Ramblings: Luongo and Marner Hurt, Panthers on Fire (Feb 16)


The Mike Yeo era continues to bear fruit for St. Louis. The Blues have gone 6-1-0 under Yeo and have allowed just eight goals in those seven games with three shutouts. I don’t want to jump to conclusions after a hot start but you’d rather they were playing well than playing poorly.

The goalies are finally stopping pucks. Does Martin Brodeur taking over as goalie coach have anything to do with this? Not all great players make great coaches (see Gretzky, Wayne). I’m sure this run is a combination of many factors but it would seem that the Blues are back to producing the gaudy save percentages we had grown used to.

Carter Hutton pitched his fourth shutout of the season, all of which have come in the last month. Only seven of his 16 starts have been quality starts, which includes those four shutouts. That’s a pretty terrible percentage. Basically, you have been flipping a coin if you have used Hutton this season. His career save percentage is 0.909. I wouldn’t expect him to do any better than that the rest of the way, even after all the adjustments in St. Louis.

Vladimir Tarasenko has four goals in seven games under Yeo. No assists. Too small a sample to say anything definitive but I like that Tarasenko’s minutes have been up. He has averaged 19:34 in these games, up from his 18:15 season average and has been above 20 minutes in three of these seven games.

Hitchcock was notorious for shorting Tarasenko’s ice time, particularly when protecting leads. He used Tarasenko over 20 minutes in only eight of the previous 50 games this year. And in case you are wondering, only one of the last seven games have gone to overtime. Tarasenko is getting usage while protecting leads, which could open up the potential of some easy empty-net scores.


The verdict is in:

This suspension will carry Gustav Nyquist past the Wings’ bye week so we won’t see him again until March 4th. He was only relevant in deep leagues anyhow so you can safely drop him in all but the deepest of formats. Nyquist remains owned in 30% of Yahoo! leagues. That number should be closer to 5%.

Tomas Tatar took Nyquist’s place on the Wings’ top line alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Anthony Mantha:





Great spot for Tatar because Zetterberg and Mantha are clicking but I am over him as a fantasy option. He has skill but doesn’t get his nose dirty often enough.

Justin Abdelkader scooped up Nyquist’s top power play unit duties but he’s another lost cause.

Poor Dylan Larkin has seen his fantasy value go into the toilet and this deployment won’t help.

Not much going well in Detroit.


Joonas Korpisalo moved to 4-1-0 on the year. He had gotten shelled in his three previous starts so it was nice to see him settle down. I am a fan of Korpisalo. He was excellent for Columbus while Sergei Bobrovsky was hurt with a 0.920 save percentage across 31 appearances. His AHL numbers have not been nearly as hot in a similar sample size so if you remain dubious, I get it. I think Korpisalo could offer some value as a spot starter down the stretch.  

Oliver Bjorkstrand made his return to the Blue Jacket lineup with Scott Hartnell out. He immediately got top line usage with Brandon Saad and Alexander Wennberg:





Say what you will about John Tortorella but he seems invested in putting players in a position to succeed. He has consistently used Bjorkstrand in a scoring role whenever he has been called up. It’s one of the reasons I was so high on Bjorkstrand coming into the year.

Obviously, it hasn’t worked out for Bjorkstrand but he remains a top prospect. He hasn’t been able to stick at the NHL level and he has scored 14 goals and 26 points in 37 AHL games this season. That’s not quite the mastery I expect to see and certainly not up to the 10 goals and 16 points he scored in 17 AHL playoff games last spring.

Bjorkstrand scored a goal last night, which is a good way to earn an extended stay, however Hartnell is only out day-to-day so he may not last.

Nick Foligno was dropped to the third line but remains the net-front man on the top power play unit and scored Columbus’ first power-play goal since January 22, a nine-game drought. He has goals in back-to-back games and refuses to go quietly into the night. He should remain productive, just not to the level he was early on when Columbus was clicking on a third of all their PP chances.

Wennberg ended a five-game drought with a pair of assists. Same deal for Wennberg. He’s teetering on the borderline of droppable in my 10-team league because we count hits, blocked shots, PIM, etc. He’s really only valuable when scoring and he has just 13 points in 21 games since January 1. That’s a 51-point pace. Not cutting it in a league that size, especially when he only scored in eight of those 21 games.

Any player can go through a rough stretch and I’m shopping Wennberg before I drop him but another month of 51-point production and he won’t be on my roster for the fantasy playoffs. At present, Wennberg has replaced Vincent Trocheck as the centerman I sit when I have lineup conflicts.

Seth Jones has 11 points in his last 11 games. He’s not being used in a role that I find overly favourable for fantasy production but I don’t turn down talented defensemen when they are on a hot streak.


Mitch Marner left last night’s game after an attempted hit on Boone Jenner found the boards instead. No word on the severity of the injury. The Leafs don’t play again until Saturday so if it’s a minor injury, you’d expect him to be back.

The Leafs really haven’t had their forward depth challenged at all as their mainstays have remained healthy all season. This could be the first challenge but they have a ton of interesting options at their disposal. I don’t think Marner’s production is replaceable but with some of the depth guys like Zach Hyman, Connor Brown and Josh Leivo that the Leafs have, they can find a reasonable facsimile. They’ve also got Brendan Leipsic and Kasperi Kapanen scoring at a point-per-game rate at the AHL level.

Leivo jumped up after Marner went down skating 14:53, a season high. He notched a pair of assists, giving him five points in the last two games. Leivo also has 10 SOG in those two games. I am intrigued.


Brian Elliott played one of his best games of the season stopping 33 of 34 to tie his season high for saves and earn a win that will surely get him the next start. I’m still holding out hope that Elliott finds his game and carries the Flames the rest of the way. The Flames have played good hockey after an awful start to the season. I don’t know that they are a playoff team but they belong on the bubble. The bubble is enough to make Elliott fantasy relevant as long as he is stopping at least the league average number of pucks.

It took a 90-foot empty-netter but Mark Giordano ended his 10-game scoring drought. I’d have dropped Giordano a while back. TJ Brodie has scooped his top PP minutes and his shot volume is way down. I don’t have time for unproductive defensemen who don’t offer shot volume. And I especially don’t have time for them if they aren’t showing signs of turning things around like seeing big PP minutes.


Interesting nugget here:

For what it’s worth, I’ve been monitoring Claude Giroux’s decline in even-strength scoring for a few years now but I haven’t found it overly concerning because of how damned good he is on the power play. Giroux is eighth in the league in PPP/60 over that same stretch and leads the league with 85 PPP in 215 games. That’s a 32-point pace, just from the power play. Most leagues reward special teams scoring.

The Flyers’ power play is 4/42 over the last 12 games. Unsurprisingly, the Flyers have scored just 16 goals in those 12 games. Overall, their PP is tied for 11th in efficiency at 20.4%. This rut should pass. The Flyers have the league’s third most efficient power play over the past three seasons at 20.8%. There will always be peaks and valleys but this is a proven unit.

Giroux has only three points in the last 12 games but I’m not worried about him or his teammates like Jakub Voracek or Wayne Simmonds. They’ll find their game again. If someone is panicked, by all means, buy low.


The Panthers have scored 24 goals in five games since the All-Star break. They have also allowed 21 so it’s not like they are playing great but they’ve extracted four wins out of this run.

Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov have been back for four games and have points in all of them with seven and six total, respectively. I guess these guys are okay.

Just as important: the second line of Jussi Jokinen, Trocheck and Reilly Smith have found traction. Jokinen and Trocheck have five points in the last four games, while Smith has four. This is a short run of production so don’t get too excited but we’ll see if they can keep it up. This line was one of the league’s best during the fantasy playoffs last season. They can get as hot as anyone.

Roberto Luongo went down at the end of the game as Joe Pavelski was scoring to tie things up. It looked like a left leg injury. While he was able to skate off under his own power, it didn’t look good. I’m sure we’ll have an update later today. James Reimer earned the win in overtime. He’s a really solid backup who can certainly run with a starting gig. He’d definitely be worth picking up if Luongo is out for an extended stretch. Also relevant here, Reto Berra could be in line for a recall.


Kevin Labanc has four points on his current three-game scoring streak. He is taking full advantage of his top line cameo.

After a nine-game scoring streak, Patrick Marleau has been held off the board for two in a row. He may be cooling off. He played his 600th straight game, which is an incredible feat.


The LA Kings made a minor deal yesterday sending Tom Gilbert to Washington for a conditional late-round pick. Little fantasy impact here. Gilbert is an eighth or ninth defenseman at this point. Right-handed depth, currently buried in the minors.

The move does clear a small amount of cap room for the Kings and they can use all the room that they can get if they are to upgrade their forward group.

The Kings also called up Paul LaDue and Adrian Kempe. I discussed LaDue last week so instead let’s look at Kempe, the former first-round pick who has spent the past year and a half playing in the AHL.

Kempe’s AHL numbers aren’t particularly good having scored 22 goals and 47 points in 101 regular season games. You can add another 12 goals and 14 points from in 30 playoff games from their past two playoff runs.

He’s only 20 but this is the profile of a depth player, not a genuine scoring star. I think that the Kings will benefit a lot more from his arrival than fantasy owners will. He’s big, fast and tenacious – a prototypical depth Kings player. Because of his pedigree, I think we all want to see Kempe with a shot on Anze Kopitar’s wing. He was put on Kopitar’s wing in practice yesterday. He can’t do worse than many of the other players the Kings have tried there.

I am cool on Kempe’s immediate value but I would never rule out him finding another offensive gear, especially alongside Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli.

Read more on Kempe here.

Last Kings note: they will be the next team to return from their bye week tonight. With how poorly teams have performed coming off the bye, maybe leave Petr Budaj on the bench.


Some intriguing info from Zach Parise on his recovery experience following the same injury that Steven Stamkos is currently rehabbing:

"I'd say it took probably a year and a half to get back to feeling back to normal," Parise said. "That's what my therapist said, six months to heal, a year you feel better. But to get back to that level for me, I feel like it was almost the following Christmas."

A few caveats: it was 2010 when Parise had this same surgery. Sports medicine has grown leaps and bounds in terms of helping athletes recover since then. We constantly see players return well ahead of their timeline. The latest example being Jonathan Huberdeau’s returning a month earlier than expected from a torn Achilles.

With stem cells, Regenokine, advancements in physio therapy, players are bouncing back faster than ever. Hell, we saw Stamkos rebound from a broken leg like he was Wolverine.

Still, keep this anecdote filed away. If Stamkos does start slow next season don’t be shy about gambling on him having a great second half. 


Minnesota has three games before their bye starts on February 22. If Dumba is a borderline roster player for you, it makes sense to drop him for a hotter option. There are nine teams who play six games between now and when the Wild return from their bye but I would target Andrej Sekera off the Oilers as a strong player available in many leagues.

This makes the Wild’s defense much thinner with Jonas Brodin also on the shelf so Devan Dubnyk may suffer in the short term.


Great stuff in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:

12. Watching Scott Darling beat Edmonton last weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder if he is this year’s Cam Talbot — ready to move on from being an understudy on a good team to being a No. 1 somewhere else.

“We’d love to keep him,” Bowman said. “And he’s told us he’d love to stay. He’s come a long way. We’ll see where we are after the season.” He’s certainly as ready as Talbot was for the Edmonton challenge.

You never know where the openings are going to come but there always seem to be new opportunities for goalies to step into #1 gigs. Darling has certainly performed well enough as a backup in his three years to be considered a potential starter.

Vegas is an obvious candidate, although they may seek someone more established. I wonder if Carolina, even with both Cam Ward and Eddie Lack under contract for next season, would consider a change.

Ward’s season has gone into the tank after a decent first half. Since January 1, Ward has been arguably the worst goalie in the league with a 3.32 GAA and a 0.884 SV%. He also has a winning record in that stretch, so you have to wonder where the Hurricanes would be with a legitimate #1.

Lack was supposed to be the heir apparent but he has been derailed by concussions. The Hurricanes are still technically in the playoff hunt but they are long shots. With Ward playing poorly, it would behoove them to play Lack as much as possible down the stretch to find out what they have. Regardless of what they do, Ward is droppable in virtually all formats.

As for Darling, he may not have much value the rest of the way. While I’d expect he starts against Edmonton on Saturday in the Blackhawks’ return from their bye week, they have only three back-to-backs remaining. I imagine they’ll find another start or two for Darling beyond those B2Bs but the pickings will be slim. Barring an injury, Darling will be seldom used.


Corey Hirsch penned a must-read article on mental health in the Players’ Tribune. I highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t already.


Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.