Ramblings: Chiarelli Fired; OEL Update; All-Star Game; Datsyuk, and More – January 24

Michael Clifford



Arizona defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is set to have an MRI Thursday which should help determine the nature and extent of the injury he sustained Tuesday night. We’ll have a better idea of what’s going on in the next couple of days.

As a small aside: can we mention how good the Coyotes have been this year? Sure, they’re not currently in a playoff spot, but they’re also just two points out of a wild card position (as of Wednesday afternoon). They’ve done this with significant (and in some cases, season-ending) injuries to the likes of Alex Galchneyuk, Antti Raanta, Jason Demers, Jakob Chychrun, Christian Dvorak, Michael Grabner, more recently Nick Schmaltz, and now Ekman-Larsson. That’s their top-line centre, third-line centre, a top-6 winger, a top-9 winger and penalty killer, two top-4 defencemen, and their starting goalie. Each of those names (save for OEL) has missed at least 10 games, and some will miss much, much more than that. And yet, they’re two points outside of a playoff spot. John Chayka has put together a very solid roster. They absolutely need more top-end talent up front, but this is a team to watch in 2019-20.  


Some bad news for the Ducks and their fans:



Kase had been playing extremely well since returning from his early-season injury and then this. He's an invaluable part of the roster, being the team's second-best (possibly even best) winger on a team with very few scorers on the wing. His defensive game is extremely solid as well. There's no replacing him if you're Anaheim. If you're a fantasy owner, he was likely a late pick or a waiver addition so it's not as big of a deal. 

On the bright side, they could be getting Corey Perry back sooner rather than later. 


Don’t forget to grab your copy of the 2019 Dobber Hockey Midseason Guide! With the All-Star break here, it’s the perfect chance for those in striking distance of a championship to get the edge they need to push for that title. There is also many pages covering prospects and potential call-ups, so even those out of the running for a league win can put their keeper/dynasty teams in a better situation for 2019-20. Get the Dobber Midseason Guide in the Dobber Shop today!


The Leafs re-configured their PP units to put Auston Matthews back with their big guns. The last change (thankfully) didn’t last very long. Now, please just put William Nylander on that PP unit as well.


Erik Johnson seems to be fine for the Avalanche. He didn't play Wednesday night, his second in a row, but was skating at the game-day skate. We'll circle back after the All-Star break. 


Reilly Smith was back skating with the team but in a non-contact jersey. He obviously didn’t play in Wednesday night’s game, but it sure does bode well for him returning after the All-Star break.


Not immediately fantasy relevant but it appears that Pavel Datsyuk may be eyeing a return to the NHL? There’s a lot of time between now and October so who knows what he ultimately decides. With his style of play, simply being a bit slower probably wouldn’t be the biggest impediment to playing in today’s game. It’s whether his body could hold up. Surely some team could use him for 14-15 minutes a night on the third line and power play?


Both Tyler Bozak and Zach Sanford were activated from the injured reserve and played in Wednesday night’s contest. The result was Jordan Kyrou (and Jordan Nolan) being sent to the AHL. It doesn’t appear that this will be the year for Kyrou to break out, but he’s definitely a player to remember for next season.


I don’t really have a lot to say on the topic of Peter Chiarelli getting fired. Everything I’ve ever had to say about him as a GM has been said in these Ramblings or on my Twitter feed (and you can read Cam’s take here). I’m kind of stunned they actually did this a month before the trade deadline (Edmonton is generally known for picking the worst of all the bad options) but that might be the saving grace for the team.

Until they give up the 200 Hockey Men mentality, the franchise won't improve fundamentally, and fans of both the team and the game in general will have been done a disservice. 


Although, on the other hand, maybe another rebuild isn’t on the way:



All they need is intangibles:



Light a candle for Edmonton Oilers fans tonight. If Nicholson means what he says, there is a lot more darkness ahead.


While all the talk was about Auston Matthews getting Mitch Marner as a winger for Wedneday’s home game against Washington, it was Nazem Kadri and William Nylander who did the damage. In fact, that whole line did as they combined for nine points: Kadri had a hat trick and one assist, William Nylaner had three assists, and Connor Brown chipped in a pair of helpers as the Leafs defeated the Caps 5-3.

For Nylander, it was his first three-assist game of his career, and he added three shots on goal for good measure. He and Kadri have been a very good duo on the third line, if a bit unlucky. It appears that fortune is (predictably) starting to turn in their favour.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 37th goal of the year in the loss.


Alex Galchenyuk had a goal taken away late in his return to Montreal as the Coyotes lost 2-1. Charles Hudon drew in on the third line and assisted on Mike Reilly’s game-winner.

With Oliver Ekman-Larsson out of the lineup, Alex Goligoski played just under 25 minutes. It was his third-highest mark of the season and his highest in a month. He also skated on what would be called their top PP unit with Galchenyuk and Clayton Keller. Something to keep in mind. Check your waiver wires if you need some depth on defence. If the OEL injury is serious, Goligoski stands to be the immediate beneficiary (as morbid as that is, let’s hope OEL is ok).


Eric Staal is really heating up for his fantasy owners, adding two goals and an assist in Colorado’s 5-2 loss to the Wild. That gives him 13 points in 15 games since Christmas, bringing him to 36 points on the year. He’s now on a pace for 60 points on the year after a slow start. He’ll be 35 in October and a free agent after the season. I’m very curious to see what his contract ends up being. Does he get a multi-year deal with Minnesota or elsewhere, or does he sign one-year contracts from here on out like Joe Thornton?

Brad Hunt didn’t play a lot of minutes in his Minnesota debut, but did play 5:44 on the power play. That’ll work.


Juuse Saros stood on his head, and then some, as Nashville went into Vegas and defeated the Golden Knights 2-1 in Ryan Johansen’s return from suspension. The young netminder saved 47 of 48 shots he faced, only beaten by a first-period shot from Max Pacioretty. Saros had a tough start to the year but has been superb in January to the tune of a .955 save percentage in six games. His overall save percentage is now above average for the season at .914.


Vladimir Tarasenko scored in St. Louis’s 5-1 win in Anaheim on Wednesday night. It was his 6th goal and 10th point in his last 11 games. This is another player who had a slow start to the year, especially by his standards, who has really started to look like himself since Christmas. Now, if only Jaden Schwartz could get of the schneid (he’s shooting 3 percent on the season).


The hot steak continued last night for Nino Niederreiter as he scored a pair of goals in Carolina’s road win in Vancouver. In four games since being acquired by the Hurricanes, Niederreiter has four goals, 17 shots, and is playing nearly 17 minutes a game. That TOI mark would be a career high for him (by a lot) and he’s getting lots of power play time as well. This is a trade that’s going to work out very, very well for the ‘Canes.

Dougie Hamilton had a goal and an assist, giving him 9 points in 12 January games, including five goals. All that is missing is that assist rate climbing (getting top PP minutes would help in this regard.


With the NHL All-Star Game nearly upon us, I wanted to do something a little fun. What would All-Star teams look like if they were chosen for fantasy production? Let’s take a look at that. A quick rundown of the qualifications:

  • Assuming standard Yahoo! scoring (goals, assists, +/-, shots, PPPs, hits for skaters; wins, goals against average, save percentage, shutouts for goalies).
  • Four rosters, one for each division.
  • Each roster will include six forwards, three defencemen, and two goalies.
  • Each team needs to be represented.

It’s a fun exercise about how hard it is to actually pick teams in this format. All stats as of Wednesday afternoon and either from Dobber Tools, Natural Stat Trick, or Corsica. I’ll do the East today and talk about a few of the players. We’ll touch on the West tomorrow.



F – Nikita Kucherov (TB)

F – John Tavares (TOR)

F – Jeff Skinner (BUF)

F – David Pastrnak (BOS)

F – Dylan Larkin (DET)

F – Aleksander Barkov (FLA)

D – Thomas Chabot (OTT)

D – Morgan Rielly (TOR)

D – Jeff Petry (MTL)

G – Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB)

G – Jaroslav Halak (BOS)


This is why it’s so hard. Say you want to remove Dylan Larkin for someone like Mitch Marner. Ok, fine. You still need someone from Detroit, so you need to take a player whose team is represented by multiple players off the list. Let’s say we remove Halak and add Jimmy Howard (he’s actually going to the real one). Howard isn’t even a top-25 fantasy goalie at the moment, but is now on his way to a fantasy All-Star Game because we wanted Marner over Larkin. Not so easy, is it?

People might laugh at Jeff Petry, but let’s break this down. He has 34 total points, 12th among all defencemen, and one more than Victor Hedman. Among all defencemen with at least 500 minutes at five-on-five this year, he’s 15th in points/60 minutes. The two defencemen directly above him are Roman Josi and Tyson Barrie. At all strengths, he’s 17th, just behind Matt Dumba. He’s also in the top-20 for defenceman shot share at five-on-five. He’s averaging over 2.5 hits and over 2.25 shots per game. Why wouldn’t he be a fantasy all-star?

Here’s something I want to bring up: when are we going to start the Thomas Chabot For Norris Trophy campaign? I’m not kidding, either: his point production is elite, his play-driving is elite, and his goal-driving is elite; among d-men, he’s top-10 in points/game, top-10 in relative shot share, and top-10 in expected goal share. Even for actual goals, he’s top-25 among all defencemen in the league in relative goal share (all of this relative to his team). I imagine guys like Mark Giordano, Brent Burns, and John Carlson will all get heavy consideration, being established stalwarts on playoff teams. And maybe Chabot will get his due someday, but he’s been outstanding this year and it’s not just because of his point total.



F – Alex Ovechkin (WSH)

F – Sidney Crosby (PIT)

F – Cam Atkinson (CBJ)

F – Kyle Palmieri (NJD)

F – Chris Kreider (NYR)

F – Jake Guentzel (PIT)

D – Kris Letang (PIT)

D – John Carlson (WSH)

D – Justin Faulk (CAR)

G – Robin Lehner (NYI)

G – Carter Hart (PHI)

This was a lot harder than you’d expect for this reason: the Metro has been mostly devoid of top-end fantasy talent this year. For example, only Ovechkin, Crosby, and Sebastian Aho are top-25 skaters so far this season, while Letang, Carlson, Faulk, and Radko Gudas (yes, really) are the only top-25 defencemen. It gets even worse in net as the Islanders goaltending tandem of Lehner and Thomas Greiss are the only Metro goalies in the top-15 fantasy netminders. MacKenzie Blackwood is also there but he’s not even in the league at the moment.

I suppose one change we could make would be having Henrik Lundqvist instead of Hart, taking out Kreider, and adding Claude Giroux. But this is my list and I’m a big Krieder fan so I’m going to do what I want. Get Carter to the All-Star Game!

Justin Faulk is a favourite punching bag for some, and that’s fair given his calamitous fall in fantasy over the last couple seasons, namely in the goals department. All the same, his hit and shot totals are very stout (he’s on pace for his most hits in four years) and a 30-point season with his level of peripherals (he’ll fly past 200 shots as well) has a lot of value. Imagine if his shooting percentage ever reverts to what it was a couple years ago?

Can I just say that despite Faulk having more value than Jaccob Slavin in fantasy so far this year (at least in this format), that Slavin is probably the most under-appreciated defenceman in the NHL, and I wanted to put him in the All-Star Game for that reason. He drives the play exceptionally well, defends his blue line about as good as anyone, and is really an engine for the team on the blue line. He reminds me a lot of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, minus the shot-happiness. There are some areas the ‘Canes still need improvement, but their defence is certainly not one of them.


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