Where does Dubnyk following his hot start?
I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend.
The fantasy regular season has hit its midway point. Week 11 begins tonight, which means 10 more matchups before head-to-head playoffs. If you aren’t in a playoff spot now, you need to get your act together and start building towards that goal or you’ll be on the outside looking in when the fun begins.
If you are in a playoff spot, it’s time to start thinking about moves to set yourself up for the fantasy playoffs. Start getting your team setup with players who will play a dense schedule come playoff time. This might mean making trades that are sideways or even a slight step back in terms of talent. A step back is okay if it gets you a few extra games over the playoff weeks.
I have been thinking about the most important players of the fantasy hockey season and the top two have to be Devan Dubnyk and Sergei Bobrovsky. You’ve gotten elite goaltending from these two without having to pay an elite price.
I have some concerns about these two crumbling in the second half though more concerns about Dubnyk than Bobrovsky. I feel like I’ve seen Bobrovsky be elite more, even though his career save percentage is only one point higher than Dubnyk’s. My only concern with Bob is health, not performance. With Dubnyk, I worry that he is merely average or slightly better than.
Consider the example of Braden Holtby, a goalie we all think is great and plays on a great team. He was hot shit halfway through last season but tanked the second half stopping just .911 of all shots and boasting a 2.50 goals-against average from January onward. Anyone who sold high on Holtby at mid-season came out ahead.
Dubnyk has a career .918 save percentage, which is just above league average. But he is a goalie who has demonstrated huge swings in performance. Twice now, he has been a world-beater for the Wild over a half season but he has also had the lowest of lows that nearly pushed him out of the league. Even if you don’t think he’ll hit rock bottom again, you still have to assume his second half will not be as outstanding as his first half.
Instead, we should expect something closer to what Dubnyk achieved last season, which is about a .500 record, a .918 save percentage and a GAA in the 2.25-2.55 range. The Wild are a good team but they only become great when Dubnyk is great. Average is okay. Dubynk could produce at the level I suggest he will and he could still produce like a top-10 goalie. I just don’t think I’m including him with Carey Price or Braden Holtby in the elite tier.
Other vitally important players:
Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine – there is an argument to be made that you couldn’t possibly have taken either one too high in a draft. The instant impact these two are having is creating unrealistic expectations for the next crop. I have no doubt that there will be impact rookies next season but they probably won’t be doing it as 18-year-olds.
Zach Werenski and the Blue Jackets – Odds are Cam Atkinson and Brandon Saad were drafted. Perhaps even Nick Foligno in a deeper league. I don’t know too many leagues where Alexander Wennberg or Werenski were owned out of the gate. If you jumped on any of these guys early, you have been rewarded tremendously.
Werenski has slowed right down in December. He has five points in 11 games, plus is averaging just two SOG per game this month. I still have high expectations for him, but this month is pulling some of those back. I’m doubtful that Werenski will get to 200 SOG now.
Did you guys enjoy yesterday’s World Junior action? I love this tournament. As heavily coached as they are at the junior level, they are still young kids capable of big mistakes. They also have exquisite talent with which to capitalize on said mistakes. Slap all of this into the pressure cooker of a two-week tournament and you get fireworks. This is the most consistently entertaining hockey we will watch until April.
The Flyers have nine prospects playing at the World Juniors, more than any team and what’s scary is that they could have 10 with Travis Konecny not being made available for obvious reasons. What’s more, the Flyers have a ton of draft pick currency for the draft ahead and they also have several graduates of recent World Junior tournaments like Ivan Provorov, Oskar Lindblom, Travis Sanheim and Sam Morin in the system at various levels.
These guys are in a great place and they have done it without having to completely bottom out. Sure, Provorov and Morin were both lottery picks. The past four seasons have involved the team taking a step back from true contention but the team has remained competitive. They kept together a strong core, which will helps them insulate these youngsters as they come into the system.
In a couple of years, if we are looking at a Flyer powerhouse, we will know it was the result of the past few years of excellent prospect mining. They have hit on first rounders but as importantly, they have found players in the later rounds and even signed late-blooming Canadian defenseman Phillipe Myers as a free agent. Stocking the cupboards in numerous ways is a great way to build a winner.
Check out Flyer goaltending prospect Felix Sandstrom putting on a display:
Flyers prospect Felix Sandström with an insane pad save pic.twitter.com/4SByiOtjf9— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 26, 2016
The Flyers have three goaltending prospects at this tournament with Sandstrom, Slovakia’s Matej Tomek and Canada’s Carter Hart. At some point, one of these guys is going to be the starter for a good Flyer team but in the next couple of years Steve Mason is likely going to be the guy. Mason is an unrestricted free agent this summer but he has proven a very strong #1 option.
Better still, Mason is only 28 years old, so you can feel comfortable committing to him for a few years. I wouldn’t commit to him for too long, however. Lest you risk winding up in a spot like the Predators are in with a goaltender locked up well into his 30’s, as he is declining, with no recourse to move him. Instead, I would be looking to sign Mason for two or three years in the $6M range. I’d go as high as $7M if that’s what is required to keep the term down.
Mason has leverage as an unrestricted free agent and he has already played the short-term game with bridge deals of two, one and three years respectively since his entry-level deal expired. He may feel that now is the time for his big long-term deal and you couldn’t blame him.
The Flyers are no stranger to question marks in goal. This is a franchise that once took Michael Leighton to a Cup final. They have finally found a legit #1 in Mason but that doesn’t mean they view him as such. It also doesn’t mean that they no longer have an appetite for risk in goal. You could totally see them continue with patchwork options like Michal Neuvirth for the next couple of seasons until their bumper crop is ready.
Thanks for reading! Follow me @SteveLaidlaw.