December 15, 2015

steve laidlaw

2015-12-15

Reviewing the Daley trade, Stamkos' struggles, the top five fantasy goalies and more.

A trade! Finally a trade! Dobber has this one covered but I cannot resist giving my take since the news spilled mid-way through a game I was watching anyhow.

The Penguins acquired Trevor Daley from the Blackhawks in exchange for Rob Scuderi.

Cue the rush to grab Daley off the waiver wire. I wonder if it has been so long since we saw a real trade that folks are so caught-off-guard that they overreact and jump on Daley. Not that Daley necessarily flops in Pittsburgh. He is certainly worth a flyer. I just think about how excited everyone was about him going to Chicago when it was pretty clear he was destined for a depth role.

Daley will play more in Pittsburgh than he did in Chicago so this isn’t the same situation but it’s not like he is going to single-handedly change the Penguins. He is, however, a much needed veteran puck-moving defenseman. It also helps the Penguins that they removed Scuderi who had come to represent all that was bad about the Mike Johnston era for many Penguins fans.

This deal could be addition by subtraction just by moving Scuderi out. Indeed, they managed to outshoot the Caps 45-34 last night, albeit in a losing effort.

Where does Daley fit in? With Kris Letang out until after Christmas we might see a little binge out of Daley if used on the top power-play unit. That is assuming the Penguins get their act together on the power play. No guarantees there. But he will likely push David Warsofsky and Olli Maatta down the depth chart. In Warsofsky’s case, possibly out of the lineup entirely.

I am not certain that Daley is as good as his skills and last season’s offensive explosion might suggest. He is a brilliant skater and his ability to skate the puck out of the defensive zone is one the Penguins desperately need. That one skill could prevent a lot of the lengthy shifts comprised of mostly playing defense.

The point I want to highlight is that Daley’s offensive explosion last season was also the first of his career. He has always been able to jump into the play and score goals but when he stretched himself last season there was a real trade-off. Despite scoring 10 goals combined while at even strength and while shorthanded, Daley was still a minus player for the first time since 2007-08. With fewer gambles, he can be a more positive force, just not necessarily a productive one. If you want to go ahead and put the minus-13 from last season on Kari Lehtonen then maybe you have more confidence in Daley.

Daley could go for a nice little binge in the short term, especially if the Penguins can actually figure out their power play under the new head coach. However, it could be a while before that happens because the Penguins have a really dense schedule before heading off for Christmas break. Just not a lot of time for practice.

Also, do keep in mind that Daley has missed 15 and 14 games in the past two seasons respectively. Not exactly a vision of sparkling health. He will get a boost just because he is escaping third pairing duties in Chicago, it just may not translate into certain fantasy relevance.

 

 

 

I’m not really sure what is in this for the Blackhawks. The acquisition of Scuderi doesn’t provide much salary cap relief as the Penguins are only eating a third of Scuderi’s deal. (Side note: of course the Penguins are eating part of the deal. I swear Stan Bowman gets off on convincing other GMs to eat salary. No one has made better use of that loophole than the Blackhawks’ GM.) I suppose every penny counts for the defending champs but near a million in cap space is not much in return.

If Scuderi performs as he did in Pittsburgh then this will end poorly for Chicago. The hope must be that Scuderi was stretched beyond his capacity in Pittsburgh and that if given a smaller role within the friendly confines of the Blackhawks system he can be a positive force. Or maybe they just don’t plan on using Scuderi at all.

This could also be a chemistry issue. Daley was relegated to third pairing duties after being a top pairing guy in Dallas. It’s possible he just did not fit. In this sense, Scuderi might be a more favourable option as a veteran with championship experience.

It’s just surprising to see how little the Blackhawks got in return for a veteran puck-moving defenseman when that’s on the Christmas wish list of over half the league.

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Back to the Penguins. This sounds like it is it for trades for the next little while as the GM wants to see the team play under their new head coach.

Opening night under the new coach was a mixed bag. The lineup didn’t really change at first. However, Beau Bennett, that poor Band-Aid Boy had to leave the game after getting taken into the boards by TJ Oshie. There goes Bennett’s top line opportunity.

Patric Hornqvist was back on the top line the rest of the way but remained on the second power-play unit. Just not playing very effective hockey.

Chris Kunitz saw his five-game scoring streak come to an end but continued to be a menace physically. Another eight hits leaves Kunitz with 114 on the season. He is on pace for over 300 hits, which would obliterate the career high of 211 he set last season. I’m not sure this is actually a positive though as hits mean the other guys have the puck. The hits might be a symptom not the cure.

I was having a conversation with a buddy about Sidney Crosby. Before the season began he had taken Claude Giroux ahead of Crosby and I chastised him for it. He hit me up last night to remind me of how good that move was looking.

“He just looks like a normal guy,” said my buddy.

It’s hard to argue. It’s like Crosby has spent the season wearing kryptonite skates. All too often he has looked *gasp* normal. We are starting to see lots of pieces coming out wondering if average is the new normal for Crosby. Here’s one particularly good piece that asks if what made Crosby special before is hurting him now:

Look, I’m not here to bury Crosby. I don’t imagine that it’s over for him. Still, it does seem like he’s moving into a different stage of his career. Something like an athlete’s mid-life. Whether this is the proverbial crisis or not is another thing. It might turn out that he wins more Stanley Cups on the back nine than on the front. It might turn out that he can reinvent himself as a player, becoming less spectacular but more effective overall than at his physical peak. That’s exactly the career path of his favourite player growing up, Steve Yzerman. There’s no doubt that Crosby understands the game well enough to find a different game to play. But will he prove too proud to do anything but be carried out on his shield?

This is a really interesting thought. It has to be considered. In the long run, it proves better to get out too early than too late. That said, isn’t the upside with sticking with Crosby worth it?

As for the discussion with my buddy, Crosby might be “normal” but I’d still take him over Giroux. Even after going scoreless in the last two games, Crosby has quietly scored nine points in the last 10. All that while shooting nearly half his career average of 14.6% and with the Penguins playing like garbage on the power play.

Giroux, meanwhile, is just below a point-per-game pace and has been great after some early woes. I still don’t like how reliant Giroux is on power-play scoring. Nearly half of his points the past few seasons have come on the power play. Indeed, it takes skill to be as dominant as Giroux, even while up a man. It’s just that the Flyers just aren’t good enough to drive play at even strength and help Giroux hit another level so instead he remains a point-per-game guy with otherworldly production on the power play. That’s fine, but if given a shot at the guy who was considered the best player in hockey not that long ago, I’d take it.

One last Penguins thought: Ron MacLean thinks there is a rift between Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

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When we look back on this season one of the things we will remember is that this was the year Braden Holtby was the best goalie in fantasy hockey. Just crazy consistency for Holtby with a near 80% winning percentage while leading the league in goals-against average and ranking a narrow fourth in save percentage.

Just spit-balling here but right now the top five fantasy goaltender ranks are probably something like:

Holtby

Henrik Lundqvist

Jake Allen

Ben Bishop

Cory Schneider

Obviously Carey Price would be in there if not hurt but he is hurt so to hell with him.

Who else is missing? Pekka Rinne has fallen off entirely but I would consider acquiring him, even going as far as trading Schneider to get him (assuming I had Schneider). I just believe in the infrastructure in Nashville way more than in New Jersey.

There are arguments to be made for Jonathan Quick (who had a stinker last night) and Corey Crawford in points-only formats where we count just wins and shutouts but for overall production, I’d stick with my top five.

You could also add Tuukka Rask to the list given the tear he has been on after a horrific start. Sergei Bobrovsky would also be in there but he is hurt.

What do your goalie ranks look like?

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Rask, by the way, had the night off against Edmonton. Jonas Gustavsson, who had been solid as a backup got the start. I say “had been” because Gustavsson has allowed three goals in each of his last three appearances and has seen his save percentage crash back to earth. Gustavsson now has a .904 save percentage, which is nearly in line with his .901 career average.

Safe to say we will see more of Rask going forward.

Jimmy Hayes is a total write-off. He has been scoreless in too many games to count and has been relegated to the fourth line at times and this after a few healthy scratches. Wouldn’t be surprised if he gets dealt at some point. The Bruins have a few similar players in Brett Connolly and Landon Ferraro. Right now Ferraro is probably the best of the bunch.

David Pastrnak has also started skating, so there is one more right winger to throw into the mix.

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Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl were thrown under the cloak of invisibility that is Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. It’s okay. That has been known to happen on occasion.

The positive for Edmonton was that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle stepped up to win their matchup against the David Krejci line and ultimately combined for the game-winning goal. Eberle’s three-point night gives him four goals and seven points in the last five games. Safe to say he is back up to speed.

What’s great about the Oilers squeeking this one out with Hall and Draisaitl cloaked is thinking about this lineup with Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov on the third line. Good luck to all the NHL coaches out there trying to devise line-matching strategies when the Oilers have all three of those pairings to roll out on separate lines.

Sorry for gushing. It’s just been so long since the Oilers were in a playoff spot this late (and it’s still so early) in the season and indeed they do sit in a playoff spot. That has more to do with the sad state of the Pacific division than it does with the excellent of the Oilers but they have won six in a row and haven’t been total pushovers.

It should be mentioned that Cam Talbot totally stole that win for Edmonton stopping 47 of 49 shots in the first action he has seen in weeks. This was the first start he had with two goals or less allowed since October. The starting job is totally Anders Nilsson’s but Talbot playing well enough to make spot starts makes Nilsson a better goalie since he gets a chance to rest.

The Oilers’ power play has clicked on just three of 23 chances since Justin Schultz returned from injury. He has one week left to impress me before I purge him from my fantasy life. If only the Oilers would hold him to the same timeline.

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A fine outing by Joonas Korpisalo in his NHL debut. He stopped 27 of 29 shots but did not receive enough offensive support for a win. He should be the Jackets’ starter while Bobrovsky is out but I still wouldn’t go out of my way to snag Korpisalo. Do whatever it takes if you are desperate, otherwise it’s no rush.

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Ben Bishop continues to excel despite a lack of goal support. Make no mistake, he has totally earned that top five fantasy billing I pegged him for.

The Lightning continue to struggle with injuries. They even lost one of their replacements, Joel Vermin, to injury last night. Not great to lose a forward in a game where you had already started with just 11 forwards, opting for seven defensemen. This forced Brian Boyle into extra action as the grinder skated just short of 20 minutes. He did come up big with a shorthanded game-winning goal.

It is very interesting that with Crosby we are talking about how he is slumping but with Steven Stamkos all we talk about is where he might go in free agency this summer. Never mind that he only has a couple more points than Crosby or that he hasn’t scored a goal since November 21, a goalless streak that has reached nine games.

Stamkos is scoring less than a goal every other game, which, if it keeps up, would be the first time he has failed to reach that mark since his rookie season.

Stamkos is on pace for less than 200 SOG. Think about that for a second. How does a sniper like Stamkos fire so few shots?

This is like an anti- contract-year situation. It’s as though Stamkos knows he will get paid wherever he goes and that he is so discontent with the whole contract situation that he has come unravelled. It seems like every day that goes by his production gets worse and he gets closer to leaving the Lightning.

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Similar to the Bergeron/Chara in Boston the Kings have the Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty vice grip to throw opponents’ top lines into. Unfortunately for the Kings last night, the Senators had too much offensive depth for them.

The Senators dropped Mike Hoffman to the second line with Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan, a move they have done before to free Hoffman from top checkers. It worked as the Senators pounced on Jonathan Quick for five goals on just 21 shots with Hoffman and Zibanejad each posting three-point nights.

Lots of folks are talking about how the Dallas Stars winning would be the best thing for opening up hockey because “the NHL is a copycat league.” Nonsense. You want a team to root for to open up the game? It’s these Senators. They are the Flames of a year ago and the Avalanche of two hopped up on steroids.

They allow more shots than anyone in the league and get outshot by over six shots a game. They’ll risk a turnover to make a play that might result in a goal going either way. It is fast, it is high scoring and it is fun. It is also entirely unlikely to succeed but never mind that. If you want more scoring then you want the teams with no absolutely conscience to win.

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Tyler Toffoli ended an eight-game goalless drought last night. Great to see. That second line with Toffoli, Jeff Carter and Milan Lucic has quietly taken a backseat to the top line with Anze Kopitar, Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik. It’s worth mentioning that the Kings even swapped the centers on those two lines for a brief stretch during the third period helping to lead to Jake Muzzin’s goal.

No points for Gaborik. In fact, he has just one point in the last five games. Expand that sample to 10 games and he has six points, which still isn’t entirely great. He does have 35 SOG in that 10-game sample though, which is extremely encouraging.

As for Kings’ players who are hot? How about Alec Martinez who has 10 points in 20 games since the start of November.

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Ryan O’Reilly totally saved my bacon in daily fantasy last night. No, I didn’t have him in my lineup, which was probably a mistake as O’Reilly is arguably the hottest player in the league right now. Instead, it was the Petr Mrazek shutout bid that he squashed that led to a huge payday for me. Tons of sharps had Mrazek last night and surely would have pushed me out of the money had he hung on for the win.

Johan Larsson’s winner just a minute later clinched the cash for me.

Want a scary stat regarding O’Reilly? He is at nearly a point-per-game despite a five-on-five on-ice shooting percentage of just 5.8%, which is well below average. Imagine Sam Reinhart or Evander Kane start cashing in some goals.

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Anton Khudobin and Jarret Stoll have been placed on waivers. Any goalie move is fantasy relevant because there is always a chance they get a chance to run with a starting gig.

Khudobin is talented but I am not so sure that anyone puts in a claim. Teams just don’t like scrambling their goalie depth chart mid-season. For the most part, it’s unfair to push guys back who had previously won a role. Also, everyone has cap concerns so unless Khudobin is going to move the needle in a huge way, teams would prefer to maintain their cap space. That said, the Jackets and Coyotes should really look into claiming him.

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It sounds like Jonathan Bernier is back in the mix for the Leafs and will start tonight. Decent opportunity here going up against a banged up Lightning squad on their second leg of a back-to-back.

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Dan Girardi is day-to-day with swelling in his knee. There is an argument to be made that Girardi’s absence will actually help the Rangers given how many minutes he plays and how the team is getting heavily outshot with him on the ice. In fact, the only guy who has been worse than Girardi is Stoll, who they just waived.

Considering how the Rangers are getting carved up with Derek Stepan out this could be a huge revelation. Or maybe the bleeding just gets worse and Henrik Lundqvist has to be even more superhuman.

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Which goalies to start? Which goalies to sit? Ian Gooding has you covered for this week’s goalies.

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Sportsnet takes a look at every team’s most untradeable player.

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

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