Just 11 days, folks! The 10th annual Midseason Guide! It’s up for presale and the release date is Friday, January 11. Pre-order it here and make sure it’s in your Downloads section waiting for you the instant I release it.
Happy New Year!
Before we begin, let me throw in a recommendation for a great shot to pass around for tonight. Completely unsolicited. I call it the “Mint Smoothie” or “Dobber’s Mint Smoothie” and until I see that someone else already had a name for it, that’s the name I’m going with. Requires a bottle of McGuinness Crème De Cacao and a bottle of McGuinness Crème De Menthe. Just 50% of each in a shot glass and voila – the best shot you and your friends have ever enjoyed. So good you just want to drink it nonstop, but of course I expect you to enjoy responsibly! And if you know anyone at McGuinness who wants to give me money for saying all this, please send them my way. I’m always happy to take money.
I’m going back to a goalie-heavy Ramblings after taking a couple of weeks off from the stress of even attempting to analyze that crap (and Goalie Post has a weekly Ramblings every Monday anyway, so you can always get your fix there). So much has happened in the goalie world over the last three weeks that it’s time to dig again, unfortunately. I’ll try to shorten it to just two issues – the Edmonton non-situation… and the three kids (four, if I dig into Adin Hill too).
Fantasy owners are quick to write off goaltenders when they get off to terrible starts, often completely ignoring their contract or their track record and jumping on and off bandwagons rather frequently. And who could blame them? Especially this season, when a dart board could have picked goaltenders better than the best experts. I try to stress the importance of trusting in the contract, because that is the only thing we can trust. Big contracts lead to more opportunities, and more opportunities increase the odds of success. It doesn’t always work, as with Scott Darling. But usually it does (as with Martin Jones or so far Jake Allen). Staying patient has led to you holding onto Connor Hellebuyck, Matt Murray and Sergei Bobrovsky. Even Mike Smith rang off six wins in a row before getting roughed up a little in his ensuing two games. But one situation hasn’t resolved itself – Cam Talbot.
To be sure, he has indeed had more opportunities than Mikko Koskinen, seeing 21 games to Koskinen’s 19. So the opportunity box has definitely been checked. But I had been eye-balling the December 29 game for a long time (28th or 29th, actually, since I didn’t know weeks in advance which goalie would get which start). But that was the key game for me, the one that determined the second half. Giving up one goal on 30 shots, or dare I say – a shutout – and Talbot would re-secure the No.1 job and ride the wave of confidence and increased starts to a big second half. Give up five goals or more, with a team in front of him that gives up 35 or more shots, and the writing is on the wall. Koskinen has been a top-five goalie in the league over the past month or so and the team has really come together in front of him. If they can’t do that for Talbot, and he can’t help his own cause with some big saves, then he’s finished. Well, the worst case has happened. The team didn’t seem to realize that the defensive zone even existed, and Talbot was giving up beach balls. Seven goals on 40 shots. And that’s it for Talbot. With 44 games left, I see a 30-14 split in favor of Koskinen. And Talbot owners will need to pray for a starting-gig contract for next year (and to me that’s unlikely, with the UFA goalie depth coming up).
The three kids – Carter Hart, Mackenzie Blackwood and Collin Delia. And although he’s stumbled a little of late, Adin Hill’s name should be tossed in there as well…
Hart – By many fans and media, he’s considered the best goaltender outside of the NHL. I’m not one of them. He’s great, but not the best (I like the Rangers’ Shesterkin, to be honest). And he’s also not quite NHL-ready and would benefit from spending time in the AHL until 2020-21. But what I think doesn’t matter, it’s all about what the coaching staff thinks. Elliott has been fine this season, when healthy, and his injury quota for the season has now been filled. He’ll be back, my best guess, in a couple of weeks and he and Neuvirth will man the net in the second half. Let Hart dominate the AHL. Give him time.
Blackwood – As with all the kids in this section, he’s getting his chance because the main guy is injured. And as with all four of these youngsters, he is off to a hot start. Chalk it up to adrenalin. But unlike with Hart, Blackwood has already been a pro for two seasons. He could make the jump without it being called “too soon”. He has a chance. Keith Kinkaid has been great up until the last month, and is not a future starter. He doesn’t seem to be as great with a heavier workload. To me, last year’s 41 games were about the max for him, which is more of a 1B type of guy. It’s hard to say if Blackwood is any different because his pro career has been thus far been limited to 37 games in a season at most. This was supposed to be the year where they tweak him up to 45 or 50 in Binghamton, and then we would get a clear picture. But with Cory Schneider sidelined for who knows how long, I guess we’ll see if right away if Blackwood can handle it. I like his situation for the long term because Kinkaid’s contract is up soon and Schneider’s career could take another year or so to get on track (Roberto Luongo recently noted that his type of hip surgery took a couple of years to get everything back to normal). By that time, he’ll have just two years left on his contract and with Blackwood filling in during the interim, perhaps he steals the job by then.
Delia – I noted earlier that the timeline for Chicago goaltenders has changed now that Corey Crawford is suffering through another concussion. So my goalie pick has shifted from prospect Ivan Nalimov to Delia. Delia has had a tremendous 2018, having made a couple of tweaks to his game with very positive results at all pro levels (his AHL numbers for 2017-18 were mediocre, but he was actually 16-3-4 from January 6 onwards). This is Chicago we’re talking about, so 35 wins is all the team will get this year or next, with the top goalie perhaps getting 28 or 30 of them, so Delia is capped even if he’s outright taken over the top job. But my main worry is that they sign a free agent in a goalie-heavy UFA crop next summer (Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov, Mike Smith, Jimmy Howard, Talbot, Elliott, Neuvirth, Koskinen, Robin Lehner, Petr Mrazek). But then, that worry is somewhat allayed by the fact that the ‘Hawks have what will probably be $23 million in offseason cap space to sign a goalie (two, if Crawford is still hurt), two defensemen and six forwards. So Delia and a $1.5 million backup (Curtis McElhinney?) would be a solution. Of the “Three Kids” I list, Delia is my favorite. He is less talented than Hart, and less upside than either of the above two…but he has the most promising immediate impact not just in the coming weeks, but for this season and next. His value is more in shot-heavy leagues as opposed to win-heavy leagues, though – just three games in and he’s already faced 116 shots, stopping 111 of them.
Hill – I’ve always liked Hill, but had been eyeing him for next summer not this season. Injuries to Antti Raanta has sped up the process. He’s 6-6, which is a huge advantage. He was a high draft pick (third round), which is a huge advantage. He’s played 40 games twice now since turning pro. This should have been the year he increases the workload to 50, but again the timeline is sped up. He’s already showing some cracks, giving up three or four goals in each of his last six games. Hill will back up Darcy Kuemper until Raanta returns. Raanta still has two more years on his contract after this one, so Hill’s fantasy value is limited until then. Darcy Kuemper has lost seven of his last nine starts and gave up five goals Sunday, which likely means Hill will see more starts.
One bright side to the Saturday’s Edmonton game was Ty Rattie, who was put back on Connor McDavid’s line and tallied three points. He had been on that line during preseason games and had a five-point game and 10 points in three contests. Rattie was also there to finish last season and finished with nine points in 12 games. So hopes had been high. But he started the year with two points in four games and left the fifth midway with an injury. Since then he has been unable to retake that spot and personally I had given up on him. Let’s see if he can build on this. Drake Caggiula, who along with Alex Chiasson has been the player most used on McDavid’s other wing instead of Rattie, was traded to Chicago (breakdown here) – and that can only help.
Dustin Byfuglien will be out for at least a month with that injury he sustained Saturday.
Jacob Trouba, in six games with Buffy out of the lineup, saw his ice time bump up to about 25 minutes and he had five points in six games. All of those points were during Buff’s last four-game absence.
Josh Morrissey was up to 26 minutes and had five points in five games.
Tyler Myers was upped to 23 minutes, but was pointless in the six games.
Brandon Pirri picked up another two points Sunday and has seven points in six games (five goals) since being called up. How are they going to send him back down? They won’t have to worry about that until Max Pacioretty returns, which could be “weeks”. Pirri was a point-per-game AHLer before he joined Chicago and acquitted himself well early on. He was traded to Florida and scored 29 goals in his first 70 games there before getting buried in the lineup when the Panthers suddenly got players. He bounced around after that, never finding a fit because he’s a scoring-line player but usually not a better option than the six players that are there. With Pacioretty and Erik Haula out, Pirri is getting the chance he needs.
Valentin Zykov did not get into the game. The Golden Knights picked him up on waivers Friday, and my guess is that if Pirri doesn’t cool off then Zykov will get as much of a chance there as he did in Edmonton (i.e. none). But if he does get a shot, I think he could be one to watch.
The Frozen Tools upgrade is now complete after what I think was a good year of work by Mr. Daoust. Everything in that area loads unbelievably quick. The player profiles are my favorite, I spend a lot of time looking at the game logs and the quarterly comparison (in the career section). But now Daoust has added an awesome Compare-A-Player section and made it easy to use this tool. In any player profile, in the Info/Analysis section (weird spot, but we couldn’t find a good place for it), there is a box to type in a player name – and then you will be sent to a page comparing that player with the player whose profile page you were on. Just that quick. Same for Compare-A-Goalie. You can compare up to 20 players in all the relevant categories. RotoRanker is also now upgraded. So the old Frozen Pool site is completely gone and Frozen Tools is the wave of the fantasy future!
So now Eric is delving into additional cool tools and information we can add. I’ve already submitted a few suggestions. You can too (below in the comments).
See you Monday. Have a Happy New Year and please be safe.
Before I go, I want to reflect on some sad news. Mike “The Beard Guy” Taylor from Walk Off The Earth passed away Sunday, according to the band, from natural causes. It’s a shock because he’s so young. Taylor was a big fantasy hockey fan and DobberHockey reader, we had been in touch over the years after I posted something in the forum about his band (and how I liked it) that caught his eye and he reached out to me. To his family and his second family in the band: condolences from his big family in the fantasy hockey community.
I wanted to post one of their songs here and had trouble deciding which one. They broke out on Youtube with a cover of Somebody I Used to Know, but I wanted something original by them so I went with this, even though it’s a little too upbeat for the situation. RIP