chances will he get to get back to average however? If we are talking about “accountability” does that not mean Michal Neuvirth gets the next start?

Right now, I would not want to be stuck starting any Flyers goalie.

While we are talking about accountability, at what point does Dave Hakstol take the blame for what is going on here? There is no question that this team is lacking depth. That’s fine, you can accept then that they might be terrible defensively. The bite that has been taken out of the Flyers’ offense is huge. They have lost nearly a goal per game from last season’s offense that was not even particularly good ranking 21st.

Where this has really shown up is on the power play where the Flyers went from third in power-play efficiency and a perennial powerhouse down to a tie for 26th. Not good.

Claude Giroux is at least still getting his power-play points. You can view that as either a sign of hope or a sign of impending doom. That is because Giroux has not actually been that strong a producer at even strength for several years now. Instead he has feasted off of the power play, scoring more PPP than anyone over the past four years. Giroux has averaged 0.47 PPP per game over that span, an insane rate.

Last season, over half of his 73 points came on the power play. This season, Giroux is on pace for 26 PPP. That total would be great for just about anyone in the league, except Giroux. Drop him to that kind of PP scoring and he becomes a 60-point guy.

Jakub Voracek feels that sting too but it seems as though it will more or less work out for him once he starts getting the puck to bounce in once or twice. He will not be replicating last season’s performance by any means but even without a strong power-play he can get into that 60-point conversation as well.

The guy who really feels the pinch of the power-play’s decline is Wayne Simmonds. That list I linked to above, with Giroux as the top PP scorer for the past four seasons? Simmonds ranks 21st, tied with Steven Stamkos. 41% of Simmonds’ points from the past four seasons have come on the PP. He is on pace for just 15 PPP, a decline of nine from his total each of the past two seasons.

Lose nine PPP and Simmonds goes from a 50-point guy with upside for more into a 40-point guy. He still has value in rotisserie leagues but in points-only leagues he is on the waiver wire.

Simmonds did find an assist last night (on the PP) and the return of Sean Couturier should help but he is killing fantasy owners right now.

Evgeny Medvedev made his return from injury after a near two-week absence. Perhaps he helps matters.

RJ Umberger will miss 1-2 weeks with a lower-body injury.


I am having a tough time extricating my opinion of Brad Marchand as a dirty player from what went down between he and Gabriel Landeskog last night. Marchand was felled by and blindside hit from Landeskog. Marchand would finish the game but Landeskog would not as he was awarded a match penalty.

Both players are going to be looked at for possible fines/suspensions as Marchand threw a punch at Landeskog following the incident. Marchand’s history with player discipline may not play favourably for him here.


Mikhail Grigorenko jumped onto the “super line” with Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon for a brief stretch notching an assist. He only skated 6:38 total though so probably not someone to get overly excited about.

Duchene, by the way, is scorching hot amid trade rumours. He has six goals and nine points in his last six games. It is always dangerous talking deal with a guy who might get traded but as a general notion I would suggest now makes for a good opportunity to try and deal Duchene.

In his current situation Duchene probably finishes up with around 60 points but this hot streak and some of the trade talk might have people thinking he has more in the tank. I am not certain who you might rope in but this hot streak was more a market correction than a sign of explosive future scoring.

Reto Berra is making things really interesting in Colorado but look at his contract compared to Semyon Varlamov’s. He needs to play like vintage Hasek to overtake Varlamov who is currently nursing a groin injury.

Working in Berra’s favour is Varlamov’s checkered injury history and the reality that groin injuries can often linger.

Berra has posted quality starts in five out six outings thus far. Keep that up for another 15 appearances and I might become a believer.


What a way for Jake Allen to snap out of his hot streak, getting ventilated by the Rangers for three goals on five shots, in less than a period’s worth of action.

The Blues mounted a comeback with Brian Elliott in goal but ultimately conceded three more including an empty-netter for the loss. Elliott got saddled with the loss and did not perform so he well that he automatically gets the next start.

If Elliott does get the next start that means he will likely start two of the next three as the Blues go back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday next week. That would really open the door for him to take back a chunk of the St. Louis crease.


Jason Zucker is starting to score goals at a similar rate to what he was last season, which is a dangerous proposition since he has already beaten last season’s assist total by a decent margin and still has 36 games to spare.

Zucker’s 5on5 on-ice shooting percentage is pretty high at 13.3% but we should be open to the possibility that he, Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter are forming a tremendously effective second line for an elite Minnesota Wild team. It is reminiscent of what the Triplets had going on for Tampa bay last season. Those three finished with 5on5 on-ice shooting percentages just above 11%. Even with good fortune and consistently tremendous play it is hard not to see Zucker slowing down some but you also have to consider him a real threat to make it to 60 points.

Part of this boost comes from the Wild finding their footing on the power play. They have slowed after an explosive start but still boast a solid 19.2% efficiency.

The power play improvements are really helping Ryan Suter, who has five PPP already. He is on pace for 27 PPP, which would be a career high. The only other time Suter has scored over 20 PPP in a season was when he set a career high of 46 total points back in 2011-12.

It is not impossible to see Suter setting a new career high this season. With the head start he has, Suter need only score a point every other game the rest of the way to threaten for 50. Selling high is still the move, with regard to Suter, but do not take the idea of 50 points off the table when considering your options.


Pierre LeBrun looks at the struggling Tampa Bay offense:

"We haven't played awful-bad," continued Hedman, tied for the team lead with 11 points (1-10) in 16 games. "Most losses we're pulling the goalie out at the end of the game. So it's been mostly one-goal games, really. We're top 10 in goals-against average. But we haven't scored any goals. We know it's going to be tough winning hockey games when you're pretty much scoring one goal a game.''

I have mentioned this before but Ben Bishop’s numbers are IDENTICAL to last year’s. The only thing that is different is the offense in front of him. Last night he finally got some goal support after going five straight starts with the Lightning scoring just one goal or less.

This is why I do not view Andrei Vasilevskiy as much of a threat right now. Bishop is producing great numbers and remains an elite fantasy starter. Make your pitches to get him while you can.


You hear that roaring sound outside? That’s the sound of Ryan Miller crashing back down to Earth. He has given up three goals or more in each of his past four starts. He now sits with a save percentage of just 0.913 and has nearly as many quality starts (eight) as non-quality starts (seven), where quality starts are defined by games with a 0.910 save percentage or above.

Miller is a coin flip goalie. The epitome of average. Half the time he will be great, the other half not so much. That is fine if he is your third goalie in a rotisserie league where the good will balance out the bad. In a head-to-head league, the swings are enough to scuttle some matchups and drive you completely mad.


Jonathan Huberdeau’s projected breakout campaign has not gone according to plan but he scored his first goal last night, which counts as significant progress. He has been shooting a lot more lately with 13 SOG in the past three games. It is little surprise that he has scored in each of those games. Shoot and ye shall be rewarded.

Overall, Huberdeau is on pace for no more than last season’s 169 SOG, which is not a positive sign if he is to improve on last season’s 54-point output. Let’s see if he can keep shooting as he has over the past week.

Vincent Trocheck is becoming really hard to ignore but I am doing my best. He simply does not profile as a big enough scorer for me to want to pick him up. It is not a skill thing. Trocheck is plenty skilled. He just does not have the right opportunity.

There is not enough offense on the Panthers right now and Trocheck merely skates on the second PP unit. Were he on the top unit, I would be more likely to consider him but given his second-line, second PP deployment and he becomes hard to take seriously. He is also shooting an astronomical 25.9%. I think there is an R-word for cases like his.


I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Cody Franson has overtaken Rasmus Ristolainen for positioning on the Sabres’ top PP unit. I was worried that this would happen and would cost Ristolainen a chance at a breakout season. It hasn’t mattered thus far as Ristolainen continues to roll skating huge minutes at even strength and on the penalty kill, while soaking up a still healthy 2:28 per game on the second PP unit.

For Franson’s part, he is taking advantage of the opportunity as half of his eight points have come on the PP. He is also shooting more than ever, on pace about 160 SOG. For a guy with his shooting ability that could mean he finishes with double-digit goals.


Well-timed column from Alessandro Seren Rosso, posting an interview with Sergei Kalinin the day he goes out and has his most productive game as an NHLer scoring a goal and an assist.

I am not certain that Kalinin will be very productive beyond the very deepest of leagues but he has been getting some PP time of late and has been skating alongside red hot forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.

We should probably talk about Palmieri for a minute since he is ultimately more relevant than Kalinin.

Palmieri also scored a goal and an assist last night giving him 14 points on the season. I do not trust him for the same reasons I do not trust Trocheck. The Devils simply do not have that much offense though they are demonstrating otherwise, and Palmieri is skating on the second line and second PP unit. That Palmieri has eight PPP so far is astounding considering his usage.

There is little doubt that Palmieri is headed towards a career season. He was headed that way for the Ducks until he lost 35 games to injury. Injuries are another demon in Palmieri’s past that he will have to avoid. With the head start that he has, 45 points in 70 seems like a strong projection and is a good 10-point bump from where I had him in the preseason.


I have to admit swinging and missing on Patrick Kane this offseason. In the fantasy guide, I projected him for a regression from the point-per-game pace he put up last season. My logic was that Kane had never scored above a point-per-game in any season but the season’s where the Blackhawks had won the Cup and this Blackhawks team was looking fairly diminished from last season’s.

I just did not know Artemi Panarin was going to be rookie of the year. Those two are making magic and account for basically two-thirds of the whole Blackhawk offense.

All the underlying figures suggest that Kane will regress at some point but given his pace, regression might still look like 100 points. You can’t get there without a run like this.

Of course, injuries may still play a role. They did in each of Kane’s last two seasons costing him 21 and 13 games respectively. Knock on wood that nothing bad happens because he has been appointment viewing. Kane and Panarin are the perfect antidote to all this “we need more goals” nonsense.


Contrary to earlier reports it looks like Justin Abdelkader will maintain his spot on the top line, skating with a returning Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. This is a great spot for Abdelkader who is fresh off signing a fat new extension. For more on that deal check out yesterday’s ramblings.


Minor deal to report: the Flames acquired Kevin Poulin from the Lightning for future considerations. They needed a goalie with AHL starter Jon Gillies going down with an injury. Almost no chance Poulin cracks the NHL roster with the long line of mediocrity the Flames currently have at the position.


The Score looks at five pending restricted free agents:

It's simple: Boston cannot afford to lose another defenseman, especially one with offensive skills that distinguish him from the aging, down-tempo group that currently makes up the team's rotating six.

Krug is on pace for a career high in points despite having yet to score himself this season, and ranks second in primary assists to only P.K. Subban.

One element I really need to add into my analysis more often is primary assists vs. secondary assists. It is pretty clear that primary assists are what you want to see more of as it shows direct engagement in the play. Sometimes, it really is the pass before the pass that creates the goal, but it is definitely a sign of future production if you are racking up the primary assists.

One thing that I have noticed with Krug is that he has really stepped up with all the turnover on the Bruins defense. He is skating 22:44 per game, a full three-minute jump from last season. That has come from an increase in minutes in all situations, including penalty kill time.

This represents tremendous growth over Krug’s first couple of seasons. He was basically a third-pairing power-play specialist but he is now so much more. What is great is that he has taken the expanded role without seeing his underlying possession numbers suffer. The Bruins continue to control the greater proportion of shot attempts and more importantly, goals while Krug is on the ice.

More than half of Krug’s points so far have come on the power play. That is a bit concerning, since the Bruins are clicking at an ungodly rate that is sure to regress. When that happens, Krug’s scoring will slow. But he is also skating an extra minute more than usual on the power play now that Claude Julien has decided to load up one power-play unit. Krug also has yet to score a goal and this is a guy who has yet to not reach double-digits in goals in his career so he will get his.

Where this all comes together is for folks in rotisserie leagues. Krug has almost been a negative influence in leagues scoring blocked shots. As a defenseman who has historically blocked less than a shot per game, Krug simply has not offered the same value as the average defenseman at this position.

It is great to have Krug’s scoring from the defense slot but in leagues with shot blocks you really need your defensemen to be providing consistent production in this category. It is part of why I dealt Tyson Barrie for Rasmus Ristolainen in one such league last season.

Krug’s increased usage in defensive situations has resulted in more shot blocks. He has not turned into Kris Russell or anything but Krug is on pace for over 100 blocked shots this season, which is a really significant improvement.

It is really encouraging to see a player expand his defensive role so heavily and yet still hang onto his production. For two years running he has been a 40-point defenseman. This year looks like the year he leaps up to 45, maybe even 50 if it all breaks right.


Sean McIndoe breaks down this season’s slumping superstar panic watch.

Crosby is far better than Heatley or Lecavalier ever were, of course, and even if he woke up one morning 25 percent worse than his peak, he'd still be one of the league's top players. But it may be time to admit that it's possible — just possible — that we've already seen his very best. That's not panic, or an overreaction to a minor slump; it's just the reality of how players age in today's league.

This notion has been kicking around in the back of my head. With Crosby, we always seem to blame the coach or the wingers or the weak defense. His talent is still so evident but maybe he isn’t the guy who can drag two scrubs for 82 games on his way to a 100-point season. There is nothing wrong with that but it changes how you should perceive him for fantasy purposes. He can definitely still get to that 100-point mark but it does look like at this point he needs more help than ever before.

Something worth kicking around for sure. What do you think?


Claude Julien does not seem to think that the NHL has much of a scoring problem. I tend to lean more towards his end of the argument but this is a topic I have beaten to death the past couple of weeks.


Rob Vollman has his highly useful player usage charts up and running with stats from the 2015-16 season.


Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.


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JAMIE BENN DAL 19 8 10 18


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