Thoughts on Playoffs, Coach Brind’Amour, Thornton, and more…
We get a Game 7 in the second round, and it’s from the series that features the regular season’s top two teams.
So who do you like? As I’ve mentioned before, it depends on what kind of game it is. If Winnipeg can go on another three-goal rapid fire run, then I think they’ve got this one in the bag. The Predators simply don’t have the offensive explosiveness of the Jets. But if Nashville can slow it down to a tight-checking defensive chess match, then I am convinced they will get it done in front of the home fans.
My Game 7 prediction: I picked Nashville in 7, so I have to stay with that pick. In terms of the future, though, Winnipeg is set up very nicely and has shown in this series that they are good enough to be the dominant team in the Central next season and possibly beyond. They’ve got a top-6 forward unit that might be second to none, they’ve got Connor Hellebuyck about to hit his prime, and they didn’t get heavily involved in free agency while the rebuild was carried forward from Atlanta (more on free agency later).
Much has been made about Pekka Rinne’s struggles during the playoffs. But one positive about his playoff performance: he bounces back. Since last season he is 10-2 with a sub-1.50 GAA and plus-.950 SV% with two shutouts after being tagged with an L in the previous game.
Nashville is not the best option for high-end scoring in playoff pools. After all, only one Predator (Filip Forsberg) was in the top 10 in playoff scoring last season, even though they made it to the final. There were even two players who were knocked out the round before (Erik Karlsson, Ryan Getzlaf) who finished ahead of Forsberg in scoring. But if you’re in a deep playoff pool that goes 3-4 lines deep or allows substitutions, pick lots of Nashville players. Their scoring is more spread out than that of other teams.
Just when I mentioned Roman Josi was struggling, he records two helpers in Game 6. No such luck for Kyle Turris, who has come up small during the playoffs. He has yet to score a postseason goal and has been held without a point over his last four games.
Well, the Capitals finally slayed their dragon… or exorcised their demon… or whatever you want to call it. The Capitals/Penguins rivalry reminds me a bit of the Canucks/Blackhawks rivalry from 2009 to 2011. The Blackhawks knocked the Canucks out in the second round in both 2009 and 2010, then the Canucks needed Game 7 overtime to finally vanquish the Blackhawks. As much of a sour taste that the Canucks were left with in that Stanley Cup Final against Boston, imagine, Canucks fans, if their season ended in that 2011 first-round series with Chicago.
Even if the Capitals are swept by Tampa Bay in the conference final, I think they have to be satisfied with their season just for finally getting past Pittsburgh. No more talk about whether Alex Ovechkin is traded, which is absurd if you consider his actual lifetime postseason stats. Barry Trotz gets to keep his job for at least one more season, which is also absurd if you consider how many games he’s coached. But if I’m a Capitals’ fan, I’d be a bit worried about a possible letdown after that series win. Plus Tampa has only lost twice during the postseason. I still like the Bolts as my Stanley Cup winner – even more so than before.
As for the Penguins, they still have to be in the mix for teams that can win the Stanley Cup in 2018-19. Two consecutive seasons of going the distance should have taken a toll on a team that has already had more than its share of injuries to star players. Just keep in mind that their entire first-unit power play (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, and Kris Letang) is now all over the age of 30. Time sure flies. Something to think about for your fantasy team as well.
The most significant news story of the day involved the Hurricanes naming Rod Brind’Amour the new head coach and Don Waddell the new general manager. Mike Clifford covered the Fantasy Take on the Carolina moves earlier today.
I remember Brind’Amour bringing somewhat surprising fantasy value very late in his career, particularly as a faceoff specialist. As an assistant coach, Brind’Amour must have had at least some influence in the Hurricanes’ top-ranked faceoff percentage last season (54.1%). All of Jordan Staal, Derek Ryan, Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask, and Marcus Kruger all had a faceoff success rate of at least 54.5%. Staal was the most effective of the group with a 56.6% faceoff success rate and as a top-15 league option in faceoffs won (757). This strong faceoff success rate seemed to be a factor in the Canes’ strong advanced stats.
If new owner Tom Dundon wants to know why his team is not championship caliber, perhaps he should consider his team’s lack of a true number one scoring center. We know what we’re going to get out of Staal as a second or third-line option, but what about Lindholm or Rask? Will Martin Necas one day have what it takes to be a first-line center? Will Waddell have to make a blockbuster trade for a center, which would no doubt be pushed by the owner? As Mike said, it will be up to Brind’Amour to get the most out of Lindholm and Rask in particular. Next season will be telling in terms of what we should expect from them going forward.
Now that the Sharks have been eliminated, we have found out exactly what caused Joe Thornton to miss the last 2+ months of the regular season. Even though Thornton’s production wasn’t bad when he was healthy (36 points in 47 games), he has to be considered a significant injury risk going forward after tearing ligaments in both knees.
Is it possible that Thornton slowed linemate Joe Pavelski while he was in the lineup?
Pavelski until January 23 (Thornton’s last game): 34 points in 47 games (0.72 PTS/GP)
Pavelski after January 23 (Thornton out for the season): 32 points in 35 games (0.91 PTS/GP)
This mattered for Pavelski owners because they drafted him expecting the post-Thornton points-per-game numbers. But prior to Thornton’s injury, Pavelski was on pace for 59 points.
As much as Thornton says he wants to be back with the Sharks and is willing to take a pay cut to be back, there’s always the possibility that he could be playing for a different team next season (some possibilities here). Or not at all if the knees don’t hold up. And as nice as it would be to see Thornton return for one more season in teal, him not returning might actually make sense for the Sharks.
Some other injury news to keep in the ol’ memory bank: Cory Schneider is likely to miss training camp after having hip surgery. Recovery times aren’t set in stone, so Schneider’s five-month recovery time could change. But it’s also possible that we could see more of Keith Kinkaid to start the season.
If you need any convincing why it’s not a good idea to spend like crazy on free agency, take a peek at the 2016 free agent signings. Here are your signings that were worth at least $18 million total and involved a player switching teams. Tell me if you think any of these players significantly improved their teams.
Only one of these players (Backes) played for a playoff team, and he’s already one of the most searched buyouts on Cap Friendly. The best signing that offseason – by far – was Eric Staal signing with the Wild for three years at $10.5 million. Those are the kind of contracts that teams need to sign.
I’ll agree with Dobber’s take on free agency except for one minor point: It’ll take just two years, not three, before fans will be searching for buyouts on many of these players.
What I’ve learned from this that I can apply to fantasy: If you play in an auction league, avoid bidding wars unless you have money to burn. It’s probably not the end of the world to have a bad contract or two on your team, but aim to have as many great value contracts as you possibly can.
In a salary cap league, the perfect time to bail on many of these players would have been right after they signed those contracts. Something to consider for the upcoming group of UFAs. Just because NHL teams sign them for big money doesn’t mean you have to.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.